<$BlogRSDURL$>

24.2.04

This week's goal: no masturbation for seven days. Updates to follow.

22.2.04

I ran this marathon today, the Okinawa Marathon. There are two full marathons in Okinawa, the Naha Marathon and this one today. I finished it, which felt amazing, because last year I was timed out. The whole last ten kilometers of the run was a bit of jumbled confusion. I misheard some people in the crowd saying there was only 20 minutes left, so I wondered if I was going to get timed out again. When I heard, "Fifteen minutes left" from someone in the street as I ran past I figured if I only had 15 minutes I would make the most of them and I started on a pace that crippled the rest of my run to a degree. I made it, though, with what I think will end up being a better time that my performance in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville.

Some highlights:

-Around kilometer 29 there is a pair of very difficult hills. I took pride in this point, but aside from walking to get water and drink it thoroughly, I made it up these hills beautifully. I was the king of pace on this run.

-The rain was torrential early on in the race. It was rain that soaks you so completely it is as if you have actually been dunked in water. The rain hit the hardest as I started climbing the hill at the end of Katsuren peninsula. There were a lot of motherfucking hills on this marathon. When I got up this morning it was raining; I almost didn't get out of bed, almost didn't go.

-Reciting "My Gang" by Jack Kerouac, the only poem I have memorized at this point, at every hill climbing. Seeing my reflection in the ground below me when the water was so thick it glazed the pavement; the sky below me, my foot falls meeting.

-Realizing that this potential victory (I was hoping and hoping for the first half of the race but was unsure, because last year my legs gave out very quickly, within the span of four kilometers, maybe, and I lost my urge to run in an instant, but in the second 1/4, once I had passed the last cutoff point, finding a renewed sense of possibility) might turn my third year on the JET Programme into less that a total failure, especially when coupled with my success on the Japanese Proficiency Exam I took. Feeling an utter sense of fulfillment from that thought while running.

-Eating lots of kurozato, the black sugar blocks that Okinawan moms and grandmas love to give you. Make no mistake, this was a sugar fueled victory. (I am, consequently, crashing right now.)

-Discovering my injury for the race would be a pulled muscle at the base of my leg, the flexor or whatever that is responsible for pulling my right leg up and forward. It was something I could run through.

-Running into a whole lot of third year girls from the Yokatsu High School basketball team, again and again.

-Hearing Hideji sensei tell me he had to 'shinko' and recognizing it as the Okinawan variant of the word to piss. Answering him appropriately, "Why not go behind that car? It's pretty big." The fact he went there.

-Thinking about not disappointing all the people I have told about the race, my karate instructor, Yuuna's mom, my coworkers, my English class, the Japanese school. Beating Damo. Beating Jonathan, who could never run a marathon. Passing the spot where I used to drop him off thinking, "I am beating you."

-A very good mantra that came during the race, "I will forge meaning in my life." The absolute lack of blackness or fear of the devil, the end of the world, recognition of the true meaning of human suffering, etc. Those were some of the things that accompanied my first marathon.

-The way kilometers peel away, especially when compared to miles, or at least did peel away this time. The way I was able to control my pace through genuine recognition that the race was only against myself, not against the people that surged ahead of me and fell behind me.

-A feeling of evenness, all the way up to I'd say the last seven kilometers.

The machine that scans your tags and reports your time didn't seem to be able to find my name, so I'm not sure of my exact time. I have to wait till tomorrow or the next day, it seems. I beat my first marathon, though, I know I did. That thought is a bit insulting. I did so much preparation back then and this time my training was painfully inadequate. The lesson seems to be one trains to train, not to get good marathon times.

Fucking exhausted and having difficulty walking. Somehow gotta feed myself, though, because my friends aren't coming through. I got no supporters, none. Ran alone, drove myself there and back alone. Feeling kind of alone over it.

