Tuesday, March 28, 2006

mistranslated and paraphrased

sometimes you have to stop the waxing and waning of the moon
if the ticking of the second hand deafens you
if the changing of the moon blinds you
if you loose track of where your path to your dreams is
you must do everything you can to find it,
even if it means stopping time.

it said something vaugely like that. except in Japanese, which the old man had to read for me.

so last week I got reminded that I have 3 weeks to decide if I'm renewing my contract with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa. this sent me into kind of a tailspin of doubt and feakedoutness about the future.

on monday I ended up in Hibiya park sitting in the sun, watching people watch the cherry blossoms, making a list of ways I'm going to make my life better, and wearing my narc hat.

for reasons not entirely clear to me, the Japanese find me really approachable. and after sitting on the bench for a few hours looking at the fountain (actually not the one in the picture, a less painful looking one) and pondering the future and an older man walks up and asks me to scoot over so that he can read the inscription on the bench.

he then proceeds, alternating between English and Japanese, to explain that all the benches represent donors. The donors can get a little plaque on each bench that says whatever they like. he read and explained the one I was sitting on. it sounded something similar to the quote above.

It seemed quite appropriate and I keep reparaphrasing it in my mind as I think about my future.

I'll write more about my future plans soon but it looks like it'll boil down to: I want to stay in Japan longer, but not with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa. obviously, I'll write more on this later.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The other ryan, surfer-ish #3

the second ryan was not like the other. I liked him so much that I'd deem him nothing remenisent of fruit. he could even be the other white meet, possibly with like rosemary or other goodness. I was more impressed with him in person than over that magic we call internet/email. In fact, because of the recent drama, my expectations were quite low.

so he and his friend were coming to Tokyo from Aomori (northern Japan) to take the GREs and staying in a hostel. I want to visit Aomori and figured I'd meet them for a drink. all previous information indicated that they'd be a good time.

here's how sunday night went down on the phone email/text messaging:

me, 11am: GRE'd?

this a friendly Tokyoite from the couchsurfing site.

If your in town and interested in dinner and/or drinks tonight, give me a buzz. Im heading to Kamakura tomorrow.

cheers, kori

Ryan, 11:08 Re: GRE'd?

normally, I can't stand when people use all caps. but in normal emails he wrote normally and so I tried to hold off making a stupid snap judegement

Ryan, 11:13 Re: GRE'd?

Ryan, 5:07 Re: GRE'd?

being as we are both Northwesties teaching English is Japan, the 'YO QUIERO MEET YOU' cracks me the frick up. It's really stupid, but I find it really funny in the moment --and for my completely non Spanish comprede-ing people, "yo quiero" is like "I want to"

me, 6:50 : Roppongi?
sweet. I wont be able to meet you until 830ish. will you be in roppongi?

ja mata, see you soon
kimi ni aitai mo,


the italics I send in hiragana, he says he's good at Japanese. 'kimi ni aitai mo' is the equivalent of "yo quiero meet you" The reason I pushed the time back, even though I really want to meet these guys is because I'm trying to get some editing done. I'm only a few days passed the deadline and I want to stop feeling guilty about it.

Ryan, 6:52 Re: Roppongi?

Ryan, 7:00 Re: Roppongi?

me, 7:01 sub: Re: Roppongi?
Ill meet you wherever. just let me know

Ryan, 7:03 Re2: Roppongi?

Ryan, 7:49 Re2: Roppongi?

I am furiously editing technical documents still. I notice that it is neither 830 or 900 yet.

me, 7:52 sub: Shinjuku
not yet will be closer to 9. where are you going next?

Ryan, 7:54 Re: Shinjuku

there's a small possibility that's easy to find. a very small one

me, 7:56 sub: Re: shinjuku
Ill try to meet you there. If I get lost Ill give you a call.

