Saturday, August 21, 2010

Return of the King

I've been home (in Charlotte, NC, USA) for a little over two weeks now. I'll get to that in a minute.

The Monday before I left Mina, John, Jonathan (a UNCC alum who went to Oita and is now living in Japan), Narumi (Jonathan's fiancee) and I went to the beach at Saganouseiki (sp?). The beach was rocking instead of sandy and beautiful. We five cavorted about the water for a few hours. It was nice to get in the water and feel the sun on my neon-white skin. As always, I forgot to bring or even think about sunscreen. Narumi was gracious enough to lend me her bottle, though her weakass sunscreen did nothing to prevent me from being burnt to a crisp. The burn made the last few days interesting.

Thanks to avoiding the sun and Mina liberally applying lotions to me throughout the days, I more or less healed in time. Thursday came and, well, I'll let Past-Zach take it for a few:

"11:42AM 5 Aug 10
I begin this sitting by my gate in Fukuoka Airport. For me the toughest part of the trek home is done. Waking up early, Mina and I emptied the remnants out of my room. In the Kaikan parking lot I said goodbye to Nora, Mike and Mickey. Tears threatened to surface but I maintained. With John and Mina, I went to the train station. At the turnstile (are they still called that?), John and I shook hands, we'd see each other in a month. Mina and I stood at the platform. My stomach did flip-flops. We talked, held hands, exchanged kisses. As my train arrived we exchanged three very specific words and kissed once more. The dam threatened to burst. Boarding, I found my seat and settled in. Mina stood by my window. As the pulled away we waved. I stood briefly. With Mina and Oita behind me, I cracked. I cried.

I looked out the window the entire way (aside from the times I fell asleep for a few minutes). This was my last chance, my last hours in Japan. Like trying to hold sand it was slipping through my fingers grain by grain. I thought about many things. I remembered my first night here. Ten months goes quite fast (after the fact). To prevent another emotional outbreak I focused on where I was going and not where I was leaving.

Considering my tickets, I thought how apt it was that Fukuoka was abbreviated to FUK (say it aloud if you don't get it). My suitcase (24kg as weighed at airport checking) was heavy and I had failed to notice the busted-ass wheels during the entirety of my stay in Oita. You didn't roll as often as you dragged. In Hakata (the main station of FUK) I was going up and down stairs to from railway to subway. I recall mumbling the city's abbreviation a few times. At the FUK Airport, I traversed more stairs before finally dropping off my suitcase. Good news came as I was told I wouldn't have to worry about the suitcase until O'Hare and customs. Significantly lighter, I made my way here to summarize the trip so far."

That is all I wrote on my August 5th that lasted far longer than it should have. From Fukuoka to Narita (Tokyo's international airport) there were no problems. I briefly talked with a woman from Austin, Texas who had been visiting family in Osaka while boarding and deboarding (word?) the FUK flight. I talked about Oita fondly.

Waiting for the flight to Chicago, I looked around at the other soon to be passengers. White people, black people, fat people, girls of low to moderate attractiveness with the facial expressions and body language that said they thought they were God's gift to God. In that moment I realized I was no longer special by Japanese standards. It was sobering. Boarding the plane, I comforted myself by remembering that the lady at the Oita travel agency had purchased me an aisle seat. LIES. I was once again to be subjected to a middle seat in sardine class. Very quickly I was surrounded on all sides by a group of young foreigners (read 'Americans'). On my right Rich or Tim, I forget, sparked a conversation. He was from Baltimore and very congenial (I could live with this). As I suppose it does on most flights, the talk turned to where both of us were coming from. I told him about my ten months in Japan as a student. RichTim blew me out of the water by telling me that he, along with the people sitting all around me, had been in Thailand doing missionary work for the last ten months. The world was hammering home how unspecial I was in that moment. Intrigued, we talked about what they had done.