20.2.04

After the sun set and the windows blacked out, I wasn't looking at the ocean anymore I was just looking at my reflection in the glass as cast by the flourescents above. I was reading a book, To the Lighthouse and I was thinking, What, by God, am I doing? Take a real good long time to look at yourself. I had 14 hours but I managed to make myself sleep through most of it to avoid that sort of thing. Take those 14 hours to sort yourself out. It wasn't as frightening this time to realize that I was at a complete standstill and that even the things I am interested in (kanji, karate, mixed martial arts, novels, driving, music, buying people random gifts and slipping them in their apartments, pronunciation, listening comprehension, simplification, chocolate, goya, my sister) couldn't save me from it.

There were all of Woolf's pretty words, lined up and ordered (barely, right) and full of that spunk she has, that life is difficult but worthwhile realization that all of her characters eventually fall into (save Septimus, perhaps, but, no, he saw it, probably, more clearly than anyone else and more easily), and it had its little effect on me, my little revelation (long since forgotten, just sort of some shutters now) but I won't get married, Mrs. Ramsay, I won't, and what am I going to do?

6 more hours, it seemed, alone on the boat. I studied kanji, I read the novel, I purchased chocolate. I literally did these things. six.
I am destined to create memes, not use them, it seems to me. I don't frankly like the memes that are put out there for my enjoyment. Hey Ya! for example. I don't think I'll be peppering my conversation with that one. Though I like David Cross, I won't be, as The Stranger suggests, calling, "Hey, pretty pretty," any time soon. I do find the bit funny, though, as well as the man.

So, I suppose I should probably get to it and produce a meme. I have a blog now, which I suppose puts me in an ideal position to become sort of a demagogue. How about this: I'll think about it over the next few days. It seems to me that I'm more likely to discover a meme when I am not directly thinking about finding one. I'm probably producing them all the time. Oh! Here's one. Back when I first came to Okinawa, I used to say 'Napaj' every time I was tired of Japan and wanted to go home. I had a few people saying that.

Great deal accomplished today. You want to know what? Well, fuck, I'm too tired.


19.2.04

If you don't know, html code is a pain in the butt. Therefore, to save me typing in lots of html code making each of these pictures its own separate link, a list of some of the pictures I took on my trip can be found by clicking the word 'pictures' above. That is why it is underlined and written in a different color.

I have returned to the main island. In the car on the way home Lynn and I joked about the different levels of meaning for all those involved in naming any part of Japan 'the main island'. Surely anyone in Hokkaido, Kyushu, or Shikoku, the three smaller islands of the four island main chain, would call Honshu the main island. It houses Tokyo and Osaka and is the biggest. But, anyone from the main island of Okinawa calls the four islands up there together mainland. On Ishigaki they referred to the main island of Okinawa as the mainland, but we imagined that anyone living on any of the dozens of periphery islands around Ishigaki might call it the mainland. There is even a school that Pete visits that requires two ferry trips, one to Ireomote and then another, thus making Ireomote the mainland to this smaller island. One very easily becomes wrapped up in the processes of hierarchy here. It is comfortably rigid.

The interesting pics to note are, one, the overhead shot of Ishigaki City, which I think gives you a good idea of its size and scale, and, two, NecktieandLighthouse, which gives you a good idea of my size by comparing me to a lighthouse. Again, please refer to the word 'pictures' above. I started reading To the Lighthouse during the 14 hour ferry ride down to Ishigaki. I have found myself with quite an affinity for Virginia Woolf recently. She is so imaginative; I swoon over the ways she recreates the world in her own eyes, the way she pastes her visions over the day and recreates it, the way they stick and cohere. She described the way birds sang through two people today, the couple, Mrs. Ramsay, the hero, and her husband, in love. I like the little puzzles she sets up, like Joyce (I guess she was always trying to best him) that leave one guessing what has actually taken place in the objective plot of her story.

The ferry today was fairly long but I slept a good amount of time. Maybe 8 hours. It ran through the day, all day. Yep. Long ferry ride. Tomorrow I have to talk to Shimoji about my trip to the mainland to see Jim. Jeeze.

