i thought i was settled in to my basic, non-communicative life in japan when i had a serious bout of Asthma (cue darth vader music). it got worse and worse (mold allergies? too much bleach in the air from my cleaning? dust?) friday night until i was struggling every moment to inhale enough oxygen. still without a phone and illiterate in japanese, i had no idea how to communicate what i was facing to any of my neighbors. can you say “hi, i don’t want to die in a foreign country?” to complicate matters, it’s a national holiday this week, so i couldn’t enlist the help of my fellow teachers because they’re all on vacation. swell. i did manage to skype-call emily and told her what was going on and did she know how to get to the hospital if it became necessary? she did. i slept poorly that night and woke up feeling about the same. i suspected it was my apartment causing the problems, so in desperation i agreed to go to a barbecue in another town just so i could escape El Mold-o-rific. kara and i (the other newbie) took our virgin train ride up to mihama where there’s a pleasantly cool river running by a stone beach. the train passed by some pretty enticing sand beaches that i would never have guessed were near my home. i saw actual families, not just 80 year old ladies! the day turned from sunny to rain, so we huddled under a tarp with a mix of JETs and japanese locals. the barbecued beef and roasted corn and pumpkin were fantastic, and though still struggling to breathe, i had a pretty good time. we were prodded to give self-introductions and then asked embarrassing questions by the fun-loving japanese translator/party-boy Kazoo, which proved to be the easiest trial so far since i’m rather fond of talking about myself. the guys were asked whether they liked asian girls and how young or old they would date, but the girls were let off the hook more easily. i showed some pictures of my paintings around and received many echoes of “sugoi! (amazing)”
after seeing my painting experience, drew, the last member of our american foursome, enlisted my help to paint an ugly desk his japanese fiancee hates. we made a run to komeri, the home depot of japan, and were advised to mix the concentrated paint with water. huh? we did as we were told and realized a lot was lost in the translation as it is only meant to be cleaned up with water. i got busy on the desk with the remainder of the non-runny paint, mai (his fiancee) made dinner, and drew made a hideous metal cabinet even more hideous with paint the consistency of milk. that night i slept in kara’s adorable, new apartment (why why WHY didn’t i get that place?) where the tatami mats make the room smell like hay. i woke up with better, but not totally clear, breathing.