The flight was about the same as the one that brought me to Japan. I was able to stave the nausea with seasick (your body doesn't care where you are) medicine given to me by Eva (thank you so much, Eva). Unlike the flight over, we didn't have small personal screens on which to watch movies. There was one big screen at the front of sardine class with multiple smaller screens sprinkled about above the aisles. You had no choice but to watch. Very quickly I learned something about the person who chose the programming for the flight. They liked boring as hell documentaries and Jennifer Aniston. The only thing I really watched was the latest Shrek (4?). After that proceeded some kid appropriate movies and documentaries (a history of the internet focusing on the browser wars between Netscape and Mosaic, something about cars and, before landing in Chicago, a PBS thing on archeology). At 'night' we awake adults were treated to episodes of Friends and an Aniston movie called the Bounty Hunter. I had my headphones in for the first half hour but after disconnecting I found I could follow the movie without hearing it.

I slept briefly. Very briefly. I found no aid as the television/movie screen was on the entire flight, always playing something. In between programming, there were commercials for United which showed us all the perks that everyone not in sardine class was getting. That is nothing but mean.

At some point I gave up on basic human courtesy. I stopped holding in my farts. They were silent, so point for me. From the first few test farts, I determined that they were also odorless. Anytime I released the pressure, I could've sworn I saw the girl next to me (Danielle, also of the Thai missionaries) cast a glance in my direction. I felt bad for her, but not bad enough to stop. Hell hath no fury like King Zach on a twelve hour flight.

Chicago finally came. I could read signs again.

Immigration/Customs sucked. The line was so long I missed my original flight to Charlotte (which I would find out later was a good thing as it was rerouted to Columbia, South Carolina). I was somewhat angry but less so than I could have been. Somehow the thought of "Whatever happens, you'll figure out a way home, you will deal with it." kept me calm. I was an odd mix of angry, too tired to function and happy to be close to home by the time my turn came around. The officer (are they officers?) asked me about my trip and no part of could decide if I was angry or not. My voice went from incredulous to polite in one sentence: "I was THERE to study abroad . . . sir.". Deemed not sufficiently evil to be shot on site, I was allowed entry into my homeland. The next few minutes were a blur of grabbing luggage and hurrying to my gate to try and make the flight I was going to miss anyway. Thankfully, the staff of O'Hare knew of the backup and was taking our luggage quickly, telling us to keep going. Flight missed, the ticket lady gave me the next flight out (which had been delayed in my favor). I passed through security and went on my way.

I began to realize I was home in America. The airline workers in Japan, kind, sweet angelic beauties treated customers as princes and princesses. Their smiles were largely fake but at least they went through the motions. In Chicago: excuse me. Attitude. I was the enemy. The adversarial relationship of Employee v. Customer was here.

Near my gate, knowing my lateness I tried my best to get in contact with my family. My iPod had the Skype app and a small microphone in the headphones. All I needed was a Wi-Fi connection. A sign had O'Hare's network name and I sighed, connecting. The Wi-Fi wasn't free. A credit card was required. No big deal, no big deal. I see some courtesy phones, so, I'll just walk over there and . . . the receiver has been ripped off the phone. Okay, okay. Wait, payphones! Need a bit of change, I'll buy this regular sized Red Bull (Japanese Red Bull come in smaller cans) and get some change. This cashier is such a nice lady. Thank you, nice lady. Red Bull down the hatch, now I won't fall asleep on my feet, good. Time to make a phone call. Quarter in, start dia- . . . my quarter rolled right back out. Where's the dial tone? No worries, two other phones. Quarter in, start d- . . . again. One more phone, don't freak out. Quarter i- . . . no. There is only one reasonable, nay rational, course of action now: I will kill everyone and everything. I have spontaneously evolved a hate organ within me and the dark fluid flowing out of it will allow me to destroy this world. I will watch it burn. Burn.

After my episode I stood/sat by my gate. I knew how I looked. I was tired with bags under my eyes and stubble on my chin, I stank from recycled air and sweat. Chanting "Whatever happens, you'll figure out a way home, you will deal with it," I did my level best not to look crazed.

The flight back to Charlotte was largely uneventful. I sat all the way in the last row by myself. Somehow I caught minutes of sleep. Finally, through the night, I saw the lights of home. I didn't recognize anything from the air but I knew it for what it was: Charlotte. Home. Problems arose.

