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Nov. 10th, 2013

Another Reason to Go Back To Japan ASAP

Owl cafes!

Seriously, if I ever make it back there, this is the first place I'm going to go. Forget about getting my stuff to a hotel. I am getting my ass and my crap into a taxi and telling the driver to take me to the nearest owl cafe.

And then, once I've had a snack and got to hang out with some owls, I'll have someone take me to a penguin bar to get some drinks. I'm actually pretty pissed at myself- I was in Ikebukuro for several days and I didn't notice the penguin bar because I was so busy hanging out in Sunshine City. Oh well. Just another reason to go back there as soon as I can. Playing with owls and getting drunk with penguins sounds like the most amazing vacation ever.

Aug. 25th, 2013

A Better Life?

When I was in Japan, a friend of mine told me that I could have a better life there than I could in America. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that.

My whole life, everyone has told me that people go to America to get a better life, not leave it. My father's family left Germany and England to come to the US in the late 1700s/early 1800s. I do not know much about them or their motivations, that was all lost to time. But it's probably a good bet that they came here so that they could make money and have a better future than they could have in their old country. My mother's family, on the other hand, didn't come to the United States from Lithuania until the 1920s (I believe my great-grandfather came over in 1918, and my great-grandmother arrived in either 1920 or 1921, no one really seems to know the exact date). Their reasons for leaving were simple: things kind of sucked in Lithuania at the time. They had Germany on one side, Russia on the other, and they knew that it was only a matter of time before another war broke out. And if another war broke out, they might be directly in the crossfire. So they got on a boat with all their stuff and headed over to America, for that better life.

I know that they thought they had a better life, but to hear my grandmother's stories about what happened when they got to the US? Things kind of sucked here for them, too. They lived in inner-city Chicago during Prohibition. Apparently my great-grandmother knew how to distill alcohol and did that to supplement their income, which was very dangerous. But they kept at it, and in a generation's time they were able to have enough money to send my grandmother, two of her brothers, and one of her sisters to university. The remaining brother and sister did not go to university, but the brother inherited the family business and the sister got a job with the school district, since she spoke English, Lithuanian, Russian, and Spanish, so she could interpret for various parents.

So in a sense, leaving one's home country to go to another for the chance at a better life is part of my heritage. It wouldn't be the first time someone in my family had done so. But at the same time, when I hear about what my ancestors went through to make a better life here in America, I feel kind of guilty for considering it. Almost like I'm betraying them. I never met my great-grandmother's mother, who came with her and who worked so hard to make a better life, and my great-grandmother herself passed away eight years ago. Part of me feels like they wouldn't mind me going elsewhere to make a better life, because that's what they did. But at the same time, after all the trouble they went to to make it to America, maybe they would want me to stay here and try to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

It really doesn't help that I made the mistake of mentioning this to my parents, that after graduation I might emigrate. They... didn't take it too well, especially my mom. “People from all over the world do everything in their power to come to the United States and you want to leave?! What are you thinking? You won't have a support network there, what are you gonna do about that, huh?” But plenty of people move around, even into different countries. Is it really so bad to leave the country you were born in, hoping that you might be able to have a better life? My aunt moved to South Africa after her marriage. Was that something bad for her to do? I don't think so, and if you asked my mother she would probably say the same thing. If Auntie can do it, then why can't I? What makes me different? Is it that I'm going to a country where English isn't the dominant language? Is it the distance? If it's either of those, well, it takes longer to get to South Africa than it does to get to Japan, and Afrikaans and Zulu are also commonly spoken in South Africa, not just English. So that doesn't make sense.

Maybe it just comes down to the fact that my parents don't believe there could be a better economy anywhere else. My parents, my mother especially, really seem to buy into the government's constant refrain of “no, seriously, the economy is getting better! There's going to be lots of jobs! Jobs for everyone! YAY JOBS!” Well, I've been hearing that since I was old enough to really comprehend what's going on in the world, and aside from a few small little growth spurts here and there, the economy hasn't been very good since the dot-com bust when I was very small. No matter what the president and other politicians say, no matter what they want us to believe, the statistics stay the same: no one is getting jobs, not even the college graduates. Oh wait, if you want to work at Wal-Mart, they're hiring. But nowhere else.

