Change, Friends, Goodbye, Home for the Holidays, japan, Life, Sonoma

Ninety-six point fiiiive…

I’m home! Actually, I’m at Eva’s right now, freezing my toes off and unable to sleep. Sonoma is, as my friend molly so perfectly phrased it, “painfully the same”. Its stranger than i could have imagined to be back in Sonoma… my first thought was how low all the buildings are. In Japan they build upwards, being on an island and unable to expand outward. So every building has 2 stories at the very least. And where there arent skyscrapers and tall buildings there are towering mountains. So the geography here feels strange, a feeling like something is missing… it feels naked. Maybe someone should tell Geography that he forgot to put his pants on.

I was by far the most excited person on that airplane. I couldnt sleep a wink, despite the fact that my eyes were so red and tired i looked like i had just taken a bong rip. There came a time, while flying to California, where i crossed an imaginary line and felt like “this is MY turf now and im going to dance in my chair while watching Hairspray if i want to!” I made a promise to myself that when the wheels touched that runway i was going to let out a joyful whoop of excitement, but just as we were approaching the runway, the airplane pulled back up and started assending again! “WHATS goin’ on here?!” The captain recieved word from the tower that my parade wasnt ready yet, so they chose to fly the pattern one more time before landing the puppy. I thought it was awfully kind of them to put the final touches on the welcoming event. When we finally landed i chickened out of vocally expressing my happiness, but i DID yell to everyone my proposal that as soon as the FASTEN SEATBELT light went off, last one off the plane was a rotten egg. Boy, did that speed things along.

But really, my parade was amazing. Much thanks to Gavin and the City of San Fran for putting on such an event to welcome me home. It was overwhelming! The love, i mean.

You know, im feeling a little bit more capeable at this point, but when Molly and i went to get some mexican food and i accidentally said “arigato gozaimasu” i was worried about myself. And i bettcha the man i said it to was worried about me also! Reverse culture shock is a series of events in which you re-accept the faults of your society, and experience sadness because everything is the same: trivial. And some people havent exerted any effort toward improving their character or expanding their view of the world… Sonoma is a tragic town, in that way. But the quaintness of the town is comforting, and its so nice to drive at night and listen to christmas songs on KOIT (light rock, less talk.) I hope i can be bright and humble here for the next month.

I think i will continue to write for no one, even though i am home from Japan. I may as well tickle my fancy.

So I’ll just be here in Sonoma listening to ninety-six point five and schmoozing at Marys pizza on friday nights.

Friends, Goodbye, japan, JAPAN daily's, Life, Smile

Thanks, on Black Friday

I feel like im writing to no one; im not sure anyone reads this thing anymore! But that wont stop me, if even one person is still reading it then i guess its worth it.

I stopped writing as often toward the end of my trip because i was so exhausted and i didnt have enough energy to maintain my “good” blog posts that everyone seemed to love so much! I think it was also because i became totally used to the culture so things that were interesting and exciting in the beginning became a normal, everyday thing for me.

Even though 2 months was a really long time to be away from home, and even though its difficult for me to accept that ive been [temporarily] forgotten by many, i wouldnt ever go back in time and make the trip shorter. In 2 months i learned so much about the Japanese people, and their culture and country, and i became so immersed in it that i really think i will experience a bit of what they call ‘Reverse Culture Shock’. But i am wildly anticipating the awkwardness of tall people, big feet, blond hair, the English language and the American dollar (which, by the way, is so inflated right now i could use it as toilet paper.)

Im all packed and ready to go home! I cant believe it. .. I’m not sad to leave Japan but, rather, in awe of how fast time flies, and im in awe of myself also. I totally did it, Japan exceeded all of my hopes and expectations. I made a ton of new friends all over the world, I learned and matured, and gained huge confidence in myself because i conquered the Japan Rail system. Its just wonderful to know that i did that because it means i can do anything that i set my mind to.

I learned how lucky i am to be an American girl, and i learned that Americans are NOT the worst tourists. In my opinion we are too hard on ourselves! Americans are loved by everyone but France (who, i also learned, doesnt like ANYONE. Not just Americans. And I know  theyre really not too happy about Sarkozys new relations with Bush…) I learned patience with others and with myself. I learned how paralyzing fear can be, and that if you step off the curb not only will you be okay, but you will be MUCH more than OK. Its important never to allow yourself to succumb to fear because if you do, you miss out on life.

