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Germans, and an Austrian

I wrote a symphony today. Just kidding, I wish I had. Really I was just playing the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. You that part where it stops being all crazy and the top hand plays a simple melody? Yeah, I was thinking that’d be a nice for a violin. And the bottom hand played by a sweet cello, or maybe even a double bass. Mmmm…

Is that how Mozart felt? Writing a piece without even trying it out, the melodies just weaving through is head? Oh, an oboe sneaks in and steals our hearts here. The soprano will sing about her cheating husband here…

I love Bach. My mind just goes and my fingers play away mechanically, as if I’m a piano automaton and you’ve put your 4 quarters in. I sometimes play an invention over and over again. I hope I don’t annoy anyone. It’s soothing to me.

I had dreams of composing for films once. I gave up when I fell in love with Japanese. I don’t remember which came first. Did I lose confidence in my music first? Or was it my Japanese obsession? I often wonder what my life would have been like if I was in music school. Hell.

I could never do piano for money. It wouldn’t be fun anymore. So then…why am I willing and even excited to write for money?

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Sayounara 左様なら

Sayounara is normally written sayonara in English, and さようなら in Japanese, but I’ve chosen to leave in the long o and the kanji today. Japanese greetings are usually translated into their English equivalents, but the literal meanings are different. Translated as “good-bye”, sayou means “like that” and nara means “if that’s the case”, so all together it means “if it’s like that…” or “that being the case…”. The Japanese language is full of beautiful inferences, sayounara being one of them. To add more words to this translation, it could be “If we really have to part…” I can’t think of how to end the sentence because it is already wonderful as a cliffhanger.

Yesterday we had a ryuugakusei (study-abroad student) farewell party. I cried and I cried and I cried. I cannot bear thinking about parting from my friends with whom I’ve spent most every day with for nine months. 最後って言いたくないで。After that I went to karaoke with girls from my literature club. I didn’t cry when parting at the train station. Tonight my host grandparents were over for dinner. I didn’t cry when they left.

Why didn’t I cry? I was such a crybaby at the party. Was it the tightness of the bonds with the other students? Maybe. I think it’s because I was with the students every day, but my club friends and my grandparents I only see once or twice a week. Thus, I’m used to seeing them for a few hours at a time and not seeing them for a longer times inbetween. Still, I know it is the end, even if I can’t believe it.

“Five more days,” I said to my boyfriend. That I can believe, because I have felt every single day apart from him. I can believe that I’m going home, but not that I’m leaving Japan.

Hopefully one day I’ll be able to write this into a story. I love torturing my characters. Some people just love to watch the world burn.

We had a farewell/birthday party tonight. (Today is my host mom’s birthday.) They got me a fruit bouquet instead of cake. Yay! My host sisters got me a Winnie the Pooh Bear photo frame. Their cute faces are definitely going inside. My host mom got me a Japanese-English Japanese cookbook. おいしい~ My host grandma is going to stop by with some dried Japanese foods, like katsuo, konbu, and niboushi. Mmmm. They are so nice to me, how can my heart take it?

紅葉も
雪も桜も
散っていて
夏の涙も
降ってくるわよ

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A Few of my Favorite Things

I love cooking. And I miss cooking so much. I don’t really have free reign over my host family’s kitchen here, so when I do get to cook I get all giggly and excited. I’m even having fantasies about all the cooking I want to do this summer. What kind of cooking do I want to do?

Well, as I mentioned in my first post I plan on eating a paleo diet. The paleo diet is based on the idea that in the Paleolithic era before agriculture, humans at mostly meat and vegetables, and lots of vegetables. For someone who can’t eat wheat and other gluten foods, this sounds really exciting. There are so many health benefits, and I’ve already been growing suspicious of processed foods and GM foods for a while, so eating 100% natural is something I’m more than ready to do.