Ryan, 7:57 Re2: shinjuku
DAIJOBO. (phone number here not to be put blantantly online)

I arrive in shinjuku station. the busiest station in Tokyo, the biggest damn city in the world. if you don't konw the exit you are doomed. the station is a kilometer square. people live here. there is no exit called "cabukicho" or, more likely, "Kabukicho" I find a map. I see an area called "Kabukicho" near the east exit.

me, 9:01 sub: Re: shinjuku
east exit?

I try and call and leave a garbled message amid the traffic and construction of kabukicho. this is so the safest area of tokyo at night...

Ryan, 9:06 Re2: shinjuku

Ryan, 9:07 Re2: shinjuku

me, 9:09 Re: Re2: shinjuku
think Im OK

Ryan, 9:09 Re2: Re2: shinjuku

me, 9:21 Re: shinjuku
where are you from here? I got no clue

this is kabukicho...

Ryan, 9:25 Re2:shinjuku

me, 9:26 re: re2: shinjuku
McD. see it...

Ryan, 9:29 Re2: Re2: shinjuku

uhhh... this big street? these lights? I guess wrong and wonder around lost looking for "Hub Pub" It's five degrees C out.

Ryan, 9:37Re2: Re2: shinjuku

I give up. My keen sense of direction has failed me. I should be ashamed. But more than that I should give up, get warm, and meet these crazy GRE taking guys from Aomori. I give Ryan a call and meet him by the 3 story high MacDonalds. We take the right street and are down in the basement Hub Pub having a nice conversation over a nice beer. I definitely want to go up and meet him again. not fruit.

Friday, March 24, 2006

that's a high ass bird

so I found this on Wikipedia and decided to further illustrate.

inside the yellow line are the 23 wards that make up Tokyo. There is also the Tama area of Tokyo, which people who don't live in Japan count as Tokyo. but we don't. in fact, The Boy, when he's feeling snobbish says that only the people living within the Yamanote Line (the redish/orangish line) "count." however, that's less only around 300,000. so I'm calling his BS.

Population stats:
in the 23 wards: 8.4 million at night and 11 million during the day
this works out to (at night, when the comuters have gone home) still 13.4 people per square meter. that's right. we're all very cozy.

according to Wikipedia, in Tokyo + Tama area (a total of 12.5 million or so)
* Foreign residents: 353,826 (as of Jan. 1, 2005)
* Top 5 Nationalities of Foreign Residents: Chinese (120,331), Korean (103,191), Philippine (31,505), American (18,043), British (7,585)

the Greater Tokyo conurbation, according to wikipedia is 25 million.
accordign to the Metropolis, the English hot entertainment free magazine
there are 34 some million in the greater Tokyo Megalopolis.

either way, we got New York, Paris, Hong Kong, even Mexico City (second) hands down beat.

it just streches on and on and on...

Monday, March 20, 2006

More about Nikko (March 6th)

I decided to go to Nikko in the middle of my work topsy turvey drama (which now is temporarily resolved for no change to happen.) to try and ground myself. I wanted to get some fresh air and clear my head. I wanted to feel more centered and connected to something bigger. So I grabbed my jacket, borrowed The Boy’s memory card and my camera, and wrapped the red scarf the reminds me of mom around me and headed North.

As with many of my day trips, I got a later start than I wanted and didn’t get to the proper train station with a proper ticket until like 1pm. This is the Express train to Nikko, and therefore is supposed to take ONLY over 2 hours. This is however, the slowest looking Express train I’ve ever seen.

I promptly fall asleep on the train and wake up briefly when the train stops every half hour or so. The city stretches on for what seems decades. Some women sit by me but I’m so tired that I’m completely passedout. I sleep well in moving vehicles even when I’m sitting up and by the time the train exits the last of the suburbs and enters the mountains, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to stretch my legs.