I also learned about new ideas of beauty. Even though in a previous post i said i would never marry a traditional Japanese man, i didntsay i dont think some of them are extremely handsome and (dare i say…) sexy. Lots of American girls dont find themselves attracted to Asian men but i think they havent seen some of the Japanese guys that i have 🙂

Tomorrow i go back in time. I leave Narita Airport on Saturday at 6pm and I arrive in SAN FRANCISCO AT 10 AM on SATURDAY!!! I put that in caps because i am so excited. Im excited to re-live Saturday November 24, a day that will forever be famous to me; The longest day of my life thusfar.

Mom, Rashell, Molly, Eva, Rayna, Glady, Leah, Tina, Ernie, EVERYONE beeee READY please!! I miss you all so much and i really want to see you as soon as possible!! I may be tired, and i might have a hard time speaking English the way i normally did, but dont mind that because my heart is so Thankful, like Thanksgiving, which i didnt have. And my sisters didnt call me on Thanksgiving and im sad. Thanks, guys. FOR NOTHIN’!

HAha, just kidding.. i’m giddy with excitement. Goodnight see you soon!

Adventures, JAPAN daily's, Life

Last day

TOday is my last full day in Japan. I dont know what to say but i felt that i should try to write something! Its winter in Tokyo, very windy and cold. LAst night dad and i had this really cool dinner with all of his old students at a Restaurant where President Bush was taken to when he came to Japan. It was awesome.

Hopefully i can live up this day, i need to go blowdry my hair right now. I’ll write one more entry before we take off. My flight arrives at 10am Saturday and i really hope i get to see my girlfriends that day! I cant wait.

Adventures, japan, JAPAN daily's, Life, Travel

You call this DESSERT?

Its been a while since i last posted, and for that i am regretful. I have some things to come clean about before i get home in a few days… no big deal but i feel like i need to be totally honest with everyone: I am so, totally, completely homesick. I have been for a while, but I’ve been putting a big smile on and continuing to live this trip to the fullest because i realize how lucky i am to be here in Japan. But as the countdown begins for my flight home, i’m finding it harder and harder to put on a happy face. Not because i feel necessarily unhappy, but i feel literally sick. Sick and tired, i look tired too. I really wanted to come home looking great and having everyone say ”wow you look great! that trip must have done you a lot of good, Erika.” Well, the trip did do me a lot of good. But at this point, i’m exhausted. I have dark circles under my eyes and i could sleep for 24 hours straight if you let me. Or, if i let myself, i should say.

Can you blame me for being so tired? Traveling is not easy! Especially being alone… 2 months is a very long time, and although i wouldnt change the amount of time i have been in Japan, i dont think i would go somewhere on a whim for 2 months again. The truth is, I’m sick of Japan. There are things about this culture that i love, and that i believe they do the ”right way”. I love all of the people who have helped me, guided me and taught  me. I’ve made some wonderful friends, and I truely appreciate and am grateful for these things. When i say what i’m about to say, I’m speaking of the society as a whole, based on what i’ve seen on my travels: I’m having a hard time seeing the wonderful thigns about the Japanese when i feel so tired of their indirectness, indeciciveness, and inability to look to themselves and see and admit their faults. Japan may be leaps ahead of the rest of the world in technology, public transportation, cell phones, cameras, toilets, and abundance of escalators. They may have recycling down to a science, and a faster postal service, but they wrap everything at least 3 times in plastic and paper and i feel it really defys the point. In a single day in Japan i aquire more trash then i could ever remember being responsible for in the US. So their divorce rate may be much lower than the US, but maybe the trade off is that we have people with smiles on their faces walking down the street. We have independent, creative thinkers, and strong women in our society. We have people that can look at a relationship and say ”this isnt working, something is wrong and it needs to be fixed or i need to move on to be happy.” In japan, they just dont say anything, dont do anything, they simply accept the poor situation that they are in and lead an unsatisfying life. I would rather live in a society where a strong, independent woman was applauded and gifted, rather than look at as if she were crazy. ”you mean, you dont want to cook and clean for someone that doesnt hardly touch you, help you , or thank you for raising his children?” No thanks. Granted, I’ve have met a few couples who have beautiful families and wonderfully collaborative relationships. I know people thought i would come to Japan and fall in love with a Japanese man, but …well, i’ll save my cutting remarks and simply tell you that: its not going to happen.

