Sunday, August 31, 2008

break out

we've had a sudden outbreak of grey weather; today was like day ten of unflinching dark skies. i don't mind actual rain, but this was beginning to remind me of those endless, dull tacoma days where rain happens at some point every day, but mostly it just hangs over you like guilt.
i decided to go for a run in the misting morning. i got a sluggish start on the sea wall and passed a few old couples crotcheting along with umbrellas. soon the ipod music entered my bloodstream, though, and i was picking my feet up with a little more enthusiasm.
i haven't really been setting goals for myself the last few years, and that's starting to bother me. i should be doing many things: studying japanese, planning my future, planning my lessons. i thought maybe i should try to run for twenty minutes without stopping. might as well start now. for someone with asthma, that can be easier said than done, but it's much easier at sea level. i had a go at it.
the air was heavy and smelled raw and spicy, like kimchi. hawks hovered overhead. before i really even felt like i had settled into my rhythm, i thought i could spot the foggy, distant end of the sea wall looking...a lot less distant. perhaps i could make it all the way to the end without stopping! pretty amazing, considering i used to run on the sea wall last year and wouldn't even make it to the end. i did make it, and then i walked the entire way back, which took forever. hips aching and soaked with sweat and rain, i passed the old man i had run by at first. he gave me a sunny smile and encouraged me to ganbaru (persevere) as he pantomimed running. i loved that.
inspired by the smell of the air, i ate kimchi with my brunch, and finally the sun made an appearance.
one benefit of the rain is some summer days that masquerade as cool, so my impulse to knit kicked in super early, and i'm half done with a pair of mittens. i also made some winter miso soup tonight (potato and chinese cabbage), and it was delicious.

school starts tomorrow, SIGHHHH, but i also managed to not procrastinate all weekend, so now i have time to watch tv and knit some more. later!

Friday, August 22, 2008

the hypochondriac is IN

well it seems my challenge this year is to not freak out every time i have a little health problem. last night, for instance, i removed my contact lenses and my left eye was blurry. i blinked many times, but the blur wouldn't move or change. i washed my eye repeatedly; no change. so i got all tense and gaspy and worried about the other eye, viruses, blindness, etc. when i woke up, it was fine.
i wish i could say that this is an anomaly, but ever since i came to japan and feared for my life during a surprise asthma attack my second week here, with no phone, knowing no japanese, and having no transportation...i've been a lot more stressed about my health. it doesn't help to know that the medical care in this area of japan is not exactly competitive or cutting edge.
last weekend the problem was my toenail, which was getting ingrown and infected due to some shoes i will never wear again, ever...maybe (well, they're really cute shoes). anyway, it was a holiday and i was hoping to leave it be, but it was getting red, white and weird-looking, and hey, i don't wanna go septic on the weekend. the office lady was really worried too, and she basically annoyed me into going to see her friend the doctor. he was kindly-gruff and a little too eager with the "you want me to cut it?"
"no! i do not want you to cut it! do i have a choice?"
he sighed and sat back, "well, i'll just give you some antibiotics then," clearly disappointed!
but what i realized when i got home and had already taken the first pill, i'm allergic to a certain antibiotic, and he didn't ask me if i had any medication allergies. oh no! Girl Dies From Common Antibiotic; Office Lady Plagued With Guilt, "I made her go to the doctor!" turn page for story.
but guess what? i lived.
i've just never been on such a hair-trigger for panic.
other things i've had this year: a whole day of a rushing sound in one ear, unexplained dizziness, strange impressions on my skin in the morning (bugs laying eggs in my arm? no, just sleeping on a button), CLEM the friendly fatty tumor, and a TSS scare.
i am just so much fun!

i will leave you with this dinosaur comic:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

getting schooled

today was my date with the business end of a baseball. i thought it was supposed to be Easy, Happy, Fun Time with the eminent mr. sugar, but he informed me that one of the students would be teaching me how to pitch. hunh!? i didn't understand why he wouldn't take the chance himself, but since i dearly love the student who'd be teaching me, i felt in, full of anxiety and adrenaline OK. i mean, i didn't really want to face my humiliation in front of a team who practices from dawn to dark on a daily basis.

