I needed a little bit of caffeine the other day, so I did the American thing and grabbed a coke. (To be fair, I honestly have no idea what does and does not have caffeine here unless it’s coffee or tea.) I doubt I’ll ever find my name. Shout out to anyone named Miura though. (I haven’t met anyone with that name yet!)
I don’t think I’ll even apologize for skipping this one. I had a wonderful weekend (even if it was a little bit busy). But I’m proud of myself for powering through this. It’s been a long month, but I’m glad I did this.
Your highs and lows of the month.
It’s often very easy to look back and think about how terrible something was. It’s actually a little too easy if you ask me, and I struggled a little bit to think about the good things. But as I looked through my old journal, I realized that I had a pretty great month.
My trip to the Omoriyama Zoo.
This tiny zoo is nestled in the outskirts of Akita. It was a 40 minute bus ride from Akita station, and my friend and I had no idea what to expect. But my suite mate promised us red pandas (or as they’re called in Japanese, lesser pandas.) This was quite possibly the most wonderful zoo I’ve ever been to. It was small, but I got to see native Japanese animals like the raccoon dog and eat a peanut butter sandwich in front of a lovely lake. Even if there was a little bit of an awkward moment between the mommy and daddy elephant (it’s springtime!!), we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. And the lesser pandas were adorable.
I got an email in my inbox that asked me about ferns. I thought this was the weirdest thing ever, but it turned out that it was actually an old friend of mine who wanted to reconnect. We became online friends while I was in high school via a Fire Emblem forum. It was my first experience with a real forum, and the few people on that website became like my family. I spoke with them on a daily basis. After we all started growing up and the forum died, I was…more than a little sad. But it’s back with a new name and the same old faces. I’m more than a little happy about that. (And just so you know, FERN stands for Fire Emblem Roleplaying Network. But I’m waiting for the day someone buys an actual fern.)
Pancake party with my friends
My Australian friend randomly decided, “Hey! Let’s have a banana pancake and coffee party.” So we did. We got together and whipped us up some delicious pancakes. I shared my peanut butter and found out that it’s common in Australia to put sugar and lemon on pancakes. (I’ll stick with my peanut butter.) I got to talk to some super sweet Japanese students as well.
This month wasn’t without its complications though. Stressing about classes, worrying about this and that… That’s life though. We live through it.
Screwing up at my Gospel Choir concert
More recently, I’ve had a lot of communication problems with Gospel Choir. I try my hardest to understand, but I usually end up frustrated. I volunteered to write/read an introduction for a song for our concert. I wanted to be useful. However…because I didn’t understand I just messed up. Even when I asked in English I messed up. It’s quite difficult to explain, but I basically did everything wrong, and I still don’t think I’ve apologized enough. I’ve come back to my room from rehearsal more than a few times in tears because I wish I was better at understanding.
Getting lost on the way to the cat café
While it’s pretty trivial, my travel buddy and I spent several hours search for a cat café in Akita City. After wandering, getting lost, and wandering some more, we finally met a nice guy with near perfect English, who took us where we needed to go. …but it was closed. At least we knew our way back, but that took another 40 minutes.
Getting my nasty sunburn
This one is simple. I got sunburned. Badly. I have really bad tan lines. Japanese sunscreen does not work on me. Somehow I survived.
I’m getting closer and closer to the end of this. I can feel it.
Think of any word. Search it on Google images. Write about something inspired by the 11th image.
A lot of words bounced around in my head when I first read this prompt. I decided to eliminate nouns and go for an adjective instead. I honestly had no idea what I would get, and I’m pleasantly surprised. (And as a disclaimer, it’s nearing midnight here… I’m quite tired and my writing my suffer, but I want to get this posted!)
Living has to be one of the most difficult things in existence. Think about it. If we didn’t live, we wouldn’t have any trouble. We wouldn’t have troublesome thoughts. We wouldn’t have physical pain. We wouldn’t have to work our butts off to stay alive. I can’t be the only one who has a new trouble almost every single day. Whether it’s an energetic freshman crushing my toe with a metal chair or a professor going out of her way to make my life miserable, my troubles pile on top of me until I can’t move. They crush me where I stand, and that’s when life likes to kick me while I’m down. Sickness. Family trouble. School problems. Friend drama.
It never ends.
Life didn’t seem half as difficult when I was a kid. For example, I didn’t even realize I was a victim of bullying until someone pointed it out. I always shot that Ezekiel kid a smile when he called me “Four-Eyes,” thinking it was a pretty cool nickname. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. During recess, I remember munching on the little dandelion seeds without a care in the world until a teacher came to tell me to stop eating the plants. But I still played with them. There was something fun about blowing on them and watching all the little puffs disappear in the wind. I’d make my wish. I’d believe it with all my heart. I’d laugh at the guy who tried to throw dirt clods at me. I’d look up at the sky and count the birds.
