Current goings on and oh god this is going to be terrible

I’ve been so out of it this week. So I haven’t really felt like blogging. My mind seems to just be exceptionally unresponsive to my environment lately. It’s been really busy with school this week. Three quizzes and a writing assignment are behind me and a 2 chapter test is tomorrow. Therefore, I’ve neither done much adventuring nor invested in any time finding interesting blog material to write about.

It’s day 43. It’s so surreal that the number is climbing so quickly.

Last week, apparently “fuck your study” Wednesday has become a thing in NKK so we did some drinking games last Wednesday and yesterday. It’s pretty fun if you take it easy, which, as for some people, was of course not the case. Last Wednesday we went to a nice Chinese restaurant in the mall and I studied for a kanji quiz. Friday rolled around and we went with a group to Shooters to eat some quality American dining and play pool. Afterward, we did nomihoudai. Overall a good night. Saturday, I went to the mall in the early afternoon to get some supplies with friends. I showed Martyrs to a handful of dormmates to severely mixed to negative reception. That’s okay, you’ll always be a favorite to me. Fun. On Sunday, I went to the beach and saw the ocean for the first time really since I went to Europe in 2009. We spent the first half of the day grubbing around on the sand, and ate at a really cute nearby diner. The weather was absolutely perfect. The second half of the day I spent studying as the week drew in ever nearer.

I don’t think there’s much to comment on with regards to Monday and Tuesday. Just another day on campus. In the Sadou (Tea Ceremony) class, we did a mock ceremony in a real traditional tatami room. So that was fun. Yesterday, as I mentioned, we did some drinking games in a friend’s apartment and I studied later on after I managed to sober up. I did well on today’s quiz so I’m not too concerned with the situation.

I guess that’s the super abridged version of the past week or so. The routine is setting in. I’m still having lots of fun and I know that I have to make the most out of every moment especially as the halfway mark draws ever near, but I’d really like to take a weekend trip to Tokyo or some other town for a change of pace soon. We’ll see what happens.

So yeah. Sorry for the lackluster update. I’m going to spend the rest of the evening getting my study on for the test tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t fail it like the last one.

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Something that actually resembles an update

I guess I’ll try to keep it brief since I already blogged today, but I wanted to talk more about Japan itself a little bit which I feel I’ve been neglecting lately in favor of more personal issues.

First of all, the weather has been really nice since the typhoon. I probably jinxed it, but it hasn’t even rained during the day time since then. It’s been sunny and not too humid at all. A nice breeze is usually present. Aside from the mosquitos, I’ve been enjoying the outdoors a lot. Shame that I’m trapped in all these city streets.

Which brings me to my next subject. Studies have shown that in many cases, overexposure to man-made structures (aka the city) can cause increased stress and lack of focus. There are many, probably more relevant, factors in play here but what I want more than almost anything right now is to get out of the city and spend a day in nature. I want to see some of the surrounding mountain ranges up close and visit the beach and explore the countryside. I wouldn’t say I’m “small town” by any means, but I’ve never lived in a CITY city. So I think I’m a little bit overwhelmed by the environment itself which has taken a toll on my focus, work ethic and stress levels.

Really quick I need to discuss how much I love Nanzan’s food options. Katsu curry is one of the greatest things known to man and I know that any restaurant could do it better but the cafeterias on campus do a fabulous job in terms of pricing and portioning. Way more affordable than Mizzou. 400 yen for a pork patty, heaps of rice and smothered in curry? Yes please everyday. Also they have a massive hot dog for a couple of bucks.

Suffice to say the magic of the conbenii is starting to wear thin, however. I would cook a lot more of my own meals but between my constant exhaustion/anxiety and the sheer intimidation brought on by my roommate’s cooking skills I just haven’t been motivated to come up with homemade dinners. They can microwave a mean spaghetti over at Lawson but I really miss the comfort of my own kitchen. (That is to say, I have a kitchen but I don’t want to look like an amateur using it. Pathetic I know Dx)

In any case, the steady flow of assignments is grating at my sanity but I’d be a hypocrite if I said I hated it. It’s what I came here to do. But I think nearly anybody would agree that it’d be nice to catch a break every so often because staring at a textbook all day while you’re living in fucking Japan just spells torture.

