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Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Subject:The Summer of...oh, who is it this time?!
Time:5:30 pm.


Here I am again, friends, back with another poorly-written entry for all y'all to read!   Be careful...this one felt really long when I was typing it, but...I can never tell how it'll turn out in LJ.
 
I'm just coming off summer vacation now, and I've had more than my fair share of weird experiences for six weeks...  And as always, there is a girl involved!  Just...not the way everyone's hoping.  Yeah, I know...shut up.  
 
 

Sister DearCollapse )

 
 

Krispy KremeCollapse )

 

The journey northCollapse )

 

I told you!Collapse )

 

Rollercoaster RideCollapse )

 

Contracts?!Collapse )

 

The Life AloneCollapse )


 

Bellydance and BSCollapse )

D

Comments: Read 8 orAdd Your Own.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Subject:May and June in a nutshell
Time:5:03 pm.

Yep…some people have wondered why I haven’t been updating my journal, and I apologize for that. The last two months have been weird. All ruined by my sinuses. That means that for two months, I’ve had varying degrees of the common cold, from severe to mild, but never non-existent…which sucks.

 

But let’s rewind…and bring yáll up to speed as I always try to do. Some time back in May, my sister was supposed to come visit me for Golden Week, but the insanity that was the swine flu gave her good reason to postpone. But, as I’d already made plans with many folks to hang with my sister, people were coming up to see me! First group was Matt and Rieko. We decided to go driving to see Fukuroda Falls, a little waterfall nestled in the mountains northeast of my little town. It was a fun trip, chock full of water watching, McDonald’s eating, and a trip up what could be the most evil staircase I’ve ever encountered.

 

See, the waterfall really isn’t much to look at, but if you cross the rather perilous rope bridge, you can find a set of metal stairs that look like they lead up to a point where you’d get to see the fall from a nice viewpoint. But when you reach the top of the metal stairs, you find a set of stone steps that…once again look like they’d lead you to a better view. These stone steps wind perilously up the mountain, each flight making you think it’s the last, until you finally realize…you’ve been duped into a foolish competition with your own stamina. At least, that’s what happened to me. I am not one smart enough to know that climbing a huge flight of stairs really isn’t an accomplishment, and Matt wasn’t smart enough to let us stop. Rieko was a trooper and pushed along with us two idiots.

 

Eventually the stone steps became…really OLD stone steps, with no railing, and a few steps missing in some places. Japanese people all around us were giving up. Once bouncy, vibrant children were calling it quits. Eventually, all that remained was me, Matt, Rieko, and a few weary souls behind us. But, we refused to give up. In the end, we reached the highest point on the path—a small clearing surrounded by trees, meaning you couldn’t see ANYthing from the top of the mountain. I had a fleeting thought of pushing Matt off, but he quickly warned me that he’d scream my name as loud as he could until he hit the bottom. So, I satisfied my murderous rage by chucking rocks at the trees. Okay, so I wasn’t actually angry…just really tired. And we still had to go back DOWN. 

 

As we climbed down, we joked with people on their way up, who were undoubtedly thinking the stairs had to end soon. All we told them was, “Just a liiiiiiiiiiiiittle more!”

 

Jerks.

 

Anyway, after that, we all went back to my apartment and drank a bunch, then watched The Dark Knight. I decided to invite Anna ov—

 

Oh, hey! I haven’t introduced Anna! So, in February, I met Anna at a speech contest. She’s an ALT in a town just south of me. Upon meeting her, she immediately reminded me of…Bree. Lake Claire Bree. Girl who kicked me in the face, Bree. Bree, who might as well be my adopted sister, Bree. That was weird, lemme tell ya. But, she and I have fast become friends, often trying to match wits in an almost painfully flirtatious way. Anna is pretty much…crazy. A type of crazy I’ve only seen in one other person, but I don’t get the vibe of inevitable betrayal that I got from…that other person.

 

So, Anna came too, Matt telling me that yes, she is like Bree, but with something…else mixed in, and Rieko giving me the OK signal…as if to say, “Go for it!” Truth be told, don’t think I could date Anna. Something still feels…off. 

 

We all had fun, got drunk, everyone slept over…and the next day, everyone left. A few hours later, Akira and his wife came to visit. We went bowling, played some ping-pong, which I apparently am pretty good at once I get going, and…then we went to the batting cages. Man, I hadn’t played baseball in over a decade. Felt awesome. I always loved baseball much more than basketball. But hearing a tall man say that…well, I think my family would disown me.

 

A few days later, I returned to my schools, not feeling all that great due to the sinus issues, and in a midly bad mood. It was Tuesday, if I remember properly, when I was eating lunch with some of my second years, that one of the girls, Ayaka, blindsided me with a dose of something I’m usually ready for…

 

“David…go back to your country.”

 

The hell? Like…I am usually ready for racism or discrimination of any kind, but man…that hit me hard. But I figured the girl needed to get this crap out of her system. If it helps people grow, I am more than happy to oblige.

 

“Why?”

“Because I don’t like foreigners.”

Well, Ayaka, that much was obvious. “Well…you’re a foreigner to me, and I’m okay with you.”

The other students laughed. “That’s true! You ARE a foriegner!” It was an odd equivalent of, “Oh, DISS!”

One of Ayaka’s friends, Yukina, jumped in. “I hate foreigners too,” she said, twirling a lock of hair in her fingers. Obviously, this girl’s words weren’t anywhere near as biting as Ayaka the Ice Queen’s. But, Ayaka found new strength in her ally.

“I hate black people too.”

The others went quite. Then, one kid said something that almost made me laugh.

“Th…That was RACIST!” Almost exactly like Dave Chappelle in Killing ‘Em Softly.

“Yeah!” I said, smirking a bit.

“I don’t care,” continued Ayaka. “Dark skin is ugly, right Yukina?”

“Uh-huh,” said Yukina, batting her eyelashes at me.

A slightly darker Japanese boy next to me looked hurt by that one. “Nah, man,” I replied, unfazed. “Dark skin is cool, right man?” I gave the dark boy a high five…he looked proud of himself. “You’re just jealous because you look like everyone else.”

Ayaka was not done. “Well, your hair is scary!”

Yukina was still looking at me in faux disgust. “Yeah, scary!”

“Hey,” I said, “Don’t get mad at me because you got that boring straight hair. Besides…you sure you should be talking to a teacher like this?”

“You aren’t a teacher!” said Ayaka. “You don’t even teach your own class!”

“Actually, kiddo, I teach in high schools. And I used to teach in a college.”

All the other children were shocked. “REALLY?!”

Yukina’s voice dropped, “Actually, my cousin has hair like you. I think it’s cool.”

 

It may seem like I won, but Ayaka was relentless. She attacked everything about me that she could. I laughed it all off, but dang, man…seriously…how does a girl get that cold? After that, I was actually pretty upset. I was caught when I was vulnerable…and I didn’t even know why I was so vulnerable. And not just that…it hurt me that Ayaka ended up that way. I half wanted to punch her parents. I was gonna have to teach this girl that Japan ain’t as awesome as she might think, AND I’d have to play Magical Black Friend again. I just didn’t feel like doing that anymore. By the end of school I had shaken it off. It was a weird moment of weakness, one I still don’t understand.

 

Now, Ayaka the Ice Queen still shoots me cold looks, but Yukina’s obvious crush is getting worse…which just angers Ayaka. All her other friends feign fear, but goof off with me all the time. Ayaka tends to avoid me. Funny thing is…she is really good at English. Something tells me she really…REALLY likes foreigners. Just doesn’t want to admit it to herself. And if a Japanese girl struggles that much with the idea of even liking a foreigner…man, that makes me happy. Because, seriously….usually, they just throw themselves at foreigners. Holy crap, maybe she had a crush on the last ALT!!! That’d make soooooo much sense!

 

And…now, I can’t think of anything really important that happened after that. I’ve been trying to study for my Japanese test on July 5th…read that again, Matt…JULY FIFTH, but to no real progress. My brain’s shutting down. It’s like it just decided…that for now, no more Japanese is getting in. But, I’m still trying. I have a new language exchange partner, Yukiko, who is hilariously un-Japanese. She loves horror movies, is…oddly masochistic, and enjoys belly-dancing. Her English is really good, and she often makes me forget that I’m older than she is…BARELY. By like…a month. She’s good folks, and enjoys pointing out that all events of my past are cute in some way. The degrading kind of cute.

 

“You were in the handbell choir? Aww…”

“I can just see you ice skating… Cute little David.”

“You and your best friend came to Japan? That’s so sweet!”

 

She’s the only Japanese person I know (besides the infamous Miho) who gets sarcasm, so it’s fun talking with her.

 

 

On June 6th, we celebrated Maki’s birthday. If you remember, last year, I made her cry when I gave her chocolate. But, here’s the funny part. Six months later, we were at another party, and we all got to choose a piece of cake. I told her she could have the chocolate piece, but she replied, “Oh, I don’t like chocolate all that much.” When she saw my face, she realized her blunder. I remind her of this as often as I can. But this year, I got her some plum wine. She claims to love it, but I bet she poured it down the toilet.

 

Outside of that, it’s been pretty slow. My mind is a mess, I can’t focus, and I can’t remember things as well as I used to. All I know is, I need a new thing to learn. Japanese isn’t working. I’ll probably pick up the guitar again, as soon as I can find someone who wants to teach me in exchange for English lessons. 

