Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Narrowly automated Japan

So, autumn is hitting with full force and that means less daylight and lately wet and dreary weather. All of my bills are on auto-debit from my bank account here, and without online banking, the only way I have to check my balance and if my bills have in fact been paid, is to go to the ATM.

A bit of a tangent about ATMs here. First, none of them are 24 hours, anywhere! Not only are they not 24 hours, they close around 7pm, and if you access them after 5pm, you are charged a fee. You can only use the ATM from your own bank. Unlike at home where a debit card will get you cash from anywhere (for a small fee), your bank card will only work in your bank's ATM. Also, there is no such thing as a checking account here in Japan, so that means no debit cards. Very very little is done on credit here, and as I said above, no online banking. With my bank account I am given a register to keep track of debits and credits and I am also given a bank card. In order to have access to an ATM, I must have the register and bank card with me along with punching in my secret PIN of course.

To activate this magic money machine, I first feed my register into the ATM followed by my bank card. I press my buttons - usually a bit of a crap shoot because everything is in Japanese kanji - and then the machine gives me my money, my bank card, and my register all electronically filled out with any activity on my account.

So yes, I wanted to make sure I didn't owe anyone money, so I hit the bank after school yesterday. I found, pleasantly, that all of my bills have been paid and I still have plenty of money to spare! After this I headed home. As I approached my apartment, I stole a glance at my mail box and remembered that I should be expecting two packages in the mail. I briefly considered just parking the car, leaving it running so I could grab the post slips I anticipated would be there and run off to the post office. I dismissed this idea pretty readily because it would be just my luck that no slips would be in my mail box. I parked, grabbed my bag, checked the mail box (empty) and headed up the stairs. Now, I also have a kind of mail box on my door too. The only things I ever find in here are little fliers and notifications from my water company on my consumption. However, this time there were two mail slips in my odd little box for the packages I was expecting, so down the stairs I went!

I hopped back into the van and started off on my journey to the BIG post office that is open late and holds all packages for the retrieving. As I made my way there, now in the dark and a bit of a drizzle, I really felt like I was in a foreign country. Yes, of course that sounds ridiculous, I am in a foreign country....but hear me out. The roads here are different, of course, and I have already talked about how they lack signage and road names. However, (and this may be thanks to our Irish driving excursion this summer) but the roads never feel very narrow. I usually don't feel like I am going to run cars off the road or run people and bikers over.

But on the way to the BIG post office, I have to take some incredibly narrow roads, while the natives are still driving at relatively high speeds! Also, here in Japan, if there is no parking, it's okay, they make their own! They will park on the side of the road, where no shoulder exists on a road that is already a tad too narrow for two cars to pass one another. In additon to the impromptu parking there are vespas and bicycles fighting for road space as well as the occasional walker. I feel like I am in a video game where I have to get through a maze without touching the walls or else I'll blow up!

I make it sound a little nerve wrecking, but it was actually a ton of fun! Every time something little like this happens it makes me feel independent and a little exotic. Just another cool memory to keep from this adventure!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Numb to the touch

Since I have been here it has been wonderful summer weather! I have been wearing flip flops and summer shoes that are thin. This week the weather has started to take an ominous turn for the worse into fall weather. This includes long pants, sweaters, shoes requiring socks! So for the first time (sorry Dad, you might cringe at this) I wore lace up tennis shoes and socks while driving last night. I can never do this again! The bottoms of my shoes were so thick that I was unable to feel the amount of pressure I was putting on each of the pedals. I felt like I was learning how to drive a manual all over again. Not only that, it was dark and raining. I guess I will just have to find a happy medium for driving this van with real shoes...quite the dilemma.

Sensei, eigo o hanashimasen!

Tonight at my English Conversation Club, we spoke much of my time thus far in Japan and my experiences teaching. The members of the club asked me if I was frustrated at all with Japanese high school students. I think they were already anticipating my answer given their sly smiles as they asked this question. I expressed to them that yes, while I have been frustrated at some points with teaching here that it was multi-faceted and spending my time being upset was a waste.