Being gluten sensitive has alerted me to other silly things we do to our bodies, so I have other plans for switching over to a natural lifestyle. One such thing is no-poo, AKA no shampoo. There are many chemicals in shampoo (like SLS) that strip your hair of it’s natural oils. I’ve hardly been shampooing my hair for the past 9 months, and my hair has gone from wavy/frizzy to curly! And the shampoo I do use is a natural shampoo, but apparently there’s a wonderful baking soda method. That could be so cheap! All you need is baking soda and water, which is 2 dollars of baking soda that will last a long time because you’re only using one tablespoon every wash. (You then use vinegar-water as conditioner, an acid to counter the basic qualities of baking soda.)

But wait, if I want to cut the chemicals out of hair products, what about skin products? Skin is the largest organ we have, and if I keep using chemical-loaded soaps, lotions, and sun block, how is that any good? It’s not! After doing some research, I found that natural oils like coconut can effectively be used instead of sunblock or even instead of lotion. I’ve also found an excellent recipe for tallow lotion bars. And toothpaste too! Just today I found another excellent recipe for coconut oil-baking soda toothpaste.

Basically, I’m turning into the natural, health-conscious kind of person that annoys my dad. From the outside, it seems really unnecessary and inconvenient. But it is really unnecessary to live a healthier lifestyle that makes your body work better and happier? Is it really inconvenient to live a lifestyle that doesn’t follow the status quo?

Yahweh said to Moses on Mt. Sinai, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.” And if you look at the set of principles He gave to the Israelites, it outlines a healthier lifestyle than they had before. The meats he told them to avoid, the health procedures, sexual activities, it was for their health.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suddenly taking on a different lifestyle because I want to be a nonconformist for Jesus. Rather, God has been putting these things on my heart, about taking care of my body and living naturally. Which means that my gluten insensitivity was a blessing, not a curse, because it will force me to lead a healthier lifestyle. And so, I take encouragement from God’s message to the Israelites. As an adopted Israelite, I too am set-apart, and it gives me great joy. So when people ask me why I’m making the life choices that I am, I will simply say, “Because Yahweh loves me and wants me to take care of the body He has blessed me with.”

What about you? Is your body just a burden? Or is it a blessing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Lessons in Laughter

I really need to start taking lessons from my (Jewish) boyfriend on laughing at yourself. As you might have guessed from my previous entry, I am a perfectionist (part-time anyway). This means that making mistakes can ruin the moment and sometimes the day. I had a blessed experience today, that I could easily have continued to complain about. But Yahweh opened my heart to see the humor in the situation.

As a perfectionist, I have a tendency to think that things have to be done in a specific manner. The truth is that there are many ways to skin a…potato. Today I  had to ship my books back home, and I had to use a special bag to ship them cheap by boat. So, I had done all the research to find which post office to go to, and how much it would cost. I thought I had 25 kilos (60 lbs) of books, and according to the price chart it would be $300 by EMS but $200 by boat. I also had to ship something home for my sister because she leaves for Mozambique two hours before I get home. Thankfully, I had received $300 from my program (extra money!!), so I was not worried about how much I’d have to spend. I had it all figured out.

So, once I got out of my last class I hurried home, and quickly put my books in a suitcase because Yahweh reminded me how heavy carrying a 30 lb cardboard box would be. I hopped on the bus to the train and took that to the next town over. I had a feeling that I was going to the wrong post office, and when I get their my intuition was correct. The clerk knew nothing about a special book bag. I was about to go into despair and start crying because it’s already four o’clock and I had to get everything sent today and if I had to go home with a suitcase full of books it would be tragedy. However, God reassured me that my books will be shipped and all will be fine. So I grabbed a taxi and headed on over to the nice big post office.

This is where things finally turn around, and I realize the blessing Yahweh had had in store for me. I entered the post office, and I asked the first clerk I see about this special book bag. He’s a sweet older gentleman, and he seemed eager to help. He didn’t know about book bags either, but he was trying to help me with what he could and offered me a box. I ask if I can ship it by boat, because I had to do it by boat, even if it was in a box. “It’ll take 2-3 months.” Okay…SAL it is. Then, of course, I pick a box that is too big. They kindly tell me it’s alright to have extra room, and when weighing my box, it’s 12 kilos, not 24! This means that even by SAL it costs around $150. Translation: Even with train fees, bus fees, taxi fees, and my sister’s package, I spent less than I had planned! Halleluyah!