 

I think I’ll do what I was telling Nikki about so many years ago. When you’re the type of person that wants to do many things, don’t do them all at once. That’s just shooting yourself in the foot. Every six months, focus on three things and three things alone. Give them your all. If one of them sticks, keep it around for the next cycle. If not, replace it in the following six months with something else you want to do.

 

I got my three lined up. Let the defragmentation begin!

 

D

 


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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Subject:The fear returns...
Time:5:00 pm.
 

So, here I sit at Cherryblossom JHS, trying to get used to these new kids. Oh, they”re all great, but lord…the “scary” thing is lingering much longer than it did at any of my other schools…save elementary.

 

See, in Japan, they are far quicker to blurt out the random adjectives that go through their minds at any given moment. They taste something, they immediately say “Delicious!”. They lift something, they immediately say “Heavy!” They hurt themselves, they exclaim, “Painful!” When you first come here, and start learning the language…and you”re still in translation mode, it can sound downright silly. Hearing a grown man say, “Happy!” 

 

So, sometimes, girls will just whisper, “Scary!” This used to bother me. Now, I just say it right back to them, and they start laughing. Nevertheless, there is one student in each class that seriously looks like they think I am just waiting for everyone to let their guard down…and then I’ll eat all of them. Really puts a damper on lesson time when a student is scrambling behind her friend, muttering “Scary!” to herself.

 

There”s also one girl who enjoys being rude to me or trying to kick me. She”s actually a good kid, just loooooves trying to hurt me. Today, she caught me in the shins. Didn’t hurt at all, but later, all the kids were talking about what she’d done, like it was simply…too much. I was shocked. Some of the kids even came up to me later, saying “David…are you okay? It looked like she kicked you really hard….” That made me smile.

 

Dah, well. Things rarely stay the same between months at these schools. Some time around May, they”ll get all the weirdness out of their systems and start focusing on other weirdness.

 

For now, I gotta get ready…my sister’s coming to Japan again, and I’m actually really nervous!

 

D                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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Monday, April 27th, 2009

Subject:Walk through the world...
Time:11:24 pm.

Welcome back, friends! I'm here, in my new schools, on a new computer, ready and rarin’ to get this whole year started off right! …So to speak… 

 

I didn’t talk much about my schools last year, mostly because I was nowhere near a computer. If you remember, when I first got to Japan , I was blogging darn near everyday, keeping you all updated as much as I could. A major contributor to this was the fact that I had a laptop at my disposal. But, after about seven months in Japan, my laptop fizzled out on me, leaving me dependent upon school computers, which are constantly in demand by teachers, officials, and others. Didn’t leave me much room to write about the daily goings-on. But now, I have a new laptop! A nice little HD dealie that somehow ended up with the name Mahogany. She just happens to match my darkwood table. So, hopefully, this will mean that the updates will be far more frequent from this point forward… Hopefully.

 

So, let’s do this. 

 

As I try to do every year, I will describe my schools, and give them clever little names…okay, not so clever, but I try to give them names you all might actually be able to remember. However, there’s been a new development! At the end of the last school year, it was announced that my little town, Chikusei, had canceled its contract with the Trust Company! As a result, I was shipped off elsewhere. So, not only am I at new schools this year…I’m in a whole new frickin’ town! The name of this town? Cherryblossom River. Pretty, right? Well, it really is a nice little town. So nice, that they pay me more money, AND...get this…because it makes me giggle every I say it…I HAVE NO ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS THIS YEAR. Tee-frickin’-hee. Free at last, free at last! Those kanchoin’, hair-pullin’ runts can kiss my—FREE AT LAST!

 

Okay, that’s a little cold…but seriously, teaching seven classes a day while trying to dodge someone who is trying to cram their fingers up your backside…lemme tell ya, the novelty wears out much quicker than you’d think. I’ll miss most of the kids, but not that god-awful schedule.

 

I am lucky enough to teach at only two junior high schools this year, on alternating weeks. Funny thing…this is the next town over from Chikusei, so a few familiar faces have returned!

 

Sakuragawa JHS – “Cherryblossom River JHS” – A nice little school nestled in the green hills at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba, our fair mountain in Ibaraki prefecture. This is a school as small as my very first high school. The kids aren’t quite as friendly…but then again, that school was hard to beat. Let’s move on to the English staff.

 

Famous Teacher – Apparently, this woman is responsible for training a long line some butt-kickers in the prefectural English Speech Contest. Everyone knows her for this, and you can see that she takes her classes seriously. Me? Not serious at all in class…so we gotta get used to each other’s style. We don’t bump heads, though, which is awesome.

 

Lil’ Lady – Yet another adorably tiny woman in Japan. Not that I got a thing for short women. She just seems to exude the idea of cuteness that Japan tries to burn into the heads of women here. Her shortness probably helps her pull it off. Tall girls can’t do that, man. Thank God. She got ten years on me, though, so I gotta be a bit more respectful than I was with “The Short One”. She’s really cool, though. Really cares about how much the kids learn. And she’s actually the wife of one of my teachers from “Too Close to Home Elementary School”!

 

The New Kid – This guy’s cool. Fresh out of college. Plays rugby. Tall. Basically, the dream guy of all the women in the school. He”s 23, but sees me as kind of a mentor in the English world, which is kinda weird. We joke around, though, and stroll through the school as the two giants. Lil’ Lady calls us her bodyguards. While some of the kids are terrified by me, they can laugh with him, which serves as a buffer for me. Feels…safer.

 

Non-English staff –

The Secretary – Yeah, it seems that at every school, the secretary is right around my age. So, we are automatically expected to converse with each other. This secretary pretends not to understand English, but sometimes, she”ll respond to me when I think I’m talking to myself.

 

Me, in English. “…someone’s cellphone is ringing.”

Her, in Japanese. “Yeah…they really should put it on silent!”

Me, in English. “Wh…you DO understand English!”

Her, in Japanese. “No, I don’t!”

Me, in Japanese. “AHA!”

Her, in Japanese.  “Crap…”

 

Funny exchange.

 

The Music Teacher – Maybe y’all remember her…maybe ya don’t. Miho, AKA, The Daughter, had a friend who was a junior high school music teacher. The two of them enjoyed picking on me as often as they could. And now, I work with her here! Michiko. Sweet girl. Speaks English…but from what I learned from Miho’s mom…her father passed recently… So she’s not as playful as she once was. But, Miho’s mom asked me to talk to her as much as possible. 

 

Good school, though the kids seem to enjoy punching me a little too much. Meh. Time to start body-slamming kids.

 

On to the other school…

 

Momoyama JHS – “Peach Mountain JHS” – So named for the abundance of tight, round buttocks amongst the teachers. …okay, maybe not. This school sits right at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba, so you always have a beautiful view of the mountain. Teachers are awesome. Kids are great. 

 

English Staff

 

K-Dub – I like this dude. He laughs. He loves to eat. Friendliest dude ever. A little chubby, but in that endearing, Hugo from Lost kinda way. We dawgs.

 

English Teacher? – This woman is apparently a teacher, but I’ve yet to hear her speak a word of English. She’s always really nice to me, though. We make jokes about who is sleepier.

 

Somewhat-Sad Sensei, or SSS – This woman is 31. Horrible age in Japan, apparently, if you’re single. She tells the kids she is 21. They do not believe her. Seems like no one ever bothered to let her laugh. So, I make it a point to joke with her everyday. It usually brings about an odd smile, as if someone told her long ago that she would never laugh again. Almost a, “How in the world did you make me…that’s impossi--…how?!” kinda smile. 

 

Lil’ Sis – Alright, so…a lot of posts back, I mentioned how one of my favorite teachers from my first school moved to “Too Close to Home”. I named her Grace. Well, Grace’s little sister Glory works with me now! We’re both younger siblings, so we have stupid little competitions all day. SSS is an oldest child, so…she is utterly confused by our antics. But, man…Glory is awesome. Unfortunately, her husband managed to knock her up, so she”ll be leaving in July on maternity leave. I kinda wanna punch that dude in the balls for takin” away my buddy. Kinda. Ya know…for effect.

 

Non-English Staff

 

Chock full of people who I won’t give names, but might talk about from time to time. People who speak far better English than some of the teachers… Funny how that works.

 

Anyway, those are the schools and the major players. 

 

 

New schools, easier life…better apartment. Lemme stop tallying things up before I get stomped into the ground by…well, my luck.

 

D

 

 

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Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Subject:Part 2
Time:1:38 pm.

Sleeping that night wasn’t easy at all. The floor of the police station was hard and absorbed no body heat, so it was perpetually cold. I tried moving to my car, but it was cold out there as well. It seemed I was sleeping in two hour bursts, but only shallow sleep. Not so much fun. Matt was knocked out in a chair, but I’m sure he had his share of difficulties.

 

When I woke up one final time, it was 8:00, and trucks were passing back and forth, salting the roads. It was still snowing, but the daylight made it look more friendly and enjoyable than the perils of nighttime driving.

 

I slipped out of the car…or did Matt come wake me up? Can’t remember. But, I got out of the car, and walked into the police station, where the policeman’s wife had made us some rice balls for breakfast. There were six. Matt ate three, I ate three. Later, we wondered if we were supposed to include the policeman in our arithmetic. Either way, the kindness was appreciated, and not quite finished! They policeman then called the gas station just up the road, and asked them to open early for us! Seriously…I gotta send that dude some gifts.