Of course this did not appease them (there was no getting off easy playing the nice diplomat), so I had to delve into my different issues. First I spoke of how many of the teachers I have met are extremely nice people and mostly speak wonderful English when they are speaking to me. However it is extremely frustrating in a classroom situation because English class is taught in Japanese! This is something for the life of me I cannot understand! When I was learning Japanese in high school, my class was taught in Japanese. We used the target language as often as possible, the expectations were very high and as a student there were only two options: (1) meet the expectations, or (2) fail. We learned through listening, then speaking, then reading, and finally writing. The Japanese however have a very different technique: reading, then writing, a minute amount of listening, and just forget about the speaking part.

Expectations in the Japanese English classroom are extremely low. When I come up with a game to play during class, I am often told, "Oh, I think it may be too difficult for students. Can you make it easier?" or "Students don't like to talk, so we shouldn't do that activity." When I am met with this response I kind of want to scream, "SINCE WHEN DO THE KIDS GET TO DECIDE???" I would argue that students here are babied to their detriment. I have never experienced so much thought going into what the students want to do in class, or sacrificing learning just so the students don't feel a little uncomfortable.

I can write and vent about these things here, but honestly I don't really let it get to me. As I told the Pela Pela group, I am not going to single handedly change the Japanese method of teaching English, so wasting a bunch of energy on being upset is just silly. I would rather use that energy trying to be more creative with my games or encouraging students to speak to me in their free time.

Of course in my own Utopian society I would expect much of my students and I can bet the farm that in the end they would actually have had fun and learned a ton. Trying to convince a deeply entrenched culture to let me experiment with new teaching techniques is very difficult. If the teachers do not see immediate results, they expect I have failed and don't really let me try for a second time.

But my Pela Pela group and the Heartful club are definitely worth it and make me excited for our meetings every week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Excuse me, waiter!

Often, when dining out, I have had the trouble of the waiter or waitress being ever elusive. I think many of you can commiserate. And if they are not mysteriously disappearing, they are smothering and on top of you every other minute. Well, the always inventive, often efficient, Japanese have found a bit of a solution to help facilitate the relationship between customer and server.

This solution is nothing more than a call button at each table. In order to call attention to your server, you just press the little button and someone comes running over to take a drink order or food order, etc. If you never press the button, they will never come over. Each restaurant is very creative with the design of their respective buttons. I have seen brightly colored ones, muted ones that blend in with the table, buttons in the shape of animals, etc. It's a fun observation of mine, and I just wanted to share!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's September 2008, do you know where your life has gone?

Congratulations to Amy for knowing the quote, and an honorable mention goes out to Mr. Shore for at least picking Einstein. The full quote is:

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." -Albert Einstein

I feel like time is racing by right now. I have been in Japan for just over two months at this point. It feels more akin to about two weeks. This has been a great phenomenon in my life (as I am sure many of you have also experienced), but time seems to slip by faster and faster the older I get. It's as though a day is no longer 24 hours and more and more valuable time is fading into the past. I really don't want to miss it. I don't want to miss my life. Realistically, of course I am not, but I am not a fan of this perceived expedited flow of time.

So I will strive to make more of an effort - for my whole life. This is actually a bit of a kick I went on when I was at Shenandoah my freshman year of college. I got this thought in my head that every single day is significant for a reason, no matter how small. Often we are very unaware of the significance of each day due to our general lack of observation. We usually only consider huge events to be worthy of remembering; birth, first word, first step, first day of school, first day of college, graduations, weddings, deaths. What about the last time I wore my favorite black and pink Beauty and the Beast sweater when I was a kid? Where did that go? Why did I decide to stop wearing it? What was the last thing I said to my childhood friend when she moved away? Did I realize at the time, that was the last time I would be speaking to her? What was the last school lunch I had? What about the day my siblings turned from mere cohabitants in my world into some incredibly wonderful friends? There are revelations for all of these things, and those revelations hit and happen on a very specific day and that day is special. How often do you think everyday is special, for just a small reason?

So back to Shenandoah. I was having one of these crisis moments when I just needed something significant to happen in my life - and I needed to take control and make it happen. So on Wednesday, November 17, 2004, I had PEZ candy for the last time. At the time, the girls on my floor thought I was crazy and spent the evening laughing at me and my conviction to never have another PEZ again. It was fun and exhilarating for me to turn an ordinary Wednesday into a significant day in my life, and bring everyone in my hall on board! I wanted to make real my thoughts that everyday is compelling if only we are willing to pay attention. We have to make a conscious decision to be attentive to our own lives. Do you know when the last day you wore your favorite childhood article of clothing, the day you decided that you were a big kid and that funny jeweled belt was such a little kid belt?

