Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Handful of billions

Okkervil River - Song of Our So- Called Friend

New photos uploaded for your Internet consumption time.

I think I will be adding photos less often (lower quantity, higher quality), since I find that the protocol in viewing other people's (whose lives are separate from yours at the moment) personal photos, the only ones worth scrutinizing are ones with people, and these people should be a combination of the following:
a. young
b. beautiful
c. sexy
d. posing in a:
i. cool fashion
ii. artsy fashion
iii. disinterested fashion
iv. ridiculous fashion

And alas, I cannot promise anything of the sort, being on physical, relational, islands here.

Breakfast bagel: Green tea. It is a light green color and has visible tea flakes in it, but is sweet too. When you see it, you expect a lot because of its Asian influence. Then, when you bite, the taste is rather subtle and tame. But it's not bad at all, just not what you imagined.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Greenest Grass

First of all, a hearty congrats to John Roberson, who is now engaged!

As said early, today I was home alone with no set schedule. Now, when you have such a wide expanse of free time like that, you get to thinking. Good process, variable results. I've been in Japan for nearly two weeks now, crashing into novel things one moment after another. But now a routine is starting to sink in and I have noted a few things I greatly dislike (relating to spiritual atrophy and lack of physical independence and autonomy). Things that seem quite harmful. So, after turning around a few things in my noggin, I prepared a little mental speech:

"Uncle and Aunt, I am really grateful for your hospitality in letting me stay at your house and work for you. However, I feel like 7 weeks is much too long and I plan on returning two weeks earlier instead. Hope that doesn't crunch your plans or anything.."

You see, hearing tale after tale about my friends' adventures abroad, and fantastic notions began to grow and swell in my mind about life in foreign countries. Nothing seemed more necessary than an escape from this boring, cooped- up, old life in the States. Not that I find Japan distasteful, but I've finally realized something about physically running away from restlessness and boredom to another country: it doesn't work that way. People live normal lives everywhere. It is truly a matter of perspective. Likewise, the world is largely the same everywhere. So, my uninformed ideas were quickly replaced by facts of reality. As a result, thinking I had some good reasons on my side, I inquired to my parents about going home earlier, believing that they would easily comply. Wrong, so wrong! I mean, Kristi Kaiser got the 'OK' from her parents to leave Spain earlier on July 10th, so I thought I'd give it a shot. My mother's explanation of her negative, but firm response: You have to stick to the commitments you make. This is called reality. Novelty fades, but you have to keep on going if you ever want to succeed. Of course, Keke stuck with Smart Start all last semester, even though it wasn't always sweet roses and fluffy clouds every day. However, I got the feeling that she really grew to love those kids and also, she couldn't just quit the job whenever. Despite all that, I think she learned a lot from it.

So. One must not always be running away from difficulties? I really thought I knew that already. But then again, it irks me that one day after marriage I'll be tired of my future husband, love of my life. Life does not consist one thrill after another, but hopefully, a regular rhythm of stability. Tell me that once more. Ah, reality strikes again. Well, because this is so, and I don't want to swallow a bitter pill in a larger circumstance, I'll try to make the most of my time here and switch gears from "passive" to "proactive." Sounds self- help- ish, but it is a move that must be made.

Older people: they're often wiser than you.
On with life!

Monday, June 19, 2006

cansei de ser sexy. tired of being sexy.

home alone all day. here are my favorite songs of the moment. that's how I live.

1. "Back In Town" - SOUND TEAM (from Austin, TX!!!)
2. "Baby I" - Amy Millan
3. "Sometimes In a Fall" - Phoenix

new is value.

ha, this little piece is too good. if only we, the inhabitants of an uninsulated house, could outfit ourselves with some before winter rolls on by.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