 

Anyway, we got in the car, got our gas, and headed out! I was still a bit groggy, but man, that winter scenery sure woke me up. It was gorgeous, even if a bit scary. The tires still slipped, and Matt had to get out and push a few times, but we did our best. But, after a few hours of winding, snowy roads, Matt had had enough.

 

“Screw it…get on the highway. I’ll pay for it.”

“…But what if the highway is icy?” I replied, knowing nothing of highway regulations on snowy days.

“We’ll be fine, Dave…really.”

 

And so, I listened to Matt again, but this time, totally paid off. We were making incredible time. I contacted my friend, Akira, to let him know we’d be near his area soon. And I e-mailed my other friend, Aya, to see if she could still meet us.

 

Around 2:30 pm, we arrived in Aya’s town, but she could not meet us. Matt and I tried relaxing at a certain shopping center, but I swear they hid that thing from us. All the signs said “Keep going west!”, but when we realized we’d left the city, we just gave up. We ended up at McDonald’s, once again hoping to get our hands on some double-quarter-pounders with cheese… What? We’ve lived in Japan long enough to be allowed to eat American food here! But…

 

“Ah…I’m sorry,” said the girl behind the counter. “We haven’t started selling those yet.”

“Huh?”

“That’s only in the Eastern side of Japan…we’re on the West.”

“But they have a sign that says they’re selling them!” said Matt.

“No…no, that sign is just announcing the existence of the burger,” I replied.

“I swear I saw a sign….”

Matt…was losing his focus. Dude was tired of traveling. Then Akira e-mailed me asking when we would show up. Matt…just didn’t feel like going in that direction. He just wanted to head straight south to Nagoya. Knowing what weary traveling can do to groups, I complied, and sent Akira an e-mail that we wouldn’t be coming.

 

We had made it about 10 minutes from the McDonald’s when I suddenly got a phone call. It was Akira’s wife!

 

“David.”

“…Yes?

“You’re not coming?”

“…No…?

“Yes you are.”

“But…”

“We have lots of food. Come here now.”

“…Yes ma’am.”

 

And then, much to Matt’s surprise, I was turning the car around. Asuka, Akira’s wife, is tough. Love the girl to death, but…for some reason I know not to cross her.

 

After a little more driving we suddenly found ourselves in some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Tall mountains and wide rivers dotted with quaint little houses and immaculate rice fields. Just seeing it all melted our weariness away. We drove up into the mountains on a steep climb, and, after some crazy winding roads, we found ourselves in some hidden neighborhood, nestled in the mountains. Not even my navigation knew where we were. Asuka’s dad drove out to guide us to their house. And when we got there, my good lord, I wish I had pictures. I’ll just say that I liked their house. And the food. Everything was great. Even the baby bees. That’s right. We ate baby bees. They were actually really good! They’d be MUCH better if I didn’t know they were bees. Asuka’s parents were extremely nice, and Matt wowed everyone with his culinary conversations. Me? I was worn out. I couldn’t even make conversation. But Matt was the entertainment that evening, so I wasn’t concerned.

 

Akira and Asuka needed to go to Nagoya, which was exactly where we were heading, so I offered to give them a ride…shortly before realizing that Matt and I had been riding in that car for two days. I ran out, and cleaned it up as best as I could, but man, I’m sure the overwhelming power of dude-funk was unstoppable. I left the doors open for a while, trying to air out the car, and just as I was opening the hatch, I looked up at the sky. The stars were incredible. We were high up, and far away from all the city lights, so everything was visible.

 

“Pretty, huh?” said Asuka’s dad, exiting the house.

“Yeah…I live in the country too, but we can’t see this many stars…”

“Yeah, that’s a good thing about living out here. Gotta be careful of the wild boar and what not, though…”

“…Wild…boar?”

 

We all stuffed ourselves into Tsunami…my car, if you forgot her name, along with lots of food from Asuka’s family, said our farewells and were on our way! This was a car full of people 5’10” and up…so it wasn’t exactly comfortable, but we managed. As we sped down the highway, Akira introduced us to some music, and Matt showed off his collection. I’m one of those people whose speed changes with the tempo of the music, so when a particularly fast song came on, I was zipping between cars without even thinking about it.

 

“David…be careful, or you’ll get a ticket like me!” said Akira.

“Oh, right!”

 

A year ago, Akira got a speeding ticket for 1000 bucks. That was for going 120kmh. That’s, like…85 mph. Yeah. Worst thing? They don’t even use cops for it here. They have cameras. So, you’ll be speeding one day, and then, three days later, you get a ticket in the mail, saying you gotta pay. That, is a horrible thing to come home to. And I’d been going about 120kmh the whole way over to Asuka’s place…so, I was worried for the rest of the trip, of course.

 

Eventually, we arrived in Nagoya, dropped The A-Team off, and started exploring. Unfortunately, that was right when the lack of sleep, and weariness from driving for three days hit me…hard. Matt tried cheering me up with some video games and food, but I had nothing left. Quickly, Matt found a manga café, booked the biggest rooms for us, and steered me toward the drink bar, where I got two cups of jasmine tea. Then, I took a shower, went to my room, and collapsed in the largish massage chair in my room. Next thing I knew, it was morning…9 hours later. I really WAS tired.

 

 

We decided to go to the Southern beach, but...oh, right, I'm supposed to leave that part out.Collapse )

 

As I said, we decided to go South, but as we drove, I noticed our gas was getting low…again. And then, in MID-DAY mind you, no stations were open!

 

“I hate Japanese New Years! Everyone’s traveling, yet they close all the gas stations? The hell kinda business plan is that?!”

“Dave, turn around!”

“Why?”

“…I think I saw a Brazilian market, and man…turn around, PLEASE.”

 

Fortunately, by following Matt’s request, we found a gas station. After that, we found ourselves surrounded by Brazilian folk, Portuguese words, and a crapload of American products with outdated logos. I even found a bag of Funyuns! Unfortunately, being my dark self, I never showed any excitement, which throws Matt off a bit.

 

“Dude, seriously,” said Matt. We were eating some of the freshly made food inside the restaurant (which you buy by weight for some reason). “Like…I always think you’re pissed off whenever we stop somewhere. Why?”

“…So, when I was a kid, on long trips, my parents and my sister would always change course for the sake of food. I could never see the point in it. It didn’t bother me, it just seemed…a bit silly. I would follow along though, and stay out of their way, so as not to ruin their excitement. But then…they’d keep coming to me, asking me why I was angry. Why I wasn’t happy. What was wrong. And THAT is what pissed me off.”

“…So, I should stop asking.”

“Good man.”

 

I smirked, though. Seeing other people so happy for food always amused me. I guess it’s just not in me.

 

Anyway, after that, I think we both knew the trip was pretty much over. It was time to return home. We plugged Matt’s address into the navigator, and…11 hours?! We even tried jumping on the highway again, but traffic was horrible. In the end, we got back to Matt’s girlfriend’s place at 11:30 pm I hung out there for an hour or so, and then headed back to my place. I got home at 3:00 am.

 

We’d been on the road for about 4 days, and traveled 1500 kilometers, braved icy roads, snowy bridges; seen mountains, forests, rivers, beaches, oceans, seas, rain, sleet, hail and snow; stolen apples, slept in a police station, been drunk with a police officer, and eaten bees.

 

Yeah…awesome trip.

 

D

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Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Subject:Sorry
Time:8:13 am.
 Many apologies, folks.  I was writing that one in it's entirety, and...well, I was suddenly called away to teach.  I hoped to come back and finish it before you all got to it, but I failed.

Please scroll down and read what I added, and please be patient as I prepare part 2.

Thank you all.

D

P.S.  Yes, T, I am aware of what I owe you...
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Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Subject:Oh, hey! I have a LiveJournal!
Time:12:52 pm.


Aaight, so, I realize that keeping a proper journal in another country is darn near impossible.  Sure, the first few months are easy, because all sorts of cool stuff happens, but as the times become more...routine, you begin to lose that flair for showing off everything you just learned.  Also, your English skills start to wither away...so you spend more time wondering if you're using the right word/punctuation than you do actually writing.

But, every once in a while something amazing comes along that makes you want to write.  And that...is my New Year's experience.  Mind you, Matt Shannon and I have been friends for a long time, but we haven't actually gone on that many trips together.  And Matt has been bugging me about that for...a very long time.  Granted, he's got a pretty good argument.  Dude travels to Korea, Vietnam, Thailand.  Me?  Chillin' all the time.  Not really chillin', but you get the idea.

Anyway, Matt made another attempt to get me traveling recently.  He was on his way to Korea with his girlfriend, when he told me,. "Okay, Dave...think of something for us to do when I get back."

Crap.

See, had he not told me to do that, I probably would've come up with something, but the moment you ask me to do something, my mind goes blank.  So, after a few days of having no ideas, I fell back on an old idea of mine...one I'd wanted to do back during the Summer of Kyoko.  Road trip.  When Matt heard my idea, I was surprised at how cool he was with it.  Little did I know he had plans...or intentions...that I wasn't aware of.  But, since I hadn't actually traveled with him in ages, I wasn't really gonna give him any crap about it if he pulled something crazy.  ...right.

So, Matt came to my small town by train at 11:30 pm, December 30th.  It was chilly, but nothing horrible.  He got in the car, and pulled out a large coin from Korea. 

"Heads we go north, tails we go West."
"Deal."
Heads.
"...Let's go West."
"...Deal."

