Sunday, May 24, 2009

mind your Ds and Qs (i'm not talking about Dairy Queen, people)

when you visit me in japan (as kara did recently), here are some ground rules:
DO visit all the good restaurants with me because we both eat meat! meat rules!

DO have a rousing night of old-people-meets-new-people karaoke with favorites like Gold Digger and Dance Dance.

DO eat the delicious breakfasts i make, like orange, chocolate chip, walnut scones.

DO get dressed up in antique kimono that cost over $10,000 and eat traditional desserts like yokan.

but lord, DO NOT come down with anything vaguely resembling the flu if you were recently in the US, or the still-panicky health department will send you to get tested for the swine flu. this involves having a swab stuck so far up your nasal cavity that your brain hears a knock at the door.
kara and i had a really great visit, but the day she was supposed to leave, she showed up at my school with a high fever and sore throat. when she called the health department (she was required to call them every day of her trip to assure them she was in good health), they sent us to the hospital for a swine flu test. we weren't even allowed through the main entrance. a nurse with a very secure mask resembling a cloth duck bill met us and told us to stay in the car. when they called us in the back basement entrance of the hospital, the doctor and nurse who met us were in full-body cloth hazmat suits! not a speck of skin or hair or clothing was open to the air.
on the left is the wonderful teacher helping us, miss shirota, with her signature style of wearing a mask over just her mouth. totally effective, uh huh.

the hospital basement with some machine thingie.

the depressing room in which we had to wait for the results. very prison-esque.

the exam was short, and kara came up negative for swine flu, but they still wanted to keep her in the hospital for several days while her fever went down. the only other choice was my house. of course it was ok for her to stay with me, but it meant putting off the rest of her trip.
we returned home, and i went back to work. soon someone came to inform me that i was taking a mandatory two days off so i wouldn't threaten the rest of the school with the flu i didn't have. fine! two free nice days off (no complaints)...cooped up with a sick person. so it was no surprise that i came down with the same thing the day kara got back on the road.
my sore throat got worse and worse and worse. fearing strep throat, i headed to the doc, and though he only looked in my throat (no culture needed, i guess), and after the obligatory brain-scramble swab, he told me it wasn't strep or the flu. however, since he prescribed an antibiotic, i didn't complain. i figured that should kill it.
in japan, you can either swallow the fun powder or fill your own capsules, which i decided to do, just because it was fun playing apothecary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

grey today

the sky is grey when i wake up, but the air isn't heavy. the birds are singing, and last night's invisible sprinkle has cleaned the air of blooming jasmine. i feel quiet. as mom can tell you, this can translate to grouchy if you try to talk to me on mornings like this, but i'm alone, so i have my black mango tea with light chocolate cookies in silence. when i was young, i was obsessed with the idea of tea and crumpets, though i had no idea what crumpets were. i imagined they were crumbly, cylindrical cookies. maybe they had chopped nuts like a scone. when i was told what they were really like, i ignored the truth and kept imagining them the way i always had. i've still never had one, and i actually just looked them up online to see what they really look an english muffin, how boring.
i get dressed in cloudy colors and zip up my brooding sweatshirt. it's a hoodless hoodie; a soft, fitted jacket that feels perfect on days i want to be left alone. there's a dagger pin at the neck from a deadly squire oven mitt i bought in new york. the black is worn to grey and the sleeves are holey, thanks to planned obsolescence. i would like it a little better if there wasn't a big hole in the armpit. i've sewn it together twice, but it keeps disintegrating. an armpit hole is as embarrassing for a shirt as a tear in the rear is for pants.
i take small steps down the hill to school, enjoying the new smells rising from the trees and flowers. a plant i don't know drops tiny white petals on the path from where it perches in the hillside overhead. i know i'll miss this two-minute walk when i live in the city. it's the perfect filter for the day: differently-colored flowers every season, fresh smells, sun and rain. i try to hold onto that feeling when i face the next 8 hours indoors. today i breathe in a pleasant woodsmoke smell and try to time my tiny steps so i'll arrive at the road in-between big groups of students, but i'm not quite successful. two girls who normally yell my name from a block away see me, but thankfully they just say hello and keep talking. i change my shoes and trudge inside without seeing anyone, a relief. the office is still quiet because the first bell hasn't rung yet, so i manage to install myself at my desk without much trouble. when the meeting ends, i plug in my headphones and tune out everything except you. the computer picks music for my mood perfectly: slowdive, hum, jason mraz, azure ray, jose gonzales, sun kil moon, iron & wine.
last night, i peeked outside my front door to see where the exhaust smell filling my house was coming from. a big spider fell off the door, and i swear it tripped over its long legs and staggered backwards. this is going to be a very big insect year. it's only may!

so, as i finally come out of my quiet mood (oh ****! now i'm having a disproportionate amount of rage because someone threw away my milk, and i already brewed my coffee. angry face!), i should get to news. wow! it's been a month since i've written. that was quick. the exercising continues, though with actual school going on, i have a little less creative energy to think about dancing. i'm still running and lifting weights, and my arms are showing real improvement...definition noticeable enough that one of the ripped baseball boys asked me the other day if i've been lifting weights! it's so nice to have arms that are not just weak, shapeless tubes. of course, it makes fitting into the sleeves of delicate japanese shirts nigh impossible. (i'm over the coffee anger; don't worry. it only lasted a few minutes.)
i bought a wrist support, which makes trying tricks much more comfortable, at least physically. when i'm writhing around on the mats in a confusion of awkward spins and falls, it takes commitment to keep trying as a toothless old man stares from the vibrating plate machine. oh well. my body has felt good lately; my back feels better-supported, the weird binding/burning ligament on the top of my right foot has gone away, and my wrists and knees are holding up. it's all about the joints in this family.
as for next year, it looks like i'll be working in ichinomiya, aichi. it's only 10 minutes from nagoya, hallelujah! i have been so caught up in the details and complications of trying to end one job, plan a big move, find an apartment, start a new job, sell my car, and visit home, all in a foreign language, that i've lost sight a little bit of how exciting it will be to (for starters) live in a city that has a mexican food restaurant! has trains every few minutes instead of every few hours! is an hour from the airport! i am seriously timed out on this small town, and i'm proud of launching myself into the unknown in order to find more stimulation and inspiration. full speed ahead!