Friday, May 31, 2013
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Monday, May 27, 2013
Saturday, May 25, 2013
I'm a touch closer to today today than I was this morning. I've arrived in Bangkok and am currently resting in the Convenient Resort near the airport, awaiting my brother's arrival. It seems a thunderstorm has come first, a tropical sound I don't often hear in my part of Japan. This is certainly a new place, less organized, a little more haphazard and open-windowed than my familiar Asian home. And I feel the trust game again; a new unfamiliar script, new unfamiliar phonemes, new ways of greeting that I drop as they are thrown to me, hands in a prayer position of welcome while I move into the matter of business. The people I've encountered are well-worn from tourists like me, a well-packed path that many have trodden before. Like me, the people before me have not greeted fully, perhaps because of wearied trust, because of tired, because of lack of familiarity, because they are "on the way" to something else.
Being in this new place has reminded me again of the diversity in this world, and yet how close it all is. Arriving in Bangkok, I saw flights departing for places even further west into Asia: in India, Nepal. What's there? These people are different and the same. I want to see their countries, the origins of their differently colored passports. I want to collect them all. And here I am, in a place far cheaper, far more sparse, than dear Japan. It is a place where people are far more friendly, but seem less trustworthy. An immediate smile in exchange for sincerity of action. Maybe I'm just a little nervous about my brother's late night arrival to this Convenient Resort. Thailand, be good to him. I want to believe that the water is safe to drink and that people are all well meaning. At some point, all water is clean, but who is in control of where it goes from there? Good to be looking out.
This hotel may be case in point. Slightly different versions of a purported reality. We were well aware of this possibility, but were seeking convenience to accommodate David's very late flight arrival. The first picture is from the web images. The others are my own. I appreciate that despite the stark economy of the shower toilet bathroom, there are still happy blowfish stickers on the wall. And that I have a view from a small balcony (shall we say, "veranda?" I think we shall) which is always starting the year anew.
And now the rain has come. I've turned off the air and opened the door to hear the sheets pour down, one of many pleasures in life. This sound. This smell. This overgrown green in a new world that is the same one in which I've lived my whole life.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
During rehearsals for this Wakuwaku, we were told that this year we should try to curtail the instrument demonstrations a bit, or at least keep them around a minute long. It was a sad thing to hear. According to audience surveys, this is the favorite part of the concert. The orchestra members feel similarly, and it's almost a blow to hear such a thing requested. Based on our performance today, I wonder how much it will be regarded. Little seems to have changed.
Tomorrow I leave for Thailand. I'll be going with a friend and then meeting my brother. We'll head down south to do a diving course and check out Bankok for a couple of days at the end of the trip. I think there is only one overnight train, so hopefully I'll be able to keep posting.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I really enjoy studying Japanese. I don't understand it, or speak it, but I enjoy the act of studying it and experiencing it. And Minna no Nihongo has also taught me a lot about Japanese culture. I'm not sure how reliable it is–textbooks can be a bit misleading as to the way a living language and culture actually work. (I remember a non-native English speaker's disappointment when she learned that we don't really say, "It's raining cats and dogs." It's not that we don't , but, really we don't. Unfortunately.)
But here are a few that stood out to me from the text. Different ideas, or things unique to Japan.
"Air conditioning isn't good for the body." "Because you have a fever, please do not take a bath." "Dieting is bad for the body." "When my wife is sick, I stay home from work."
"Even if it's raining, I'll do the laundry." (To anyone living in Japan, these are completely related. Others may may wonder at the washing valor.)
I think I still have a very long way to go.....
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Sometimes when I sit outside, I remember a time in high school, when emotions were a certain way. When we walked barefoot in the rain and thought nothing of it, when words were other things and the wind carried the clouds from one hour to another.
I've played the Ravel quartet in high school art rooms, public libraries, mountain-top huts, and soon a Japanese basement restaurant. So many places, so many people. Once again, the same in a different way.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Also on May 19th I remembered a casual question asked to me while I was in California: when you're in Japan, what do you miss most about America? The answer I gave was peanut butter. The answer I should have given was garbage cans. But the truth is that I don't really miss either of these, and I don't know. But I like to think about it now and again. This morning I couldn't think of anything (other than people, memories, personal connections) that I miss. There is nothing about America that I need in Japan, nothing that seems to be missing.
However, on May 19th, I also thought of an answer of something that I miss, not because I'm in need of it, but because it simply isn't here, or at least not in my experience: light conversation at the check-out. Something like the following: "Oh I love this color!" "Really? It's my daughter's favorite color! I'm giving this to her for her graduation." "Really? What is she's graduating from?" "Oh, she just finished her bachelors in civil engineering. We're all very excited. We've got the whole family in town from Alaska and New York and we're going to have a barbeque tonight." And so on... Just doesn't seem to happen here. Or maybe it does. But in my gaikokujin world, the cashiers are always very well trained with a head bow, a careful sorting of the goods being purchased, placement of the money on the register with a verbal confirmation of the amount, followed by a careful and explicit counting of the change returned and another head bow of thanks. In Madison, I think it was as much the policy at the local credit union to ask clients about their plans for the the day as it is not to do such a thing here.
And with this comes another distinction perhaps, in the cultural response to the inevitable difficulties of life. That in America there is a mutual leavening, an extroverted concern to take care of one another, to make sure that even strangers are feeling ok, even happy. This in contrast to Japan's respect for privacy, a feeling that each knows what is best and has the ability to find the strength within to take care of themselves, an internal patience for the challenges that one experiences.
Do I miss it? I notice that it isn't there and that it changes the way life feels. And I deeply respect the value of living in both ways. How many other ways are there to live?
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
What crevice can go untouched? How slowly can one breathe? What lives between one heart beat and the next? (and the next, and the next, and the next.....)
When I leave here, what will I take with me?
Thursday, May 16, 2013
And now Yasufumi leads the company. He has two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren. Both his sons work in the company. It seems so incredible to me, how much has changed, how time has moved forward; and yet it seems that nothing has changed. The players have new positions. Father, son, and grandson, filling different roles as time unfolds them. Housed by the same company in a new location. And a connection from years ago that seems to bridge the transition. I'm not sure why this feels so large and small all at once. Something about the progress of time moving forward, and a new feeling for what the word "progress." What does "progress" mean in terms of a life, or the passage of one life to another? I'm not sure, but I feel lucky to have been caught in the crossfire of this trans-Pacific, generational exchange.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
He flicked the train ticket between his fingers. It said Takarazuka and the time of purchase, 9:48. I wondered how we came to be here, and if we would ever come to this place again.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
|Feed the deer.....|
|live green leaves as water spouts|
|just hangin' out, bein' a deer, sellin' some omiyagis|
|Under the vines at Kasuga Temple|
|emptying the pray money|
|bowing for a cracker|
|with Nara's mascot, Sento-kun|