today i finally told my favorite teacher, naoko, that i was going to stay in japan another year. much to my surprise, she got teary-eyed and hugged me twice like she just couldn't help herself. i felt the lightness of her joy and relief. she said "i feel like celebrating! i was so worried, but i was afraid to ask!" (for heaven's sake--every time i re-read this, i get choked up.)
it's true, coming back from a place where no one was startled by my foreign face was a bit difficult, and getting into school again hasn't been easy. but that's work, right? i'm happy to have a lighter semester...four fewer classes per week than i was teaching before. and i've had some more memorable firsts:
i got my first honk and wave from someone i actually know in a car--the lunch room man! he’s so nice, but i still can’t remember his name. he always wants to know how cold it gets in colorado. (mainasu nijuu)
i also stopped into a tiny little gift shop i’ve been wanting to see. intimidating? yes. it looks like you're walking right into someone's home, and often you kinda are. it's a stuffed, but organized space with luxurious foreign cigarette boxes and butter cookies, traditional japanese tableware, and other curiosities. the shop mistress was on the phone when i came in, so i just stood in the middle of the bursting room and turned and turned to get a look at everything. she got off the phone and apologized. we conducted a stunted, but relatively varied conversation entirely in japanese. mainly i nodded my head in assent or confusion depending on how much i understood. i think i held up decently well, and she even offered her blog address as a calling card! (times are changing) i asked her if they had calendars and bought a beautiful washcloth. she even poured me some sakura ocha and offered me a seat in the tiny place. she spoke exclusively in japanese until the very end when i couldn’t understand her parting words (repeated several times) and she finally said very clearly “see you.”
this week i got invited to a kimchi nabe party. nabe is an aesthetically delightful winter soup. the office girls at my school are starting to involve me in their social lives--YAAAY! so this is my first invitation to a friend's house that i don't technically work with and who doesn't technically speak english. or something. though i've already been out with said office girls once, this event wasn't orchestrated by me, so it feels, you know, like they like me. tonight i made blueberry muffins for the party tomorrow. my oven can't manage cookies, but the muffins turn out ok. and though they contain those japanese eggs to which i have a dreadful allergy, i ate three. even if i get all itchy and oozy, i think it was worth it.