The Japanese have amazing work ethic though… i’ll give them that much. I bet America would also, if we had the same mentality: You live to work. Thats the way most Japanese think. As Americans, we think: I work to live, not live to work. Big difference… so what if our production level is lower… I think we lead overall happier lives.

At this point i’m just ranting, so i’ll stop and tell you how excited i am to go home. I cant hardly wait to speak english, and understand what others are saying to me. I cant WAIT to see my friends!! My sisters, my mom…. I’m going to soak all of it in like a sponge because i feel like i couldnt get enough America into my veins. I love America so much.

So i only have about 10 more minutes on this internet, and i dont really feel like giving a watered down account of the past few days. My dad and i are having a pretty damn good time though… Right now were in Kyoto riding out bikes around in the day and feasting on traditional Japanese cuisine in the night. Tonight we had about an 8 course Japanese dinner. It was AMAZING… some things we knew what they were, and some we didnt have any idea what we were eating. It kept coming and coming, but its a feast you dont feel guilty about because it has almost zero fat, if any. We had a few drinks and we kind of started laughing in this very serious Japanese enviornment. Im talkin’, this place was pretty stiff and sober. WE, however, werent sober at this point. When dessert came out as this tasteless gelatin with a couple small slices of fruit, one starts to want some FAT, some ice cream, or cake. Especially after such a healthy dinner. And drunk Erika exclaimed, ”wheres my pistol? Allow me to shoot whomever calls this dessert.” After my dad took the next bite of his, and realized the truth i spoke, we were shaking with laughter. Red in the face, watery eyes, occasional spurts of noise and grunts as a result of attempting to contain ourselves… Jesus, we almost totally lost it in that place. It almost crossed that point of no return where you think, ”Its too late, i may as well laugh my ass of and roll on the floor.” but i knew it just couldnt go that far! I wouldnt allow it, we would make fools of America. So i used every last drop of discipline and seriousness to pull myself together. I told my dad with a straight face, ”Whip yourself into shape, man. Comeon!” and then we almost lost it again…. SOOOO funny.

Annnnyway Good night. Cant wait for my landing on Nov. 24th at 10 a.m.  😉

YEAH babes, see you soon!!

JAPAN daily's

I can’t get no.

Luxury of any kind is shocking to me. After over a month and a half of sleeping on flimsy futons, and taking showers in places where i am unsure of the last time they were cleaned (but at the same time, quite certain it hadnt been for a while), and leaving various youth hostels and guest houses covered in bug bites… Tonight I sleep in a hotel. HOTEL. It is such a beautiful word, i truely think it is. A romantic word, full of cleanliness and glamour.

I feel bad for my dad because i feel so tired of traveling day in and day out, and i have a quiet and lethargic air about me. I must admit, even with the best company i could hope for, its very difficult to go from traveling alone to traveling with someone. And whats even stranger is that I am dealing with my temper in a much better way than i  may have normally delt with it because of reading the books Pride and Prejudice and Little Women. Those old fashioned classics teach of patience, controlling ones temper, and exercising gratitude and kindness. So i do the best that i can not to forget that my dad is behind me following me to catch the train etc. Tonight i even wore 4 inch heels to restrain myself from bounding ahead too quickly 😉

Tonight we met up with Yohei and ate a fun dinner with him and some other former students of my dads, and then we went to Karaoke. You know, it was my idea to take my dad to Karaoke. I asked Yohei, and i told him is would be a fabulous joke, to not tell my dad and to just casually say ”so we’re going to karaoke right now, alright?” and make him sing. But the thought that i would have to sing never really crossed my mind. Stupidly! for i made a fool of myself tonight and i feel as if i was a poor embassador to America. I am so bad at singing infront of people that i dont really know! If it were with my friends, maybe my voice wouldnt have been that much better, but i wouldnt have been as timid, and confidence makes everyone look better. I prefer not to speak any further about this subject, as i have already tormented myself enough about it. I shall never speak of it again!