The pilot kept announcing when we'd be landing. In thirty minutes. Thirty minutes later we were told we'd be landing in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes later, in fifteen minutes and so on in this fashion. To add to my misery we were circling over my hometown. The plane would dip closer, my excitement heightened, than the plane ascended back up, my hate organ pulsated and filled me. The pilot finally announced that we were not cleared for landing what with the storm above Charlotte (according to Steven this pilot, while a dick, was more hardcore as my original flight pussed out and went to SC). Indeed there was a storm. It added to my misery, the lights came closer and then back up into the dark clouds and lightening.

I pawed at my window and stopped myself in an effort not to seem crazy. Briefly I wondered if I was dead. Because this felt like Hell.

Finally, we landed.

I was tired, happy. My addled brain wondered how mad and disappointed my parents would be that my flight was delayed (as if it was somehow my fault). The family in front of me rounded a corner to loud, raucous cheering. A part of me was swept up in the moment, I was elated for no good damn reason. This quickly subsided. There would be no cheering, no big homecoming. I was rundown, defeated. Japan had beaten me down, the world had defeated me. I just wanted a bed.

Down the escalator, rounding the corner to baggage claim I started scanning for my parents. I saw them and they were not alone. Ian, Manan, Steven, Cliff, Lily. My friends (and as I would find out, they had been there as long as my parents waiting the extra five hours I had been delayed). A person should've been happy to tears at this sight. I was too tired for anything more than the foundation of an emotion. They were there. My backpack was thrown to the ground as gently as a bag containing a laptop can be thrown to the ground. They had all seen me as I had seen them. I hugged Ian, lifting him off the ground, spinning him. As I put him back on the ground, Steven and Manan jumped on me. I hugged everyone. We waited for my suitcase and talked, I told them about this August 5th that was too long.

During Tanabata, Mina told me that she didn't miss Budapest because she could make friends anywhere. I told her that Charlotte was different because my friends were different. I was right and I usually never am.

Ian, Manan and Steven took me to Liberty East after getting my suitcase. My first meal back in Charlotte was a fish sandwich at a twenty-four hour greasy spoon of a diner. It felt right.

The next day was my Coming Home Party. I saw friends I hadn't seen in ten months. We did as had always done and had fun. Alcohol was had, a hookah smoked, laughter as always.

The past two weeks have been . . . something. Charlotte hasn't changed that much. Still I don't really watch TV and I listen to Spanish radio in my car. I started to rearrange my room in my parents' house (where I'll most likely be living for the next year, year-and-a-half). There were things in here from high school and before. A sort of emotional or nostalgic roller coaster ride.

I've felt lonely being separated from everyone. I no longer live with all my friends, there is no girlfriend anymore. The Japanese department at UNCC has recruited me to be a TA this next semester (apparently I've been the only person who tried to get out of it so far). School starts Monday. I'm still worried about how my grades will be received by UNCC and worried about my lack of ability with the language I was supposed to learn. At this point, I'm of the mind to deal with whatever comes my way.

I learned a lot that won't be counted for college credits this past year. Not to be a pretentious a-hole (which is what I'm obviously about to be) but I've learned a bit about love and a bit about myself. I won't bore you with it. I was barely home, not even over the jet lag, before I began thinking "Where will I go next?".

I've said I would never come to Hungary after all the talk of gypsies from Mina and Nora. At times that was a joke, at times it wasn't. The people I met, no, the friends I made are now all points on a map. You were ambassadors though you didn't know it. There are places I never thought about going to, never wanted to go to that I want to go to. Now I want to explore the world all the more. I want to see it all and I'd like to have my friends by my side to see it with me. If they can't be there with me, I'll keep writing so I can keep sharing with you.

I've put off writing this for so long because in some ways it marks the end of my trip to Japan. I couldn't wait to come home but I don't want to let go of Oita. Truth is, I'll always have it, even if it becomes only a faint memory. For all the imperfections and lows I went through, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Life is like that, I think. All your mistakes and embarrassments are hard but without them you wouldn't be where you are or who you are at present. There is a comfort in that for me. I just keep getting better.

