Tuesday, November 21, 2006

i could totally be a drug runner

i can be opportunistic the piddling percent of time i'm not feeling utterly lazy, and when a teacher asked me to retreive a video from my house, i suggested getting it at lunchtime instead of after school. she headed off to guard the far gate of the school, and i went along to see what i could see (since i'd never been to the far gate). i asked why she had to guard the gate and she said it was to keep students from using the vending machines right across the street. hmm. there were vending machines IN my high school, so it's a little different approach. now the students have to WORK for their junkfood...not a bad thing, surely. as we approached the far gate, i could see the other teacher waiting for the switching of the sentry. it was explained to him that i was leaving that way for official reasons, so i ambled through the gate and they continued talking. there's a tall hedge around my school, and though the vending machines were mere steps away, i could no longer see my fellow teachers. i walked straight past them, but those machines were calling me...one was an ice cream machine. i made a quick loop. the one day i happened to get a free pass out of school, i also happened to have enough coinage in my pockets to make a purchase. i checked over my shoulder, but the teachers were still involved in their conversation. i crouched down so they'd be less likely to notice me lingering at the corner. i'm sure i looked incredibly suspicious, but if no one is looking, what does it matter? i made a quick selection and winced as the machine made its jangly thumpy vending noises, but still no curious eyes around the hedge. i swiped the ice cream (melon cream soda--my favorite!!) and on account of my glee at a sucessful contraband purchase, i slipped the wrapped cold package up the loose, black sleeve of my sweater. as i neared the front gate, i was glad i had. i hadn't considered there might be another teacher keeping watch there. there were question marks in his eyes since i was coming from an odd direction, but he greeted me simply, and i passed safely up to my house where i popped that sucker open and took a bite. i know no one would actually care much that i bought an ice cream--i'm not bound by the same rules as the students--but it was wicked fun to get away with it.
my surreptitious snack:

Friday, November 10, 2006

a show of hands

things that made me happy this week:

A is for Aircon: that beast of energy consumption was pouring icy air into my icy house until naoko-san taught me how to change it into a heater. i mean, i pushed all the buttons in every conceivable combination, but there's something to be said for being able to Read them. All Hail the Mighty Aircon. the consumption i was developing (*cough cough*) curled up and died.

B is for the Beach and The Birds:

Shi is for "Shi Chikin" or "Chicken of the Sea" AKA Tuna Fish. this is my favorite onigiri. who on earth would have guessed i'd be obsessed with tuna in rice with seaweed?!

D is for Dirtless Chalk. HAHAHAHAHAHA. this just made me laugh forever. it was in the copy room of my school.

E is for Even Better Than the Original: this is brilliant...
...after justin timberlake's sexyback

F is for Fire and Ice: my mom sent me the happiest box of sweaters and scarves and mittens (hallelujah, i was cold!), including the blue mittens i made last year that join the sunset-colored ones of the same yarn that i'm just finishing.

G is for Green Soda: this is the best soft drink ever...melon cream soda. it tastes nothing like melon, but it's sweet candy deliciousness.

H is for "How Many More Laps is That Guy Going to Run in a Man-Diaper!?" the whole school watched a professional performance of a play called Hashire Merosu. in it, a guy runs. a lot. for authenticity, the main character ran laps in fewer and fewer clothes until he was finally running in naught but a sweaty rag. the kids giggled and gasped, and i got lots of my own amusement from their reactions.

I Spy an Old Man Sleeping in a Department Store Massage Chair:

Juice + Litchi Liquer!

K is for Keitai Pictures on the way to school: tiny, tiny web laden with dew

the end.

Monday, November 06, 2006

crafty clashing

the following is a long thought, and informational, but still parenthetical...
[since yesterday was a regular day, i'll write about something i've been meaning to mention for quite a while: the ubiquitous mobile phone. in japan it's called a keitai, literally "portable." in the Land of the Small (the toothbrush i just bought is so tiny, i need to lash two together just to have enough surface area with which to scrub my apparently massive molars), i was surprised to discover that japanese cell phones are not exactly the sleek, credit-card sized paragons of efficiency i was expecting.
Exhibit A: The Girl's Keitai (it's boxy, but it's good)

what they lack in slimness, they make up for in complexity. i actually had to read the manual to figure out how to make a simple call...not that i EVER use it for that purpose. 50 bucks will get you a whole 30 minutes of talk time per month. WHAT?! you heard me. the 600 or 1000 minutes you get in the states is unimaginable generosity in japan. granted, you aren't charged minutes when someone calls you, but if all your friends also have keitai, ya ain't gonna be talking much. the affordable option is text-messaging, which is the route everyone takes. yes, your thumb gets tired, and yes you cry a few bitter tears when you accidentally erase a labored-over message that must then be retyped. i don't mind too much, though; i never was a big fan of talking on the phone anyway. consequently, only once since i arrived three months ago have i been subjected to an obnoxiously loud cell phone call. actually, i think that was the only cell phone call i've been subjected to, period.
when my phone does ring, it scares the living daylights out of me because it rings, lights up, and vibrates all at once. without fail, i fumble at it with shaking hands, nearly hanging up on the person as i search for the correct button to push.
setting aside the expense of actually talking on the phone, it's a pretty hip contraption. it has two cameras/video cameras, one that points at me, and one that points at others. it has kanji-recognition cabability, which i can then cross-reference in the japanese/english dictionary. of course you can connect to the internet, type in english, furigana, or kanji, set three separate alarm clocks (which will still go off reliably, even if you power down your phone), use the calculator, and video-conference. naturally.]