I had other things to send, so in the end I spent probably twenty minutes at this post office. The clerk was very nice to me the whole time and very helpful. He even gave me directions to the other train station. The anxiety I held walking into the post office had turned into joy, relief, and gratitude. Leaving the post office, I almost started criticizing myself. Why hadn’t I gone to the right post office? Why didn’t I just go to one closer to my house? Why did I have to make a fuss about the special book bag? But then Yahweh spoke shalom into me. This trip was not about you, but the ojisan. (Yes, even God talks to me in Japangrish. Ojisan is old man in Japanese.) Ooh, God had brought me all the out here to be a smiley foreigner girl for a little old clerk.

It’s incredible the way God does things like that. I was dwelling on my actions and my mistakes, but God was bringing my attention to what He had done to bless me and especially the clerk. There had been no need to worry, because it was not dependent on me. He was using this small event to remind me of His sovereignty, and of His hand in my life.

Maybe this post doesn’t sound very funny after all. I’m still working on my comedic style, I wouldn’t even know how to make this sound funnier. But I was laughing with God at myself, and it felt really good. It is an incredible feeling to be able to laugh at yourself. I hope I can learn to do it more in the future.

Oh, and a bonus funny point? There are three train lines in my area, and I’d used two of the three all year. Today I rode the third for the first time. Oh the funny things that happened to me today.

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Practice Makes

Never submit a project you aren’t completely happy with. I say never, and yet I submit projects I’m not happy with all the time. I had that thought today while practicing piano. I was messing around like I do, and usually when I mess around I find a chord that was just waiting for me to find it and make a song out of it. I was trying to create a chord structure around it that complimented it, but with no success. And then I had that thought, about not presenting an unfinished, unperfected product. I say unperfect because an uncompleted creation is an unperfected creation.

I’ve written a few songs this year, but only one has made me almost as happy as the one I wrote last summer. I still want to work on this new one. Half the lyrics are awesome, and the other half is just good. The piano too is exciting in some parts, just good in others. Imogen Heap went through thirteen different versions of “Tidal” over the course of a year before she was happy with it. Wow. I think I need to follow her example and spend that much time on something I create.

However, I have a tendency to write a first draft, call it good enough, and turn it in. And you know what? If it’s for a class I usually get a decent grade. It depends on the teacher, but without trying I hardly get lower than a high B. I hate it. Please don’t stop reading because I cry over B’s. No, what I’m saying is that I hate looking at a good grade for a paper I know could have written better. One of my professors this semesters is a very nice grader and gave me an A++. I told mom I wanted to argue for a more honest grade, but she told me that would be an act of pride, not humility. I was confused, because I thought asking for a lower grade would be an act of humility. Instead, she said, I was not submitting to or respecting my professor’s authority. God puts people in authority above us for a reason, she said.

What is pride? What is humility? I’m still trying to figure that one out, where pride starts and humility stops. Yahweh says that we are perfect in Christ. But what does that even mean? How can I be perfect when I make so many mistakes? There’s this Reality of Duality, as my teacher like to say. Another way to say it is there are facts and truth. The fact is I am imperfect. The truth is that I am made perfect by the work of Yeshua. It doesn’t really make sense to me, but that’s okay. If you think you fully comprehend an aspect of God, you’ve got it wrong.

So maybe that means that humility is accepting the work that Yahweh already did, but pride is asserting I can do it all on my own. That means going into projects asking Yah for help, because He has already blessed me with the ability to write it.

This blog post kind of digressed a little bit, but I think that’s okay. 🙂

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Trash

As happens to everyone when they move, there is a lot to throw away. It’s amazing the things I have accumulated this year: 7/11 receipts, ATM receipts, video rental receipts. A lot of receipts…There are so many things I’ve saved for the sake of memories, for making the scrapbook that will never happen. I still have a museum brochure from that field trip I didn’t even like. Why would I keep that? Why do I want a memory of that? And what do I want with all those ATM receipts anyway?