I love small Japanese country towns. I love the rice paddies mixed in with the streets and schools. I love the rotting old houses and the lack of neon and pachinko (like slots) parlors. and I was quite excited about the snow on the mountains.

after getting my bearings, I headed to Nikko National Park. one of the first things I ‘found’ was the Sacred Bridge. Since I’m bymyself and have not ablility to read the history of such things by myself, I don’t know why it’s sacred or what I’m supposed to do about it. It looks like I need to pay for a ticket to walk across it rather than on the normal street/bridge right by it. I pass on the ticket and head into the park.

So one of the nice things about working a job with a slightly wonky schedule is that I have Mondays off. This means that when I go do touristy things, places aren’t as crowded. so while there were some group tours and handfuls of foreigners here and there, it was generally really quiet.

I started out poking about a kind of old slightly neglected shrine. I wonder what kinda god lives here. what do they think of the moss growing over everything? is it a good thing for them or not?

I love it. The cedar trees are gigantic and make the place feel even quieter.

next I head to one of the main shrines past the copper dragon fountain. my camera tell me it doesn’t have batteries and I believe it, but later find it was lying to me and resist the urge to take pictures of the ridiculous tour group. However, separate from the gigantic shiny shrine, there is a little one. I don’t know what it’s for but seemed colorful and almost maternal.

I follow the road see a huge, old gate. well, it isn’t what I would have thought of as a gate before I learned that’s what they are usually translated to. it’s the huge entrance to a shrine. they are often red, but not always. this one made me think a lot of Dan (you better write me, I miss you terribly!) and his theory that organic life will begin (are?) mimicking manmade structures so that they aren’t cut down.

and then, just by barely turning my head right, was a gigantic pagoda! wow.

[go back to Part 1
continue to finding god(s) in
Nikko pt. 3

like, finding god and stuff in Nikko

so, I've never been a particularly religious person. but all this intense personality needs to get grounded in something, so I'm still looking. I guess. anyway, my trip to Nikko seemed apropro.

so I try and see another of the monster shrines but they are closed for the day and I wander around and find this path.

and so of course I have to follow it. I walk up these steps completely alone in the midst of huge cedar trees and begin to feel much better about myself and living in Tokyo. I walk and walk and climb. I take a break and sit on a stump, appreciateing the silence for a while. I get to the top and find a little makeshift shrine made mostly out of stone. I walk down the other side of the hill, picking my steps on the old stone steps.

this is where the steps lead me... but whatever the sign says is so much less important to me than the ancient trees and quiet.

I keep wandering until I find:

now this is my type of god. a water goddess. water, the ruler of emotions and tides. an older sister god. a fickle but powerful goddess. this is fabulous. this is what I needed to find even though I didn't know it was here! I feel better knowing that this exists in some quiet forrest a few hours from my daily drama.

I pray to her that the tides will not wash me away.

I continue my stroll and find another old mossy shrine

I walk behind it and find these guys

These little statues are tucked beneath a sheltered overhang. I don't know who they are or what they represent.

I pray that the weight of the world not crush me.

I feel like they are the ones I should ask for such a thing.

I wander back towards the station feeling calmer and exhausted. It's getting dark and my feet are sore. I get back on the train and sleep the whole way home. I wake up in Tokyo completely disoreinted and wonder if it was all a dream.

[Go back to Nikko pt. 1
or Nikko pt. 2

Thursday, March 16, 2006

couch surfer #2, Ryan grade "spoiled fruit"

a bad apple? perhaps. feeling a bit spoiled on couch surfing? absolutely.

I understand that when I offer up my floor to strangers, I potentially expose myself to all sorts of people. I understand that this is supposed to be a good thing but isn’t guaranteed to be.

but let me elaborate on why I didn’t like Ryan (and Ryan if you are reading this, …I guess I’m feeling mean and don’t care if you’re reading)—

to begin with, he was very critical of the Japanese in ways that didn’t sit well with me.

aw, but before that… he was just plain ugly in person.

but back to the Japanese. for one, in his emails he spoke lovingly of Japan and said that his language ability was intermediate (the site assigns intermediate to people that aren’t fluent but can talk about a lot of things and express their ideas) but in person he insinuated that all Japanese are miserable in their daily lives and spoke much much worse Japanese than I did (and I called myself a beginner).

