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Houston rain

Posted on 2007.08.16 at 18:13
Current Location: my room
Current Mood: okayokay
I'd forgotten, at least partly, about Houston thunderstorms.  We got some pretty spectacular flooding.  The water was up over the curb on our street and the street was a brown river.  I thought the thunder was nice, but poor Durin didn't agree.  He spent all morning with his tail down looking miserable.  Now all the water's drained away and left the usual waterline of dead leaves in places, and Durin's running everywhere chasing an empty plastic bottle.


There and back again

Posted on 2007.08.14 at 17:00
Current Location: my room
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Yeah, once again I haven't been posting.  It's just been the usual summer laziness, seeing friends, chasing the dog routine.  It finally feels like an ordinary summer again.  I think I might be readjusted now.  I no longer flinch at the trashcan when I have to throw plastic in it, or stare when I take in the vast spread-outness of everything.  I'm no longer stressed out by my surroundings.  Driving is normal, and so is inexpensive beef and strawberries and GF frozen food.  I've stopped binging on cheese for the most part.  The one thing I'm still trying to understand is why everything is so huge, like food and drinks at restaurants and SUVs and the rooms in my house, like the size of people. 

I might be adjusted to being home again, but that's not to say that I'm the same person that left here nearly one year ago.  I need less space now to be perfectly happy, I turn lights out when I leave rooms, I wish I could recycle more than is possible here rather than being proud of only doing it a little.  I have a new understanding of the phrase "foreign country", and of how the world works, and especially of Tokyo, Japan.  I'd like to say that I'm more open-minded, more realistic and maybe a little more mature.  I'm much more confident and secure in myself.  This might be the first time in my life that I'm comfortable in my own skin.  I now know what it means to really learn a foreign language even though I still have a ways to go with Japanese.  I've learned all those things and so much more that writing it all out would be tedious and boring for you to read about.

The point is that I'm making this the last entry here: at least, the last official Japan Study entry.  I may write here occasionally but I'm not going to hold myself to it anymore.  I want to thank everybody who stuck with me during my adventure and I hope it wasn't too boring.  I know I have a lot of relatives (or might-as-well-be-relatives) reading this.  Thanks guys!  I love you.

From here I have my senior year at Carleton starting on September 10th, but Durin and I are leaving on the 4th to stay with a roommate.  Should be fun.  :) 

Owari! [End!]


Doctor Day cont. and other days besides

Posted on 2007.08.09 at 22:01
Current Location: my room
Current Mood: creativecreative
So we left off on Monday when I was getting on the train to go to my third and last appointment.  I expected to get in relatively quickly because I usually do with that one, but my 3:30 appointment didn't end up happening until nearly five.  Then he decided we should test my blood levels in things I was deficient in before to see if anything is still a problem, so after that appointment I went down to the lab, waited in several more places and met the sweetest receptionist lady ever and got blood drawn but it wasn't so bad because the person was good at it.  Then I finally went home and it was probably six-ish by the time I got there.

On Tuesday I went over to Jessica's for our yearly four-person sleepover.  It was really the first time in two years that Jessica, Melissa, Grace and I had gotten together since Grace couldn't make it last time.  It was great to see them and we had a good time.  On Wednesday we took a field trip to my house to meet Durin, and he took it well and got used to them fine.  I also got sushi for lunch (by sushi I mean the English word meaning that includes lots of things the Japanese word doesn't) and did fine because I was careful to choose something without raw fish.  I smeared tasty wasabi on it.  Mmmm.  I need to hunt some down at a grocery store that has it.

Today I did some stuff in the morning and then Ryan came over and we watched lots of tv shows and it was a nice relaxing day.  Today I feel much more Houstonian than usual.  I feel like I'm becoming part of the place that I'm in, finally.  I'm adapting.  Thank god.  It's about time.  I'm not all here yet but I'm getting there now.  Oh yeah, this morning Durin met his first American dog outside.  I picked him up so he'd be less terrified.  She was a mini dachshund too, only smaller and older and smooth-coated.  Adorable.  When she left I put Durin down and he wanted to run after her, barking, but we went the other direction a little before he came back to the driveway, sniffed intently where she'd been standing, and darted back into the house.

Also, my granddad is out of the hospital and doing fine, taking it easy at my great aunt's house.  Yay!  We're getting only good news from them.