———————————-

That’s about it for now on the subject of Japan, I guess. I’d like to finish off with a question because I’m really interested in other peoples’ opinions on this topic. I was originally going on here to rant again but it’s not something that bothers me in particular, but I’m just not sure if I’m in the minority about this and didn’t want to spout off ignorance without getting some feedback.

Do you consider it rude to compliment people in front of others (on a skill or trait mutual to another person present)?

I might just be an overly sensitive douche but it’s honestly not a personal issue with me. I do care what people think about me but I’m not like going to snap on the spot if you aren’t smothering me in compliments all the time. I just know, as an example, when I’m told that I’m really good at something, like maybe Mario Kart, in front of other people who are doing their best, I feel guilty. I feel like it’s obvious, in a way, when somebody has a mutual trait or skill and one person is decidedly better, it would save some butthurt on either end to just let it go assumed. And I don’t like to upset people (even if I don’t know for sure if it would), I’d rather not risk it. But it seems like many people tend to disregard others’ feelings or simply assume the opposite. I think it’s because I’m personally quite sensitive that I am maybe more attentive to the feelings of others. I don’t know.

So that’s my thing for the night. Thoughts of your own are welcome. Byebye~

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fake.

Dear classmates,

If you’re complaining about the slow pace teaching of course material that you already covered back home, why didn’t you just prove your vast, expansive knowledge on the placement exams. I’m sorry, but I studied Genki I in my first year so I don’t see what’s so painfully boring about starting from the beginning of Genki II in the second. If it’s too easy for you, then fine, but you don’t need to go making me feel bad about it because I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It’s those of you in the “I’m too good for this class” camp that are making me freeze up when spoken to, intimidated, scared and anxious. If I were in a class full of second years for whom all of the material is new and unknown, it would be a better and more cooperative learning experience. You’re being arrogant and you have absolutely no place to be. I’m trying my hardest to keep up and you guys are asking the professor to pick up the pace and then turn around and say that we’re in this together and that I can ask for help anytime. It’s fake and cocky and it’s more hurtful than you know.

If you really want to help me you can start by not looking down at me.

EDIT: Just to clarify, there are a select handful of classmates who have been very kind and genuinely helpful to me. Please don’t mistake this is an attack on these people. The true friends will likely discover who they are if they don’t know yet. Their support means more to me than anything and I deeply appreciate it.
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One month in, three to go

It’s day 32, and I left the States on August 22. Today was September 22. I can’t believe how much has happened in the past month and how quickly it all came and went.

The past week was an interesting and eventful one. The Japanese class is still really rough, but all there is to do at this point is to keep doing my best and hope that it’s good enough. Thursday was the first exams day of the semester, and I failed one of them. I’ll probably find out how I did on the other one tomorrow. Not to mention I became sick with anxiety on that day and threw up in between exams. This is probably me at my weakest. It sounds very bratty, I guess, but I’ve never really felt disadvantaged before. Things generally come easily, but this is definitely the biggest challenge of my life. I’m trying my hardest to keep it together, but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt nervous like this before. I’ve been confiding in friends but at the same time I’m very worried about becoming a burden to anyone or having nothing to offer as a friend, having nothing to give for all that I’ve taken. I’ve been very dependent on people for help in class, and that’s never been something that I’ve done so heavily in the past.

The truth is, I’m terrified of this looming presence in my head telling me that I’m not wanted. It was born from the aforementioned fear but it seems like it has swelled into a full time dictator of my thoughts and actions, regardless of circumstances or contexts. I’m constantly tricked into the belief that my every decision is at the full mercy of others’ scrutiny. In other words I’m insecure as fuck and it sucks because it’s nobody’s fault but mine. And I’m upset that my insecurities might end up pushing people away from me. Which is the last thing that I want.

I just need to work through this slowly.

It’s not all bad though. It probably sounds worse than it is because on the surface, I’m doing lots of fun things with great people and I’m enjoying a fairly routine and interesting weekly schedule. And despite my test results, I feel like I am learning a lot of new things. The weekend was really fun. We had something of a dorm party with games and music. On Saturday I was kind of sluggish but managed to get out of the house and reunite with my true love Nachos for dinner. Today, I went to the zoo with a group and we had a really fun time. We visited the “Sky Tower” and could see the entire city from the upper floors. Including Nanzan. I quite enjoyed their great selection of turtles. Turtles are quickly becoming one of my favorite creatures. Turtle.