Now, as a teacher who listens to people’s stories all day long, I think that claiming all of Japan is unsatisfied with their lives is bullshit. I know it is. Definitely not any more than Americans. and I told him so, he seemed to nod without listening. if you know what I mean.

it made me realize how protective I am of Japanese society and culture. and I thought that he would be a good challenge to my beliefs, so I didn’t give him a solid answer if he could stay with me. no solid yes or no (in my book). this was my idea of being generous at the time.

but then I got sick (which is why I wrote so little last week) and was sleeping all the time and not really wanting a house guest. so I told him to find someone/somewhere else, please. he wrote back saying “Please! Please! Please! I have no other option…. only for the 13th through the 15th…”.

and I caved and said, “ok”

so, back tracking again, when I met him for dinner the first time, he tried to give me a hug at the station and I offered a cold shoulder. for me, this is a ‘do as the Romans’ type of situation, unless you are particularly inspired to do otherwise. so no public touching. especially from a practical stranger.

the second time I met him he also tries to hug me in public and generally gets in my personal space more that I like. I feel that my body language makes it obvious that he’s pushing the line. every subsequent time, he also tried to hug me in public. and each subsequent time I felt more uncomfortable and annoyed.

and also something about being really over excited to see me all the time. Yesterday I taught 8 classes and returned exhausted but he’s waiting at the station, grin so big that I think he could catch a small bird in his open mouth waiting to pounce on me and give me an awkward unwanted hug.

a small bird

and there was a sleaziness factor too. so after the first night, he tells me that he was really cold. I don’t really believe him because I was really hot all night and worried that he was roasting too. but so, fine, heat rises… I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I give him another blanket and adjust the heater so it’s pointing down more and will blast him with hot air all night.

but he confides in me that he’s, “really scared of being cold again,”

ummm, he just came from a few months of winter in China…

and asks if he can “sleep with me without touching me”

uuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh. no.

you’ve got to be f*ing kidding me! first of all, I don’t know a single guy who actually would mean that and second, my tiny loft A, can’t fit two people, obviously without one being on top of the other, and B, is my only shred of privacy left. Plus, I’m not on vacation! I’m in the middle of my workweek and need my F*ing sleep. I’m not on some gallivant around the world, writing some seemingly insipid love story that will probably never really be a book (that’s what he claims he’s doing). and I am DEFINITELY not going to audition for a role in said insipid story. AARR. I’m annoyed but allow him to sleep on the floor rather than kick him out.

but here’s my favorite anecdote for the three night encounter… no wait, the anecdote will have to wait because he said 13th-15th and stayed 3 nights, not 2. tricky, I think. sneaky dirty slimmy trick. he left today, the 16th.

the anecdote.

so while I taught like a maniac all day yesterday, he wandered around Tokyo seeing the sites. His travel included Odaiba, a newish addition to Tokyo. It’s a 100% man made island in Tokyo bay. It has a miniature statue of liberty and the JoyPolis. I saw it in August and wasn’t really impressed but was generally amused. as I usually am.

so Ryan is very not impressed with Odaiba. He says, ‘wow, they made a whole island but it isn’t all that special. I could make a way better island! Wanna hear about my island? Wanna hear about my island? Wanna hear about my island? Wanna hear about my island?”

“Sure Ryan! Tell me all about the island you would make!”

“OK! So, it would be smaller right, cause I’m from Seattle and it would be called BAREFOOT ISLAND,” he nods so vigorously and I’m sympathetically dizzy.

I raise my eyebrows to show my enthusiasm.

“Alright! So it would be like this island! and it would have all this grass! you know, so people could go barefoot!!!”

he pauses for emphasis. I keep my eyebrows raised, as if I’m equally (or at least partially) excited.