I feel so conflicted about Japan at this point in my trip. I have made some amazing friends and great relations and such, and there are aspects to the Japanese culture that really appeal to me. You could tell, if you read my first blog posts, that i was a bit love struck with the whole place. But as i scraped past the surface, i discovered things that i find to be very distasteful.

There are so many different lights you can shed upon Japan. Some think that a culture that has survived in such a way, for so many thousands of years, is an amazing, near-perfect thing to behold. And when you first arrive in this country its easy to believe that there could be nothing very wrong, and nothing that they havent thought of. Especially when you discover, after a hot shower, that a small square of the bathroom mirror just high enough for your face is heated to that it doesnt fog up. Figuratively speaking, that same mirror has cockroaches and ghosts haunting the walls behind it. I find it difficult to elaborate any more than that, for a few reasons: Its hard for me to reflect about a culture that i am, more than ever, drenched in and surrounded by. Maybe it will be much easier to offer a deep reflection after i return to the US. But also, i feel guilty for criticising. Who am I to declare my opinions on such a culture and people that have cared for me and helped me when i looked lost, and taught me local cuisine, and gave me directions? Especially when my culture has so many faults of its own. But every culture has faults and to certain individuals, some faults are more agreeable than others. I still need time to ponder, but i hope everyone can keep in mind, when i DO write my lesser opinons of Japan, that they are infact OPINONS. But also know that my opinons are much supported by my observations, and please accept my credible ethos on the subject. I fancy that i know a thing or two about Japanese culture at this point… and sometimes i love it, and sometimes it enrages me.

Lately i’ve been feeling as if i am living in a constant state of deja vu. Its bizzarre, and is beginning to really freak me out.

I have some random things on my mind that i would love to express, as long as everyone pardons my fleeting thought process and attempts to understand. Firstly, I am all up in my mind! By that i mean, after spending so much time alone I’ve really taken it as an opportunity to do a lot of thinking. I am so used to this that I find it difficult to pull myself out of this mentally preoccupied state and participate in the present happenings, like a conversation. My dad probably sees me being distant and quiet, and I am! But i dont mean to be. Maybe the interactions with him this next week will help me to transition back to American culture. But i worry that my friends and family with think im not as happy as i really am to be back home with them. It will all be very overwhelming to go home and suddenly be surrounded by people, and i hope i can recieve some understanding.

Ive been worrying a lot. I worry that I will never be satisfied.  ”I cant get no!” Part of me thinks there is no reason why i shouldnt be satisfied with the Japanese culture, but im not. And im rarely satisfied by my own culture, or my own accomplishments & actions, or the actions and trys of boys or men that come into my life. Bottom line is, i want peace of mind and i cant find it anywhere, and that is why i feel unsatisfied. But i am working on my peace of mind, and i find a huge improvement in myself. I think i finally appreciate some things that i didnt appreciate enough before. Such as…. American culture, for instance? How about passion, human touch, the importance of the people that i love most ardently, the quality of friendship, laughing, the beauty in a healthy body, the pleasure of eating a good meal slowly, the wonder in a good haircut, and (one that is very important to me) that i dont have to be at odds with myself. I’ve begun to understant the actual meaning of ”inner peace”, and how its not easily accomplished, but is something that must be worked at very hard. Just like everything else that is good in life.

Its really late here, and im just starting to yawn and my brain is beginning to putt and sputter. I dont think i will re-read what i’ve written and i am sorry for that, i hope it made some sort of sense. Fukuoka tomorrow, and Nagasaki for a day trip. The fun i had tonight prepared me for the next week, and reminded my that i can, infact, laugh outloud. And make others laugh too.

sleep tight honey-bunnys.

JAPAN daily's

I love you, love you, love you.

