Emails are better than nothing

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm posting a bunch of emails that I sent back and forth with my mom telling her about my trip. I'll add comments too...

Dec 31, 2006 11:55 AM

I'm doing fantastic here in Sendai with Aozoras family. They are wonderful people! And Aozoras mom says a big thank you with a very deep bow for taking care of Aozora that last month she was in America. She's very grateful.

Since it's super cold here, (being in the north of Japan and all) I've started getting really exhausted the way I did in Chicago. But check this! There's this special vitamin drink that you drink right before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning you feel totally awake and refreshed. The stuff is pure gold!!!! And it's just a bunch of vitamins!! It's probably laced with crack for all I know but Aozora swears by it and I trust her. Besides, I woke up feeling fantastic this morning and that's all I need to be convinced! I should send you some ;)

I've got pictures and all that good stuff and I'll be posting them when I get back home. Just wanted to give you an fyi.

Oh, one thing that I doubt I'm going to post but you might find interesting:

I gave a cheeseball to Aozoras family and they loved it. They loved it a lot. They were shocked that they finished half of it in the first sitting! I told them that was normal. I also gave them the poppycock because it was so big and Aozora told me that her dad and her brother eat like....well, like boys! Her brother is over 6' so I can only assume he has an American style appetite, which so far, I haven't been proven wrong on. They guys only 16 btw.

Anyway, so as I was on my way to Nagoya to meet up with Aozora, Kae emailed me and asked for the cheeseball recipe. I told her I would send it to her when I was with Aozora as she could just translate it really easily for me (that's not true btw) but I kept putting it off and putting it off and finally Kae was like, PLEASE send me the recipe, I'm going to the store tomorrow!!! And so I finally got Aozora to translate it for me which took much longer to translate than you would think because "medium heat" doesn't really work in Japanese. (Though I had assumed it would have). I also told her that since she can't buy the cheddar in Japan, she could cut the recipe in half, ask the land lady for the key to my apartment and get the one block I have out of my freezer. I told her this because, 1. I think she'll enjoy eating that cheese with the family more than I will by myself and 2. This is the only time that she's really bugged me for something so I assumed it was really important to her. She must have finished off the last one already! Which is sad because I gave a big cheeseball a friend of mine just because I didn't want it to go to waste!

In hind sight, I should have given two to Kae but I wasn't even sure she was going to like it!
I mean, flavors here are so damn different that I can never assume that anyone will like anything! But I was shocked and amazed that the Japanese love those cheeseballs just as much as Americans do! Mom, you really made a winner there.

But I digress.

So she emailed me back a little later and said that it sounded too hard to make and would wait until I come back.

Hmmmm...this woman is an accomplished cook. She's not new to any of this sort of thing. Maybe it's the western style of cooking that she doesn't really understand. Maybe it's that getting that frozen block of cheese out of my freezer is a little more impossible than I think it is. I dunno...

And that also makes me wonder why it was so important for her to make it in the first place! Right now, she's with her entire family. They're doing a traditional New Years which is the biggest holiday in Japan. I don't see why she would want to make it so desperately and then just drop it......... Maybe she thinks that because I took so long to give her the recipe that she thinks I don't want to give up the cheese....Eh, I'll give it to her anyway when I get back. I really would rather enjoy it with her than by myself. ya know?

So, I can't read her all that well but being with Aozora helps a whole lot! Maybe that's why I enjoy her family so much, because Aozora translates everything we say! It's so nice :)
And that's my update. I hope things are going well with you guys!!!


Jan 2, 2007 6:52 PM

New Years holiday time is quite similar to after Thanksgiving dinner. You sit around, eat, drink, sleep, watch tv, sleep, eat, sleep, drink, bathe...and that's about it. After the third day, I'm ready to get back into action.

Though I've really had a lot of fun here.

I'll make the cheeseball at Kae's probably this coming weekend, assuming she has time. And I doubt that I'll be making the biscotti. It's just so damn difficult to find ingredients and utensils around here. Everyone makes it out to be the small kitchens but it's just that Japan doesn't have the stuff I need readily available! Gah, I'm tired of running around looking for some random ingredients. For right now, I'm done baking. I'll probably change my mind next week though. Who knows.


Jan 3, 2007 9:42 PM

Aozora just came over and told me that her parents just agreed to let her go to SPC to get her AA. Wow. I told her that when she goes in February, she should hop over to SPC and ask them how she goes about getting everything done. This is a big deal. I think the hardest thing she's going to have to do is get her students visa and also take the English proficiency test. We'll see how things go. I think I'll make a list of the things that she needs to ask the people at SPC. Hmmmmm, this is gonna be difficult, the more I think about it.