I guess, as I move forward into the second quarter of my journey, my main goal is to try to find the confidence that I used to have again. It’s been slowly waning since May, in fact, and I’d love to be able to say that I’m comfortable in my own skin again. Because right now, I’m having way too much fun to be feeling so scared and helpless. I know that I’m not being myself at all, and I don’t want to be remembered as this insecure and paranoid shell of who I really am. There are three months to go and I’m going to turn things around.

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Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s okay to shine?

It’s day 26 in Japan. Almost a month. That’s crazy.

I had a really nice 3 day weekend.

My culture class on Friday afternoons is going to be a really fun time. There are great people in it, though it’s big. I can’t wait to do more with it.

I went to Tatula on Friday night, a bar with some friends. We played some fun drinking games and like… drank. I had so much fun. It’s going to be a really good semester with these guys.

Saturday was pretty laid back. I didn’t see anyone until the evening. We watched Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Sunday, I went to the aquarium and saw some dolphins, orcas, fish, crabs, turtles, penguins. I’d never been to an aquarium (aside from zoo exhibits) before, so it was fun. Later I went shopping myself and got some new kicks.

Today, classes were canceled because of typhoon weather. It was just in the morning, and the rest of the day was actually quite cool, windy and sunny. I went to karaoke with a group and ate udon afterward. Much fun.

———–

There are nights that feel so perfect that everything that exists out of the moment pales in comparison.

Nothing even has to happen. There’s no trigger. It’s just a feeling. It makes you believe that there’s more to life than completing objectives and tasks in some attempt to obtain a payoff or reward. That there’s only you and the sky and the wind and you’ve all met in this one place and time to celebrate existence instead of constantly wearing it out.

That’s how I felt for a minute tonight by myself.

I might just be a hopeless dreamer, because this isn’t a phenomenon that seems to crop up very often outside of fantasy. I don’t know if there’s a word for it. Nothing I can think of seems to fit into 4-12 letters. But I decided here and now that I’m going to become familiar with this feeling. I want to get to know it. It’s too good to be so fleeting and elusive. I’ve felt it before, and I’ve felt it more powerfully before, but I wasn’t nearly as cognizant of it as I am right now.

I want to harness it. I want it to become a state of mind.

Goodnight.

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Gender Orientation and Possibly Unrelated Things

This post was inspired by a brief exchange of words on the way home from Tatula tonight with my NKK friends. Really, it’s just a thing that’s a complex subject for me personally, and because it’s such a confusing thing in my own head and a matter which I have never attempted to put into words, I thought I might as well go for while it was still lingering in my head.

The initial question is what percentage straight am I? To avoid an obnoxious and wordy response, I said 51%. This was mostly a response catering to the least likely amount of questioning and confusion resulting, in which case I think I succeeded. (Although that’s really a glaring cop-out on my behalf because I really was just too shy/afraid to admit some of the following things directly.)

I think, I was born a heterosexual, (since, you know, that’s something that’s decided at birth and not a choice), but my inclination toward role-reversal and femme “orientation” was developed over a lengthy chain combo of societal observations and a continuing barrage of pressures placed upon me as a male to adhere and aspire to an image of something that I was not.

The most obvious thing is that I’m short. Okay, that’s fine. A lot of people are. I would argue that being a short male is among the worst pigeonholes in which one can be placed, because there are a lot of stereotypes associated with such (I won’t get into the dirt and grime because it’s a complicated matter all on its own): we’re bitter, jealous and have some kind of badass demeanor, like we always have something to compensate for.

I’m not compensating for anything. I’m a small human. Everybody can see and obtain that information about me before they say a single word to me; and from that they can draw as many conclusions as they see fit. That’s not what I’m here to lay out tonight. The fact is that being simultaneously small and male is in itself a conundrum, given the societal assumption that the male role is inherently dominant (whatever that means).

I’ve never considered my mental status as an emotional, overly analytical and sometimes jealous human being directly indicative of weakness. These are many of the same attributes associated with women in general, without even having spoken a single word to any of them–much like the assumptions drawn about me for my height–so I’ve never considered these weaknesses… nor have I considered them results of my physical stature!