Today, at the airport, while watching the international flights arrive and noticing the homecomings of young japanese people who went abroad, i couldnt help but feel a little bit envious of them. How badly i would like to go home! How teasing it is to be in the bustling, exciting enviornment that is an airport, but not be able to partake in the fun of flying home. How i long for the embrace of my friends and family! The tears of happieness that will be shed, and how i long to have a good, hearty laugh. Its been a long time since i’ve had a good laugh. 2 months…. the entire time i dont really ever laugh because nothing here really strikes me as all that hilarious. Giggling for 2 months is tough going, i want the kind of laugh where my cheeks hurt and i cant stop laughing.

Im sick of trying to fit in the mold in Japan… and so today on the way to the airport i did whatever i wanted. And everytime i caught someone starring at me i would flash them a big smile to scare them off. And everytime i saw a woman with such an unhappy look on her face like she had the bright sun in her eyes with her mouth hanging wide open, i would imagine myself walking up to her and shaking her and saying ”relax and smile!! life is not as painful as your face looks.” And i  found myself disgusted with the mens business suits…. i would beg them, if i could, to change it up a little bit for gods sake. They all look EXACTLY the same and it drives me crazy! I saw a man with an orange tie and i nearly kissed his feet for his courage.

This culture lacks the passion that i have in my day-to0day life and its tough to handle. They dont ever really say ”i love you”, they dont ever hug, they hardly ever indulge themselves and they are rarely outwardly friendly to strangers, which can make life to very dull. So very, very dull and unexciting to say the least. When i return to California i shall be so happy that i will smile at every person on the street, and hug every aquantiance, and  say i love you and be overly-excited and crazy and laugh as much as possible.

I miss my job even.

But! I have no choice but to have as wonderful of a time as possible with my dad for this next, last week. My goal is to exhaust him every day. I think i will do just fine 😉 Once we leave the Hagios tomorrow, i am not sure how often i will be able to find access to internet, but hopefully every day since this next week will, im sure, prove to be an entirely different Japanese adventure than my last one.

Why is it that no matter how long a vacation is, be it 2 weeks or 2 months, one is always ready to go home? I think we prepare ourselves mentally for it, and when we subconsciously know the time is running out we feel ready to return.

I need to take my bath. Good night, i love you.

JAPAN daily's

Miso happy my daddy is coming!

SO last night i cooked a wonderful dinner for the Hagio’s… it was a little serving of everything: teryaki chicken, pasta casserole, Japanese pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes and a salad with chocolate mousse for desset. I was craving a european dish, but the dinner ended up hurting my tummy a little bit because i have become so used to the very light Japanese cuisine! It was delicious, but i think one thing that will stay with me from my journey in Japan is the Japanese diet. It feels so light and healthy, and i really love miso soup and rice in the morning.

Today my dad comes to meet me in Japan! I will take the train to Narita Airport and wait for him around 4 o clock outside the international gate. I can hardly believe how fast this day has arrived, but also how much has happened to me since i first landed in Japan feeling like November 15th was such a long time away. I am a different person in some respects, but also very much the same, and altogether better than i was before i left. I wonder if i look more grown up, and i am curious for my dad to point out changes in me that i dont see in myself. I think that the way i speak is different. I believe it is, and rightly so! For i hardly ever get to have an easy conversation in English…. and never very casual either. Its always talking to adults, so i always speak very properly and clearly. Now that i think of it, i havent uttered a swear word in 2 months. Thats a pretty big deal for me, who tends to easily run off on a tangent of playful swearing. I’m excited to see my daddy… its something thats  difficult to capture in words. I better leave it to you to imagine how nice it will be for me to see such a familiar, friendly face.

I’ve been reading the book Little Women and it makes me miss my sisters so much. I wont bore everyone, but my sisters and I are so much alike the girls in the book! I am so much like Joe, and ashley is like Meg, and claire is Amy and we all have a little bit of Beth in our personalities. The way we get along is very similar, even though we argue quite a bit its never all that harmful and on paper it simply reads like a beautiful tale of sisterly love, just like Little Women.

I will soon be writing my blog for 2 people, and i will inform everyone of the changes my dad points out in me. Or whatever it is he sees…. so this day marks one week before i arrive in san francisco on the 24th of November and i am very happy about that!!