17.2.04

I am in Ishigaki, a rather large, chunky shaped island about 300 km south of Okinawa honto, the island on which I live. If things go according to plan, I will be living here next year. I came down to ensure that the plans weren't made in folly and I have found confirmation that the plans are good. The plans are good, people, they are good.

The island is so perfect I can't even describe it. I can describe the island, I suppose, but I can't describe its perfection. It has 40,000 people floating on it, most of them concentrated in the main city in the south. It is like everything I love about Okinawa (the farms, the ocean, the small islands that you see when you look over the water, the people, the language, the attitudes) without the things I have grown to dislike (the military, the traffic, the large, swamping, get lost in your exhaust choked city feeling, the motorbikes). Today I borrowed Dan's bicycle and traveled pretty far, 30 or 40 km I'd wager. It was pretty amazing. There are mountain(ous hills) here and big long plots of farms and there is the smell of being outdoors. It reached me within five minutes of leaving the city on his bike. It was amazing. Next door, one hour by ferry, is Ireomote Island, the 'last untouched wilderness' of Japan. Big enough to contain several Hoka Hoka Teis and trendy shoe stores, but small enough to feel comfy, at home, small. There is also a Club Med on island. Ooh! Don't I deserve Club Med?

I do.

So, anyway, tomorrow I am going into the Board of Education building for the island and taking to a certain Kana sensei about the job for next year. The applications don't go out until March, but I want to get my virgin little lips as close to the ass of whoever is in charge as possible. If you catch my not so subtle drift.

I'll post some of the pictures I took today when I get home on Thursday. The ferry takes 14 hours. That is a very, very long time to be on a boat. I am also hoping to be able to get into see Tamara, the woman who is doing the job I want, teach a class to get a better feel as for what that would be like. Let's cross our fingers that this comes together. I had three classes today! And I took vacation and skipped them all and it was two days before tests! I don't care! I cannot stand to teach lesson 5 or 6 from the Oral Communication book one more time.

14.2.04

Is making out on the first date wrong? I think it is probably wrong for me. But there I was, making out on the first date. And, in my moment's free time I emailed Jibbers because I was just that bored with it. To Damo I then asked if it was strange that I would rather masturbate than have sex with somebody I wasn't consummately attracted to, with a sneaking suspicion that it was. I could have gone all the way but I walked away, not out of some sense of achievement of proper moral standing, but because of boredom and lack of interest.

But, hey, dinner was great and free.

Today's weather was without question better than the weather in the city you are reading this from. It was 75 and sunny and as the sun set it cooled and we put on thin sweaters. We were in Nago and there was an International Food Festival where, for about $10 you could get a good amount of food from representatives of 10 countries (or, Japanese people dressed as representatives of 10 countries). Most enjoyable was Indonesia's coconut rice and South Africa's curry and corn meal. It should be noted that, of the 50,000 or so Americans living in Okinawa, two of them were kind enough to volunteer at the American booth, where Valentine cookies were being passed out. There were 10 Japanese people. It made me chuckle.

Before the festival we went up Nago Yama to see some of the Cherry Blossoms. If you'd like you could take the phenomenon of Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa and its similarities/dissimilarities to the phenomenon in the mainland and use it as a tool for understanding the larger differences between the two places, or at least the scope of those differences. For instance, while Japanese people and Okinawan people both enjoy looking at Cherry Flowers, the trees that bloom in Okinawa are a different kind of tree than those in Japan. We could continue, while Cherry Blossoms are accorded a timely status, that is an association with a certain time of year, in Okinawa they bloom in February and in the mainland it happens several months later. And while the Japanese seem to cherish this whole idea of the flowers falling and all the aching symbolism of the briefness of our lives, etc., Okinawan Cherry Blossoms are hangers on. They last weeks and weeks. You can see some here. The point I am trying to make here is that you have two separate cases, cultures that consider this a shared something, but whose actual experiences of the thing differ to an extent. I am, perhaps, making too much of this.

Oh, by the way: I am a firm proponent of gay marriage.