Things I need to remember to do tomorrow (because I'm too lazy to get out a post-it note instead of spamming my journal):
-take Durin to the vet
-call Julia back (I'm sorry I didn't pick up. XD The word you wanted was "hisashiburi", if you're reading this)
-write a thank you letter to my host family
-email an advisor about my senior project for Japanese
-call Continental and book Durin's space on my flight to Sam's
-think seriously about a couple of projects

I think that was all... I'll probably remember more later.  >.>


Doctor Day

Posted on 2007.08.07 at 08:47
Current Location: the den (my wireless hates me)
Current Mood: calmcalm

Yesterday was tiring.  I may or may not have time to explain all of it by the time I have to leave this morning.

Anyway, yesterday was a day of doctors.  I had three appointments.  Sometimes living next to the Med Center and the train line (there's only one in my life now... wow) is really convenient.  I was able to walk or ride to all of them.

I saw my psychiatrist in the morning (it was a "did you survive Japan" sort of thing), and it looks like I don't need to go back to him again unless I have a problem in the future.  I walked back home afterwards and walked Durin (who's getting much braver and going everywhere now) and ate lunch.  Then I rode the train a few stops to my sleep nuerologist.  I usually wait forever to get in there, but since I was right after lunch (due to Mom's strategic appointment scheduling powers) I hardly had to wait at all.  We talked about my medication some and I'm going back in December.  After that appointment I had nearly two hours to take the ten minute train ride back, so I got on it going the other direction and went downtown on a whim.

The train is funny.  It's like a Tokyo bus except for the fact that it's a train.  It stops at lights, the platforms are staggered, the seats aren't long benches but look more like bus seating.  And yet the motion is undeniably train-like.  It's so short, and shaped oddly- more visually appealing than the Tokyo subway and much more streamlined than the JR trains.  But not as streamlined as shinkansen (bullet trains).  The announcements are basically the same, just in English and Spanish.  The only really different one is the one in Spanish asking you to report suspicious activity, though they do have it in Tokyo: it's just a sign.  And not in Spanish.

Looking outside the train everything streams by in a 3Dish way in the same fashion.  It's all so spread out, and you see hardly any pedestrians or people on bikes.  It seems so empty.  The people were mostly African American.  I'm getting used to people not being Japanese now, steadily.

Downtown is so tall.  There were finally the pedestrians I was looking for.  I walked a bit, trying not to stare upwards and run into things.  I came across a patch of shade with people sitting on benches and watched some not terribly talented guitarists improv-ing for awhile.  There was a nice breeze.  It's so hot here.  Believe it or not I actually lost some of my heat tolerance in Tokyo.  I looked at the people around me.  I still think I have an unusual concept of race.  When I think about different kinds of people I think about different cultures, or cultures within cultures.  I don't think about appearance.  I've always been that way, not from being conscious of racial tolerance (really, it's not on purpose) but because I grew up here and it never occured to me to think other physical races are any different from me.  Coming back from Japan put that to a serious test, but I'm finding that I just think of all the people around me as Texans or Houstonians rather than Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc.  This sort of backfires because culturally I'm Japanese now, or maybe more accurately I'm foreigner-living-in-Tokyo Japanese, and so being here I feel out of place and have a me-and-them feeling about other Houstonians.  It was really there last week, and I think that feeling is slowly going away.  I felt a bit more like I belong here yesterday than the day before that or the day before that.  At least the landscape is a bit less shocking now.

I thought about all of that as I sat there under the stand of trees with the occasional strange train going by behind me and the very Houstonian people around me and soaked up the familiar-but-not feeling.  Then I got back on the train and headed for my next appointment.

To be continued...



Posted on 2007.08.03 at 20:06
Current Location: my strangely high bed in my strangely large room
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
I just ate dinner with my parents at Jason's Deli.  It was tasty and nothing happened to me. TAKE THAT, LIFE.  I WIN.


Still don't know where I'm from, but I like cheese

Posted on 2007.08.03 at 18:24
Current Location: my room (now more organized)
Current Mood: confusedconfused
I've been a bad blogger lately.  It's not too hard to sum up this week though. I've been culture shocked and slowly trying to get over it (still an ongoing project at the moment), Mom and I (mostly Mom) have been going back and forth to the hospital.  My granddad's doing fine now, slowly getting back on solid food and his feet since his surgery.  He might get out of there Sunday-ish.  I've been running errands during the brief periods that I have my car and otherwise hanging out with Ry or reorganizing my room.  I've been eating lots and lots of tasty cheese.  Mmm... cheese...

So that's about it.  Next week should be more interesting and hopefully I'll feel more Texan and less Japanese by then.


