Saturday, October 2, 2010

oh Autumn

Six reasons why i am glad it is Fall--4 reasons why I'm not

Writing Prompt From Mama Kat
--OK the prompt was for 10 reasons why you are glad, but I got kind of bored halfway through.

1. Because it is now cool enough not to need the air conditioner--but with my windows open I can hear my 70 something neighbor vacuuming her floors *every* morning at about 6:30. It is a good alarm clock when I want to work out, but when I want to sleep in...

2. The cicadas have shut up. I miss them a little. Still it is good to know that we could go into the park and not have to worry about permanently damaging our hearing.

3. We can walk on the beach again. Summer beach is great. We have had good times with the SUP and got to see really cool fishies while snorkeling. Yesterday was our first walk and we picked up some very cool looking shells. I am glad it is now cool enough to go down to the shore fully clothed.

4. Nabe (hot pot) time! If you have never had it go take a look. It comes with kimchee or without. Lots of veggies. Does not require a recipe. Very yum.

5. Kin moku sen--my favorite smell in the fall.

6. Ishi yaki imo (roasted sweet potatoes) in the fall the guy with the truck will come around in our neighborhood--kind of like the ice cream man. They are hot and fat and smokey. Another yum.

I will miss these things:

7. being able to go barefoot--in the house at the beach

8. never feeling cold--never needing a cardigan or sweatshirt--Japan is not the high desert and the misery is that the temperature does not fluctuate much from day to night. the upside is that I never feel cold

9. body boarding and playing around on the SUP

10. the feeling that I am on vacation--summer and vacation go hand-in-hand and the feeling that accompanies summer vacation is programmed into my brain from childhood. Summer was the best time of my life when I was a kid. Even if we are not doing anything special, like this year with our "staycation" I still feel like we could do something because it is summer and it is vacation. I still hold that fluttery happy emotion somewhere in my heart even as an adult and I look forward to the excitement next year.

Lots of things to like about fall. It makes me feel sad though. I know that the leaves will turn and fall and then I will be stuck with skeleton-like branches and not enough green for several months. We will go out and hike in the nearby mountains and it will be good because the heat and the bugs will be gone, but I love spring and summer and VERY much look forward to them coming for a visit again next year.

woohoo i'm famous

One of my favorite blogs for photography/reflective thoughts asked me to write a bit about "where i live". That is a perk about living abroad--people think it is exotic and want to know more. It was not easy to write because I have been here so long that so many things have become "normal" to me and I take them for granted. I tried to give a bit of insight into the Japan that I live in and if you want to take a look it is here: at mortal muses --who totally rock!!

I was humbled by what the other "guest muses" wrote about their hometowns and surroundings. They made them real and personal and I could really see, feel (and almost taste those cheese fries!) parts of their lives. I really struggled when I was writing because I couldn't decide if I should write about or *my* life in Japan or what. I ended up writing a bit of both and I am grateful for the kind and positive comments that I received. Justine said "...your journal is so interesting". She has come by here and indeed this is a journal rather than a "proper" blog that shows off an amazing life or specific ability. There are so many, many talented women working on the many projects at mortal muses. I am awed, daunted and inspired by their work. I am glad they are there. It is a bit lonely in Japan sometimes and it is easy anywhere to get stuck in the rut of the day to day slog and to forget the beauty that surrounds us. So thank you, creative women for your inspiration and your dedication to being more creative even when you are busy. Please keep up the good work.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dirty little secret

I have a confession to make...

I love to read. Doesn't really sound like a dirty secret but sometimes I feel like it is. And I am writing this to explain why.

The other day I went to a meeting and before things got started for real, people were talking. They were talking about a room at our school that is full of items that people have abandoned upon leaving Japan. It is full of junk and odds and ends--the detritus from moving--you can guess what it looks like. But it is also full of cast off books. Before Amazon, before the beneficent god of KINDLE with its wireless blessings, English books were like gold bars here. They are also heavy and expensive to ship, so although books are like friends and we hate to leave them when we move, sometimes there is no choice. So, there is a room in my building that looks a bit like a used book store without the nerdy-looking shop assistant and it is full of books. They are paperbacks and hardbacks and range from science fiction, to Tolstoy to self-help. That is what my esteemed colleagues were talking about. Someone had recently been down in the cast-off room and had seen that a whole set of Star Trek titles had been added to the collection. They were making a guess as to who had read them all and in a way--mocking the idea that someone had actually read all of them. Someone even said "I never read fiction."

I felt all sorts of emotions after hearing that. I felt angry, I felt incredulous and I felt guilty. I felt shamed because I LOVE fiction. And I felt conflicted because this was not the first time I have felt like I am doing something wrong by reading the things I love instead of focusing all my time reading about my profession.

I know I need to maintain a balance. I know I need to read "academic" works so I can publish and help my career "move forward" and so I can continue to grow as a teacher. I know that. And I admit to not being as rigorous a reader in that department as I should be. But I hate feeling guilty about reading for pleasure. I also would offer a counter argument that some people whom I know firsthand could use do do a LOT more reading of fiction to hone their humanity, relationship and emotional IQs. Fiction allows us a peek into the human condition. It is not quantitative--but rather qualitative and can give us insight into others' lives even if those people are not real. A good book can offer comfort, and help us to realize another perspective. It can broaden our point of view. This is just as important as polishing the "job" side of our lives--perhaps even more valuable because the people we work with are flesh and blood with problems, stresses and baggage of their own. The data shown in a graph is not going to help me comfort a student when she has had a fight with her boyfriend or when a co-worker is struggling with a messy divorce.

So the next time someone disses fiction. I may have to come out of the closet and give them a piece of my mind.
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