13.2.04

Let's get to the base of my feelings for the girl in the first year student's classroom with the disfigured face. Her head is just enormously slim and it tapers behind the frame of her face so that it looks like her ears are caving in. She wears her hair straight and long, though, so it mostly covers it. You can really only tell if you glance at the shape of her jaw and a slight lack of levelness in her eyes.

I feel enormous things for her, though I haven't really gotten very close to her. I have been thinking about her a lot lately since we started talking a little bit. Her voice is slightly pinched, nasal, but she is not silent, not some little mouse. She does not walk around without other girls around, which is standard fare, standard behavior for Japanese school girls. She does not sit quietly in the classroom during freetime like the poorly adjusted do. She talks and speaks in our class. I listened to her conversation in English class the other day and she sounded like any other Japanese student poorly reading any other English text.

It shouldn't make a difference, and I shouldn't feel this immense... what? Sadness, nah, and not pity either. It is like the next degree after pity, when pity becomes constructive. It is a genuine urge to take her up in my arms and protect her and show her that someone will love her. I don't know that she feels unloved and it is wrong for me to assume she does. But, I wonder if she wonders if she will get married, like most Japanese girls long to do. I want to give those things to her, maybe in response to my own need for that sort of validation and assurance. Maybe I think of my mom. I am and have always been weak for girls who have screwy lips like Mom's, or that single line that runs from her nose to her lips unlike all of our sets of two. Mom doesn't look deformed; her mouth just looks a little twisted, though I know it destroys her and makes her think she does look horrible.

She says she has a date with the guy who owns the garage she bought her car from. He has been persistent. I remember a time several years ago when Mom had a date and I had a date, together at the same time (though I couldn't tell her) and it made me feel happier than I think I had felt before that and than I have felt since. This supreme notion of completion.

I am late. I should be taking off to meet this fellow. He has a dog. I am listening to NPR, to a story about dog genetics. His is a corgie. Oh, the girl, the girl, her face, my arms. Would we always feel self-conscious? Will we?

9.2.04

"According to a nationwide government survey in 2000, 27.5 percent of Japanese wives said they had been beaten by their husbands, and 4.6 percent of women in another study said spousal abuse had put them in a life-threatening situation." -Christian Science Monitor

Put into such stark terms it seems problematic, but it is funny how easily you can dismiss all of this as just a part of the culture when you live here. Here I am forced to question my values: do they exist? when and where shall I express them? is it wrong for me to try to change Japan?

Now, in this situation, the moral answer rings loudly. 'Patrick, there is no justification in any culture for a spousal abuse rate that exceeds one quarter of all married couples. The correct answer here is to do something proactive to stop Japanese men from being the overall retarded and general dicks they are, at least in one quarter of the married population.'

It was this sort of reasoning that brought the US into Iraq, really, and Afganistan, a decision made on behalf of my culture that I have yet to come to grips with. If I start challenging Japanese society for all of their mistakes, won't I have a hard time drawing the line when to say no? This is a great fear; it is unpleasant to be stuck on a negative bent when looking at Japan while living in Japan. I have had experiences reading books here that have left me for months angry at every single person around me, the language they speak, the culturally indoctrinated mistakes they blindly take part in. It isn't fun to walk around feeling superior to everybody else.

Well, no, that is fun. It isn't fun walking around thinking everbody else is deplorable.

At stake here is a larger issue though, my seemingly problematic need to absorb Japanese culture wholly and without judgement. This task is impossible and I keep failing, but I do not abandon it.

The bell rang. Class.




7.2.04

Have you ever had an unlikely hunger for hamburger steak? Probably not like the urge I had last night. Unfortunately Bikkuri Donkey closed at two and I was more or less disqualified from living between the hours of 8:30, when I returned from my run, and 2:30, when I met Damo. Unfortunately, Bikkuri Donkey was closed. I had a hankering for one of their hamburger steaks with cheese, too. Mmm...