Matt wanted to see mountains, and north wasn't the best way to do that.  So, west it was.  I mean...the trip started out innocently enough.  I'd packed stuff for like...two days of stupidiy.  Gas tank full, oil recently changed.  I figured we'd just be riding around, and didn't make too many special preparations.  So, as we kept heading west, I thought everything was goin' normal.  Matt was blasting whatever mash-up music we could muster, and we were having a good time, despite a few screw ups on my navigation system, and a creepy encounter with some dude with one headlight.

But then the snow started to fall.  We knew there was snow somewhere.  Cars coming from the other direction had a little on their hoods, so...it wasn't a big surprise.  But the snow kept falling.  And it was getting worse.  By the way, we had no snow tires and no chains.  (As Matt would later say, "Seriously, who the fuck makes non-all season tires?)  And I had never driven in snow before...ever.  And soon, our jovial trip became a barrel of laughs for Matt, and a harrowing experience for me.  Matt made sure to spice up the trip with weird conversations.

"So, Dave...if you were stranded in the snow...would you eat someone else first, or would you eat yourself first?"

Yep.  Dude knows how to ask the right questions at the wrong time. 

Now, y'all gotta understand...Japanese roads are not at all straight, nor wide.  So, to be winding and weaving through the mountains on an icy road at 2 in the morning in this country...is downright stupid.  But we couldn't turn back.  And there was nowhere to stop!  So, that was me, clenching the steering wheel as tightly as I could, heart jumping everytime I felt the tires slip, while Matt coached me along, secretly pondering how proud my father would be of me for perservering through a test like that.  4 hours.  It lasted for 4 hours.  I only realize it now, but I did that for FOUR HOURS with no breaks.

Eventually, 6:30 am rolled around, and an actual town sprouted up in front of us.  Nagano!  You know Nagano, from the Winter Olympics!  Freshly salted roads and plenty of convenience stores.  I was happy.  Though...no one, and I mean no one was selling tire chains.  Oh, wait, no...they were selling them, but not in my size.   I drive a Honda Accord, people...  How can that be a special-sized car?!  Anyway...we parked in the parking lot of some kindergarten somewhere...and slept for two hours.  Well, Matt slept.  I...tried.

When we woke up, my travel-energy was extremely low, but we visited a castle in a place called Ueda, and kept driving through towns with names like, "Thousand Songs" and "Bear Hill".  We stopped at a post office so that Matt could mail off some gifts...that some of you might have received.  We drove through farmlands, stole apples, ate McGriddles and searched for chains...but to no avail.  We headed further north, driving through snow, hail, and rain...all falling at the same time...to come to the northern coast of Japan, where we saw the Sea of Japan, brightly lit by warm sunshine...way out on the water.  Close to us, it was storming.  Behind us, snow and hail were falling.  It was one of the weirdest weather moments I'd ever seen...and I loved it.  I suddenly felt recharged.  And then...the call came.

My friend Akira was visiting his in-laws in a city south of us.  11 hours south.  But when he called, I told him, "Hey!  We're gonna come visit!"  I had another friend who lived near that area, so it seemed like killing a bunch of birds with one stone.  Matt seemed a bit surprised by my enthusiasm...but he's never one to turn down a trip, so, off we went.  Sorta.  I soon was exhausted again, and we decided to stop off at a rest stop, and sleep.  I slept for three hours.  Matt was awake, eating many of our snacks. 

When I awoke, it was dark...which isn't saying much in Japan.  It gets dark at, like...4:45 here, people.  Anyway, after one last unsuccessful attempt at buying chains, we set off toward Akira.  It was New Years Eve, so we thought we'd arrive late at night, right when everyone is nice and drunk.  I started getting hungry...and our snacks were gone.  Matt wanted ramen.  I wanted food of any kind.  So, the search began.

Would you believe...that in a country where you can't go 500 yards without passing 4 different, independently owned ramen shops...not one ramen shop was open?  We searched diligently on our path, but found NOTHING.  We passed KFCs, McDonald's...other noodle shops, but no ramen.  So, Matt and I made a deal.

"Alright, the next McDonald's we see...we're going there."  A double quater pounder with cheese was sounding REALLY good.

After about 10 more miles, we saw a McDonald's.  However...Matt, who really wanted ramen, and was unaware of how hungry I was, had a brilliant idea.

"Dave...let's rock paper scissors this.  I win, we go to this McDonald's.  You win, we keep looking for ramen."  Out of a foolish kindness, I agreed.  We rocked.  We papered.  We scissored.  I won.  Which means...I lost.

Tucking my hunger away, I noticed that our gas was getting low.  There were a few stations around us.

"Yo, Matt...we got, like...100 km on this thing.  We should get some gas."
Matt peered over and looked at the fuel gauge.  "Nah, man...you got at least 300.  Trust me...I've driven a lot of Hondas.  We'll be fine."

My hunger must've made me even more moronic than usual.  This was MY car.  I drove it everyday.  I knew how it worked.  So, when Matt said what he did, I SHOULD'VE said something like, "...Dude, shut up.  I know my car."  But something inside of me probably wanted to do it passively.  Wait until the next gas station, show Matt the change in our fuel level, and THEN rub it in his face.  So...I said nothing.

This proved to be a huge mistake, as our surroundings became less and less...populated.  No buildings, no signs...no lights.  Suddenly, we were driving through tunnels in the mountains, between open areas that revealed the snow was falling...hard.   And right around that time, Matt started to realize his blunder...and I mine.  I slipped into my silent "I'm not angry, but talking will actually MAKE me angry" deal.  

We moved along slowly, as we STILL didn't have chains or snow tires.  As we crossed a perilous bridge crossing over a pitch black chasm that was who knows how deep,  part of me knew that yes, we were going to have to face some painful times here.  We might even end up sleeping in the car.  And I was hungry.   But part of me hoped for a miracle.  And suddenly...we drove onto a small road that had no ice on it at all.  In fact...it was wet.  And lined with houses.  Without even thinking about it, I stopped the car.  We had about 25 kilometers left in the tank.  Matt hopped out, hoping to find help.  His method?  KNOCKING ON PEOPLE'S DOORS AT 9:00 AT NIGHT ON NEW YEAR'S EVE.  Needless to say, it didn't work.  So, Matt got in the car, and we moved forward a bit.  As we passed through and intersection, Matt suddenly yelled, "STOP!"  We had found it.  Salvation...maybe.  In the form of a small police station.

Matt and I walked over, and rang the little doorbell.  Out came a police officer, quite surprised to see two huge foreigners at his door.  In order to calm him down, I quickly explained our situation in the best Japanese I could.  He seemed absolutely amazed at how far we'd traveled with no snow tires.  I asked him to tell us the location of a gas station.   He said they were probably all closed, but invited us into the warmth inside while he tried to call around and see what he could find.  I was still silent.  Not mad, just...trying to grasp the situation at hand.  Matt...kept trying to make jokes to alleviate the situation, which isn't the right way to deal with me...ever.  But I imagine it was his own way of dealing with what was happening, so...couldn't fault him for it.

Then the police officer looked to us.  "There's a station open!  About 17 kilometers away!  But hurry!  They close at ten!"
"What time is it now?"
"9:40!"

We ran, got in the car, and headed toward the station.  It was an uphill climb, away from the town with its sprinklers that melted the ice on the roads, but we had new hope.  A new chance.  Everything could work out, if we just made it up the hill.  We were listening to our music, praying for a chance.  I was talking to my car, thinking that maybe if I said the right words, she'd be kind and carry us to safety.  And, indeed, as we pushed forward, it seemed like we would make it!  ...But then the tires started slipping.  We weren't moving forward...merely spinning our wheels.  And after several tries, we simply had to concede...and go back to the police station.

When we found the police officer again, he looked bewildered.

"What happened?"
"Couldn't make it."
"What will you do?"
"...Sleep in the car?"
"No!  Come and sleep in the police station.  All we have is chairs, but...there's a heater!"

And so, Matt and I found ourselves sitting in the dim lighting of the police station again, defeated.  Matt didn't want to talk to me, and I just...wanted to relax.  New Year's Eve...in a police station.  Great.

After about 20 minutes, the police officer suddenly returned carrying a giant bottle of Japanese wine, beers and snacks.  

"It's New Year's Eve...I'm the only one on duty...we're drinking!"

Aaaand so, David Williams and Matthew Shannon found themselves drinking with a police officer in a police station in the middle of nowhere, on New Year's Eve.  Matt had this stupid grin on his face.

"Why're you so happy?"
"...So you know how in, like, fantasy stories, the travelers end up hitting rock bottom, and are suddenly saved by the warmth and hospitality of some villager?  Ever since I was a kid, I always loved those parts of the books, and always wanted to be in a situation like that.  And I'm getting that right now!"
"...even when you screw up, you get what you want..."

Yeah...that's how things work for Matt.  Total silliness.  The cop showed us pictures of his family, we discussed all sorts of stupidity, even gave him some American snacks.  Apparently, an English teacher lives there, but was out of town, but the cop called him up and let me leave a message on his phone.  ...I can't help but wonder what that that guy thought when he checked his voicemail.  

After drinking, we went to the local temple and did the whole New Year's prayer dealie.  Really gave the townsfolk a surprise with that one, lemme tell ya.  And with that, our night was over.  We slept in the station (Though, I eventually moved to the car because the floor was simply too hard), and contemplated the next step of our journey...

Continued in Part 2!