If everyone has as much trouble as I do with this life thing, perhaps we can come up with a medicine for the daily aches and pains. Tell someone they’re beautiful, special, loved, wonderful… Even if you don’t think they need it, perhaps they’ll save that memory for when they do. Look a customer in the eyes. Smile a genuine smile. Buy the student madly typing away on his computer a coffee, even a small one. Kindness is a chain reaction that when done right, becomes this powerful force that not even life can conquer.
So if anyone’s out there who needs a little encouragement, just know that a lanky, awkward, wannabe ginger blogger thinks you can overcome your obstacle. I’ve overcome several myself. But know that life is meant to be hard. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth living. If getting to Japan were easy, I’d have done it a dozen times already, and I wouldn’t appreciate what I have right now.
But maybe next time it seems like too much, imagine a dandelion. Blow all your troubles away. Start over.
You can do it.
Now for a little game. If you can guess what the word I chose was, I’ll give you a cookie. (Or I could at least mention you in my next post.)
….I’m technically not late for my post if you’re living on the West Coast. (I had a four hour Gospel Choir rehearsal yesterday. it…took a lot out of me. FORGIVE MY LAZINESS. I’ll get better.)
Something that you miss.
Right now? Do you want to know what I honestly miss right now? It’s not something deep and profound. It isn’t something particularly nostalgic. It’s cheese. I miss cheese. Cheese. (We were talking about things we wanted in my Japanese language class today. Other people wanted money or a car or a new laptop. I rambled on and on about tacos.)
I grew up in New Mexico. I currently live in Texas. I have always been surrounded by what call “Tex-Mex.” Essentially, it is bastardized Mexican food smothered in copious amounts of sauce. It isn’t pretty. It doesn’t look like it would taste good. I would give anything right now to dive into a giant burrito smothered in cheese and green chili sauce.
Funny story. A month ago, my parents tried to send me a package and caused an international incident. A note to all of my readers: do NOT ship cans of spray sunscreen to Japan. For the love of God, don’t do it! In short, they tried to send me a 30 lbs package which contained a 5 pound can of that crappy guilty pleasure cheese. The package did not get to me. They learned their lesson.
I finally begged them to send me a few items via the mail, mostly some strong sunscreen that WASN’T in a spray can. Much to my surprise (but not really) they sent me a few items to make me feel at home. The weirdest thing I got? A 3 pound jar of peanut butter. So while I now have a good protein supplement, I’m still missing out on cheese. But I’m glad I don’t have 5 lbs of it. I don’t even know what to do with 3 lbs of peanut butter!!
A few weeks ago, I volunteered to go help rice local rice farmers plant their crops. Though Japan in general is famous for rice, Akita in particular takes pride in the quality of its crops. (So far I’ve learned that Akita rice and Akita sake are top notch.) This has been one of my favorite experiences since coming here, and I’m glad I get to share it at last. Rice planting or “taue” takes a lot of skill and a lot of hard work. It’s difficult to imagine smiles being part of the process at all.
“In Japanese, ‘taki’ means waterfall. It’s why the village is named Takinomata.”
Later that day, cool mist from that waterfall tickled my face. The sharp, slippery rocks in the riverbed cut into my feet as I trekked through the frigid pool in search of anything defiling this sanctum. I can recall the moment I stubbed my toe. My heart leaping into my throat, I grappled for anything around me. My hand brushed a tuft of soft foliage growing on a nearby stone and clung to the lush greenery before I could tumble face-first into the pool.
My group laughed. Any other day I would have hid my face, focused on the pounding of my heart or the pain in my toe, and shut myself out of their prying eyes. Instead, I reached for the massive branch blocking the flow of the river’s water. My goal. With a heave, I tossed it back to shore, flinging water and algae at the bystanders.
“I’m just fine, guys!” I caught myself.
Earlier, I remember groaning as I trudged through a pool of mud, each step more cumbersome than the last. Sweat tickled my neck, distracting me from my work. I took a step and suddenly, I felt the world around me spin. Flailing, I groped the air, expecting some sort of miracle. And somehow I found one. Gravity righted itself before I could tumble, and life went on for a moment longer. As I neared the end of the row, I dragged my boots behind me still slower, now coated in layer upon layer of mud. I needed to wash them. I needed to rid myself of the extra weight somehow. Behind me, the rows of “rice-lets” lay scattered in an off-kilter line. I noticed an older gentleman beside me, his wrinkled cheeks raised in a secretive smile. He turned his head downward and returned to his work, back bent, rice in hand, stepping through row upon row of “rice-lets” without ever once disturbing their rest.
Perhaps with age comes magic. The weight of the boots disappears, I thought. I looked down at my own attire, splattered in mud from rescuing my lacy sunhat before it could fly off into the murky depths. As our group leader called for a break, I finished my second row and hurried towards the running water to clean my boots at long last. But then a thought struck me. I watched my group leader padding through the grass, her feet bare and backside covered in mud. She danced next to the paddy, snapping pictures of us as we guzzled green tea.