“OK! so it would be this island and it would have a bridge! I mean this island would be like a mountain,” his gestures make me think of a triangle, but I don’t interrupt to correct him.

“and it would have this bridge, right? and it would go from the top of the mountain to like the main land!” the nodding is accelerating, I wonder if his head could pop off. I figure it’s probably used to such seizures and I try to smile.

“so like the bridge, it would be like this,” he gestures an arch, “so that the boats could go under it,” the smile couldn’t be more manic, “ and not just the little boats but also like the sail boats! Wouldn’t that be great?”

“??????” I realize he is waiting for a response.

“Yeah, that’s great [because I can totally use this story to lampoon you later]!” I say sincerely.

drat. the numbers misled me

so this is my 100th post! sweet. I was planning to make it an extravaganza about my changing life goals and thoughts of the last year... but I thought I had a couple freebees before. so this has just one short message and I'll get to the extravaganza maybe around 105...

I won't change schools. my job, classes and students will remain intact. all changes are off.

it's a pleasant relief.

and a big big thank you for all the kind words and support after my previous crazy post.

and much much love!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

the work drama

This is in Ryogoku. I commute through here 2 days a week to get to Shinonome. This is between the JR train line and the Toei Oedo Subway line. If I get transfered, I'll probably try to move to this neighborhood... but I don't know what's happening............

so, let me be clear. I'm not going to be unemployed. whatever happens with this mess, I'll still have a job with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa, it's just unclear what form it will take.

so basically, KM isn't making enough money so they want to eliminate my 3days/week position and move my students and classes to the other teacher's schedules. I've been begging for a full time posistion at KM since I got here in August and so I was disappointed (to say the least) when I was told that the elimination of my posistion would put me in Shinonome school full time--that's a hell a lot o' toddlers a week.

since then there is almost a new rumor or potential news everyday. the latest is that something has caused Ye Ol' Eikaiwa to be very worried about all the students that my move would displace and all plans are off for now. I don't know what "for now" means. could be a month... a week... maybe I'll hear something different on Tuesday.

obviously I'm very frusterated. I hate not having a solid idea about what the immediate future holds and all this is really upsetting to me. however, there are upshots.

recently in class we've been working on proverbs and values and I'm learning all sorts of interesting from my students. They say that the English proverb, "every cloud has a silver lining" is similar to a Japanese one which sounds something like, "when one god abandons you, another picks you up" I find it all quite fascinating. also, they think "don't cry over spilled milk" means don't obsess over mistakes in the past, and are so excited to learn that it also means 'don't get over upset over small things.' ect ect

so anyway.

if i move to the munchin school, I'll effectively be working a lot less for the same money and probably get a better apartment. there are no classes after 6 on Saturday (now I teach until 9 on Saturday) which would make weekend travel much easier. ect ect. so I'm trying to stay flexible and not get over upset when there are obvious advantages. even if it means doing the ABC song until I'm sick and crazy. and not learning so many cool strange things from my adult students. they just crack me up!

so my saturday night class is from 7 to 9 and these 7 students have been in class and friends for years. so it's rowdy and great. we were working on 2nd conditionals as the grammer focus, as in: What would you do if you... I would... if I ... So the excercise is that they have the answer and need to make up the question. The answer is "I'd take a picture of it so everone would believe me." and my dear student (who we have recently been teasing about always looking so fashionable and I had to teach them the word 'metrosexual' just for him) and so he says, "If people keep asking if I'm man or woman, I'll take a picture of it." at which point I cover my mouth and try not to laugh too much. However, one more student has also started giggling and we are both useless in giggles. The guy, laughing also, gets out his dictionary and looks up a word. "No! No! he says, a ... "certificate" I take a picture of the certificate!" "OK OK" says the fabulous teacher Kori. and bedlam continues

also I'm learning about myself (wow, I didn't even need to pay a shrink this time). I realized that I am way way over emotionally invested in my students and my schools. Sure, it's good to care about your job, but I'm taking this a little too far. and so it's a good chance to realize what's going on and back off a little.