Growing up requires a lot of thought and decision making. We owe it to ourselves to be conscious of the decisions we make and WHY we make them. It is not enough just to decide without reason or cognition. That is when the moments slip away without you noticing. You turn around when you're married with grown children and think, "Wow, when did I stop driving down the road with the windows down singing as loudly as I could with the radio?"

PS When is the last time you had a PEZ candy?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Title change

As I hope you noticed, I have changed the title of my blog. If you know from whence it comes, I'll give you a prize! If no one can figure it out and make a comment, I will give you the answer later.

I know that I was not the most fanciful child, but I would say my imagination is something I prize about myself. I have a knack for thinking and what more is imagination thank thinking in bright colors? I am really happy with this new title and I think it will give me so many new avenues to explore in my writing. This blog is so much more for me than documenting my time abroad, but it is a space for me to start digging through all of those thoughts always spinning around in my head.

I hope the heady philosophical stuff doesn't bog you down too much. Being able to write about it all just makes my life so much more enjoyable to live. It was never bad before, now it's just extra good. For the first time in my life I am being a consistent writer and exploring my thoughts on paper (or computer screen as the case may be). Thank you Mom for pushing me to do this, it is wonderful; and now I have this crazy idea that I'd like to write a book one day. We'll see how that one pans out....haha.

Your support is irreplaceable

I want to take some space to thank everyone who has been writing me letters and sending cards since I have been here. You all have taken a very daunting experience for me and made my life so much happier. I am very happy to say that my refrigerator is too small to hold all the beautiful words of love and support that have been sent. Right now I am trying to find a more fun, more decorative way to hang and display all of these wonderful notes and I will keep you updated as I make some progress. My life has been so blessed because of all of you. I hope my little cameo in your life has put a smile on your face as your leading roles in my life have truly touched my soul. It is because of all of you that I am able to see this big beautiful world and be excited for each new day. Thank you just isn't enough for taking the time to show me you're thinking of me; in turn giving me the strength to live this awesome journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evil stalker kitty

For about a week now, there has been this kitten, evil, evil kitten that tries to eat me. It is an orange rabid death kitten and I don't think it belongs to anyone. There is a normal size cat that I have seen around my building since I moved in. This cat is friendly and definitely belongs to my neighbors on the second floor. BUT, suddenly this new kitten appears and only knows how to jump out from seemingly nowhere and hiss scathingly at me. This happens at least twice a day, everyday and is especially scary at night.

I have been frightened for my life since I met this kitten on the stairs for the first time, but "Why?" do you ask do I finally feel the need to blog about it? Well tonight we played chicken. I was coming up the stairs on my way home and this time I caught the kitten off-guard. Usually the kitten and I are on the same landing when it hisses and runs with rocket speed down the stairs and hops into the garden behind my building. When we are on the same landing, I can quickly jump up the first few steps of the next flight and the kitten has a clear escape route. Tonight, the kitten had the higher ground and I sincerely thought my life was about to end. The kitten was standing in the middle of the second floor landing and I was making my way up the stairs. Death kitty hissed and all the hairs on its back stood up razor sharp! I stalled in absolute terror, and then began to make my way back down the stairs slowly so as not to provoke the cat to jump on my head and kill me.

We were in a bit of a stalemate for a minute or so (which is a crazy long time to wait when you are in fear of your own existence!). I decided that if I made a sudden movement the kitty would be prompted to run down the stairs and into the garden in the normal fashion. No, instead this caused the Death kitty to run UP the stairs - exactly where I needed to go! So I had to just wait with bated breath until the kitty ran down, the reason still unknown to me. As soon as it ran past, I booked it up the stairs and got into my apartment as quickly as possible. This evil kitty wants me dead. I may have to rethink my life some. Becoming a recluse of such grandeur as Emily Dickinson might just be in order....

....so much to ponder.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New look for my new thoughts

I am starting to feel less and less small in this big world. While I like doing really difficult things (moving to a new country, extreme physical activity, learning a new language) I usually have a kind of "buyers' remorse" after making a big life-changing decision like that. I make a decision and then it is hard for me to wrap my head around it. So I spend copious amounts of time convincing myself that I have indeed made the right decision and then just end up plunging right in with no looking back, so as not to run full speed in the opposite direction.