D
 

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Friday, October 17th, 2008

Subject:Don't follow me...part 2
Time:10:24 am.
Mood: weird.
Well...a lot's changing 'round here.  Got me a new place, new car, new iPhone...went on a bunch of dates with a girl, turns out we're just friends...when on a few dates with another girl...turns out I didn't like her as much as I thought...  I got hurt, I hurt people, blah blah blah, and here we are!  A bit older, a bit wiser, a little less naive, a little less innocent...

This year of my life was filled with revelations.  After my 25th birthday, I began to realize that a lot of my morals were actually defense mechanisms, or even spite-filled grudges against whatever.  These were not the reasons a person should hold on to any ideals.  In fact...if those are your reasons, then they aren't ideals at all.  Which was the case with me.  Sounds a bit messed up, but I had to put those fake ideals to the test for the last year.  Some of them have changed.  Some of those changes are drastic, and yet...since I wasn't holding on to them for the purest of reasons, the changes meant nothing.  They just meant more honesty.  I'm gonna have to be vague for now, because, though these choices were made long before any action was taken, I still do not fully understand my choices, nor the consequences, nor what they say about me as a person. 

Undoubtedly, a good number of you know what I'm speaking of, but please, allow me some semblance of mystery and oblivion for my own sake, as I work through this in my own time.  I have come to understand this, though:  Pride, as always, was my greatest flaw, and not in the form you might think.  I looked down on no one, but instead, stared up at One Being in particular, as if I had something...a trump card of sorts...that meant any bad thing that came my way was obviously some horrible scandal aimed at an undeserving soul.  For a long time, I have struggled with the idea that...while all actions, including inaction, have consequences, not all happenings are the consequences of one's own actions.  In other words, sh*t happens.  And while I'm sure many of you came to understand this long ago, my upbringing, and the hopes I was given by those around me, have led me to create a complex web of cause and effect...a jacked up system of karma, if you will.  It's taken a long time to get this far, and, it seems the most effective way to break the system...is to go completely against it...  A scary thought to someone who believes that could completely destroy your life.  And yet...had to do it.

So here I am, 26 years old.  That whole system disrupted.  My path has changed a bit.  The storm in my head is back, but...this is a good one.  I hope.  I have finally learned the lesson that I've said to so many people:  In life, you will get hurt, and you will hurt others.  That...is inevitable.  I just hope all parties involved can understand my decisions...

D

PS:  Ain't all THAT serious, people.  Besides, this iPhone is AWESOME.
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Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Time:12:22 pm.
Quick post.

I moved.  No internet in apartment yet.  All is well.  Things have changed a bit.

Lionel, I'm sorry for disappearing just as you started your Japanese class.  Hang tight until October 5th, okay?

Everyone else...stay cool.  I'll be back, with a few stories to tell.

Out

D
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Friday, June 13th, 2008

Subject:Take 4
Time:12:55 pm.
Mood: nervous.
 Aaaaand the days continue.  Again, I’m sitting at the West School, wondering what the crap is going on here.  They seem to enjoy screwing with my schedule…  Oh well.

 

The latest happenings are few.  Last weekend was Maki’s birthday.  You know, the girl who cried when I remembered her birthday?  Yeah, well you shoulda seen what happened when I gave her some chocolate at her party…that I suggested we have.  Girl had to leave the room.  Everyone’s reactions were mixed.

 

“David!  What did you DO to her?!”

“David…you bought her chocolate?  That’s so sweet…”

“David!  That’s when you take her in your arms, and say ‘Shh…it’s okay.  I’m right here.’  And then take her home with you.”

 

The poor girl still gets totally flustered around me…but I think it’s merely because English freaks her out a bit.  She KNOWS I understand a decent amount of Japanese, but gets all confused as to which language she should speak with me.  I constantly have to calm her down.  It’s reached a point that everyone begins to wonder which one of us really is the older one. (She’s got 4 years on me.)

 

Lucky for me, Natsue the Loud was there.  Now, everyone knows this girl likes me a little too much.  She barely knows me, yet cuddles up next to me all the time, speaking to me in crazy, rapid fire, ear-splitting Japanese.  And she smokes.  And yet, there is something very endearing about her.  I don’t wanna date the girl, though.  Yeesh.  I’m trying to pass her over to Manabu, the guy who suggested we start English café.  

 

At the party, Manabu drank a lil’ too much, and when that happens, hilarious things occur.  Both his English and Japanese break.  But hey, he still tries his best.  Between Maki’s party, and Maki’s second party, (yes, they do this all the time in Japan) Manabu stumbled over to me and said, in a drunken slur,

 

“I think…Kyoko has new boyfriend.”

“Oh?” I said, intrigued, and, to my own surprise, a bit worried.  “Why do you say that?”

“Her reaction toward you has changed…so…I think she has found someone else.”

 

Iiiinteresting.  Manabu always thought that Kyoko liked me.  Everyone else disagreed.  I can’t tell, really…because for the time from October until now, Kyoko wasn’t even on my radar.  Basically…she was just a girl who came to my English class.  You can blame Miss Korea for that.  I guess she picked up on it, and maybe my lack of interest caused interest…or something.  Either way, I wasn’t really giving her much thought. 

 

On top of that, I was working a stupid amount of hours.  You know, for the car.  So, Kyoko and I just became acquaintances.  Even so, I was rather kind to her without giving it any thought.  Found 9 GB of music for her…got her some books from America….  And I wasn’t even thinking about “Kyoko”.  As far as I was concerned, I was just doing this for a student.  But then, as I came back from America, I guess I kinda woke up again.  Sorta…

 

Through coaxing from other parties, it became apparent that Kyoko was a very nice girl that had given me WAY too many chances.  But y’all know me.  To quote Ginger, “Yeah, but you need like three months of confirmation that she likes you to even TALK to a girl.”  Touche, tall one.  Touche.

 

But, if you remember, my last post explained how I’d dropped the fear of fear, and the fear of gettin’ all emotionally beat up again.  This carried directly into my interactions with Kyoko.  It was kind of a this-is-who-I-am kinda attitude.  Wasn’t forced or intentional, but it…changed her attitude as well.

 

So, when Manabu said, “Her reaction toward you has changed,” I smirked for a moment.

 

“So, you think she’s found someone else?” I replied.  “Alrighty.”

Manabu just eyed me suspiciously.

 

This is where I explain the deal with Miss Korea.  Yeah, she and I had unusually similar pasts.  Yes, we got along in an almost creepy way.  But that was because we are too much alike.  I’m pretty sure this is me convincing myself that I shouldn’t worry about the fact that I haven’t seen her in 3 months, but…I remember a while back when I was talking to her, it felt almost like…I was talking to an old version of myself.  Talking to her was a review of what I’d learned in my time before I came to Japan.  Almost like…she was there to reinforce the lessons.  Our similarities taught me that I am not the only person like me in the world, and that made me happier than I ever could have imagined, buuuut it kinda stops there.  That was a very odd realization, because I always figured that finding someone like me would be the end all be all.  Eh…that’s what happens when you hype things up too much.  I mean, think about it…I’m constantly trying to CHANGE myself.  If I was with someone just like me, I’d be driven to change them too.  Thaaat’s never good.  So, in the end, I am still extremely glad I met Miss Korea…Aesun, and while I’d love to run into her again from time to time, that’s all I want.  I’d like to keep her…close by. 

 

Once I realized that, I became aware of the other girls.  All…two of them.  So, now my focus is on Kyoko…again.  What is this, like…the 4th time?  Yeesh, man…why do I have to do things so wrong?  Ah, who am I kidding?  I enjoy my oddness.  Serves as an excuse when things don’t work out right. 

 

In other news, my Japanese is doing okay.  I actually went to a movie with Yuka, all Japanese, no subtitles…and I was okay!  I couldn’t understand every word, but I was able to follow the story, laugh at the jokes, even understand personalities of each character.  Yuka was shocked, as was I.  I still have a looooong way to go, though, man.

 

Anyway, there’s other stuff happening, but…it’ll have to wait until later.

 

Out.

 

D

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Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Subject:"Don't follow me..."
Time:3:29 pm.
Mood: calm.
 

So, here I sit again at the West School, trying to take advantage of a few moments at a computer.  The things on my mind are still what they always have been, but…I think something new has entered.  I sincerely hope I didn’t come to this revelation before, and, as usually is the case when I go on a trip or get a new job, completely forgot it in the rearranging of my mind.  But anyway, to allow myself to fully understand my revelation, let’s explain the catalyst.

 

If y’all didn’t know, in the past, my relationship with food was turbulent.  Sometimes we’d be cool, other times, it’s switch up on me wreak havoc on my insides.  It could mess me up quite easily.  Eventually, I just stopped enjoying it, trusting it…even considering it anything more than a necessary part of life.  I ate, not for flavors or enjoyment, not because I was hungry…merely to survive.  I gained a nonchalant attitude toward all food, save a few special things, and I kept those few safe foods near and dear to my heart.  Some people know my love of Sprite, Pizza Hut pizza, Bugles, and my best friend in the world, orange juice.  These foods always make me feel better, and I look forward to them like I suppose food lovers look forward to every meal.  Two people come to mind – my older sibling, Shaunte/Megan (not sure if I stopped using a pseudonym for her yet), and my might-as-well-be-a-sibling, Seamus/Matt.  These two love and understand food in ways that amaze and confound me.  They are the great cooking adventurers in my mind, and it pains me every time I get in a conversation about food with them, because I could never understand their experiences, nor can I properly express my opinions of their cooking endeavors.