Goodbye, Oita. Thank you, Oita.

The end.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Typing for the Last Days

My exams are done. With those out of the way (I think I did decently on all of them except on Grammar 4) it is time to think of my departure. Currently my room looks as though a tornado came here to die. Most everything is packed and I know where everything that isn't packed is going to go. My bank account is closed, my cell phone shut off. I still have a few days left. If I were by myself, I would probably spend the days leisurely walking by the river, reading, hanging out with friends and watching the crappy movies left in the lobby. Mina is little more than a Hungarian whirlwind, wanting to go here, there, and everywhere in between (currently she is passed out in my bed). I could be slightly annoyed by that but I can't bring myself to be as such. She wants to spend time with me before we separate.

A couple of people have already gone, a few more will go in the next day. I'm glad in the early group so I don't have to be here to see an emptier Kaikan. That and the whole friends and family back home junk. How we've been passing the time in the last weeks has been nothing special. A group of us went to a small festival in Usuki. We've had a few 'final' drinking events with one planned for this evening. Right now I am at a loss for words. Ten months have come and gone with this as a pseudo record. I never thought I would get here, now I've been here. What next? I couldn't say yet. Home is on the horizon. Though I would sprint towards it, I can't bypass these days completely.

There is still a little more to do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tanabata Past

Is anyone really surprised I fell off the wagon and this post is late? No (I answered for you now sit on the floor and read this, dernit!).

The day after the Americans' 4th of July, Japan lifted a giant middle finger to our one day of celebration by engaging in the three day Tanabata . Each night the Japanese partied and though there was work to be done, I would've been remiss had I not bowed to peer pressure and joined in.

The stars aligned over Oita in favor of me getting out on my hind legs. The shrine near to our Kaikan offered up it's surrounding streets, ripe with stands and peoples. The shrine itself was host to rituals that were described to us by an old, drunk Japanese man as 日本の心 (the Heart of Japan). People prayed and purified themselves while behind them, melting men and women sold souvenirs (goldfish and twigs) and foodstuffs. On the stage, traditional Japanese music was played as traditional Japanese volunteers danced traditional Japanese dances. They twirled in flowing robes, jumped around in masks and swung katanas about their heads to the admiration of the spectating spectators. On night two I stopped to admire the taiko drummers. For a Shinto priest playing a traditional instrument, he was rocking out. That man had my attention more than the demon-faced maniac (also probably a priest) waving a katana around his head on the stage.

The first two nights I walked around the nearby street festival. The streets were packed with people of all ages, dressed all different ways. Many children were decked out in yukatas and whatever the male equivalent is called (Mankata?). As Mina told me, the yukata's stylishness was matched only by how hellishly hot it made the wearer. It was made all the more fashionable as Mina was the only gaijin wearing the traditional clothing. A pair of high school girls mustered their courage and asked to have a picture taken with her. On the second night, John and I were weaving through the crowds when I heard a different gaggle of high school girls whispering about the foreigners. Instinctively I turned and they all flinched in shock, one blurting out a "Herro!" that I responded to with a charming smile and equally charming "Hello." that left them giggling.

The third night saw us staying on campus as the University had a special program for us. It mainly involved all the girls dressing up (some of the guys like yours' truly even donned the robes) and a lot of picturing taking. All this done in a little quad/courtyard/I don't know the word that allowed regular Japanese students to walk by and stare at us like zoo animals. The evening included music (Courtenay of Australia singing with the Japanese band), watermelon smashing plus eating and a farewell movie. My mood at the time was somewhat in the dumps but I look back fondly on what amounted to a Japanese pep rally.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

America as Seen by a Foreigner

A more robust post will come soon, last week my wheels did little but spin due to self-imposed stress.

Anyways, being away from home I've also been taken away from all the noise that is the popular culture. I'll see mention of things through English websites that I don't really understand or have the privilege (?) of viewing through the American prism. As my time winds down I present to you a brief timeline of what has been happening in America as best as I can tell.

- I leave America, arrive in Japan.

- Obama's Healthcare reform. America goes crazy.

- Somebody called Justin Bieber. The Internet finds their Anti-Christ, attempts to send him to North Korea (not a joke, look it up).