I don't want to work at Wal-Mart. I want something better. Maybe it's selfish of me, but if I can have even a hope of a better life, why wouldn't I do that?

After all, it's what my family did back in the 1920s. I'm just carrying on the tradition.

Jul. 29th, 2013

帰りました

As of yesterday, I’m back in the United States. Instead of being relieved to be home, however, I feel a sort of sense of loss.

Maybe it was because I was actually happy for once when I was in Japan. I didn’t wake up every morning full of despair that I was going to have to face another day- dredge myself up out of bed to another day of mind-numbing boredom at work or school or both, only to come home and try to numb the numbness even more by wasting time on the Internet in a vain attempt to stimulate my mind. Maybe it was because the more time I spent in Japan, the more it started to look like I could actually have a future there, a better life. All through elementary through high school, everyone told us that America was the land of the opportunity- people from all over the world came here to have a better life- my ancestors did. But at the same time, I started to feel like I might actually be able to have some sort of life in Japan- I could get a job with a company without a college degree, I could teach English or computer science without a degree, from what I was told.

An acquaintance of mine told me that the job market in Japan is so much better than in America, and they told me that I’d be able to get work. He suggested that I come back to America for a while, then try to apply for immigration permits. And I have to say that the suggestion has merit, and it’s very tempting. I could have a better life. I could actually have a life in general, not just one where I sort of… exist, like what I’ve been doing for the past twenty-one years.

But, it’s futile. I’m going to stay in college in the US, and by the time I manage to graduate the opportunities will probably all be gone. I will likely live out the rest of my life the way I’ve lived it up to this point now.

It frustrates me. I saw, for seven wonderful weeks, that I could have a future, that I could actually be happy somewhere. I haven’t even been back in the US for twenty-four hours, before my parents are getting on my case about graduating from school, doing x, doing y, doing z. It’s enough to drive a person out of their mind.

Finally, I’d like to end with a song I sang at karaoke one night, that sums up my feelings on this matter pretty well. The translation isn’t entirely accurate, but the song is very difficult to properly translate into English, and it is more or less correct, just not the exact words at the right time.

Jul. 18th, 2013

Coming to an End

Ten days from today I'm going back home to the United States. Before I can do that, though, I need to get about ninety billion pounds of stuff from Akita to Tokyo via the Shinkansen. I did it before, I can do it again... although it was not fun the first time and will probably be even less fun this time, now that I've got even more crap to deal with. I also have to take a taxi from the university to the train station, which I've done before. It was expensive. Then I will need to take another taxi from Tokyo Station to the hotel I will be staying at for the two days I have left before I go back home, and that's going to be even MORE expensive, since Narita International Airport is fairly far away from the station.

Now that my time in Japan is coming to an end, I'm sort of struggling with the implications of that. Before this trip, countries that weren't the United States might as well have been the moon, they were that far out of reach. I am twenty-one years old. Until this trip I'd never even gone over the border to Canada or Mexico, let alone gone across the world. Most of my friends have left the country at one point or another- plenty of them were born in a country other than the US. I kind of miss some things about home, like being able to have all of my stuff with me, and sleeping in my own bed without my roommate waking me up at 3:00 AM because her alarm clock malfunctioned. But at the same time, I am kind of sad. If this trip has shown me one thing, it's that traveling internationally is expensive. My savings account is almost cleaned out now, and that's just from trying to do my day-to-day life. It took me a litle over a decade to get that much money saved. Granted, I was very young for the majority of that time, but still- it looks like it will be quite some time before I can even afford to go out of the state I live in, let alone go out of the country again. And if something unexpected happens, where I need to pay a lot of money, I'm basically screwed. It probably doesn't help that I've come to a decision regarding what I'm going to do with regards to my jobs.

I a m fairly sure I'm going to quit one- the lower-paying, longer-hours one.

The last semester showed me something: I cannot work two jobs, go to school full time, and expect to be able to keep my health intact. The illnesses I contracted multiple times throughout the last semester showed me that. It has happened before, but constantly despairing is not good for my health, I've learned that the hard way in the past. Last semester, I was dealing with some serious issues with regards to my classes and jobs. It seemed like no matter what I did I just kept digging myself deeper and deeper. I felt like I was running out of time, like nothing I did was going to make a difference, so what the hell was I doing bothering with college, when I was just going to be stuck working in my miserable job for the rest of my life? I was running out of ways to convince myself that things were not completely hopeless. As it is I'm not entirely sure that it's still not the case, but this trip to Japan has really helped me get away from the other university and helped me put things in perspective. And I don't really like what I've realized. If anything, I've realized that I will probably be miserable for the rest of my life, unless something drastically changes.

