Friday, October 13, 2006

Trip to Fukuoka Highlights—an excuse to not create a cogent narrative

Every woman well-dressed in knee-high boots or socks. Me, the only one in open-toed flats.

The gaijin game: Colin won the first day, I won the second only because of a jackpot at the Hakata station.

A pet-store with stacks upon stacks of adorable, miniature animals in tiny glass cages. Such a furious ambivalence of gut being wrenched by cuteness as well as the misery of the situation. Wish there was a word for it.

Looking a monkey directly in the face. Same pet-store. Colin has a picture. This was after it appeared to have been fellating itself (not kidding). I stared at it with my face next to the glass. It caught sight of me and dragged its chain across the mesh floor to press its face close to mine. We shared a moment. It began eating newspaper.

There was a marmoset, too. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. Adorable. It cost $5,000. I don’t remember what the monkey cost. There were two beautiful Abyssinian kittens. When you looked at them, they pawed at the glass and cried at you through their fishbowl. Then I cried.

Walking around in circles for blocks, arguing about directions, in order to find the various locations websites had recommended. Only found one—an American style diner, highly recommended. It was so worth it. I ate a cold chicken sandwich for five dollars. It was cut from the bone slices of chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, caesar dressing and mustard on toasted bread. So normal for America, but so utterly amazing here. Colin had an equally amazing BLT. We miss sandwiches. The Japanese don’t believe in them.

Searching for the recommended bars, finding them closed. We were stalked for twenty minutes by a young Japanese couple who eventually approached us in the 7-11 and asked if we would go to a bar with them. We went with them to two swanky places and talked for hours until they insisted on helping us get a cab at 1 AM.

Temples. Shrines. A faux-spiritual experience walking through a tunnel of orange torii to ring the bell and get the god’s attention.

Castle ruins in the park—there was a ninja lurking in the bushes. We didn’t see him at first, and it kind of scared us, since he had so much time before us even noticing him to pelt us with throwing stars. I guess that’s why he’s a ninja.

Visiting the archeological excavation site of a ninth century guest house. There was an entire display devoted to the toilet. What the toilet may have looked like, actual wooden sticks used as toilet paper, and finally, samples of materials found in the human feces: various seeds, animal bone fragments, etc. Only in Japan would they dwell so obsessively on this shit, pun intended.

Blowing off the heads of zombies in Sega Town.

In conclusion: I love Fukuoka. It’s an actual city, but so much better than Tokyo. I wish I lived there.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Anxiety and Guilty Explanations

It’s been a long time since I last posted, but I haven’t stopped writing. I just don’t have any single topic completed yet, so nothing’s ready. I often feel like I don’t have the time to finish the fragments I’ve been starting, but that’s not true. It’s just that my job is so psychologically exhausting that I don’t have the energy. I’m consumed constantly, always thinking about my lesson plans. It’s sort of like I do stupid, unproductive things to fill up my spare time because it allows me to keep work constantly at the back of my mind while I can still feel like I’m recuperating. I wish I could clean or learn how to cook Colin fabulous dinners instead. Really, I wish I could write. I think I end up throwing myself completely into whatever I do, even if it isn’t as challenging as what I’m currently doing. I’m not someone who can divide her attentions. My only real break is when I get seriously plastered, and even that isn’t so satisfying. On Friday, I was having strange drunken sleep in which I was aware of my surroundings, but interpreting them incorrectly. I just kept turning words over and over in my head for hours as if I was trying to teach them. Lamp. Lamp. L-A-M-P. Every now and then I would snap out of it and tell myself I wasn’t teaching, I needed to relax. But as soon as I started to drift again, it would be back to the same thing.

I’m still not sure how stable my current employment is, or how capable I am of doing it. Today I had a six-year-old boy suddenly start throwing a tantrum like I’ve never seen in the middle of the lesson. Well, I have seen tantrums like that. It was just surprising that it happened in front of me in a teaching context, so suddenly and violently. I don’t think I click with those kids. Every class is different. The pre-schoolers are still cute, except the boobies girl has graduated to trying to grab at my crotch. Lovely. At least she hasn’t had a posse help her with that venture. The three and four-year-old class has this weird inside joke among them in which they call Saori and me either “Ojiichan” or “Obaachan”, which means, respectively, a diminutive way to say “grandfather” and “grandmother” or “old man” and “old woman”. They think it’s hilarious. I’m definitely “Ojiichan” way more than “Obaachan”. A common exchange goes like this:

(In my blog, whenever you see [brackets] it means that whatever within them was originally said in Japanese and has been translated. Except, of course, the word “brackets”.)

Kids: Ojiichan!

Me: No, Cassie. My name is Cassie.

Kids: Ojiichan?

Me: Cassie.

Kids: Rokkustaa? [Rockstar]

Me: Yes, Rockstar. Good.

Speaking of rockstars, Colin and I were treated as such when we went to Yoshiko's house for dinner last night. Or, rather, pretty pretty princesses. It was the first time Colin met Yoshiko, Sayaka, and her four daughters. Her kids, who are twelve, nine, eight, and six, have been grilling me about whether Colin is yasashii or kakkoii ([nice/easy] and [super hot]). They were impressed by anything I said I about him. They’re actually impressed by almost anything I do, so I guess it’s all along the same lines. Anyway, they were incredibly wound up having us there and leapt/climbed all over us and had us do things like touch the ceiling. After dinner, Hiromi, Yoshiko's cousin who I met before joined us, which was fun. She’s a hairdresser and has a crazy long mullet with red streaks in it. She’s really outgoing and seems quite the opposite of Yoshiko. We talked about a new bar in Shi-town, and she said she hadn’t gone to it because there are a few steps leading up to the door, and she’s afraid she’ll fall on the way out, if you know what I mean. All the while, the kids were running behind our chairs and messing with us. They were doing my hair and Colin’s for hours, off and on. They kept putting this little crown on me and saying that I was a princess, and they would continually rave about how beautiful I was. It’s weird, in Japan I think they just see pale skin, blue eyes, and brown hair and think it’s gorgeous, regardless of the composition. I was looking really bad last night. I was exhausted and inexplicably sick again, after having been fine for nearly two weeks. My hair was a mess, and even more of a mess after it had been extensively fondled by sticky child-fingers. Let’s just say I didn’t look good, yet they were still raving. They did crazy things to Colin’s hair and called him a princess too. After a few hours we made a royal exit.

I didn’t intend this post to be so long, but there it is. I still have so much more to say. I think I’ll just leave you with two examples of why Japan is creepy/racist/wonderful:

The Wind, Together, is Absent: A Musical

Hint: Be sure to enlarge the image of the poster, and keep an eye on the lower right hand corner.

Fish Child Sauce