- BP and the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, shit!

- World Cup! Americans care about soccer for a month! Vuzuluhu (sp?) horns become an instant go to joke.

- Russian spies found in the US. Spies informed that Cold War ended a long time ago, they will not be paid for overtime work. The Kremlin learns of Justin Bieber, prepares to build their own off of stolen schematics.

- Lebron James decides to play basketball in Miami. America goes crazy and decides that James is the Anti-Christ (or at least Cleveland does), alternately no one cares about the Gulf of Mexico anymore. My one friend from Miami (hey, Chris) loses his mind now that his team has Wade and James.

- Today: Harvey Pekar dies. (This is only important to me, I think).

That's all I can think of for the moment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Sometimes my Dad forgets where I am. He asked me about a movie, whose name I forget, and if I had seen the previews for it. I am such an invalid here that I don't even know about Japanese movies let alone American ones.

My Father and my crippling illiteracy aside, Japan has you forgetting things associated with your home country. For some I've heard that your native language becomes a bit difficult (not so for me). July the fourth is just a day here and it's significance had been lost on me until my parents reminded me of it during our weekly Skype session. Jesse of San Francisco was reminded of the day the Friday before by a Japanese person no less. Though the holiday was exhumed from my subconscious I had little expectations. The rain here is omnipresent. Seattle and Honolulu be damned, this is a lot of rain. On top of that, our Japanese neighbors have little patience for any foreigner shenanigans that happens after 7PM. All that being said, the day dawned without my person purchasing fireworks, cookable meat or drinkable beer.

The last few weekends have seen me struggling to study. My body and mind are resistant to the task be it from laziness or simply being burnt out (and the whole bloody whining about not being good at the language, no one cares). The past weekend was no different yet somehow I ended up it Jari and Eva's room on Sunday afternoon. John, Mike, Jess and Jari engaged in battle via StarCraft while I was content to sit and fiddle with Dragon Age on John's laptop. I'm not much into videogames like I once was but it was easy to slip into it that afternoon, instead of worrying about my admittedly poor grades and the expectations of the UNCC Japanese department (I remember Layla saying "You're going to come back so fluent!") I worried about killing rats in the larder and fending off invaders in my castle. It was not constructive but it took my mind away for a moment, something I did via reading back home (I haven't read a book since I arrived in Japan).

At some point the game became something that wasn't fun and I didn't want to bother with it anymore. Around this time a group of us left in mass from the Kaikan to fire off bottle rockets by the river. The group consisted of more than Americans, showing that all peoples of the world like to blow stuff up pretty and freak out the Japanese. We walked to the other side of the river which is far from a far walk but many were complaining anyway, the unusually intense nighttime humidity wearing tempers thin. On the opposite embankment we set up with empty beer cans in the dark. As bottle rockets were being prepared, Ninja Fireflies were lit and rose into the air before extinguishing themselves and falling to Earth.

It became apparent to me that the non-American contingent were not up to the task of playing with fire and munitions as their American counterparts were. When a firework of some sort went off behind my back, I instinctively ducked while no one else did. I yelled at a few people handling sparklers not to aim at others. This was new information, sticks shooting chemically enhanced fire could be dangerous at close range. Lim of South Korea asked Jari to light her sparkler to which Jari was obliging. Thankfully the lighter stalled long enough for Jari to realize that Lim's sparkler was indeed a bottle rocket.

Our cache of weak fireworks spent, we returned to the Kaikan through the cloud of smoke we had created. With some amount of luck we neither had blown anyone up nor had the Japanese police called on us. God bless America, I suppose.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


waa waa, my name is Zach and I can't speak Japanese, boo hoo. Japanese is hard, I'm so dumb, waaaaa, fart.

And on top of all that, my bathroom light burnt out and I don't have a spare.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I've Got Homework to Do, Why Am I Typing This?

You all know that it's humid and hot and that it rains a lot in Kyushu. That's not news. Regardless, it rained all day today. All day. I jogged a bit in the rain this morning. The usual gathering of the elderly were undeterred as they took up their morning calisthenics under the nearby bridge. Back in my room, I tried to squeeze out another hour of sleep with my door open, the sound of rainfall permeating my light nap.

