Tuesday, July 29, 2008

i guess i'll die another day

well, (thank God!) Clem has been groped and prodded by numerous doctors, sonogramed, and it seems he will be with me for the time being. with the liability so many health professionals must feel, it seems they will scarcely say anything definite, but the surgeon who ordered the ultrasound vaguely supposed Clem is a harmless fatty tumor (i know, gross). that was the best of all the options, though, so it will do. the most wonderful people in the whole experience were the sonogram techs and the radiologist (i guess it isn't a crime to be a radiologist and have a personality). they were all puzzled by the elusive, invisible Clem, but they said it didn't look like a hernia (certain surgery averted) and it wasn't a lymph gland (read: not cancer). phew. the radiologist (whose name was Dr. Rohren--curiously close to what i'm called in japan) went to grade school in japan when he was a child! so cool! he was the person who really made me feel reassured.
it was the first sonogram i'd ever had, and it was kind of exciting and oddly relaxing at the same time. the gel they put on my stomach was warm, and it was so weird to watch the hollow oceans and dark echoes of my guts. it really does look like deep underwater, with strands of light.
anyway, thank you so much! it looks as though i really will be able to return to japan on time, for which i am profoundly grateful. now i just have to wait for the medical bills to come flooding in.

Monday, July 28, 2008

the visitor

well, something is awry in my guts. it's a lump in my abdomen that i've named Clem. Clem has been with me for at least several months, and mostly hasn't given my much trouble. tomorrow i'm hoping to find out more about Clem's nature and what we can do about him.
dear Lord, please kill Clem. without surgery. please let him not be serious trouble. please let me be able to return to japan in two weeks, healthy. i realize you are not bound by my limited imagination for solutions. amen.
if you're the praying type, hit me with your best shot. thanks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the longest movie never made

so i promised to tell you the whole story. i'll try not to belabor you with the infinite details, as i have done to the people i've already told aloud (sorry friends, the Great Minutia Catcher has to unload somewhere). some of this story you may already know. if you need to catch up, search for "wisteria" in my blog and read the previous entries.
so this is the story of a boy and thegirl. it's the slowest story ever told. if it were a movie, you would have given up watching hours ago, called your friend to say "never rent that movie Thegirl Meets Mr. Sugar, 'cause i only made it halfway through the first disk, and nothing happened. why does everyone think slow movies are so artistic!?" and your friend would say, "well, i did like Lost In Translation, and it was slow," and you'd reply, "oh, i liked that too, but this is totally different. how on earth did this movie ever get made!?" then you would have drunk some herbal tea and gone to bed. but this is my life, a movie i'm part of, and i have the time to sit around and see what happens.
[after the initial meeting/four months of awkwardness/slow reconnection]
as the year wore on, every enkai gave me a better opportunity to talk with mr. sugar. it seemed like we both welcomed the chance, and slowly i was getting to know him. we could even have a little casual conversation at school, only for a moment, but it felt more comfortable.
finally, about two weeks ago we had another enkai. this time i was determined to find out something real. i wasn't sure what, exactly, but something. i finally made my way over to his table in the confusion of tipsy, boisterous teachers. we started to talk. we were only interrupted when his very drunk friend spied us chatting and pointed suddenly across the table with a friendly, accusatory finger and blurted, "HE'S SINGLE! HE'S NICE GUY!"
i had found my something real. not hiding a wife or girlfriend at home, mr. sugar is single (and i'd like to presume for the moment, heterosexual). ending the night with several vague promises to do things together (or at least in the vicinity of one another), i glowed home. but would the next day prove to be that ice-water wake-up call? enkai promises are often forgotten or ignored embarrassedly in the daylight hours.
within seconds of the 8:30am bell, mr. sugar had placed a brand new baseball in my hand--a promise that i had completely forgotten! he had said he would give me a baseball with our school name on it, and he did. (he's the baseball coach, see?) grabbing the moment of fulfilled promise, i asked if he would be able to teach me some kanji. he agreed.
i was a mess of adrenaline and hard heartbeats waiting for our first kanji lesson. for the next hour, i jumped when anyone came near my desk and felt positively silly for doing so. i finally realized he wasn’t coming, so i relaxed. then i looked up and there he was. “sorry.” he had been too busy with baseball practice. i waited for him to dash off, but he didn’t; he stayed. along with my best friend teacher, we talked and laughed for the next hour and a half! at school! sober! finally, i was too hungry to stay any longer. he asked if i had time to try our lesson early the next week. of course!
our first lesson was exhausting! we were trying so hard, and neither of us really had a clear direction. i kept up as well as i could, but finally i told him to please write the finished character and then teach me how to write it. we started getting the hang of it. after an hour and a half of that, we sat back and just talked. he stayed at my desk until i headed out for lunch. we met again the next day. this time we talked a whole lot more than we studied. i learned about his family and friends, we harassed each other, and at long last i felt like i had met the real mr. sugar.
but...i was set to fly home in two days. a three-week interruption, WHY NOW!? on the morning of my last day, he brought me the sweets i wrote about in my last post. that felt like the most concrete sign that something had truly changed. no longer afraid to speak to me at school, he had sat for hours at my desk that week in full view of everyone. his little food present was the nicest goodbye, and it was completely unexpected. i’m not fooling myself into believing this means anything specific, just that after all this time, he feels some sort of friendship with me. for now that is enough. i hope when i return to japan, what little momentum we gained is not lost. i hope he misses me a little.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

victory is mine saith the Lord. and, uh, i'm saying it too.