 

So, I was talking to my sister yesterday.  She had acupuncture done, and apparently, for the next…who knows how long, she can’t have cold drinks.  Yeouch.

 

Me:         Drinks?  I couldn’t do that, man…drinks are everything to me.

Her:        You?  Please, you don’t know me…

Me:         Hey, you got food.  Food never hurt you.  Drinks are all I got.

Her:        …I always forget about you and your issues with food.

Me:        Eh…eventually, you just kinda keep the safe ones close to you, and stop caring about the rest.  …Which is an excellent description of my relationship with people…

Her:        Huh…yeah, I guess it is.

Me:         Gotta get past it someday.

Her:        How do you do that?

Me:         Food or people?

Her:        Either.

Me:         Well…I guess you realize that you’ve been hurt pretty bad in the past.  You’ve experienced just about the worst of it…so you know you can take it.  Remember that, and gun it.

 

And there it was.  Simple…possibly obvious to all but the most thick-headed of folk (read: me), but there it was.  It’s true.  I’ve been burned pretty bad in the past.  And…if it wasn’t that bad, my brain sure made it seem horrible.  I’ve been ostracized, ridiculed, given the role of scapegoat, ignored, forgotten, deceived, used, abused, taken advantage of, and downright hated.  I’ve already felt alone, so there’s no fearing that.  My fear of people’s fear is just…me trying to protect myself from whatever crap I’ve already experienced.  I survived it.  Sure, it hurt at the time, but it gave me quite a bit of…character and complexity.  Maybe a bit too much.  Regardless of that…I’m okay.  So, why not just gun it?  I can handle this…  People want to fear me?  Screw ‘em.  Their loss.  Obviously, I want nothing to do with someone who would fear someone like me, so…why bother appeasing such a person?  I’m done.  Done holding myself back.  Either you’re on my side, or you’re not.

 

As I walked through my elementary school today, a place where you can experience that extremes of cuteness and cruelty, I found that the number of fearful eyes was far fewer than I used to feel.  The secretary was no longer looking at me as if I was breaking rules, but as if I was simply…interesting.  Almost as if I was the only person who she could talk to.  

 

Everything feels different.  I feel more like a veteran than a novice.  It’s not a path I’d recommend to anyone else…but I wouldn’t change a single part of it.

 

God, please don’t let me forget this…

 

D

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Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Subject:"All I’m saying is sometimes I’m more scared of myself..."
Time:3:45 pm.
Mood: cynical.
 

There’s been an interesting development.  Not one that I didn’t expect, but it’s not one I particularly enjoy.  I cannot deny my own awkwardness when it comes to women.  There have been several layers to this, ranging from self-image problems to difficulties resulting from being raised by, well, mostly women.  I’ve changed a lot, despite what people may think, but in the end, the truth is I’m still exactly where I was.  Outside of it all.  I don’t understand the workings of male-female interaction and the like.  My experiences growing up haven’t really allowed me to see normal examples of that in my life, so I’m totally in the dark. 

 

On top of all that, there is something that I’ve never been able to shake.  Not since age 13 or so, when a mother of two young children got really, REALLY defensive in my presence.  Actually, before that, I had the cops called on me for breaking someone’s window, when it most certainly wasn’t me, and the reasoning behind it, well…let’s just say it wasn’t very good.  In those moments, I learned something.  Something that changed me from thinking that my strange personality was what drove people away.  From that point forward, I knew that people feared me.  Feared what I might become, what I might do, how I might harm them.  It sounds dramatic, but it’s…quite true.  I don’t think most people know what it’s like to be feared, you know, against your wishes.  And when people are afraid, they do crazy things.  That’s how accusations, fights and arrests occur. So, I always think about that.  When I was younger, I pretty much thought it inevitable that one day, I’d be falsely accused, and arrested.  Now, most of me knows that not everyone I encounter fears me from the start, but there is that small, insecure part of me that thinks that knowing and expecting that fear is the key to my survival.  It ain’t a healthy outlook.  And the reactions I get in this country do not help that.  Most of the people I meet here confess to me later that yes, they were afraid of me at first, and several of my friends have had to tell me of other friends, “Well, he/she thinks you’re probably a bad person when no one’s watching, so he/she stays away from you.”  I’m quite sure that 80% of my kindness results from fearing people’s reactions if I were to act…well, normally.  

 

So, what it comes down to is this—I cannot approach a person, male or female, without intentionally weakening myself to the point of gender neutrality.  Not at first.  Later, once I know the person isn’t threatened by my presence, I feel safe enough to be myself, and it is this version of myself that makes people wonder why I’m not dating anyone.  Problem is, apparently, in the great social game of finding partners, a man must exude a certain level of confidence and manliness within, like, the first couple of meetings.  Hey, guess what I’ve been conditioned not to do?

 

So, the development.  I work really hard, I study Japanese really hard, I have no girlfriend, I am not seen dating or even spending time with females outside of class (tough to judge, since I have class almost everyday).  There are two possible conclusions from this, apparently.  Number One: I am a playboy.  There’s no other reason anyone would ever study Japanese so hard!  But see, I’m a smart playboy.  I don’t date in my own town.  I disappear to Tokyo, get girls for one night stands, then come on back to my little town to act all innocent and non-intrusive.  Perfect plan.  Does that sound like me?  Nope.  Number Two:  I am gay.  How else could I actually be so comfortable and friendly with women and NOT date them?  How else could I last this long in Japan (note, they think it’s only in Japan) without a girlfriend?  Only explanation.  Again, does that sound like me?  Nope.  …I hope it doesn’t.

 

But, I cannot stop what people might think.  I cannot stop my friends from saying “Dammit, David just go date a girl!”  But I also can’t stop who I am. It’s unfortunate that so many random factors worked together to make me so impossibly immobile, but I always try.  Despite what everyone thinks, I am constantly pushing myself.  It does feel like my progress is too slow to reach normalcy before I die, though. 

 

So, lemme give you some status info…

 

Kyoko – Probably my best bet, but I swear, the only time we meet each other is when one of us is paying the other.  Either I’m at 50s, or she’s coming to my English class.  And JUST when things were moving away from that…something rather serious happened in her family life, so…I’m not gonna push things right now.

 

Miss Korea – We were getting along extremely well.  But, before I left for America, she had to prepare for an art show in China, so our meetings dwindled.  We had only been meeting once a week, despite my invitations to other outings.  Since my return, we have not met.  I have contacted her.  She has not replied.  I consider this one finished.  This one also distracted me from Kyoko for a long while, but also made Kyoko a bit jealous.

 

Maki – Doubt you remember her, but she is now a student of mine, who gets horribly flustered in my presence.  She’s always a bit nervous, but she has always intrigued me.  However, she was dating some dude as far as I knew, but, they broke up.  This happened maybe two weeks ago.  Shortly after that, Maki sent a message to me through my boss at the café, “Please, forget about me.”  …This meant that she was going to miss class for a while, but that was a weird way to word it.  Just last Sunday, I met her at the café, where she was looking like she was hiding a lot of pain.  She never really looked up from her food. 

 

So, I said, “Hey, it’s only three weeks from now, isn’t it?”

She risked looking at me and said, “What is?”

“Your birthday.  Wednesday in the week after next, right?”

She then looked…almost frightened, then quickly turned her glance back to her food.  “I didn’t think anyone remembered my birthday…”  And she wiped a tear from her eye.

Now, had it been just the two of us, I’m sure this would’ve been a warm moment, but, there were other people with us, who exploded in words like, “What the crap are you talking about?!”  “Yeesh, don’t say sad things like that!”  Her face quickly changed to an embarrassed smile.

Laughing at them, I said, “So, what do you want for your birthday?”

She thought for a moment, then said, quite firmly, “A boyfriend,” shortly before giggling nervously.

“Okay!” I said.  “I’ll find one for you.  Just tell me your type, and I’ll start collecting resumes.”

“Got it.  But…shouldn’t I include the type of man I don’t like?”

“Good idea.”

Then she acted out writing a list, while saying, “Type of man I don’t like: David.”  Everyone roared with laughter.

“Ow…” I said, clutching my chest.  “That…that was good.  Good timing.”

 

Ms. Rivers – Eh…she and I keep saying “Hey!  We should get coffee some time!” But haven’t actually done it.  So, I invited her out this weekend (via phone mail, of course, since. She doesn’t speak English, and Japanese over the phone is still kinda…difficult).  But, no response yet.  That’s all I got.

 

From there, there are no other options.  No, like really…there’s no one else in my town.  The rest either smoke, or look at me like they’d hang out with me if it weren’t for the fact that I’m poisonous.  Foreigner poison.  That’s just how things are out here. And I managed to eff up my schedule in a way that leaving this town isn’t all that easy.  Working on changing that, though.

 

Anyway, I’m out…

 

D

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Subject:Land of Midgets
Time:3:15 pm.
Mood: tired.

So, here I sit again, at one of my elementary schools where I’m actually given access to a computer.  This is a rare occasion, so I figure now’s my chance to do a lil’ describing of my elementary life.

 

As always, I’ve been put in charge of 4 elementary schools in addition to my junior high school.  And, as always, I try to think up some names for each school to describe them…but, man…I think I’ve lost a lot of English ability, so….not this time!