Obviously I cannot stay in Japan, but I don't particularly want to go back to the US either. If I could somehow get all my stuff shipped over here, and get the Japanese government to grant me permanent resident status. Maybe I'll be able to get another retail job or something. Of course, this is all wishful thinking- I was born in the US, and I'll likely die in the US. At least I managed to leave at least once in my lifetime, so I can check one thing off my bucket list.

I know I sound really depressed and miserable here, and that's really not what I'm going for. I actually am happy at the moment, just kind of sad that my trip is coming to a close. I don't even really mind being broke, since it's been a good trip. I can only hope I can come back someday, without going bankrupt.

Jun. 24th, 2013

I Didn't Choose The Office Supply Life...

the office supply life chose me!

But seriously, now I need to figure out how to get a whole bunch of notebooks and pens back to the United States without either going bankrupt or breaking my spine trying to haul it all around. One of these days my obsession with hoarding stationery is going to bite me in the ass- I always knew that. I just didn't think that the day would be so soon, although I should have seen it coming. I just can't stop, it's like a horrible compulsion that I can't control. I have enough office supplies now to open up my own Office Depot, and this is going to end up driving me to the poorhouse.

Stay tuned for some pictures coming up later this week (although not of the office supplies, I'm not going to bore you like that)!

Jun. 21st, 2013

Kaboom's Japan Adventure: Weeks 1&2

I am not entirely sure if this is going to go through or not, the Internet here is absolutely wretched and I cannot afford 5000 yen for a half an hour of access at the closest Internet cafe. I was planning to do an update while I was in Tokyo, but then I fell ill again and was too busy trying to get ready to go to Akita to do much of anything else. As it is, I've been in Japan for a week and a half so far, and things have been... strange.

Not strange in a bad way, mind you, just... strange in general. I got lost in Ginza. I went a bit overboard in Itoya (also in Ginza), which is one of the biggest office supply stores in the world. I now need to figure out how to ship half an Office Depot back to the United States with me, since I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff while there. I went shopping, which was fun, although a bit frustrating. I'm a bit taller than the average Japanese woman, and a bit wider as well, even though I'm within the norms for my age and ethnic group, so finding clothes here is a bit of a challenge. Trying to do the wash here is a challenge as well, as I do not read Japanese enough and I think the washing machines here are older than me. I am getting along quite well with my roommate, and my classes seem to be going well. I got placed a little bit lower than I would have liked- apparently I kind of bombed the placement test. But oh well, it's not as though I wasn't really expecting something like this. Considering how smooth the trip has been until now (with the obvious exception of me getting sick again), it was only a matter of time before something went wrong, really. And of things that could potentially go wrong, getting placed in a lower class barely registers. I haven't lost my passport, had my shit stolen, ended up hospitalized, or gotten deported. When I think of that, it doesn't matter.

I've been enjoying Japan so far. My biggest complaint is the lousy Internet connection. As I type this, it's kicked me off a couple of times. Most of the permanent students here at Akita International University don't try to bother with the university's Internet, it's that bad. But I can't afford to go to the Internet cafe whenever I want to get online, I'd be broke in a couple of hours. So I'm just trying to access when I can, and only then for a few minutes at a time. It's been difficult. My parents always like to yell at me about my “Internet addiction,” and for a while I thought they were full of crap. Now, I'm not so sure. I don't know what to do with myself when I'm not in class or studying. I don't want to go to the shoipping mall all the time, because, again, the whole money problem. My dormitory is too small to spend a lot of time in there, and every time I go out into the public areas people always want to try to make conversation. Which I don't mind, usually, but it does get a bit annoying when I'm trying to study. I am not really sure if it's cultural differences or something, but where I am from, sitting with headphones in and a textbook open in front of you means “sod off, I'm trying to study here!”