I struggled to remove my own boots. For several minutes in fact. I tugged and tugged until at last I felt freedom. I hurried back to the field completely revitalized. Perhaps it was the green tea. Perhaps it was my imagination, but as I slid my bare feet into the mud, the sweat on my back disappeared and a cool sensation replaced it. I sunk to the bottom, but I felt as if I could float on top. The rice slept quietly between my feet. The mud slid through my toes instead of clinging to my skin.
And all too soon it ended. I stood before a glorious paddy painted almost gold as the water reflected the sun’s light. The rows seemed a bit straighter, even the ones I had planted. We huddled around the flowing water, scrubbing our feet and hands and boots and clothes. We shot pictures of the fruits of our labor and documented our fatigue. I couldn’t stop. I knew I could plant more. I could plant it all.
I caught the old man’s smile again, his gaze set on our hard work and his own friends. A lifetime of planting, growing, harvesting, sharing… He still captured the beauty of it all through the grime, the sweat, the dehydration, the fatigue.
As we returned home, the savory smell of roasting port greeted us before we could step through the door. Adorned in bandanas and aprons, short village mothers scurried through the kitchens. They chitchatted almost like birds, carrying plates of vegetables and onigiri to and from the dining hall. The men gathered in their own corner, chatting about the day’s work no doubt. My group occupied the bathrooms, changing out of mud spattered clothes, filling up water bottles, scrubbing fingernails. Again. I picked at the grime under my own fingernails and decided to keep it. A little extra minerals with lunch never hurt anyone. I think.
I wish I had prepared myself for the pain though. Not the pain in my legs or my back or toe. That sort of pain seemed pleasant, almost like a reminder of my accomplishment, my hard work. I wanted it to stay so I wouldn’t ever forget. But the longing. I remember longing for Takinomata as I longed for Mitaka. But I longed for more than just the place. I longed for the mud, the smell of pork, the smile of an elderly farmer, the suspense of almost falling.
I still don’t know how I caught myself.
What are you excited for?
I’M GOING TO SEE THE SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN LIVE ACTION MOVIE.
Yes. All caps is necessary.
I have to leave Japan on August 2nd. Unfortunately, I miss the Kanto festival, but I found out that the Shingeki no Kyojin (or Attack on Titan) movie comes out on August 1st. Now, I’m not a huge anime fan. I like it. I’ll watch a show every once in a while, but it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to watch Sailor Moon. Sometimes I need some Sherlock. Other times I need some Spongebob in my life. I’m a complicated person.
But yes. I’m stoked. I’ve bought a hoodie to represent my favorite group of Titan bashing warriors. I’ll wear it proudly and let tears of horror and happiness stream down my face.
On another note, I’m getting another suitemate today! I’m very excited to get to meet her.
Here’s to new friends and violent movies!!!
Note: I hope you’re ready for this week’s story coming out tomorrow. I promise you, it will be a good one!
Write about five blessings in your life.
I’m glad this is a nice change from yesterday. (Too many of these blog posts seem negative, and I don’t need that in my life, but it is nice to get it off of my chest.) Last year, I told myself I would stop dwelling on the negative as much as I had in the past and try to find something positive. I would love to write about blessings.
1.) My Little Sister
We haven’t always gotten along. In fact, we’ve been rather mean to each other, but in the last few years, we’ve started to get along better (probably because I’ve moved out of the house, and she doesn’t have to deal with me all the time). Getting a message from her almost always brightens my day. We understand each other even if we don’t necessarily agree. And the other day, she sent me this tumblr screenshot which completely sums up our relationship.
2.) My Roomie
Or I should say…ex-roomie. I met one of my best friends at the end of my freshman year of college. We really didn’t know each other that well, but we both needed a roommate for the coming year. We agreed and became fast friends for two short years. She graduated this year…but she provided me with more support than I could have ever asked for. She was a prayer warrior. She was enthusiastic. She followed me through all my endeavors and took pictures even when she really didn’t need to. She encouraged me, and she made me laugh. Best of all, I could rely on her to eat pineapple and ham pizza with me.
I should count this as a wonderful blessing. I still can’t believe I’m here. (I mean, I can, but if you had told me three years ago that I would be spending a semester abroad, I would have laughed.) I’ve worked hard to get here, and I’m grateful each and every day for my life here. I know the memories I make will last a lifetime.
4.) My health
I’m an extremely disaster prone person. All. The. Time. I hurt myself with life. (There’s a running joke in my family that Fate will not stop until every last particle of matter has found its way into my eye.) However, I rarely get sick. Maybe once or twice a year. Sometimes it isn’t even bad. I can recover in a few days even if I feel terrible. (Of course even if I do feel terrible, I usually keep trucking through my day. I actually had a professor tell me to stop coming to class last semester.)
5.) Caffeine (Here’s to you coffee and tea!)
Okay, here’s my silly one. If coffee didn’t exist, I would probably be a very irritable person all the time. My nickname in high school was actually Caffeine. But yeah, I’m a three cup a day kind of person, one with each meal to give me enough energy to power through all my homework. Thank goodness! (On a separate note, we will not talk about the time I overdosed on caffeine.)