 

1.        The West School – That’s where I am now.  This school made its great sigh of relief once it realized that I can kinda putz my way through Japanese.  Of course, that’s only because everyone asks me the same darn questions all the time, but hey, whatever.  The teachers here are cool, some of them are even from my elementary schools from last year.  There’s one secretary here, who has a tendency to stare at me as if I’m breaking some crucial law of nature, and every conversation with her seems to be more of an investigation of exactly how I can do such a thing.  I’ve never seen such bewilderment.  Basically “You ain’t possible.”  It’s cool, though.  This school doesn’t stand out all that much, which might explain how I got lost the first time I tried to come here…

2.        The East School – That’s where I was yesterday.  This is the big school in the southern area of my town.  Quite nice, though.  The teachers talk to me a little, but, as always, it’s the secretaries who are the most talkative.  One of them seems to love bragging about the fact that she met me at a convenience store many months ago.

 

“This is our new ALT, David Williams.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, he’s very tall, and speaks very good Japanese….AND I MET HIM AT 7-ELEVEN!”

“…Lucky you!”

 

Obviously, this is all in Japanese.  But, man, she gets really excited about it.  Thing is…so does everyone else! 

3.        Too-Close-To-Home – Yeeeees, they’re back!  I’m back at this school, a lot more often than seems necessary.  To my relief, the insane sixth graders are gone, having been replaced by a much milder class.  There are also two other pleasant surprises.  One involves a teacher I never mentioned before.  I’m gonna call her Grown Kyoko, because, seriously, she’s how I imagine Kyoko will be in…uh…ten years?  This teacher always greets me quite enthusiastically, and…is a bit too friendly with me sometimes, but hey, it’s cool.  I’m always happy to work with her, and I’m glad she’s still around.  The second surprise is that one of my teachers from my very first junior high school, heretofore known as Paradise Lost, transferred to this school!  I never gave her a name, however, because she never really SAID anything to me.  She just always gave me food, and Japanese books to look at, and she was kind of my unspoken support.  Ever had one of those people that every time they looked at you, you could feel them saying “You’re doing a great job!  Keep fighting!” ?  That’s her.  I want to give her a name, but what with the Paradise Lost thing, and the support, all that comes to mind is…I’ll call her Grace.  Grace is fine.  She looks like a Grace.

4.        School of Busted Walks – I can never shake this school.  Not that I want to.  I got one good friend here.  Long, long ago, I wrote about a teacher who took me to a restaurant, and we discussed the suspicious nature of 50s.  This teacher is still at SBW, and is still one of my best friends in Japan.  Granted, she doesn’t speak a word of English, but we communicate just fine.  Unfortunately, at this school I’ve had several other friends, who have been transferred elsewhere…so sad.  One major player was my friend Ms. Rivers.  She came last year as a teacher in training, and she just happened to be stuck next to me in the teachers’ room.  And we happened to be the same age.  So, naturally, the teachers of the school tried to create every opportunity possible to pair us together.  As did the students.  Fortunately, I figured out a way to dodge their questions.  You see…her last name was the same as the place where I lived, AND the name of “Too-Close-to-Home”, so, with a little feigned miscommunication…

 

“David, do you like Ms. Rivers?”

“Yes, I live in Rivertown.”

“No, no…do you LIKE Ms. Rivers?”

“…Yeah…I live in Rivertown.”

“No!  The teacher!  Ms. Rivers!  Do you like her?!”

“Yeah, I am a teacher at Rivertown Elementary.”

“Wow…he really doesn’t speak Japanese, does he?”

 

Ms. Rivers found these moments hilarious.  Outside of that, we tended to have a rather silly relationship.

“I have to teach with David today?  Aw, man!”

“Wait, wait…I have to teach with YOU today?  Ewwwww…”

 

It was fun working with her, even if it was only once a month.  And now, she’s gone.  But, we got each other’s e-mails, so we still keep in touch.

 

 

Now, let me explain something.  I don’t hate elementary schools.  But right now, they are the bane of my existence.  Some elementary school teachers say that they all work the same hours I do, and do it everyday, so I shouldn’t complain, but I’ve yet to meet a single teacher who teaches 5-6 classes a day, AND has high energy classes for 50 minutes straight.  It’s a workout, man.  Entertaining children for 6 hours?  It’ll kill you.  Thing is, the school board decided that ALTs should work more days at elementary schools.  Even worse than last year.  So, 3-4 days a week, I’m “teaching” English to elementary schools.  Wears me out…

 

So, I must say, if this continues, unless I find that I have no other choice, I will not continue my job as an ALT next year, and will search for some other form of employment, because, seriously, people…it’s getting crazy.

 

Anyway…off to battle the hellions.  PEACE!

 

D

 

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Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Subject:Season 3
Time:3:42 pm.
 

Well, I’m sure that as the days go by over there in America, some of you think to yourselves, “Man…I get that David was actually home for a while, but why the heck doesn’t he ever update his journal?”  And that…would be a good question.

 

Now,. It is true that I refrained from doing any journal work to keep my visit a secret, but…the month or so spent after the fact is no excuse.  So, let’s recap.  And don’t worry…most of this will be short.

 

After Christmas vacation came New Year’s…a strange mix of drinking parties, random makeouts and preparation for my upcoming purchases.  I had two plans…buy a ticket home, and buy a new car.  That first one was a quick decision, but the second…ugh.  I worked a lot of extra jobs and saved a lot of money while I searched high and low to find a decent car at a decent price.  In the end, a friend located a 9 year-old Honda Accord wagon, silver…one owner, and only 30k miles on it.  I thought this alone was amazing, but then…we saw the interior.  GPS, CD player, a little woodgrain…oh, and Bose speakers.  

 

I just wanna say something here.  There are moments when my blackness slips through unabashedly.  Seeing a car with great bass-thumping potential and immediately wanting it is one of those things that I have no control over.  There is a strange part of me that would take pride in a hoopty with spinners and a system that could break your windows with Barry White.  That part came alive when I saw the Bose speakers.

 

“All I need is a subwoofer,” I thought, “and I’ll be able to terrify everyone in this country.”  And so, I was sold.  Problem was, wanting a car isn’t enough in Japan. Neither is actually having the money to purchase it.  Recall my driver’s license experience.  Japan likes making things difficult, because apparently going through the process means you want it that much more.  Thing is, the shop that HAD the car said, “You gotta do it in five days.”  Great…

 

SO, let’s explain the car buyin’ process.  In Japan, before you can buy a car, you gotta have a place to park it.  That’s right…you gotta register with the police office that you actually want to park a car somewhere before you can get said car.  I had such a place already, but Rain, the spunky lil’ go-cart, was already occupyin’ it, so I had to get my apartment complex to switch the cars.  Thing is, the office is way off in Tokyo, so it wasn’t a phone call kinda deal.  I had to mail my request it to Trust school, the folks through whom I’m renting everything, and then THEY forwarded it to the apartment company, who put their lil’ stamp of approval on it, mailed it back to my company (not me…because that would make too much sense), who then mailed it to me.  This took a week or so.  Fortunately, my friend convinced the car shop to give me a little extension.

 

Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that there was aNOTHER bit of a problem.  See…signatures don’t work for major purchases in Japan, because they don’t have records of signatures.  They use a system called “hanko”, which is a little red stamp everyone carries around with their name carved in it, in the nicest kanji they can afford.  This system works fine for Japanese folk, seein’ as kanji is how they roll, but for a foreigner, that doesn’t work so much.  Now…in some cities, you can just grab a cheap 99-cent stamp of…ANYTHING, register it to your name and say it’s yours.  Not my town.  They went and got strict.  I didn’t know this, though.  But, I didn’t want the 99-cent dealie.  So, I went to a professional hanko shop, and asked them about my name, or initials or something.  This is when I was informed of the recent rigidity of my city’s hanko system…specifically toward foreigners.  So, I had to get my whole name.  Doesn’t seem so bad…until you realize that charge…by the character.  So, while most Japanese names will have MAYBE six characters at the most, (usually four), my name…my full name…has 19.  Can’t fit 19 characters on a normal sized hanko, so I’d need a bigger one.  Oh, those cost more too.  So, total, my hanko would cost 150 dollars.

 

“Eff that noise,” said my brain, but…I did not say this to the kind shop clerk.  Instead, I took a risk.  I translated my last name into kanji 決意兜, and said “I’ll use this.”  The woman warned me that she thought it was completely useless, but hey…if it didn’t work, I’d at least have a souvenir.  So, I got my hanko that said “Keito”, and later, went to the city office.  Keep in mind, the car shop was STILL waiting for all my documents.

 

So, at the city office, they saw my hanko and did that air-sucking thing they do when they want to say, “Yeah, no.”  That’s when I swear I channeled Matt Shannon and told them all about the meaning of the kanji and how it really was my last name.  I was not going to accept no for an answer…and they saw this.  Or rather, the lady who helped me when I first got to Japan came and told this new guy, “Yo, he’s cool.  Just let him add that name as his nick name.”  I love that woman.

 

Strange process, though.  I had to write a postcard to myself using my new Japanese name at my address, get the postcard the next day, take it to the post office to confirm that that name at that address is okay, then take that confirmation to the city office, and finish the process.  I did this wrong, and the woman still said, “It’s cool…just bring me the right form tomorrow, okay?  You promise?”  Again…love her.