Goodness am I verbose! What I am trying to say is that Japan is really great for me. I really like it here and the prospect of traveling to different and sometimes exotic places later in life is a really exciting thought in my head. So to go along with this relatively new attitude I just found (no really, I was upturning rocks in the parking lot and there was a huge pile of spontaneity right there, so I grabbed it!), I have decided to give the blog a bit of a new look. I have always enjoyed the idea of rainbows and how perfectly visible they are while at the same time being incredibly intangible. It is something you can be positive exists, it always appears at the end of a storm and radiates happiness, but it is merely light reflected from raindrops (a kind of natural light show). I think the paradox of rainbows fits in quite nicely with my own personal paradox. I am emotional, I'm not afraid to cry or to feel sad. I view those raindrops as my tears, and just imagine the light that I am able to reflect from my own sadness to move on and create something inspiring and happy to someone else.

So enjoy my new rainbows. I think I may even change the title sometime soon, but I didn't want to throw too much of a shock to the system all at once. Changes must be gradual and allow for the logic of the mind to catch up with the impulses of the heart.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Banana coffee brings smiles

So the plan was to drive around and get lost - didn't happen. There are a couple reasons for this deterioration in my grand plan (1) Typhoon and icky weather: The clock says it's day time, the sky says it's rain time. (2) Self-sabotage: I'm really scared to do this, so I used the typhoon as a convenient excuse to not go get lost all by myself.

I tried to find some company, but Lauren lives about three hours away on the other side of Ibaraki, and Ai usually works during the day. So I used the day to Skype with people from home, write a couple of letters, read and read and read! :)

On Saturday night I went out with Ai and she took me to the cutest coffee shop called Ocha Nova. This is a place that my predecessor, Rick, had told me about, but I had never been there before. It is tucked away on a side street and you wouldn't be able to just bump into it - this is a place you go on purpose. I ordered a banana flavored cafe latte. Now before you balk at banana flavored coffee, let me just explain that it is rare that I will turn down trying a new food or drink, no matter how "unique" it is; and I love bananas.

The atmosphere of this place is dimly lit, and artistic. They have books and magazines to read and mismatched chairs and tables, big, white, heavy, glass mugs that just bubble over with warmth and comforting smells and flavors. The finishing touch is the hint of sultry jazz music playing throughout the whole place just enveloping everything in a musical blanket. I want to make this little treasure my new hideaway. And one of the dearest little quirks is that they create little pictures in the foam on the top of the coffees you order. I have posted some pictures, so you can see what I am talking about. Artsy little touches just make my life happy. For all you pending visitors, expect a visit to Ocha Nova and my crazy smile from ear to ear ;).

After our little coffee and meeting some new friends, we headed to another cafe called Magokoro. This cafe has actually been closed, but every third Saturday of the month they have some DJ-ing and live music. It's an intimate little place with a 1000 yen ($10) cover charge that includes one drink. The music is fun and covers the spectrum of genres and languages - definitely a very hip little place that caters to the hippie, happy side I possess. Sorry Dad, it's true, when it comes to dark little cafes with music, I have a bit of hippie in me. :)

I made some new friends as well. Ai has a lot of foreign friends that do a program called InterAct. It is another English teaching job, but InterAct is a private company as opposed to JET that is government facilitated and run. They all live in and around Koga, so hopefully that means more outings on the weekends to keep me busy. It was such a friendly environment in which to be. P.S. I also had some really great quiche with salmon and mushrooms! And P.P.S. My new drink of choice is a G&T - I guess that's an hereditary thing, Mom really likes them too!

Life is going swimmingly and there are a lot of thoughts rushing about in my head. Right now I shall remain vague, but I'll have to talk about it soon.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

I just blasted through this book. I am a girl and this is a true girl book. It is all about love and friendship and mentoring, etc. And of course if it doesn't make you cry just a little then it's no good! I would suggest it if you want to feel part of a little club for a while. I am so happy to live in the era I do with such wonderful technology that the people I care about never seem too far away. But I will say that reading this book made me feel like I had my own little friends here at my apartment, talking me through my loneliness or my frustration with teaching.