But it doesn't matter. All in all, I've been having a great time. I just wish this nasty cold would go away already, I want to be able to enjoy my trip to the fullest. I'm also not super impressed with the university's food. It's not terrible, but it's also not great, either. It's actually very bland. And I never thought this would happen, since I love rice, but I'm actually getting kind of tired of it. I also miss being able to drink soda whenever I want to. There's soda here, but it's not the same soda we get in America. It's got all sorts of different flavors. And some of them are just... baffling, for lack of a better word. Corn flavored soda? No thanks. Although the melon flavor is tasty.

Tomorrow we are going to an aquarium and a seaside town as part of the program. I am kind of torn between being a bit annoyed that they're herding us arund like a bunch of kindergarten kids (seriously, I'm 21 years old, I do not need to be kept in line like a little kid anymore) and being excited. Apparently there is a very cute baby polar bear at the aquarium that I want to see. And there might be penguins! I will try to get some pictures, although I cannot promies that I will actually be able to upload anything, given the terrible Internet connection. I am somewhat worried that this post might not even go through, but I will try.

I just hope I can figure something out about the Internet problem, because I think I'm going to lose my mind if I can't connect regularly. I don't even need to be online every second of every day, I just need to be able to do something other than study and sleep.

Jun. 10th, 2013

Oh SHI-

So I just found out that I might not be able to take my medicine to Japan with me.

If that's actually the case, then I am so fucked.

I can see on my stat counter that I've had a visitor from Japan. If you're out there and you see this, would you mind contacting me at kaboomisthebest@aol.com to let me know if there's going to be a problem? This is incredibly important, I have a little over 24 hours to get this sorted.

Thanks in advance.

私は日本人の読みがある場合は、私にメールしてくださいできますか?私はあなたの国に私と一緒に持参する必要が薬を持っているそれは私と一緒に持参することも可能である場合しかし、私は知っている必要があります。私のメールは kaboomisthebest@aol.com です。

ありがとうございます。

Jun. 3rd, 2013

Fun With Luggage

I don't leave for another week, but my parents have been on my case about packing for at least the last month or so, so I've finally decided to bite the bullet and get started with the packing. It's... not going well.

It's not that I don't have things to take with me, it's that my mother seems to hate every single stitch of clothing that I own. “Kaboom, are you really taking that shirt to Japan with you? It looks so tacky!” or “Ugh, those shorts are too short! Where did you get those?”

Well, mother, you bought me those shorts the last time you went on a rant about how short my shorts were. And they come down practically to my knees. If they get much longer they won't count as shorts anymore, they'll be pants. And by the way, I am a grown woman, I think I know how to dress myself. It's not like my goddaughter and her sudden obsession with wearing a Batman costume everywhere. Believe it or not I do know how to look like a responsible adult.

It would be bad enough with just her on my case, but now it seems like everyone in my family, and even people who AREN'T in my family, are getting in on lecturing me about packing. My dad keeps going on and on about how I need to pack lightly and giving me “helpful” tips about what to pack. No dad, I do not need to pack a business suit. Mainly because I do not have a business suit, and I will not be attending any business meetings in Japan. I know he travels a lot for work, but that's the key word there- I am not going on a business trip for a Fortune 500 company. I am going on a seven-week study abroad program. And what the hell am I going to do with snow boots? I'm going to be there in JULY. Unless you expect me to climb Mount Fuji or something, I don't know what the point of snow boots would be.

And then my professor is getting in on the action. “Email me your packing list!” Uh, really? No offense, sensei, but do you really need to know what I'm bringing with me? I mean, my socks and panties and pajamas aren't all that interesting. Neither are my shirts or shoes. I am giving her the benefit of the doubt and going with the fact that she meant things along the lines of computers, batteries, textbooks, office supplies, and whatnot, because I don't really know why my professor would care what else I was packing.

And it's getting to the point where I keep tripping over the luggage. Stupid luggage. No matter where I put it, it always seems to be in the way. I almost fell down the stairs last night because I put the suitcase in the hallway, thinking it wouldn't be a problem out there. Apparently one of the brilliant members of the brain trust I live with decided to move it near the stairs. Thanks a lot, whoever you were, because that was quite alarming trying to go downstairs to get some water and realizing, oh hello there, Mr Suitcase.

I am at the point where I just want to get my ass on that plane and not worry too much about it anymore.

Apr. 22nd, 2013

官僚

(Title translated is kanryou, which means “bureaucracy”)

I have never left the United States of America.