Are they related? Maybe! But I will not accept one as the result of another. If I wanted to be an alpha male badass, I could just be one. That’s a part of my privilege, short, tall or otherwise. That’s a privilege I willingly and enthusiastically forfeit in favor of the person I was born as.

I’m a heterosexual male who has sacrificed privilege in favor of persecution.

I would rather be conceived as gay, effeminate, emasculated or androgynous over any other possible preconceived notion of heterosexual male you could think of. I’d rather be seen as weak than as strong. Do I think it’s right that these labels are placed on those who break gender norms, or that these gender norms exist in the first place? Of fucking course not, but I would rather be true to myself and called a faggot than deny who I am in desperation for acceptance. I’ll be the faggot in place of every homosexual who has to suffer that sort of persecution everyday. I’ll be weak and docile in place of every female in search of independence and acknowledgment of her individuality. That’s who I am–that’s not who they are, or who they have to be. I want to be the slut and the whore in place of every girl who doesn’t. It’s not okay to be assumed as someone that you aren’t, and that goes for any gender.

So I’m breaking every gender norm in the book if at the end of the day I feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m far from hiding who I am–because I’m cool with being anything. Hate me, love me. If my height or my choice of clothes annoy you, if the fact that I shave my legs, or my hairspray, or my babydoll tees or skinny jeans, or the lisp I add to my speech or if the fact that I worry and cry when I think about what you think about me bother you in any way,

then keep on letting it bother you. Let it fester until you can’t stand it anymore.

I have my friends and they’re all I need. If you can’t see things yet the way they see things, you’ve been blind for your entire life. All you have to do is open your eyes.

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I really let myself down today. (Day 21)

This isn’t my usual summary blog. I’ve been reflecting on a lot of my decisions in this past year and I have a lot of uncertainty as to how many of them were “correct.” I know how subjective that sounds, so in context I’m defining correct in the utilitarian sense that the results of my decisions have yielded the most enjoyment or were the most rewarding.

They haven’t, And they weren’t.

At some point last Fall I thought it would be a really fun, enjoyable educational experience to study abroad this Fall. I was only a month or two into Japanese, but I found myself enjoying it more than nearly any other class and I thought I’d continue to impress myself with my quick understanding of concepts and mechanics. I’d always wanted to go to Japan, not as a tourist but as a resident–immersed, engaged and interacting with the culture. This was the time. Commitments to school and personal life would restrict any other time frame. So whether I was ready or not, it had to be now. Fall of 2013. So I told myself I’d be ready.

I’m not. The first symptoms of unpreparedness occurred on Day 1 at NKK where I realized that the CJS program was not nearly as beginner-friendly as I had imagined it would be. I thought that it would have a large appeal for one-year learners like myself. That was the requirement, after all. But that’s not the case. Every. Single. Person. Here. is a thousand times better at this language than me. And it makes sense–they’ve got more experience. But if I had known that going in there would be very few beginners (and in turn, very little resources for beginners,) I might not have made my decision so recklessly.

I want to speak in Japanese with my peers. But I can’t. I can’t articulate myself well. I can say simple things, but nobody with 3-5 years (or much less a native speaker) of Japanese wants to sit and chat using the vocabulary of a four year old. That’s not productive for them. But I can’t keep up, and it shows.

It showed today, when I took my day 1 exam to see if I was prepared enough for NIJ400–level 2 Japanese. I wasn’t. I failed miserably, in nearly every way imaginable. I’m not even good enough for the level I’m supposed to be at. A year of this language, and I have nothing to show for it. I keep repeating in my head, “How could I pass with a 96% and suck this bad?” I still don’t have an answer.

I don’t know why, or how, or what I’m even doing here anymore. I want to get past this and enjoy the semester. But what if I’m wasting 8 credit hours on repeated lessons that won’t count toward my degree? What if I can’t keep up at the level I’m supposed to have reached when I go back home? Every scenario sucks. Everything I came here to do seems to have backfired.

This might actually be the first time in my life that I have tasted pure, authentic failure.

I want so badly to believe that there’s still some reason that I came here. That there’s still a way for me gain a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of purpose. But I can’t find it by myself.
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