Throughout the day my mind wandered to topics big (someday my parents won't be here anymore; do my friends really miss me or am I imagining that) and small (should I buy a Wii when I get back). So much of my days are usually given over to some sort of anxiety. The anxiety itself in turn makes me anxious. That is the stupidest thing ever.

Mom, Dad: I love you. Thank you for everything.

To the PK guys: I got your card today. You are foul-mouthed, perverted SOBs who took time out of your buggery to draw lewd pictures and misspell epitaphs on paper. I miss you.

Nintendo: You've got Wii Fitness, Wii Sports and you'll be getting DDR?

School (no specific school): I still hate you.

The Japanese language: お前は難しくてイライラする。負けない。I have no idea if any of that was correct, don't care at the moment.

Alright, as the title states, I'm going to go back to doing homework instead of sitting in front of this light box.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On the Weather

I live in Humidity.

That is not to say that I live in a place that is humid. I live in a place that is Humidity, it is what spawned the definition. It is in fact a living, breathing beast of a thing. One would expect it to be an organism but our lowly minds are too primitive to perceive this being from which we draw our perception of climate. From what I know of geography, Kyushu is not where Humidity's presence is strongest. This frightens me for the people living in it's belly and lower intestine. Surely this part is nothing more than a metaphysical eyebrow but I still feel it's unabiding hunger. It wants my human fluids to fuel its existence. Every dawning day sees me venturing out into the beast, feeding it and making it grow fat. Had it a mouth I would be deafened by its moistened, warbling laughter.

Seriously though, it is very humid here. I left the South for this? The string of curse words I could type are only held at bay because I know Mom will read this at some point (I'm a good boy, mostly). Anyday you go outside immediately becomes a day that revolves around fluid. Either it falls from the sky, it drips out of your person in buckets (at least I suffer in this way), it hangs in the air and/or you just want to drink something, anything. If that anything is Pocari Sweat, you notice that the advertisers want you to know that their stupid lemon-lime sports drink has "the consistency of human body fluid," which is nice.

As though to add insult to injury are the Japanese people who live in Oita. The other day I saw a kid in a jacket with track pants on while I was sweating through my t-shirt. Salarymen roam the streets in their adult uniform. I give no grief to the older women who walk with umbrellas even in the sun, as most look somewhat frail. The most disturbing to see are the Japanese girls. In Japan, having a tan is not good. While every white girl in America are transforming skin cells into leather, Japanese girls avoid the sun like a plague. Umbrellas, skirts with socks that cover the entire leg, gloves that go past the elbow. The heat and humidity doesn't phase them. I stand three feet away and sweat like a stuck pig, they are immaculate and pristine, bodies incapable of sweat while standing in the sun in what is winter clothing. The fashion conscious boy has even been seen pedaling his bike while holding an umbrella.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Leap Frogging the Shark

My Dad has officially made me a Luddite. For Father's Day his present was a Kindle. While I admit that I have never wanted an ebook, I am interested by the idea of it. I am perhaps the slowest adopter of technology I know. It took me months to realize that my keitai (Japanese cell phone) could intercept and play TV signals. Sadly it doesn't work from my bed, which is the only place I would use it.

The only way I got my first mp3 player was because of the library that I worked at. The library system instituted a program of voluntary internet/technology training that upon completion would grant you a free mp3 player. I only begrudgingly spent an ass-ton of money to pay an iPod in Akihabara because the free one played it's last song shortly before the trip (it lasted a good three or four years I think).

And now my father is farther along than I am. I say that as though I am truly disturbed by my lack of gadgetry. Perhaps I am a Luddite in some sense as I plan on clearing out my room when I come home. My friends may find my video game systems and games thrust upon them in an attempt to streamline my residence. This plan of action probably ties in with my experience humping luggage across the globe. Traveling light is definitely the way to go. As it stands, those staying behind in Japan may find themselves receiving my accumulated stuffs as parting gifts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thinking Far Away Thoughts

Somedays are better than others when it comes to learning Japanese. Today was somewhat of a bad day. Simple mistakes, all the more frustrating because they are simple in retrospect. People will try and help when they see me shut down while speaking but it doesn't help. It makes me feel like the idiot brother. I can't really be angry about it as people want to help, but its still frustrating when I pause to think and the whispers come quick. I'd prefer people to be silent and let me sink or swim on my own.