No Key, No Plan

Konnichiwa! Hello! Just returned home from the stay with Matsumura San this weekend. Driving away from the familiarity of my week- old home in Hakuhodai with a stranger lady at the wheel was a bit tense. But it's in your most uncomfortable and new experiences that you learn a lot, I have come to think. We spent the day in Kyoto and picked up one of her son's friends to be an English guide for me. That wasn't in the plan, but fortunately, Hiroshi turned out to be a dear and gracious fellow. We visited Nijo Castle, underwent a traditional tea ceremony, and walked the streets of Kyoto. Matsumura San even bought my mother some expensive stationery and fine green tea. These two women don't even know each other! We had yakitori for dinner, different types of chicken on a stick. She had paid for everything thus far and commenced to pay for us to have some drinks as well. I don't know if it was the Japanese plum wine or the deceptive chicken hearts, but I was ready to heave at the end of dinner. (I didn't.) Plus, this lady is a crazy driver, with lurching stops and a lead foot. I slept off most of my drunken stupor as she drove to us ... a funeral. Yes, I passively tagged along, what was I thinking. Let's just say that it was supremely awkward stepping into a room full of a hushed family members all dressed in black, while I was looking disheveled and dressed so casually. However, after being introduced, a fatherly- looking man started speaking to me in excellent English. He was the son- in- law of the deceased and as we chatted, he expressed that it was good for me to experience a traditional Japanese funeral and explained the ceremony. Turns out he lived in Richardson, Texas for a year and worked at my mother's current company, Nortel. Small world! I would've taken a picture of the interesting occasion, but even a foreigner like me sensed how that might not have been such a good idea.

Matsumura San's house was very large and traditional, with sliding paper windows and trees all around. I slept on a tatami floor. Or, should I say, laid there, since I have no recollection of ever falling asleep. She calls me "Lee" (or "Ree", phonetically). The next morning, I met her 22- year old daughter, Yuki, who is a medical student. Her English is not bad, especially when she is equipped with the ubiquitious electronic Japanese- English dictionary. We spent the afternoon at the Nara deer park feeding them round crackers, running away from aggressive deer (Yuki), grabbing evasive antlers (me), and at the adjacent Todaiji Temple, which houses some rather large Buddha statues. [And then my camera battery died.] Then dinner at a second- floor restaurant which only seats 12 people, whose menu changes every month, and offers 10- ish small dishes for dinner at the master chef's discretion. I really enjoyed spending time with someone around my age and I think Yuki and I are friends now. (Although, her teeth aren't that great for someone whose father is a dentist.) I've also made it a point to try everything at least once, meaning sashimi, but I've not acquired a taste for it. Raw meat? Not my style, but at least you can drown undelectable things in wasabi.

My English is deteriorating, while my Japanese is bettering (bettering? ah, improving). It also just occurred to me during a quiet car ride back home that it seems awfully rude of me to accept compliments. Like, someone will say something nice and I'll just nod and thank them. Then, silence. Everyone else in Japan vehemently protests with five to eight 'No!'s while shaking their heads and chuckling, pleased as punch. Perhaps that's why Americans are viewed as arrogant?

Missed, missed going to All Saints this morning. I unwisely planned on waking up earlier to listening to a sermon on the iPod, but actually "slept" til 11:30 since the room was so closed off that no sunlight could enter. Sigh. And when I try to pray before meals, they misinterpret it for a traditional saying (itta taki mas) while folding your hands before a meal.

Our poor tree back in Dallas is special: it has gotten hit by lightning three times (!), and since three times does the trick, the old clunker finally fell over this time, crushing our swing. Hm!

In the meantime, I am tricking people to read my writing by sending things out to the rest of the world.

Friday, June 16, 2006

all th epeop le that ilovea r edrunk

Ah, the happy, idle days of summer.. just ended yesterday.

First day of work was rather tiring. Learned how to make Honey Raisin and Cappuccino cream cheese (sound delicious? I agree, even though I don't eat cream cheese), simple coffee beverages, and package sandwich ingredients. Not even moderate brainwork, but after standing for 7 hours on hard marble, I got kind of sore. What if the thing you are most good at is making sandwiches? I am starting to imagine. Anyway, like, I'm not even that great at cutting veggies, but Japanese people *cut* their vegetables into shreds. It took me a good 30 minutes to chop a mere 1/4 of a cabbage into (ginormous)1 mm strips, with all fingers intact. Shame, shame. I wear my shame and cut it too. At least the girls working there were very nice and even knew the English words to the ingredients. My uncle is quite strict to the employees there for the most part, and nice sometimes. He is joking/ serious, but they always feel the hint of his real edge. The way he says something is often loaded with more meaning than what he is saying. I feel like a spoiled child, because he is always nice to me, and in front of the employees too. Me, a blundering, sweaty, slow- cutter, break- taking, non- Japanese. I would totally be afraid of him if I were not his niece, that's for sure.