Culture shockness

Posted on 2007.07.30 at 09:12
Current Location: where am I from again?
Current Mood: stressedstressed
First of all, my grandfather is doing well; they removed his gall bladder yesterday and he'll be fine once he's recovered.  He should be out of the hospital this weekend.  My mom went and spent yesterday and last night with them and she's coming back this afternoon.

So yesterday morning I decided I needed a quiet day to myself.  I'd been supressing the fact that I'm completely and totally overwhelmed by everything around me for several days; it got worse as the jetlag wore off.  Now the jetlag's gone but I'm just constantly stressed out.  I recognize the attitude I have from my first month in Japan.  I think I'm going to take the next week slowly, which is good because I won't have the car anyway- Mom will be going to the hospital a lot (and I will too, probably). 

I mostly stayed at home.  Dad and I drove his '61 Chevy around; I brought Durin, who had a great time sticking his nose out the window.  Then I read awhile.  I watched The Fellowship of the Ring and Dad (who had been planning on just watching the first scene or so) got sucked in.  For dinner I made pizza, which turned out surprisingly well even though the crust was yappari okashii.  Um... weird as expected.  Yes.  After dinner we went to get ice cream.  It was good to relax.

Today I've got a doctor's appointment in an hour or so and then I'm running errands this afternoon when my mom brings the car back. 


Getting there

Posted on 2007.07.28 at 21:49
Current Location: this ain't Tokyo
Current Mood: worriedworried
Yesterday was pretty good, though the whole day I had this undercurrent of stressed out discomfort because I'm still not used to being here.  In the morning I had a dentist appointment.  Driving there was kind of an adventure and luckily I had very clear directions and a map.  Even so I almost missed the parking garage and then went in, not entirely sure I was in the right place.  Luckily I was.  I got my teeth cleaned and didn't have any cavaties even though it had been two years since the last time I went.  It's been a much healthier two years.  I made it home fine after passing my turnoff because I was so happy that I didn't have cavaties.  The detour took me through River Oaks, which has gigantic rediculous mansions that were interesting to look at and jarring to my Tokyo perspective.

After lunch Laura and her sister came and picked me up and we went bowling.  We were terrible but it was really fun.  Then I hung out at Laura's for awhile before we went to get Evelyn and go to dinner.  It was my first restaurant experiment ,at Ninfa's (tasty Mexican food).  I talked to the manager about what I can't eat and ended up with a fantastic burrito.  Yum.  I felt pretty good afterwards but realized later that I was having a very minor gluten reaction.  I've decided to keep trying restaurants and see if I can hit on something that I don't react to at all.

This morning we got a call saying my grandfather was in the hospital with pain that might be his gall bladder.  We decided to go see him in the afternoon.  In the morning Mom and I went to Target, which was a bit less bizarre to me than expected.  I felt quite a bit more comfortable with Houston today, though I still feel like I'm somewhere strange.  Then we had eye doctor check-ups that went fine.  After lunch we went to visit my grandfather at the hospital and stayed a few hours.  They still don't have test results back yet so we don't know what's going on.  We came home for dinner and I watched Lost in Translation with Dad and translated the Japanese bits for him and recognized places in Tokyo.  It looked so comfortable compared to here.  Give it time I guess.  At least I'm mostly not jet-lagged now.


Where the heck am I??

Posted on 2007.07.26 at 11:48
Current Location: my room (not Japan)
Current Mood: curiouscurious
So Tuesday was kind of a blur.  I woke up wide awake at 3 in the morning and lay there trying to rest until I gave up at 4.  I worked on unpacking and rearranging my room and played with Durin (who had been ready to get up at one, but I kept him in his cage).  I talked to my parents once they were up and we ate breakfast.  Mom decided to stay home and take me on some important errands like getting stuff for Durin, going to the bank to renew my debit card and getting me some new clothes.  We took Durin out on the leash, but as I expected he turned around to head home pretty quickly because everything was new.  Then we ran errands.  I crashed pretty quickly; by the time we got to the department store I was really dragging.  I was so sleepy.  We finished our errands and went home, where I tried but mostly failed to eat lunch because my stomach thought it was the middle of the night.  Food just made me feel kind of nasty.  Ryan came over to keep me awake all afternoon, which was fun.  Dinner went a little better and I started feeling more awake, but I went to bed at ten and slept pretty well.