Moving on is hard. I have so many clothes to get rid of. Thankfully, my beautiful English friend Alice has taken a few pieces off of my hands for me, but I’ve still got two large shopping bags worth of clothes: clothes I really should not have bought, clothes I brought with me that are just done, and clothes that I love but don’t fit my new modesty standards. (I want to respect my body more, and that includes dressing modestly.) When I was packing back in August, I was worried about bringing clothes home, but now I’m sure that I should have enough room.

What is a problem to take home is my books. As of now, my box of books weighs 25 kilos, or 66 lbs. I arrived with about 6 books. Yeah…Books happened. There’s a service to ship books overseas for cheap, but it still comes out to about $200. Ouch. If I can eliminate 10 lbs it will only be $170. Anyway, enough of the book math.

The point is getting rid of stuff is hard. Human beings just have a natural tendency to hoard things, and I am no different. In high school, I was proud of my manga collection, totaling over 130 volumes. And you know what happened? My love shifted from manga to boy-bands and almost over night I was ready to sell my cherished comics. What’s the point in saving everything if my heart may change the next day anyway? (Like that one time I decided I was no longer obsessed with Danny Phantom in a single afternoon…)

It is almost as if amassing great collections makes me a cooler person. I just want to brag about all the books I have, all the clothes I have. But in the past three years, all of my books and clothes have not been “cool”. Every time I have to move my stuff becomes a burden. I stare at the mini-van full of my dorm-room furnishings, and wonder, “Do I really have this much stuff?” And I have stuff at home as well, which means that every year the collection grows. What am I going to do when I move out of the house for good?

So here I am, packing my bags to go home. I feel embarrassed every time I throw away a huge bag of trash. But it’s worth it, because I know that 20 years down the line, I’ll look to my pictures for memories, not my 7/11 receipts.

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The In Between

I have impeccable timing. I have finally started blogging (again), but my study abroad trip is nearly over. Blogging from the beginning would have made more sense, and I did try to keep a vlog, but that turned out to be too much of a hassle. (Japan is not as wired as I thought.) It was all for the best though, because this year has been so crazy, I don’t know how I would have had time for a blog. And hopefully by the end of the summer I can learn how to crank out a 500 word entry in under 30 minutes, so I can continue writing when school starts back up again.

So anyway, as I said I’m at the end of my trip. It’s a very strange place to be right now. I’ve had a wonderful year, full of wonderful people and experiences. I have learned so much about people, about Japan, and most importantly about myself. My Japanese grows better every day, and I fear that I won’t progress as much back home. Just today, I was walking home with my circle members (a circle is a kind of club) and thinking about how I’ll miss hearing Japanese every day. I love listening to people speak around me. Back in September it was stressful, but now I understand most of the conversations with ease.

At the same time, however, I’m ready to go home. I have the best boyfriend in the world waiting for me. We only started dating six weeks before I left, so most of our relationship has been long distance. But actually I’m really grateful for it because we have grown closer in so many ways that would not have been possible otherwise, and I appreciate him more, now that I’ve had to go nine months without immediate access.

I’m also excited to cook for myself, and to cook with American produce. I learned I’m gluten sensitive this year, so I look forward to learning how to cook gluten-free. Oh, and I want to eat Kosher. (I don’t want to eat Kosher as defined by modern Jewish dietary laws, but I’ll probably explain that some other time.) It sounds complicated and hard to do, however I’m pretty sure I can solve most of my problems by eating paleo. (What is paleo?) Basically it means sticking to natural, unprocessed foods. I’m actually so eager to start a paleo-lifestyle that I fantasies about all the vegetable cooking I want to do.

All the other reasons I’m ready to go home are not really worth mentioning here. What I really want is to be able to have all my friends and family, an American grocery store, and live in Japan. But, what’s the fun in that?

あり得ないところを願わないでね。