My first bagel sandwich (to eat). Oishi! Delicious.
Went shopping at MUJI for family presents during my lunch break. Its name literally means "no- name brand." The store is nearly amazing. It can be described as a Japanese Gap, but it's much more classic, no- frills and also sells stationery, home supplies, and some food. They have a signature, plain, brown cardboard notebook with a simple red/ white label and black binding. Its clothing line is relatively cheap for Japan, but still too much for me to choose as a wardrobe replacer/ updater. I did get a plaid skirt there for $7; material looks like a preppy boy's old shirt. Er, was that a mistake?

The song below has been stuck my head. It's not a great, great piece of music and I'm not crazy about the guy's wispy voice, but I love the banjo in it. What other bands have that sort of banjo backbone to their sound? <33 "Various Stages" - Great Lake Swimmers
(They are on Misra Records. Hm!)

BONUS track:
"Pushover" - The Long Winters
Now here is a band that has been quietly making wonderful pop songs that make you feel like life is only two things: sweet and simple. They're just getting more attention nowadays. Smile!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ok, notok

Waking up with a dog hair in my mouth Dog hair (and breath) all over home life. Not OK.
Threadless t-shirts OK! Not OK. OK ??
My aunt's too many teas from around the world. OK!
Half of them expired. Not OK.
Last song on Calexico's Garden Ruin, "All Systems Red." OK!!
Almost drowning the iPod in hot water. Not OK.
Free food and service at U&A's restaurant. OK!
Engrish on their menu. Not OK. OK?
Walabe mochi made out of calorie- free glutinous rice. OK!
Start of rainy season. Not OK.
Manbags. OK??
Elevator music - style sax solos. Not OK.
Japanese economy has been going down. ??
Everything is cheaper than ever. OK!
100 Yen Store (Dollar Store). OK!

Total: OK > Not OK.


Football Frenzy

I haven't been watching the World Cup. It's not so fun trying to decipher the commentary and team names in Japanese. Anyhow, I still feel somewhat connected with my friends abroad, who are also residing in soccer/ football - crazed countries (aka not the US). Like, what's up with the US and American football?

This ad is ridic. But very creative.

Today we went to a talk by an ex- US ambassador, ex- CEO of some corporation, ex- journalist about corporate communication. The old man with a very red face and a pus- colored comb- down threw around concepts like 'niche marketing' and the decline of the efficacy of print media. Yawned half the time, but it was useful. Now I know I want to be as far away from business as possible. Of course, there is always the possibility of huge profits, but you always have to be on your toes, seeking out more information, non- stop work. There is no life beyond work. Not my idea of a career I want. And friends, what friends? Everyone is a contact, a connection, only useful for what they can do for you and your standing. Dreadful stuff.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Okok, so I got those pictures back. Good iPhoto. Big picture update, including HK/ China ones. Click to the right, if you will, and check Albums 24 and 25. And, I spent time writing captions.

Today my aunt and I took a train to Kyoto and walked around the streets. It's the most traditional city in Japan, with 100- year old buildings (some turned restaurants) standing next to modern ones. I like it. Bought some super postcards at a museum showcasing the artwork of Renoir, Picasso, Warhol, and a lot of other painters I do not recognize. I'm so uneducated when it comes to art and art history. A lesser known piece titled "A Break In the Woods" by Geberoy caught my eye, because it captured something I'd actually like to do- go on a hike in the forest and then sit down for a little 19th century picnic, porcelain teacups and all.

Endured a long, multi- course dinner at a fancy pants restaurant with my A&U and another prestigious couple. Even though I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, I managed to break both cultural and fine dining rules in less than an hour. Anyway, the wife was so sweet to me and tried to get to know me, even though I was a perfect mute for most of the time. She gave me some expensive face sunscreen at the end of the night. Turns out she is a well- known TV commentator in Japan who has her own show. All the older Japanese women I've met are so delightful! And assertive as well. The more assertive, the more delightful, beacuse they are seasoned with kindness.

Been thinking about the plans for a birthday party. Instead of a let's get wasted and mess up a house party, hows about a favorite/ fine beer/ wine tasting party? I'd much rather do that than waste my capacity on a cheap beer or another type of untasty alcohol. Sara's St. Peter's Cream Stout at the EK Birthday Bash inspired me. And then maybe a camping trip as well to top it off. Nothing like being dirty and hungover on a beautiful morning in a secluded state park. Will have to discuss with the lovely Rachel Self, who is hiking and camping her heart out in the big MT.

