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Monday, April 23

Tears and something like Achievement

This past weekend was the University of Maryland graduation in Tokyo. A graduating friend had asked me to come see her accept her diploma and despite the fact that I have no interest in going to my own ceremony one day, I couldn’t refuse to support a friend. In my usual overly emotional way, I ended up hiding tears during the ceremony. I couldn’t help but think about what an accomplishment it was to be earning a degree… in a city halfway around the world from all of your friends and family… and I realized how really truly desperately I wanted this.

Of course I have talked about this all before… this need for recognition that I feel this piece of paper will give me. It’s just doing it over here in Japan… well, it seems so much bigger. And it totally isn’t and I’m not lessening anyone else’s hard-earned. It doesn’t matter where you get your degree, when you did it or how you went about it… it was damn hard.

Today I took two finals which brings my course load back down to four classes. Then next month, I start back into another overlapping semester which will put me again at six classes for one month. Other students who I have become friends with tell me that keeping this pace up is insanity. Friends and coworkers have told me that I need to slow down. And yet… I just can’t.

The way I look at it is that I have this limited time span to get this degree because there are options for moving back home earlier than are anticipated date and I want to be done before that. I simply refuse to stop now and not get the degree when I am so close.

Then there is also this self-inflicted guilt I can’t seem to rectify because I no longer hold my share of the weight financially in the household as I did in the States. We came here to Japan for the experience but I feel guilty if we book a trip to have that experience because there just never seems to be enough money at the end of the month for such frivolity. To resolve this, I soak up every subbing hour offered at the large cost of my peace of mind and patience with the world around me. Just today, I got a call asking for a regular subbing position until the end of the school year. I saw the dollar signs, barely acknowledged my own class schedule and didn’t think twice to throw out an adamant “yes!”

There is simply no good answer to this madness. Is it overachievement or simply another instance of my stupidity rearing its ugly head? Does anyone have a suggestion? Because I’ll admit… I’m getting pretty tired. Honestly, this is probably the real cause behind all the demonstrative tears lately. What else could explain tears during U.S. Ambassador, J. Thomas Schieffer’s commencement address? While it was very good, no one else was heard snuffling under their breath.

We booked a trip to Thailand coming up soon. Four lovely days in Bangkok petting tigers and riding elephants (and I totally mean literally). Yet one more force that drives my nodding head to work towards more of those little, double-lined S’s.

Another force now drives me to apply pen to paper for the constructive purpose of homework. I won’t get that degree by blogging the rest of today away.

Monday, April 16

Madly Mall Missing

It has been a well documented fact that I can’t do any clothing shopping in Japan. I have had articles of clothing yanked from my yearning hands while being pushed towards the door, amidst gasps of “won’t fit your big old American booty” on a couple of occasions. (I still refute their belief that I wouldn’t fit into a stretchy tie-died skirt. Although looking back now, I think they did me a favor.) Honestly, I am a size 14 and pretty darn happy with that. Did you know that was Marilyn Monroe’s size? I could be a dead ringer. I jest. The point I wish to make is that I am quite comfortable in my own skin these days even if for years prior, I wasn’t.

Since I moved here, I have resorted to online shopping with my back-home standard stores. Frankly, because I know my size and fit with these standards and shopping in a Japanese store can often bruise even the strongest of egos. On rare occasions that I have tried to shop here in Japan, it has always been at one of the many Gap stores that sprinkle across the landscape. (And never for pants. Floods just aren’t the look I am going for... at least not since junior high.) In my now nine months here in Japan, I have been to Gap a total of five times. (For those that know me personally, would you please send me a cash award in honor of how very good I have become at overcoming my little addiction… never mind that it was forced mall withdrawal?) This is where yet another moment of my ignorance has reared its ugly head.

Each time I have been to Gap, on my way to the dressing room I was handed a gauzy bag. On each of these trips, not once have known what the hell the bag was for. But I took it with a big smile and a slight bow of the head and locked myself in the dressing room to try on my prospects. After I huffed and puffed through try-ons, I would then try to squeeze all the stuff I didn’t want into this flimsy, little bag, guessing that I was to use it to return the rejects. Oh, how very wrong and how very stupid it was.

Yesterday a Japanese-American girlfriend who shares my size and knows my difficulty here took me shopping. We went to an area called Jiyugaoko that sported streets full of little shops including a Talbots. While I am not normally a Talbots person due to expense, I am indeed desperate… which totally negates the price issue. As we headed in to the dressing rooms armed with mounds of potentials, I asked my friend about those little, gauzy bags and what there usage might be. Would you know that you are supposed to put it over your head when you try on things so you don’t get your cheap, sparkly lipgloss all over the clothing? In one tiny instant of memory at those previous trips to the Gap… stuffing all that clothing into what was actually a head bag… handing it over to the dressing room attendant with a big, stupid grin on my face… my face glowed red at the thought.


Of course I had to explain my maddening blush to my friend which only made it worse.

As if adding another insult to my blushing injury, Talbots’ dressing rooms offer head bags too. With directions on the box you take them from. If only I had kept my mouth shut for one more minute, I could have hid in the dressing room for the next twenty minutes until the embarrassment died from my stained cheeks, leaving my friend to never have been the wiser about her poor decision to make friends with someone so terribly clueless. And the looks of laughable curiosity would have been left indelibly only in my mind.