It has been a really long time since I have been able to just lose myself in a book and feel involved in the story that is happening. I know a book is really good for me when I start dreaming about the characters in the book. And when I miss the characters during the day when I am at work and I just can't wait to get home and open the book back up, smell the pages, and share some emotion. I wouldn't call reading so much an escape from real life, as the ability to embrace real life and real emotions without having to tell your secrets out loud. So yes, I have secrets - don't ask, because I won't tell. ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oh brother, where art I????

I got wicked lost today trying to get myself home from Sakai West High School. This school is out in the middle of NOWHERE! I was there for only the third time today, and I was taken yet a third route to get there. I really think it is the lack of repetition that killed it for me. But anyway, I was driving in circles and recognizing convenience stores, landmarks and whatnot, but every time I thought I knew where I was, I just took another wrong turn (clearly not on purpose) and got myself lost again. When I did finally stop to ask for directions, I was literally two minutes away from my apartment, figures!

Oh well, it's good for me to get lost around here sometimes I think. At home I have a pretty decent sense of direction - I pretty much always know where I am, and if not I follow familiar signs until I figure it out. I'm never worried when I take a wrong turn or get a little lost at home - that's probably because America uses signs! I love road signs, I may have happened upon a new obsession in fact. But yeah, so I am here for at least a year and I have to figure out how to recalibrate my sense of direction without being able to rely upon awesome signage.

New plan for the weekend! Get a full tank of gas, and drive around until I know exactly where I am at all times! When I get hungry, stop and get food. Under no circumstances am I allowed to stop and ask for directions, I just have to drive until I can figure things out and memorize a ton! I am kind of scared, but excited. Right now I don't go out much (unless I'm walking) because I am too worried about getting lost. The sooner I get over that, the sooner I can explore more places, further and further away. The only thing that will make it better is if I can con a friend into getting lost all day with me! haha

Today was good in school. Sakai West is a really tiny school (only 187 kids) and everyone is uber shy. That makes getting responses tough, but it was okay nevertheless. As always Ariana and Dustin make a huge splash and I can bask in that for a few minutes until I have to move onto the next slide, thanks Kiddos!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's starting to get good

Oh, it's been a while since I have had anything that I wanted to talk about on here and for that I am sorry! I am sorry because I have probably lost some avid readers by not posting nearly everyday, and also because I haven't been opening my eyes to some of the really great "normal" things going on in my life! But, I'm back and I hope to pick up the pace again.

So I have decided that one of my favorite parts of the day now is to check over the worksheet I have all of my students do in class. As I have said before I made a PowerPoint presentation all about watashi (that means me) and I have a bit of a comprehension worksheet for all the students to complete. After they have answered all the questions I ask all the students to write a short self-intro about themselves so that I can read them and get to know them too. I always ask the basics (n/a/s/l). No seriously, name, age, hobbies, and then I ask them to write me a short message. In my more advanced schools I don't tell them that I can read hiragana and katakana because I know they can express themselves in written English. In my lower level schools I let them in on the little secret that I speak some Japanese and tell them that they can write Japanese if they have to. I am always surprised and often very happy by how much I learn reading these little biographies.

After each class I take loads of time first checking all of the answers on the front of the sheet - the boring stuff about me - haha. Often students will misspell my name or not write it at all, but when it comes to the question about how many people are in my family, (this answer only requires a simple number) I often get the full names and ages of all my other family members, go figure! PS, Ariana and Dustin, if you are reading this all the kids think you both are awesome and soooooo cute, fyi!

When I get to the back of the sheet I never know what I will find. Sometimes the front of the sheet will be completely blank, but the back is FULL of information and questions and drawings - so exciting! I get excited about this, but sadly it does solidify the presence of some big issues in the Japanese education system. All of these kids can spell and write (for the most part), but when it comes to speaking in class, crickets is the only way to describe it.

Anyway, a few of my favorite comments and questions that I have gotten from students so far:

"Why did you move to Japan? Why do you like Japan?"

"Please speak English with me, I love English!"

"I like to read books. I like to study English and I want to go to America one day. By the way, what do you think about the new Prime Minister in Japan?"

"You beautiful"

"I love you"

"Do you have a boyfriend?"

"I had fun today."

Many of the students tell me about their hobbies and always tell me, "Nice to me to." (i.e. meet you). I make it a point to respond to what is written on the back of every sheet. If they like music, I ask about their favorite singer or band. If they like video games, I tell them I play a Nintendo DS. I always answer all their questions and ask some of my own. Sometimes I sneak some Japanese in there and in my head I like to think they are at least a little impressed by me.