I made due with a hamburger steak from Gusto (Skylark Gusto, to be exact), but there was no cheese. In exchange I had a big fried egg placed on top of my hamburger steak. Gusto happens to have excellent hamburgers too, but a hamburger (and not a hamburger steak), with the excessive meat-neutralizing powers of its bun, wouldn't have been enough to satisfy my hunger.

The reason I was so meat deprived was the sheer length of my run yesterday, a full 18 km. I ran out to the end of Katsuren (yes, where I saw the ship last week) and back, frequently stopping to try to chew back nausea. By the time I arrived at my apartment I could hardly stand. I sat on my front steps and started mumbling things to myself in Japanese half-consciously trying to prepare how to explain myself should one of my neighbors come home. "I won't walk. I can't walk. I have become unable to walk. I have become unable to climb the stairs." I didn't really intend to mumble these things to myself, it was my exhaustion.

Katsuren, especially the small farming road I ran next to the ocean, gets very dark at night. It is a small community and I ran into two of my teachers driving in their cars as I ran. It was cold too. I was wearing my Adidas running tights and my Nike sweat-wicking green shirt, which has served me very well in Okinawa.

If you like to run, why not check out our Super Running Club? (the name is tentative and we are looking for new suggestions because we are in the process of creating an official shirt). We meet once a week in Awase. You'd like it there.
Rather long set of dreams last night, due to the strange way I refused to wake up and get out of bed this morning. The good ones are always the stragglers, the images that pop up in your fourth or fifth REM cycle, maybe just because they are most easily remembered. Now of course they are mostly faded. A poor story, maybe.

Last night we all went out for Danny's birthday. We ate at a nice restaurant in Chatan (which I promise is not as fun as these pictures portray) and I had a good deal of wine, which, just realizing now, might have been the reason I was in bed so long this morning... afternoon.

Afterward we went to karaoke which was only marginally fun, though I did do my excellent rendition of Kill You, which garnered much applause from the ladies. Today I should clean my stinking apartment, but I wonder if I will.

While putting up pictures from my cell phone, here are some good ones of the Ken and Akemi Bull Family, which now includes Audrey Jun.

Also, here is a rad battle ship that was parked at White Beach, the base at the tip Katsuren Penninsula, where I work. It would have been awesome, I suppose, if it weren't parked there in direct opposition to the will of the people living there, really pretty inaka people who just want to farm and not have big, loud trucks plowing down their streets filled with arms.


6.2.04

I have wondered if I should start a blog for a while. In answer to that question, here is a blog for you.

Today Yuna came by school with some things she needed help with for her entrance exam. I had been thinking about stopping the weekly English lessons I have with her mother on Sundays because I am starting another bi-monthly English conversation lesson on Saturdays to help with the costs of the Japanese classes I am going to start taking again. I don't ask any money from Yuna's mother because she is Yuna's mother. It doesn't look like I will be able to stop without causing myself a great deal of guilt, though. Yuna says her mother looks forward to our hour and a half or two hours a great deal and, even though Yuna never asks, gives her a full report of the things we talked about. She reiterated this point: "Even though I never ask."

We went to lunch at a place with good sandwiches and the best french toast I have ever tasted in the world, but were kicked out for lingering too long over her books. At school I sat sort of dazed as Yuna finished copying over a small essay I had helped her write, thinking about how even though I was deeply tired of teacher her mother English, I would not be able to cease, and how I am meeting some deep, fundamental needs of hers, the need to feel part of something larger than this island (she is from the mainland and Okinawa can be very small for those people), the need to feel some connection to the world, maybe, but some needs, I know, because of the way she lights up, but how none of my needs are being met. No money, sure, fine, well, I don't need money, to be fair. I don't care about the money. I am hung up on finding some family to latch onto, though, someone to provide some modicrum of support for me here, and I can't seem to worm myself in anywhere.

These thoughts were largely deflating and eventually the only bright side I found was that I know Yuna's mom and Yuna herself need something bright in their lives and I suppose I am going to have to grin and bear being it, at least until July.

Katie sends news from Taiwan.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?