In two months, that will change, when I leave for Japan. It will be the first time I’ve ever left the country of my birth, and I will be gone for almost two months. I’m kind of nervous about it, but I’m even more excited. I’m really looking forward to being able to see a whole different part of the world than the one I’ve spent my whole life in.

Or at least, I was, until I realized how much paperwork I would have to file.

Paperwork, paperwork, so much paperwork. I thought trying to get a passport a few years ago was bad (my father decided I needed another form of identification even though I wasn’t going to be leaving the country anytime soon), but it pales in comparison to all of the stuff I have to file not only with the university I’ll be attending while I’m over there, but with the university I attend here, the American government, the Japanese government, the doctor’s office here, a doctor’s office over there… this makes filing my taxes look like a walk in the park. I have to fill out forms in triplicate stating what medicines I will be bringing into Japan. I have to sign a bunch of forms for both the American government and the Japanese government that no, I do not intend to illegally immigrate to Japan. I have to sign things for my current university saying that yes, I am aware that I will be going to a completely foreign country (no shit, Sherlock, I totally thought flying all the way across the world was exactly the same thing as going to the 7-11), and that I will not do anything to either embarrass the university or get myself deported (what the hell do they think I’m going to do?). I have to get not only my parents’ signatures on a bunch of stuff, but also the signatures of three other people who I will allow to make decisions for me in case of an emergency, which doesn’t really make sense. How much use is that going to be if the people who I allow to make those decisions are in America while I’m unconscious in a hospital bed or missing or something? And if North Korea attacks, well, I don’t think anyone’s going to be too bothered with paperwork, we’ll all be too busy trying not to die.

Okay, in that case, I’m sort of kidding. But still, all of this paperwork seems unnecessary. I’m sure there’s some law somewhere saying that I have to fill all of this out, but as far as I’m concerned I don’t see how much use these forms are going to be if the shit really hits the fan in the end. It’s all well and good for the government to have my assurances that I don’t intend to bugger off the second I get there and go hide out in a cardboard box or something if something serious really goes down. We’ll all just be busy trying to survive in that case, and I highly doubt anyone will be looking for proper bureaucratic procedures.

Mar. 8th, 2013

カーブムは日本に行きます!

(Title Translation: Kaboom Goes to Japan! )

Some of you might be wondering why I’ve been so absent lately. I haven’t really regularly updated the blog since 2012, and it might be confusing you a bit. And since I got my final confirmation today, I feel like I can finally give an explanation as to why I’ve been AWOL, and why I will probably continue to be updating rather sporadically through the end of July.

I have been pulling extra shifts at both of my jobs to make some extra money. I need five grand by June, but for once it’s not for an emergency or anything. I am going to participate in a study abroad program in Akita, Japan!

Obviously I’m very excited about this, and I can’t wait to go. But due to the high cost of the trip (a plane ticket by itself is $1300 USD), I am going to have to work even more than usual to help to take care of the costs. While the cost of the trip is ridiculously low for seven weeks in Japan, it still costs approximately the same as a used car, and there’s no pay-as-you-go plan. Not only will I need to pay for the trip itself, I’ll also need several thousand dollars for incidentals and potential emergencies. Add in the fact that I still have my other classes to deal with, and it’s clear I won’t have a ton of free time until after my final exams for the semester are over. And even then I’ll still probably be running around like a crazy person until I actually head out of the country, to save as much money as possible for my trip.

So what does this mean for the Lawn, and for my writing?

Well, to put it bluntly, the Lawn and my writing will be going on semi-hiatus until I leave for the trip in mid-June. This means that apart from the fic rec, there will probably only be about two or three posts a month, when I have the time to write them up. As for my fanfiction… well, that one’s a little trickier, because I tend to write when I have the inspiration. As I usually come back from my classes or my jobs exhausted, that’s not really conducive to writing well, either blog posts or fic, but if I do get in the mood to write, I probably will. I will attempt to keep the fic to a somewhat regular posting schedule.

Of course, none of this is set in stone. If something big happens and I want to blog about it, I will, but as a general rule, don’t freak out if it seems like only the fic rec and a few random pieces get published every now and then. I’m fine, I’m just working my ass off.
I’m really looking forward to this trip, and I’m really hoping that my Japanese language skills will improve dramatically while I’m there!