One of my classes I have not done this formal presentation, instead the teacher just asked me to bring in some photos of my life and talk about them. When the students understand more English, I think I prefer this way of introducing myself. I had a small class today, about 9 students and showed them a ton of pictures of Pep Rallies, Prom, my house covered in Snow, my family. For every picture it seemed I had a new story or anecdote I could tell. All of the students were so excited and engaged and would respond with their own story or comment.

Nearly all things in life begin awkwardly and Patience is required - that's something I am still working on. I'm in a great frame of mind now and this teaching thing is tough, but I can totally do it. Thanks for your patience while I got my head together. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Americana by Don DeLillo

I have just finished this book and I found it to be very enjoyable. It had a really great method of diving into the mind of the main character. From the first page to the last page, you never know what's going to happen next, however everything flows very well. Essentially the author attempts to highlight the stereotypes and hypocrisy in American culture through the perspective of a successful television network executive.

After I started reading I found some of the topics discussed to be surprisingly poignant to modern day social and political news. I checked out the copyright date and it is 1971; just goes to show the same concerns are ever present in society. DeLillo discusses Global Warming, China as a pending economic super power, and the fear that those supposed to be in charge are nearly incompetent.

I think the author really touched on some interesting social issues, but also had a talent for exploring issues of the human psyche and coping behaviors. I would suggest this book for anyone wanting a really heady somewhat philosophical read. A good piece if you want to think and reflect.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"My name is Annelyse, and I am a blogger." (in monotone drone) "Hello, Annelyse."

I think, in a way, blogging has created a whole subculture of people who feel like they are invincible online. To feel this kind of confidence and strength can be addictive. In addition, when others acknowledge you and your thoughts as valid the effect is euphoric. Think, it is the perfect venue to divulge personal thoughts and discuss uncomfortable things all without the fear of confrontation. You can write a blog entry at any time of the day or night and make a post as often as you like.

I feel as though all bloggers (regardless of theme or topic) are unofficially part of a little club. We appreciate the effort it takes to organize thoughts in an appropriate way to be read by others. Essentially, as a blogger, I feel it is my responsibility to read and acknowledge other bloggers from across the spectrum. Reading the thoughts of others written on a page always causes me to become introspective and reflect until my opinions and life experiences past and yet to come.

One common theme I have found throughout all of the blogs I have read is that everyone is trying to figure something out. In our age of instant communication I think we often forget to listen to the words we are saying to one another. We are always devising a response; we speak and then think about what we are going to say next and then say it, and then think about what we are going to say next and then say it, on and on. People are tired of speaking and not being heard (granted it is a vicious cycle and we all do it).

Blogs are a perfect response to this overload on the verbal airwaves. When I write I am always trying to learn something new about myself, and often I do. I have this habit of looking out the window while I type; I don't look at the keyboard and I just let my hands sift through all of the thoughts in my head. Of course, this method calls for heavy editing in the end; I am prone to much rambling and poor spelling.

Really what got me started on this tangent was reading a blog that my Mom suggested to me. It is a blog kept by a guy my age, just graduated college and diagnosed with cancer. From what I have read he has it in different places all over his body. To read what he has to write is often inspiring and very scary. Our lives are wildly different; the struggles in his life are very real and of a life or death nature. My struggles seem insignificant and silly when I think about it. That doesn't mean it doesn't count when I am sad or mad, it just helps me to be sad and mad much less.

So in the end, we are all just trying to figure things out in our head, delve through jumbled thoughts to find clarity and meaning. And delayed communication can often be the best prescription for what ails your mind. Everyone needs to speak and be heard; and everyone needs to take their turn being quiet and hearing. If that means we have to get off the phone, walk away, sign-off instant messangers, so-freaking be it. Write a letter, a journal entry, a new blog post and read over what you have written. Take the time and effort your thoughts and feelings deserve and afford others the same courtesy.