every year on my birthday, i choose a new theme for the year. this year's theme is More Risks. in other words, i need to stop imagining possible failures and just try things, follow my heart, let go of control. this was a very good exercise of that principle if nothing more. i kept reminding myself that i have zero experience in baseball; i am a baseball baby. i haven't learned to walk or talk, so i can't expect to just be good at it. i have never played more than a game or two of long-forgotten P.E. softball, and i certainly never pitched. the only thing i used to do, which motivated this great baseball education, was to throw the ball as high and straight into the air as i could and then catch it. i wasn't too bad at catching, but one missed ball nearly knocked me senseless on the front lawn. actually throwing to someone is an entirely different thing. a harder thing.

in preparation for this event, i retired to the sports park yesterday for a nerve-busting workout. i had been feeling pretty wound up for several days anyway, so some hard running in an un-airconditioned! gym was just what i needed? is airconditioning for losers?? turn it ON, people. it doesn't cost that much. this is like the hottest place in the world.
anyway, after that i sheepishly shuffled over to an empty field and tried my hand at pitching, based on some internet pointers. i was a giant bag of crap at pitching. it was less throwing the ball than disgusting the ball so much that it was desperate to fly in any direction to get away from me. about 85 percent of the balls went too far left, 5 percent went straight into the ground, and the remaining 10 percent went approximately where i wanted. i won't say i didn't improve. there were one or two pitches that may have been considered good if they hadn't been vastly accidental. that day didn't do much to alleviate my nerves for the next, but at least i managed not to hurt myself too badly. *stretch-stretch*
then it started to pour. in seconds, all the random people who had been milling around the area were under eaves, and i laughed madly from the center of the field. it felt amazing! the rain pelted down and soaked me utterly. i jumped and danced and did handstands and brushed the hair and mascara out of my eyes, and kept throwing. it lightened my heart and eased my body. it reminded me who i am. it reminded me that in a culture where i often feel confused and excluded because i look different and can't speak eloquently, i am still myself. my essence is in tact, and that more than anything gave me courage for today.

so today my name was called by mr. sugar, and we made our way to the field.
nervous? yes. ready?


he let me choose my glove and ball. i shook my head in embarassment at the five guys sitting around who would be witnessing thegirl getting schooled in baseball. the boy who was supposed to teach me was nowhere in sight. mr. sugar stepped up to the plate, har har har har har. i think he was surprised to find i had never played any sport ever, least of all baseball. i could see NOVICE register in his eyes. he thought i had more experience.

in very respectable english, he explained stance and grip. we tried a few. they were weak. my body just didn't know when to let go. it was a lot to think about, too. at least i didn't have any problems catching the return balls. he told me a few more shoulders should rotate at the same time; my hips should follow that same movement; i should look straight at him to aim. they were a little better, but i was getting bogged down in the explanation. then we found the magic formula; he taught me the wind up, and we did it together like mr. miyagi and the karate kid. snap! the next pitches were momentously easier to throw and went farther and straighter. it was a tremendous transformation (in my humble opinion). that's what a good teacher can do. mr. sugar was gentle and patient and encouraging, which is funny since he's known as a hard-ass coach and teacher. i pitched for an hour, determined to keep trying even after i got tired and sore. he traded off with several boys on the team who seemed to enjoy playing with me. they were really sweet too, those dear baseball boys. more and more of the team arrived and greeted me in stunned english when they registered my presence.
when i looked at the time, i was shocked to find i was having so much fun that i had completely missed lunch! i hadn't noticed even once how hungry i was. mr. sugar and i sat down and rested for a bit and talked easily. he said i couldn't throw at all when i started that day (no argument there), and by the end i was a good pitcher. he said i should join their team. haha. i said i'd need to practice batting next if that was the case. it was amazing to be in that space, relaxed in the dirt with the boys all around, a place that has felt secret and closed off from me since i came here. as we walked back across the field, talking, smiling, i couldn't help but stand a little taller as i slipped even more back into the me i used to know, and it fit like a glove. ;)

oh, but getting off a sweaty shirt and sports bra with two weak, sore arms proved to be the surprise challenge of the day.