Am searching for internships next semester to fill my schedule. Currently working on my cover letter for a General Office Duties intern position at Misra Records. Duties include compiling promotional packages, entering data, and the like. It's a small label recently relocated to Austin; it has releases of Destroyer, Flotation Toy Warning, Centromatic, Great Lake Swimmers. Still wondering if it is the best choice. Sounds rather exciting though, as exciting as an unpaid internship can be.

Cheeze, my U&A are always bringing back fine desserts from their Italian restaurant because they don't last for more than a day. Constant temptation for me!


Monday, June 12, 2006

By the big slippers of big slipperdom!

I've been helping my aunt prepare the meals, and it's been great learning the Japanese way of cooking. For example, many dishes are delicious, and they don't even require a drop of oil! That's pretty amazing. We are making curry rice for tonight, which has loads of veggies, some grated apple, sliced beef, and Japanese curry. I aim to make it back in the States for the household. And there are so many different kinds of nori (seaweed) to match with each flavor. I aim to bring some home as well. As we speak, I'm eating chocolate cookies that expired either in February or have not yet. Hard to tell, since in Asian countries, they do day-month-year. And, we were short on curry so we opened up a dusty bottle of it and dashed it in the soup. Unfortunately, I looked too late, and when I did, the bottom announced an expiry date of 1994. Hm, I was only 9 then. Spices last pretty long, right? Even though I'm definitely getting over my strictness with expiry dates, I put down my foot for Nike Dunk Low SBs (same reason). They are quickly becoming my favorite sneaker to keep up with, because their non- general colorways are most excellent and there is such a mad sneaker culture and ensuing demand for them.

odd flavors
JAPANESE PIZZA (osaka style) = shredded lettuce + beaten egg + shrimp + noodles + mayo + oyster sauce
a MESS that awaits my touch
Q AND I posing in front of a shrine
a FARMER at rest

aiyaaaaa my imbecile iphoto program just deleted all my newly uploaded pictures. it's hard to keep the things you can't touch. Terrible x 10!

* Harajuku:
"It is the best place in the world to go stare at Tokyo fashion. And to go shopping. You know those great books with kids dressed as punks, mods, goths, ravers, sex fiends etc - all those people hang out around here, which is why pervert photgraphers swarm the joint on the weekend."

Keke, don't worry, I will have my camera ready. It just depends if I have the guts to shove it in their glammy faces!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Good Earth

Nara, Japan
(Links to pictures)
San = Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., Mr. & Mrs.

I read the above book on the plane ride to Hong Kong. Not my favorite, but a good/sad story. Today, on our morning walk with Q (her golden retriever), we stopped by a farmer produce stand in her neighborhood and bought some vegs. The farmer's wife was so sweet, she invited us to pick their strawberries and also eat all we can for free. Normally, H-E-B strawberries turn me off, so I wasn't super excited, but when we got in and saw all the bright red dearies waiting to be chomped.. Ooh, they were the most beautiful, sweetest and juiciest strawberries I've ever tasted! Of course, I am always one to wash fruit before eating, but the farmers use no pesticide, and each one was free of blemishes and insects. After eating our fill, we picked a boxful for home. Then the farmer (Naganishi san) came and showed us his tomato, cucumber, and cabbage patch, and taught us how to choose ripe ones. And we took some of those home too. Mm. This reminds that cultivating food and gardening is a good way to enjoy the earth.

And, all the Japanese people I have met have here been extremely kind and generous.* I just wish I could communicate with them. Of course, me being shy and not being able to speak Japanese is doubly terrible- I'm afraid my silence and awkwardness is received as rudeness. Fortunately, my aunt is having a second year college student come over once a week to teach me some beginner Japanese, and I will also have a chance to converse with my uncle's nephew for him to learn English (and me Japanese). It's difficult, especially the grammar. The language borrows from Chinese characters, so sometimes I can decipher half a meaning. It's amazing, language, I mean. Same meaning, hundreds (thousands?) of ways to express it.

* Another case. We were taking the subway to go meet my aunt's friend (Matsumura san) to help her plan her trip to Hong Kong. Five minutes after I was introduced, this 50-ish year old, small, bubbly lady insisted on inviting me to stay overnight at her home. She has a 23- year old daughter in med school (who knows English). Perhaps we can be friends.

I also get to soak in a traditional Japanese hot bath every night (ofuro) for good health, 'cause you sweat a lot. Will download some language podcasts and listen to them during that time. The water here is very good to use, it's spring water from the mountains. Tap is OK to drink. Will update on China at a later time. Sayonara!