now to the subject topic:
i'm perfecting my ability to pair clashing patterns and colors in a way that's still attractive, at least to me.
Exhibit B: (how can you not be happy when you're wearing socks like these?)

my socks are no small amusement to my students, expecially the ones rocko sent me that depict a bear with underwear on his head.
Exhibit C:

my interesting fashion sense has caught the attention of a rowdy group of girls in my second-year class. though they're loud and talk incessantly during lessons, i've still developed an affection for them. here's two of the pack. misa is on the right; i sense a vulnerable sweetness below her brash fa├žade.

Friday, November 03, 2006

girl's got a gun

apparently the easiest thing to do was guess my halloween costume. after giving the hint that it was someone from the 20th century, about four people guessed right away that i would be a flapper, and one person even got the specific flapper (marina, you get a cookie). i was louise brooks for halloween. i only picked this specific woman because our hairstyles are, like, exactly the same. here's me in my handmade costume without makeup.

here's marina's fabulous shot.

two of my teachers encouraged me to wear my costume to school on halloween day, and though i warned them the skirt was a little short and thin, they waved it off, "the students will love it!" since there's almost nothing i like more than fishnets and fake eyelashes, i decided to go for it. i felt more than a little silly showing up in the staffroom wearing my costume, but several things made it all worthwhile. in my first class (freshmen), shock was evident by the excited murmurs of the students. one boy (front row) went so far as to tell me i looked good, sexy! i've never seen a bigger smile on his face. i swear it wasn't my intention to fuel their burgeoning sexuality! however, i had their undivided attention for more than a few minutes.

in the halls, mobs of girls practically passed out telling me how cute i looked, and one senior boy (rufio...from this post) even told me i was "happening." i guess that's ONE way to find out what english your students know. at the time, i was trying to keep the wind from pulling a marilyn monroe on my skirt in front of all the senior boys eating lunch. they were howling! by the end of the day, i was exhausted of holding my eyelash-clad lids open and of being even more conspicuous than usual. i took one last picture with the english speaking society (ess club) and went home to get normal again. here's the ess club minus a key member, natsumi. did i mention i'm tall?

the next day, hopeful male students were lurking in the hallways in the hopes that i had decided to make it halloween week and wear my costume again! fat chance.

so long, astoria or: my long lost 80s childhood

due to the undeniable beginnings of something i had all but forgotten about here--cold--i pulled a soft, hefty blanket from the closet last night and added it to my covers. the increased weight and warmth quite literally put me under a deep burden of sleep (known to scientists as "hi-ber-na-tion") that was seemingly inpenetrable until the alarm i had forgotten to unset for the holiday today racked my ears at 6am. i hit the off button soon enough, but i was startled by an even stranger sound (due to its infrequency)--my phone ringing! the voice that emerged from my throat seemed to come from beyond the grave, and i'm surprised my mom didn't hang up when she heard a ninety-year-old croaking into the phone. we said goodbye after only a few minutes of me struggling to break the surface of consciousness, and i was quickly drawn under it again. three hours later i finally washed ashore.
[i know it's a faux pas, but i'm going to change tenses now]
the day that greets me is sunny and languid, so i head outside as soon as possible (at, ahem, noon). the air smells of mothballs; i guess kumano is putting itself up for the winter. i pass a few students on my bike, and they wave and call my name. for a few, i slow down and ask, "how are you?"
"i'm fine" is the response they've all learned, so that's how they answer, but their smiles are warm as i pass. the last group of girls recognize my back and call my name, so i wave over my shoulder without turning around. this sends them into giggling fits. i believe kids are allowed to be kids longer in japan, and it's disarming. far from being jaded and sarcastic, the high schoolers (and adults too, for that matter) remain openly surprised and gleeful at my antics, beautiful fireworks, or whatever. their artless expressions of emotion encourage me to see the world again with fresh eyes.
i stop briefly at the bank for some cash. the ATM vestibule (attached to the bank) is permeated by a faint scent of paint thinner, which propels me unexpectedly into memories of my college art studio and first learning to paint. i hear echoes of jim's voice discussing vermeer's possible use of the camera obscura and remember the smells of individual pigments on my palette...schmincke yellow ochre always reminds me of turkey stuffing. i see rag towels stained with color, brush handles jutting like headless flowers from jars of turpentine, and half-finished paintings struggling to be set free from their two-dimensionality. the air is close with familiar chemicals (that now feel like old friends), but there's also the swirling, laden atmosphere of people trying to see with more than their eyes...the deep listening to inner echoes. i really miss that world, but i'm afraid i'm getting farther and farther from it. my fate, whether i admit it or not, has always been sealed in the pages of a book, not on canvas. i was made for words and paper and type and ink.
i leave the bank, jumping the curb on my bicycle and swerving a little to get going up the hill. the day stretches sunny and endless before me. suddenly i feel like the kid i never was--carefree and confident on two wheels, the earth nothing but wide streets and sidewalks made just for my tires.