 

So, I had my hanko, and…the document that proved the hanko was mine.  All of this I took to the car company after two weeks.  And they still let me buy the car.  After another week, I gave them 80% of the money for the car, and they let me drive off in this might-as-well-have-been-brand-new car.  I felt like king of Japan.  I even made a CD of the cassette I found in Rain when I drove her the first time, and played it as I drove this car the first time.  Felt great.  Later, I came up with a name for my new friend.  Then I (meaning Carla) came up with a better one.  Her name is…Tsunami.  By the way…it was raining when I finally bought the car.

 

As for my schools, I don’t even remember what happened in those last few months.  I was so busy working and taking care of car stuff, I didn’t care.  I can say this, though.  I truly hope that some of those teachers escape those schools soon.  Poor Tall One.  I could see her spirit breaking everyday. 

 

In a strange twist of events, though, the school board decided to move me.  Unfortunately, this meant taking James away from the school he loved.  We tried to change hteir minds, (actually, James tried…I was off battling stuff for a new car) but to no avail.  And thus, upon my return from America, a new phase began.

 

THE MAIN SCHOOL

 

Cool place.  Brand spankin’ new buildings.  Kids that actually pay attention.  The cast?

 

Possible-Pervert Sensei – He seems cool, but I got word that he might be…up to stuff…round the kids.  I got no evidence, but I got my eyes open.  Usually mumbles to himself about stuff in Japanese, and is surprised when I chuckle at his statements.  

 

Proper-Sensei – This woman speaks such articulate English AND Japanese, I could give her no other name.  She’s really nice, though.  Usually asks me questions about English, and sometimes tests my Japanese…IN CLASS.

 

Possibly-Bitter Sensei – This girl is a year my senior, but seems mildly miffed about something.  Again, I’ve heard rumors, but I don’t spread those.  She treats me like some odd-fitting accessory in class, which means I do the same to her, meaning I make jokes in class instead of keeping quiet as I’m sure she wants me to.  …That’s not true.  She just looks so…ticked sometimes I can’t help but try and make her laugh.  It works.

 

Not-Laurel – This is one of the secretaries.  She reminds me of my friend Laurel, but something is missing.  …I wonder what? (har)  Because of this, I feel her personality developed a little differently.  So, though she might be bright and bubbly sometimes, there’s a hint of insecurity that just makes her all the more endearing.  Not that Laurel isn’t endearing…

 

The Frail One – The second secretary.  This girl is so small and thin.  She looks like I could shatter her with a handshake.  But she always smiles at me…merely because that’s all she can think to do.

 

I’ll talk more about the elementary schools next time.

 

And the next part of the new era…I now “work” at the café where I spend so much time.  It’s for my Japanese.  Lemme tell ya, I both love and fear this job like nothing else.  I can only speak Japanese, which is really tough when it comes to commands and stuff.  Gotta react fast.  But, man…is it ever helping.  There is almost no hesitation in my Japanese now.  …At the beginning of sentences, at least.

 

I’ll update more next time, now that things are getting interesting again.

 

Later!

 

D

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Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Time:12:51 pm.
 Well, we're winding down to the end of the year...school year.  Which means kids are gettin' antsy, the teachers are slackin' off, and it's getting disturbingly cold.  However, now I'm the proud owner of a humidifier, which transforms Japan's sandpaper air into a soft, soothing balm for the lungs.

My role as a teacher is changing 'round these parts.  Meaning, my teachers at my junior high school have finally realized that they're not using me as much as they could.  ...Actually, I think I kinda snapped and told a teacher how to teach their lesson, and it worked...and now she is depending on me for ideas.  This would be The Tall One.  Ever since she realized she's just slightly younger than me, her attitude toward me transformed to...deferential.  Of course, my attitude toward her changed as well--I tease her all the time now.

For example...
(keep in mind, I'm smirking all through this conversation.)

"David...I have a question."
"I might have an answer, but I'm not promising anything."
"I know you're not scheduled to help me today, but it's an important lesson, and--"
"Last week, I asked you to write a paper on the difference between に and  を.  Did you finish it?"
"I...no, not yet," she replies sheepishly.
"Looks like I can't help you, then."
She looks shocked, but is smiling.  "But--"
"Hey...it's give and take here, sensei...  I'm doing all the giving.  Do you think that's fair?"
She cannot answer...her smile is fading.
"I'm JOKING.  What's up?"

Man, the first time I teased her, it was deadpan.  Poor girl didn't know what to do.  She understands it now, though...even throws some jokes at me.

As for The Short One, she's older than me, but I still talk to her like I've been teaching for MUCH longer than she has.

"So...why should these kids study English?"
The question hits her like...an unexpected question.  "...because...they have high school examinations, and they need to pass."
"You really think they care about that?  Did you care about that when you were their age?"
"...No..."
"So, again, why should they study English?"
"...they might want to travel abroad some day, and English will help them."
"...You think they want to travel abroad now?"
"...maybe not..."
"So, one more time...why should they study English?"
"...I don't know.  Why should they?"
"Hey...you're the sensei....you gotta figure that out."

Man...I've turned into such a jerk around them.  And the students.  I've had to start controlling the classroom with silent stares, because the teachers don't know how to do it.  Kids talk all through class, not even softly.  They get up, walk around, they sleep, they shoot rubber bands at each other...they don't even take out their textbooks anymore.  Slick Sensei tells me it's a problem in all the subjects, not just English.

So, I've stopped caring about being the playful teacher.  Well, I'm still playful, but if you keep the teacher from doing her job, I will call you out.  I've gotten extremely fast at finding the one student who is derailing everyone else's learning.  I won't kick them out (you can't)...they just end up helping me teach the class.  At the front of the room.  Standing the whole time.  Everyone pays attention to the kid, too.  My teachers squirm uncomfortably when I do it, until they realize that the class has completely calmed down.

You see, the view of school in my town is this:  School is a place where information should be offered in a steady stream.  Only offered.  Never used.  So, teachers get up and talk for hours and hours.  Kids have the right to listen, or...ignore it.  Teachers don't seem to think about encouraging students to WANT to learn.  They think they'll choose to learn when they're ready.  Unfortunately, this is the method of teaching from 1st grade on up.  So kids never learn HOW to learn.  They just know that school is a place where someone talks, and they don't have to listen.  Learning is never made interesting...and it saddens me.

Is it my job to fix this?  No.  But, I'm kinda trying anyway.  The self-learners are suffering from the antics of the kids who need to be pushed.  I want these kids to learn how to learn.  I couldn't care less if they forget English.  But, man...this place's school system completely ruins your drive to study new things later on in life.  And that's just gonna make a horrible generation of people, I guess...I dunno, I'm just ranting for now.

Anyway...I'm out.

D
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Friday, December 7th, 2007

Subject:The days continue...
Time:3:16 pm.
Mood: determined.
Feels weird being all caught up on this thing.  Almost as if I shouldn't be writing unless I've got 34 pages to post...like last time.  But, hey...let's just write for the sake of documenting thoughts, alright?

So, Miss Korea's effect on me continues.  Our experiences in this world are frighteningly similar, so it's kind of rewritten the way I see the universe.  ...It sounds extreme, but it's true.   I'm different now.  Still cynical because I think it makes people laugh, but there isn't as much of a bitter truth behind it all.

The funny thing, though, is that it's managed to unlock my interest in all my former artistic endeavors, ranging from writing to filmmaking.  My spectrum is gettin' wide again...a little TOO wide.  But I7m gonna go for it one more time.  Matt's encouraging me to start at least dedicating a few pages to my ideas, and Miss Korea (you'll get her name eventually, folks, don't worry), after viewing RGB, has stated that she most definitely wants to see more from the lil' robots.  Those are the two people that seem to have the greatest effect on me...on this side of the Pacific.  

My sister always brings out my competitive side.  And what with her earning her MBA, reaching fluency in Spanish, becoming an accomplished salsera, and burning through Chinese...I'd say I'm fallin' behind.  This is where I have to remind myself that my sister and I are not the same age...and that she's got three years of opportunities on me.  But, this is also where I swear that's no excuse.

All in all, I guess this is yet another declaration of...motivation?  I just thought I'd type it out so that it can guilt me later.

Goals for 2008:

Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2 = Aced
Actually be able to SPEAK at that level.
Regain the physical fitness I'd reached in my Full Sail days.
Complete 5 short stories, each a minimum of 5 pages.
Oh, and...debt.  Gotta finish that.  Seriously.  But, to allow myself to go beyond my goal, I'll just say...I'll finish off the non-school related debt by December next year.

There we go...right there for everyone to see.

And now...to get to it.

D
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Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Subject:Part 2
Time:3:31 pm.
Mood: peaceful.








 
D
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Subject:...Sorry?
Time:3:28 pm.
Mood: peaceful.
Oooookay, so it seems I have a little extra time on my hands. So, we’re gonna do this right, so I can include all the fun little things I’ve noticed over the last three months. Back to the end of July! The beginning of my six-week summer vacation…

The AccidentCollapse )
The PartyCollapse )
The Coming of Keiko FernandezCollapse )
The Driver's LicenseCollapse )
New Old FriendsCollapse )
The DoctorCollapse )
Forgotten MomentsCollapse )
Check back for part 2!


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Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Subject:3 years 'til awesomeness
Time:8:44 am.
Mood: grateful.
The Birthday Post - Not As Awesome As You Might ThinkCollapse )

Quarter of a century, huh? Third of my lifespan? Yeesh…took long enough.

Happy Birthday to me.

D
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Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Subject:Coming soon...
Time:8:21 am.
The Birthday Post

Stay Tuned...
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