july: something is blooming near my house that smells like honeycomb, and i sniff the air deeply on my way to and from work every day. i've never been able to discover where the smell originates, as there are only verdant green plants everywhere and no visible flowers other than things i know, like hydrangeas. the cicadas are getting in some practice, and there are still pools of cooler, unhumid air swirling around that make the heat feel ok. they finally turned the air conditioner on at school, too. when the days are not oppressive with pre (or post) rainstorm mugginess, i really love this time of year.
in summer, japan takes on the character most alien to my own experience of nature--(due to my upbringing in the dry mountains and desert)--the character of jungle, that is. vines plummet with new growth off of lights and electrical lines, grabbing for my hair, oranges fatten on the trees, and it becomes more and more difficult to breathe the heavy air. it's like trying to aspirate honey. but it's exciting. i never know what i'll see every day, from a black and white striped beetle (like this morning) to a brilliant white egret in the canal (this afternoon.) and the first mukade of the season, which i've been waiting for and subsequently killed.

but that's just the setting to this story. i look forward to telling it all to you soon, but i'm afraid i must pack now to visit home, so it will have to wait a bit longer. it starts with a girl and a boy and a chirstmas party chat. after seven long months underground (when i thought it must be dead), it has finally began producing some interesting fruit: a baseball!
what was the first word i saw when i unwrapped that baseball (after 'Made In China')?


this morning, a bright-eyed mr. sugar (formerly known to you as mr. wisteria), rather than nodding to me professionally or not at all, as is typical, came over to my desk, mouthed "good morning" and waved a cute little wave. he then brought me sweets as a present! you may not think this is a big deal. but it is a BIG DEAL. just believe me. i'll explain later.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

what's with today today?

today[1] marks the beginning of something not nearly as exciting as Shark Week, but it takes just as long.....it's Termite Week! warm weather and big rains are ideal conditions for colonizing termites who climb through the screens into my house, drop their wings, and wriggle disgustingly over every surface. thankfully the first big rain week this year was interrupted by some sunny days, so many hopefuls were discouraged from their mission. i've learned termites must maintain contact with some source of water. now they're getting almost too big to fit through my screens.
flying termites do not bite, small consolation when you wake up with them crawling on you in bed. in my endless saga of insect infestations, this is just one more chapter i've grown accustomed to. encouragingly there are faaar fewer than last year before the exterminators came, but like last year, of course, they emerged the one weekend i had company coming. since they are able to squeeze through the screens during a time when the heat of summer has truly begun, Termite Week has now also begun to symbolize Air Conditioner Week too, as closing the windows makes it unbearably hot.

ok, it isn't really "today" anymore, it was two weeks ago that i started this, but "two weeks ago" doesn't have the same sense of immediacy. and the termites are still doing their thing, so it's still relevant.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

speaking of butter

this is one of the reasons i think my mom should come to japan...precut butter slices! my mom loves to freeze food, cut it into slices, or divide it into individual servings. many years ago, i was going to make grape juice popsicle cubes for summer, so i turned a full ice tray over into the sink. as i ran some hot water over the cubes, instead of melting, they began to turn white and solid!! what the...!? she had frozen egg whites into individual servings!
i've seen her slice a Snickers bar into slices and enjoy every one slowly. she never needs very much of a treat because she makes it last insanely long. that's perfect for japan! small treats in abundance!

another reason she should visit is something called annindoufu. i've been in japan two years, and i've only just discovered it. though it doesn't look like much, it's paradise in a plastic cup. imagine the smoothest, not-too-sweet, almond-flavored panna cotta, and you're getting close. a kind of tofu pudding flavored with apricot seed oil, it is my current obsession.

and finally...clothes that fit tiny people! when i was young, i wanted to be as tall as my mom because she seemed taller than most of her women friends. when i outgrew her by three inches, i realized just how tiny she really is! she's also thin with narrow shoulders...the perfect body type to find ample wardrobe choices in japan.

hmm...not to mention the joys of japan's cleanliness stratosphere. like me, my mom could truly appreciate how spotless every hotel room surface is, since she's the one who raised me with such a keen eye and hunger for the immaculate. in fact, the japanese word for beautiful, kireii, also means clean. beauty = clean. mama, this country was made for us!

naughty dandelion

i just thought this was cute, especially when the little girl gets kind of exasperated...like, "this was fun, but sheesh, so much work!" i feel that way sometimes.