so the bottom line is: I don't know where I'll be working in a month. but I'm doing better and better with that uncertainty.

as Ani Difranco says (because I'm lame and quote other people too much)

buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind
to withstand the world that's what it takes
all that's steal and stone are no match for the air
what doesn't bend breaks, what doesn't bend breaks

couch surfer #1, Kimey grade "A"

Kimey was great. She only stayed one night, and unfortunately it was a work night for me. She was chill and good humored even though it sounded like she'd had kinda a crappy stay in Tokyo. She had great stories about bumming around Europe and meeting cool people.

I'm so addicted to the couch surfing site now. Another one is coming today and staying for 3 nights. Again, I'm working working but such is life. It'll be good distraction from the working working drama.

Monday, March 06, 2006


daytrips from Tokyo always have dreamlike quaility. I get on a train, fall asleep for two hours, and awake somewhere else. I orient myself and wander around for an afternoon. Afterwards, I'm exausted and get back on the train and fall asleep for a few hours on the way home. I arrive back in the neon and noise, feeling stiff and groggy and wondering if all that quiet fresh air was really real at all. that's why I have to bring my camera. otherwise I couldn't tell if it was a dream or not.

I'll add more story and captions and maybe more pics later. but I must do ironing for a week that promises to make me wish for a quick return to the ancient cedar forest of Nikko.

More pictures and story here: Nikko pt. 2

More pictures and a brush with god(s):

Nikko pt. 3

Sunday, March 05, 2006

upside down, inside out

I'm undecided if people can look beautiful when they cry. Is it only the damsel in distress who can capture a look of stunning beauty while tears roll down her cheek, or is it really just because she knows the techniques

most important: if you are crying, don't touch your eyes. you'll make they red and ugly at the same time as smearing your makeup. the drama and beauty is only possible when the tear roll freely and unabashedly down your face. when the emotion fills you to the brim and tears can't help but spill down your cheeks, is when that dramatic music starts in the background and teh violins tug at the heart strings. then, in that moment the audience catches their breath and says: she is so beautiful.

no one wants a girl with red eyes and raccooned from smeared make up.

but this all leads to the obvious question: why am I thinking aobut looking pretty when crying? which leads to the obvious answer: because I've been crying

which begs the next question: why

and here is the doozy of an answer:

because my job is being elimnated. because my students are being screwed over. because I am given no choice of where I will end up after KM is downsized. and I'm upset. I realize that there are silver linings to these frusterating clouds but I'm pissed right now.

I still don't have a lot of information but I'll post more when I know more. I'll propbably be moving soon, I'll probably be saying goodbye to the students I just happily reunited with. I'll probably go to the kiddy/munchin school full time. I'll post more when I know more.

but now, I'm off to Nikko. it's over a two hour train ride there but hopefully the fresh air will clear my head a little. I'll have some pictures and more thoughts on life, soon enough.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

pity umbrella

I wanted to tell her that I couldn't accept it. I wanted to say that it wasn't as special as she thought. I should have told her to save it for someone else. She shouldn't hurry to give it away. I should have let her know that this wasn't my first time.

this is my second pity umbrella.

I mean, I hate umbrellas. I think they are useless at keeping your feet dry and I never have water proof shoes... so what's the point?

they are good for short people (eg the Japanese) to get revenge by poking out the eyes of the taller people (eg me).

you carry them around and they drip and are easy to forget...

but I must have some sort of umbrella karma because this is the second umbrella that a stranger has insisted I take. I am astonished that stragers give my their umbrellas when I'm out and about and cold. and I'm doubley astonished that this is the second time.

so I don't know what this karmic pattern is preparing me for... what situation will I be faced with to repay this specific type of kindness from fellow soggy shoed strangers?

what kind of destiny is this plethora of pity umbrellas preparing me for?