Strange culture shock experiences of Tuesday:

-In the morning I stood next to the trash can for awhile with a plastic container with a few raspberries in the bottom, unable to throw them away in the same trash can
-The sheer hiroi-ness... um, spreadoutness of everything really weirded me out all morning; everything is so far away from everything else
-I kept looking for the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the street
-The Rice stadium parking lot was unbelievable
-When we checked out at Petco, the cashier was talkative and Mom used a credit card and there wasn't a little tray to put payment in and no one said "omataseshimashita" (sorry for making you wait) and thank you a million times
-I kept imagining earthquakes whenever anything wobbled
-There were paper towels in the bathroom at Luby's (where we got mom lunch) and I had wiped my hands off on my pants before I realized they were there
-There was so much grass.  o.O  Everywhere!!
-The people were all wildly different-looking and bigger than me and loud
-In Petco I passed someone who looked up and smiled, and I stared for a second before fleeing the scene and saying "excuse me" awkwardly

Wednesday was a little better; I managed to sleep until 5 or so, though I was still really tired all afternoon.  I did more room arranging and finished unpacking in the morning.  I was actually hungry for lunch, which went much better than Tuesday.  Durin ventured a few feet further when we walked.  Laura came and picked me up and we got tapioca and played Monopoly for awhile, then stopped by her house before she took me home.  It was fun, though I was understandably frustrated by my lack of driving ability (I resolved to practice with someone in the car at first since I figured I was rusty), cell phone (it was completely dead and we had no charger and were going to go get me a new one), food beyond a few cool things like pie (I needed a car to go to Whole Foods) and debit card for buying anything (the bank said they'd send a new card in the mail).  In the evening I drove over to the cell phone place with Dad, but it was closed.  I had no trouble driving at all though, so I can get places again.  Yay!!

Culture shock related experiences of Wednesday:

-Another long pause before putting plastic in the food trash
-I started putting food down the disposal, thinking it was the filter thing that Japanese sinks have for catching food and that I'd be taking it out and emptying it later
-More imagined earthquakes
-Ordering tapioca required lots of quick Japanese to English translation in my head and careful monitoring, but was relatively seemless
-I was okay with the grass, but the spreadoutness was still weird

Today was much better.  I woke up around 7 feeling a bit more rested, did some cleaning and rearranging, played with the dog.  He went much farther on our walk, though it was still extremely short.  Then I went to Whole Foods.

It was amazing.  I got lots of food.  Mangoes for 2 dollars (as opposed to the yen equivalent of 6 or 7)!!   Strawberries for 3!  So many tasty foods I'd been living without.  I kept encountering gluten free tasty things (waffles!  cereal! cookies! pasta!  chili!) and started dancing in the frozen section when I found a gluten-free frozen pizza (luckily no one was around).  I got cheese too.  The lady who checked me out was really nice and I explained gluten-free to her because she asked.  I practically skipped on my way to the car.  When I got home I danced around the kitchen with Durin, singing about cheese, and made the frozen pizza.  It was pretty good.  I had left over apple pie for desert.

After that Ryan came over and we watched anime and I translated the weirdly translated parts and could understand a lot.  Cool.  Dad came home and we were going to go to the phone place when he realized we have a charger that fits my old phone, so we plugged that in and now I have my cell phone again!  Yay!!  Sorry to people who've been calling me while it was dead.  It should work now.

I felt a lot more awake today, and things are slowly starting to fit in my head.  Being here isn't normal yet but we're getting there.  When a random person smiled at me in Whole Foods when she was going past I smiled back instead of getting confused, and driving was really easy.  Houston is starting to look a little less strange too. 

And now I'm more or less caught up.  Excellent.


Tales of Airports, Jetlag and General Confusion

Posted on 2007.07.25 at 11:58
Current Location: someplace very strange but normal
Current Mood: confusedconfused
I think this'll be a pretty long post.  At least I'm finally alive enough to get going on it.

I got up on Monday at 6ish and finished packing up my stuff.  I took Durin on a last walk around our neighborhood in Sendagi.  It was hard to understand the idea of not being there.  I was a bit anxious about travelling just because I always am, and a little excited, but mostly I felt reluctant to leave.  My host parents drove me to Ueno, where I was catching the 10AM train to the airport.  On the way down in my building's elevator I realized I wouldn't be getting in that elevator again.  I'd been spending half my time in that elevator.  There was a big lump in my throat.

I said goodbye to my host parents at the ticket gate at the station.  My host mom hugged me.  We were all crying a little.  I hauled Durin and all my stuff down the stairs to the platform and cried while I waited for the train.  It came and I dragged all of my stuff onto it and took up the space of about four people.  My backpack was huge and heavy, then there was Durin in his bulky cage, his toilet in a bag plus a smaller bag with stuff I needed to cram into my big suitcase that was hopefully waiting for me at the airport.