There is a point buried in all those words.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I need you to know I care

There is an older gentleman on the train with what appears to be his daughter and his wife. He is in a wheelchair and only has the use of one hand. He is wearing a beige jacket with snaps at the cuff. He wants to change the snaps to make the cuffs tighter, but he is having trouble making the snaps work by himself. He is nudging his daughter for help, but she shrugs him away, refuses to help. The man waits a moment and attempts the snaps again by himself. Again he nudges for help. I want to run over and help him. I want to show him attention and kindness. I wish I could speak to him and know his story. He struggles and after continued trying, succeeds in properly snapping his jacket cuffs. I wonder if he notices me as I notice him. Can he see my tears the way I see his struggle?

I will strive for my entire life to show compassion for those seeking help. To seek help is incredibly noble, and that nobility deserves respect. Every person has a story that is worth knowing. The struggles of one person are not permanent, they are not the only means by which this person has lived their whole life. Strife is often a component of great personal risk, ultimately seeking great personal, professional, family, or community reward.

Human feelings and compassion are complex thoughts with undefinable parameters. I do not need to defend my sincere desire to show people love and attention. People walking into my life deserve my attention sincerely. I seek only to learn and complete their lives with a small piece of my own. I am the lucky one to know the people I do, they make me a better person.

Life should be treated as a great privilege. To neglect the presence of others and their significance in our lives (and our significance in theirs) is nearly criminal.

My thoughts are complicated and difficult to put on paper. But if I never seek to understand them, then I do not deserve the happiness I gain from having strangers enter my life and become my dear friends.

Please excuse my vague philosophical rambling.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Trust life

Sorry that I have taken a couple days off. Teaching is exhausting; I have always loved and admired 99% of my teachers, but having to do it myself gives such incredible insight and elevates my level of respect exponentially. I kind of want to go back and try even harder and let the teachers I have had know how much I appreciate the thought and effort that goes into each class.

Teaching has never been something I thought I would do, it just kind of fell into my lap. Hearkening back to my childhood pageant days, I remember that each contestant was asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It seemed like everyone around me wanted to be a teacher (or a vet), and I would always answer, "A mathematician." haha Clearly that didn't work out, so it seems that very few of use actually know what we're talking about when it comes to what we want to be when we grow up. Frankly at this point in my life I'd just like to grow up, you know, get a little taller, reach the "big girl" shelves at the grocery store, etc.

How many incarnations of what I wanted to "be" did I go through? There was the mathematician with a degree from Yale, there was the actress (again with a degree from Yale), there was the English/Japanese translator (degree from Middlebury), Psychologist, Broadway star (degree from Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Shenandoah - they finally took me), and then I applied to Tulane with no real plan. Never did I consider balance sheets, marketing strategies, economic theory, management theory, market trends to ever be part of my life. It seems that my life simply happens upon the best choices for me.

I guess that is a product of my subconscious knowing that it is much too dangerous to let me think (and think and think and think and think x 100000) about it and try to decide for myself. I have quite the intuitive and observant subconscious in fact. It helps me to cultivate the best friendships and pay attention to the most random, yet important information. Also it helps me to do research and think carefully about things, and then to throw all that away and completely shift gears. I tend to jump headfirst into situations and potential life experiences of which I have little or no knowledge prior to my adventures. I would say this is how I finally came to settle on studying business (from music theatre) and how I finally ended up at Bentley. This is how I decided to move to Japan and teach English and this is probably how I will find my first job back in the States.

I am drawn to doing difficult things. I make crazy choices and completely leave my whole life behind every couple years. I hate change, go figure. I go through intense periods of pseudo "regret," and at the same time begin planning my next adventure.

sidenote: When it comes to the reality of my life, I regret nothing I have ever done. I sincerely believe regret is a useless emotion and waste of energy. Regret applies only to events that have already passed and thus cannot be changed. Events that are happy actually produce positive energy when reflected upon and basked in. Events that are unhappy are merely a drain of energy and severely reduces the value of your human capital and potential for greatness.

Adventures I want to have in my life even though I know they will be hard and I may want to give up halfway through (which is never an option):
  • Climb Mt. Fuji again and get to the top this time
  • Travel across the USA and see every state and every gimmicky giant ball of yarn there is. Oh yeah, and majestic things like the Grand Canyon.
  • Get married
  • Make a family of my own
  • Make a lot of money, and spend a lot of money so that my children can see the world and make their own adventures and difficult decisions. I want to be as good as my Mom when my kid is having a tough time halfway around the world.
  • Live until I am very very old and I can tell my great grandchildren about the time I climbed Mt. Fuji. (like for real, and got to the top and everything)