6.29.2007

Hubris

It seems to be the word of the hour in America. We have a president who's so prideful that he can't accept that the majority of the country completely disagrees with the way he's doing his job. His administration tells us we just have to be patient and stay the course, because they know what they're doing. This is essentially a way to say "fuck you" to each and every American citizen without having to actually go up to them and do it. We have a vice president who claims he's not part of the executive branch, and has about as much contempt for the law as any gangster rapper. We have a legistlature that keeps picking the wrong battles and giving up on the important ones, also ignoring the fact that they're the least popular in decades. I know it's pretty much business as usual for the US government, but this time, on this scale, it's so grossly irresponsible and damaging that with each passing day I find myself just wanting to bang my head against a wall rather than read the news.

Something has to give. Something has to explode. There's no way things can go on forever like this. What's going to be the powderkeg...what's going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back? What's going to finally stop everyone from just pretending that everything is okay...that everything is normal? I'm actually not sure I want to know, because at this point, with things so far gone, it's not going to be pretty.

6.20.2007

Bloomberg

I was never such a huge fan of Mike Bloomberg while I was living in New York, but I have to say he's been rocking the house recently. Trying to hook up congestion pricing in NYC. Saying "Eff You" to the GOP. I'm not sure if these are actually stances he's taking or just moves to make him more appealing for a 2008 presidential run, but I'm also not sure I care. With the two major parties failing at life on a daily basis it's nice to see people shaking the shit, for whatever reason.

6.18.2007

So Japan...Let's Talk

I've been in Japan for nearly a whole year now. In fact I'm just a little over a month away from that anniversary. It's pretty staggering. I've had many awesome times and fun experiences, most of which you've seen/read about on this blog. I feel like I generally have a positive impact at my schools. I really love teaching, which has led me to believe that pursuing teaching as a career might be a good idea. However, I kind of feel like I've partially failed in this whole exercise. What I'm talking about is the fact that I haven't really made any Japanese friends.

See I had certain goals when I set out on this trip, believe it or not. At the top of that list was making connections with people. I think it's something that's important in all aspects of my life, so it's no surprise I meant to do it here as well. And as far as my foreign friends go, I think I've really succeeded. I have plenty of awesome JET friends, but I have all of about two Japanese friends. I had no idea how abysmally hard it would be to meet and befriend Japanese people.

I'm willing to admit at this point that I've sort of fallen into a trap. Being that I never met any Japanese people in the begining, I really bonded with my fellow JETs, and now they're the only ones I hang out with. It's just, I'm not sure how to go about changing the situation, and I'm not sure I could change it even if I tried my hardest.

I said I have two Japanese friends. They are Nori (who is kind of my guardian) and Mao (who happens to be my girlfriend). Nori is sort of professionally my friend. I don't mean for that to sound horrible, it's just that's her job description (as she told me in her first email to me). She may have started out as someone who was paid to be my friend, but now I know now that her friendship is extremely genuine and that she cares a lot about me. If she didn't exist I would never have decided to stay another year...and I doubt anyone would ever recontract in Hamada.

Mao is amazing. She makes my life a lot more interesting and fun, and if it wasn't for her I'd probably just be sitting in my room when I wasn't at work or attending JET events. She is my main insight into Japanese life/culture/etc. and she fields all my questions with grace and skill. She cares a lot about me too and she does all kinds of great stuff to make me feel special when I need a pick-me-up.

Beyond that...I've been in Japan for about 11 months and I've yet to be invited into a Japanese home. See the thing about Mao and Nori is that they actually want to be around me. They both have an interest in the world outside Japan. Most Japanese people (as best I can tell) can't stand to be around foreign people, or more appropriately they just can't be bothered with us. Now this could be because my area is very much a rural area, but since that's all I have to work with, for me, this rural hell is Japan. Period. I don't get big cities or exciting young people or anything like that. I get people who stare at me, laugh at me, or avoid me. The novelty of that wears off quickly.

And it's not just me. I've had this conversation with my fellow JETs, especially my friend Evan who has tried his damnedest to meet and interact with Japanese people in an amazing effort to learn the language. Evan has been here a year longer than I have; still no private home invite. And he has access to the "city" (aka Hamada). I live up in the mountains, so my contact with people is even more limited.

One of my only chances to meet people is work. Most of my coworkers ignore me. I tried to be outgoing for about two or three months, but when it's so one-sided it really gets old fast. I speak Japanese and they pretty much pretend they didn't hear me or they can't understand me.

There is one exception, the office admin lady at my one school. She's been amazing, always having conversations with me when she's not busy, trying to make polite chit-chat. But I can see our friendship will never develop beyond that, because she's married, and thirty-something, and god forbid a male and female become friends in Japan. In fact, this post was actually touched off by the fact that she shared a huge secret with me today. She told me she's going to have her second child. I was really touched by that, since she hadn't told anyone else at work yet, but it made me think that maybe she only told me because no one ever talks to me. Who the hell am I going to tell? (Well, you guys, but the chances of anyone from work reading this are slim to none)

Anyway, the point is that today I did a lot of thinking about all this crap and I decided to write it down. It didn't come out at all like I wanted it to sound, I think it mostly sounds horrible and whiny. Obviously this stuff wasn't enough to make me give up and come home, but I can see how another year of it might bring me to that point. I guess this awful post can just be a testament to how sometimes Japan is really frustrating for me. And perhaps it will be a little inspiration for me to try harder in the coming year.

Taiko

My friends Donna and Rebecca have been performing with a all-female taiko group for about half a year now. I didn't get the chance to see them until fairly recently, and sadly the show I saw may be their last.

Taiko is a sort of sychronized drumming that is very famous in Japan. There's even a taiko video game, which some of you may have seen in America. It requires a lot of practice and concentration, but the payoff is way cool.

I really have to hand it to Donna and Becca. Their taiko group is one of the better ones I've seen, and the two of them are no slouches. It's a shame they're leaving Japan so soon!

Awesome!

So cool.

Check out more pics here.

Random Happenings

So a lot of stuff has happened lately and I've been really busy! Expect a few blog updates this week, as well as some Flickr updates.

In fact, I just uploaded a bunch of pics to Flickr that my lovely girlfriend Mao took. Good news for Mom: I'm actually in a lot of them! You can check out the whole set here.

There are pics from an Azalea Festival:

Azaleas

Children's Day Parade

Some Gaijins shows:

The Gaijins in Matsue

Hamada Rox

And other stuff:

Yay!!! Dinosaur Boat

Enjoy!