In someways I think this trip was a failure. Now, I say that and I hope a person will realize that in other ways I think of it as successful. As you could probably guess, I'm not satisfied with my language abilities (and unsatisfied when someone drops a "Well, everybody learns at different speeds," or a "You're doing just fine," on me). Still I am unable to have a conversation or really string together anything but the most basic of sentences. I think that this is my only complaint with my time here: I could've done better. That's what drives me crazy. I know I could've done better.

All of this is said in the past tense because there is more behind me than in front of me. Manami (my new tutor for the semester), Jesse, Mike and I briefly talked about going home at lunch. Jesse said he was a bit scared to start driving again, Mike wondered if he could still parallel park, I have had dreams about driving. I've become used to the way things are done here, little things, like going to the grocery on foot with my on bags. It doesn't sound so dissimilar but it is. My disappointment with myself is balanced by my anxiousness to go and be home again. Last year I was busy thinking about how close I was to Japan, now I'm longing to be back in my old boring city again.

I still have sometime left here, I'll enjoy it. I'll do better though it wouldn't take away the sting of knowing that there was nothing stopping me before.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Game

The World Cup has begun.

As a somewhat typical American, I'm not a rabid soccer fan. In fact I call it 'soccer' and not 'football' because, let's be honest, we all roll our eyes a little when somebody says 'American football'.

Rants aside, I was kind of hoping to see displays of soccer hooligan antics in Japan. Clearly Oita U expected us foreigners to be a bit rowdy as numerous signs were posted up around the Kaikan asking us to try and keep as quiet as possible when watching the games. I again assert my Americanness (while generally rowdy, I am not rowdy for soccer).

Neither am I much of a sports fan anymore (went through a hockey kick (Red Wings must die)). All I know about soccer and the 2010 World Cup is this: Argentina is the favorite, America made it this far and both Koreas are in the running as well (I pray for a final that includes both teams). Also, the games are on at odd times here and those damn horns make it sound like it's two countries playing against a swarm of bees.

To date, I have watched two matches. First was the internationally beloved USA vs. good, ole England. The game was broadcast at 3:30AM Sunday morning here in Japan. Needless to say I was a bit grumpy and zombie-ish. Jari, Eva, Adam (Englishman), Mina and myself were crazy enough to watch said game. Adam said that we really was quite apathetic about the outcome and the sport in general. This was clearly a facade as he liberally used such curse words as 'twat' and 'fuck' throughout the course of the game. Our national interests in the game were on display in the small group. We Americans were happy to tie/not lose horrifically. Adam told us, rightly it seems, that the English don't play together and that as the inventors of the game have a huge sense of entitlement. Looking at the official website a day later, this was apparent as England expressed mass embarrassment while simultaneously crucifying their goalie who made a mistake resulting in the tie.

Yesterday evening, Yuta, Matt, John, Nozomi (sort of, she fell asleep) and myself watched Japan's first game against Cameroon. I'll admit that didn't believe my current home would emerge victorious after their rather boring display against Venezuela months ago. I was also trepidatious when I saw that the Cameroonians stood head and shoulders above their opponents. It was a pleasant surprise to see Samurai Blue get a well-earned win.

The game itself was markedly rougher than the USA-England game. Fights didn't break out but the players were much more physical with each other. To say that I was proud of the Japanese is an understatement. It also added a bit more entertainment value to my spectating, so there's that. The Japanese goaltender, Kawashima, was Intense. At one point it looked as though he was berating Eto'o for even thinking of playing soccer around his goal. His saves were the stuffs of legend. Cradling the ball in his arms on the ground, he glared out at the world, daring a motherfucker to take his ball. I imagine that FIFA officials were only able to convince him not to bring his sword out on the field at the last minute.