That book that everyone thinks they should write in their lifetime? Mine will be entitled, “How Not To Play Such A Damn Fool.”

I think online shopping is all I can handle from here on out.

Thursday, April 12

Wino Lessons 101

Wow. Who knew trying to follow up a post filled with lots of penises would be so hard. I feel like I’ve hit my culminating event here in Japan and there simply is nothing left to do/see/share.

I kid. There is plenty more to do/see/share. But one has to go out and do it to share it. That, my friends, is something I haven’t been much interested in the past week. It’s spring break here for me so no substituting, but at the same time, it is the first week of a new semester of online classes which happens to overlap with the last semester by three weeks. So every day since Sunday has been spent with my derriere firmly planted on my uncomfortable computer chair and swimming through reading and essay writing for six classes. While I have achieved the status of brain dead every day by five, it hasn’t been so bad. Now next week will be another story. Next week I am back to working every day with an Ikebana International meeting thrown in for good measure (which I don’t feel it is acceptable to miss since I just took the Board position and all). Then I have my six classes on top of that. If you see me next week, please smack me with something hard which will perhaps my common sense back into action.

There is one thing I did want to share about last weekend however. Kimono Hubby and I took ourselves out for a lovely Italian dinner at Napoli Pizzeria Cantina which affords the diner a beautiful view of Mount Fuji over the Zushi beach. Unfortunately, the sky was gray and hazy which completely obscured the mountain view. The food was absolutely fabulous. However I feel that there should be a warning here… if you are ordering wine at this particular Japanese Italian restaurant and the waitress asks you more than three times if you want two glasses for the Chianti you are pointing to in a floundering effort to order while insisting that you really do only need one glass, please know that you are ordering a whole damn bottle. For yourself. Oh, yes, I did. And oh, how I tried to finish it all by my lonesome. We even ordered dessert just to give me time to throw back another two glasses. In the end, you just can’t (and oh my, you shouldn’t) chug wine. Unless it comes in a box. ‘Cuz everybody knows that box wine is for chuggin’!

What a truly classy American I am.

One other clue for those of you winos in Japan, you may not be able to read the name of the item you wish to order, but you can read numbers, can’t you? So next time… read the price and get a clue! Dumb ass. Okay, perhaps that was really only a tip to myself. I need to write these things down to remember.

Wednesday, April 4

Joining the Ladies of the Night for a Randy Good Time

Spring in Japan has been absolutely beautiful. Every day I discover a new blooming tree to marvel over. What better way to celebrate all of this beauty than to head to a festival that takes place every spring, this year on April Fools Day… Kanamara Matsuri. Doesn’t that just sound pretty? Perhaps I should tell you the translation before you get too caught up in all this loveliness… Festival of the Steel Phallus. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a festival that is all about the penis. Ok, not entirely but first glance at the festival would forcefully indicate this concept to you. Entering the temple area, even the fabric signs lining the sidewalk and flapping in the wind underneath the fluffy, pink cherry trees have lovely, little penises on them.

Perhaps a little background to start… the festival has its origins in the Edo period of Japanese history when the town of Kawasaki would see its ladies of the night come out and pray for success in their *ahem* business and, of course, one small request by each for protection from syphilis. When the cherry blossoms would begin blooming, the ladies would parade the shrine’s phallic symbol through town and return to the shrine for a merry good time. Sounds like one interesting party to me.

As the years passed, the traditions have slightly modernized. The big pink penis is still paraded through town. There are still foods and drinks to overindulge yourself with. But now the celebration and prayers are geared towards protection from AIDS since it is a bit more difficult to catch syphilis these days. The ladies of the night from the past have turned into the Japanese transvestites of today. And the food which used to be bamboo shoots and spring delicacies has turned to penis and pussy-shaped lollipops as well as bananas, large Japanese root vegetables and hotdogs carved in phallic shapes. There is Viagra for purchasing just in case you meet someone nice at the party. And today you can even buy yourself a nice little, carved wooden penis to take home and put on your mantle to keep away your AIDS risk.

Just about everyone and anyone is welcome. All ages (although I won’t be taking any child of mine in the future), all nationalities, all sexes and sexual preferences. Mostly we all stood around in unspoken camaraderie while we drank are beers and sucked our pops into new and curious phallic formations. As the parade began, we stood crushed side-by-side to one another leaving only a narrow pathway for a much too large temple to be carried out through the crowd. They just shoved us tighter together. Although I feared the entire crowd collapsing from the pressure, causing hundreds of cases of asphyxiation to the masses with pops still stuck in their mouths, we all made it through safe and alive. Although the couple that carried the baby through… I would totally rethink the infant next year. Oh, and the couple that gave their boy child a pussy pop… thanks for not grabbing my camera as I snapped away.

If you are gasping over all of this, so was I. While I would love to show you all of the pictures I took that day, I am limiting them to protect those that shared this joyous day with me. (Wouldn’t that be one way to lose your brand spanking new friends… post pictures of them on top of a large wooden penis with their tongues hanging out and penis lollipops stuck to the end all over the internet?) However, if you are really curious at just how out of control I and the friends that I make can sometimes be, email me and I will send them directly to you.
Joking aside, the day is meant for those that would like to pray for many things – success in business, healthy progeny, a fertile marriage, wedded bliss or just plain old good health. I personally wish you all of these!