I watched the vast tangle of houses and lights and potted plants and wire-covered telephone poles and hung-outside laundry go by for the next hour and tried to imagine what it was like at home.  I was upset.  Durin sat quietly in his cage, eyeing the other passengers, who were sneaking looks and smiles at him.  He fell asleep towards the end.  I realized when we were almost there that I had gotten on a slower train than I meant to because we arrived twenty minutes later than I had planned for.  Feeling a little nervous about how long we would need to spend at the Animal Quarantine Office I put everything on a cart and headed off to find it.  It was around 11:30 when, two information desks and an elevator and back hallway later, I found the right place.  The guy there checked my forms, copied some stuff and had me verify information and sign things while I eyed the clock nervously.  We took Durin out of his cage and the guy poked around on him a little and about two minutes later proclaimed him fine.  The whole thing took maybe fifteen minutes, putting me nicely back on schedule.

I went and got my boarding passes, dropped Durin off at a special place, ran into Laura while getting my big suitcase from the mail service people, checked it and the dog toilet (they wouldn't let me carry it on because it was too big, but I didn't really want to haul it anyway).  We found Michelle and went through security, which took no time at all, and then immigration where they took away our cool Alien Registration cards, then found our gate with plenty of time to spare for our 2:10 flight.  I asked the gate people to tell me when Durin was loaded onto the flight so I would know, and sure enough when we got on the plane they announced it.  We took off.  I felt strange.  

The flight (11 and a half hours) went surprisingly well.  I reread Harry Potter and even slept a little, and mostly didn't get nauseated because I was careful to keep myself fed.  Even though it was a really long flight it didn't feel like forever.  When we started to land in Chicago I looked down to find the tiny ant cars driving on the wrong side of the road.  It looked so incredibly backwards.  There were so many trees.  And, somehow, it was now 11:30 in the morning again, still Monday.

At the airport I found myself surrounded by Americans- tall, loudly talking, laughing, hugging, interacting English-speaking people who looked really different from each other.  It was very odd.  Americans are so big.  I forgot that I'm small over here.  I heard Spanish and was confused.  We went to the baggage claim to get our stuff.  I went to pick up Durin, and he was just fine.  We waited on my other bags for awhile.  Luckily I had a long layover, three-ish hours.  Immigration and customs were easy.  I rechecked my other bags and took Durin to a special area where I was told that I was required to take him out and walk him, which was really good.  He was so happy to get out of the cage.  We ran around this little grassy area for ten minutes or so, then I took him back in.  After getting harrassed by an annoying security guard until I could convince her that no, I'm not a terrorist, the guy at that office told me to go walk my dog, I took Durin back inside and put him in his cage again.  He really really didn't want to go back in there.  They took him from there to check him for our flight to Houston.

I headed for another terminal, starting to feel nauseated.  I tried eating a little of my bread, which came back up almost immediately.  I waited at the gate for over an hour, throwing up every so often, until I finally boarded my flight.  I was out of bags so I asked the stewardess for some, feeling really bad for the people sitting next to me who were luckily understanding and nice.  They announced Durin being loaded onto the plane as "To the person who was worried about it: your cat is on the plane", which was really funny.  I started drifting in and out of sleep, still horribly nauseated.  The flight was only two hours but it was so much worse than the long flight.  I watched out the window as we descended.  So much green, and the same wrong ant-sized cars.  We could see the skyline.  Previous landings in Houston I've had a huge relieved sense of normal.  This time all I could think of was "strange".  Well, that's the translation anyway.  I was actually thinking "okashii".

The stewardess called the guy with the car thing to come take me to the baggage claim, and he was loud and funny and very American all the way across the terminal.  I surprised my parents by getting there quickly, and my bags surprised me by showing up quickly.  Mom and I walked Durin outside.  Mom is so excited to have Durin here; it's hilarious.  He adores her so much.  On the drive home everything was just weird.  I can't even list it all: billboards in English, wide lanes, wide highway, huge cars, so much sky, downtown was just odd-looking- all those skyscarpers at once jutting out of short buildings, so many trees, grass (wow! I remember grass!).  All of it was familiar but odd, not just because I'd been in Japan but also because the last time I was here I wasn't seeing all three dimensions yet- my medication hadn't started working really.  Everything has a crazy amount of space between it.  Who knew?

Once home we got Durin settled in and let him out to run around some, then I ate a boring dinner very slowly and felt better.  It was, at this point, still Monday.  Longest Monday ever.  I went to bed at nine feeling terrible and confused but with my trip finally over.

To be continued later when I'm not tired of typing a lot.

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