Anyway, could you check and see if anyone you know and trust is willing to let out a room for an exchange student?

Thanks. I'll keep you posted.

Jan 7, 2007 10:44 PM

I was debating if I wanted to post this letter. A couple of people that I know don't like to put this sort of thing on their blog but honestly...when I was back in America, I would have liked to have known about stuff like this. Culture shock is hard. JET doesn't take it lightly which I'm happy about but they also don't advertise about it and I think it's something people should know about. Basically, it's depression caused by being out of place. It's depression in all senses of the word the only reason why it's titled "culture shock" is because that's the cause. But that only makes me feel better about it too. I know this will pass. It's not like real depression that doesn't go away.

Culture shock sucks. As I originally thought, this time around doesn't seem to be as bad as the first one but the first one lasted a really long time and I don't think I really started feeling fantastic about my situation until right before I left to go to Aozora's place. After I got there, things just slowly went down hill and here I am.

I mean, when I was at Aozora's place, it wasn't bad. I was in a fantastic mood the majority of the time which was a big step up from the last time I saw her which was me just kinda sorta getting used to things around here. The problem that started at Aozora's place this time around was that I started acting really unhealthy which is never good for my mind. I slept 8 hours a night and took two hour naps. I was sleeping constantly, snacking constantly, and sitting around constantly. It's not that I was bored, it's just that sitting in one place and eating and sleeping is never really healthy. Not when I was just getting down a routine here!

In fact, I had started exercising regularly, I was eating healthy (for the most part) with proper portion sizes and everything. I was taking vitamins and I was just all around feeling pretty good. I felt like my body was looking healthier every day. And then after my trip to Aozora's place, suddenly my butt seemed large all over again and then I discovered under arm fat!!!! Mom, my body's falling apart! I feel like I'm getting super old super fast and I'm only 22!!! The cold weather is killing me. My bones start to hurt in funny places and my muscles ache too. I didn't think it was all that bad. I don't actually mind it all that much but my body doesn't seem to agree with me. And it's not that I'm constantly cold, it's just that my body's not used to this!!

So anyway, back to culture shock, so I should have left Aozora's place about 4 days earlier than I did. I knew it too. The first day I should have left I knew it but I stuck it out. I mean, it's a bit difficult to change plans and it's something I needed to deal with. At least that's what I thought. But everyday kept getting worse and worse and in the end, it didn't help me at all. I should have gone home. But then at the same time, what would I have done here? Sat around in my apartment avoided Kae and Co. and wait for the break to be over so I can go back to school.

The reason why I would have avoided Kae was because her entire family is home for the holidays and I just don't have the confidence right now to try and deal with everyone. I'm just too scared to speak my poor Japanese or to try and understand everything that's buzzing around me! I have do doubt that:

1. As soon as I go back, I'll have the same if not more confidence in myself
2. I'll gain that confidence back even before I come home!

Either way, I'll get it back but for right now, I'm just....well, scared of everything.

I'm reminded of when I was a teenager and I wanted to order pizza but I didn't want to call the pizza place. I was too scared. Of what, no one knows. But I just didn't want to do it. After a while, I figured out that it wasn't so bad and I dialed the number and got my pizza. Well, that's how I feel now only a million times worse. Not only can I not call for pizza (or anything else for that matter) I can't even form coherent conversations! In Japanese or English!! I start babbling like an idiot! That's what I get for not opening my mouth for the majority of the day.

It's strange, I started talking to someone this afternoon and even though I had been with people all day, it was just at the moment that I realized I had said close to nothing the entire time and my voice sounded strange to me.
No wonder people think I'm shy.

And all this does is make me hate myself more. This isn't me. I'm not a shy, timid, scared person. I'm outgoing, charismatic and I'll take on a challenge any day! So then who is this person that I've become and why?


This is the place that I chose to be! Why should I be having so much trouble here? This was supposed to be like some magical land where all my dreams would come true! Where I'd be happy just like I was in America only in a different way.

And once culture shock really hits, not just in small waves but in a big boom, I suddenly feel like I'll never be happy again. As if my happiest days were in college and I'll never feel that way again. I'll never be as happy and the rest of my life I'll spend trying to recreate that joy that is impossible to obtain.

It's one thing to know that's not true. It's another to believe it.

And so that's how it is with me right now.

And ya know what, even though I say that the big culture shock boom is hitting me right now, I don't believe that I ever really got over the first one. I was never really very thrilled once. I was never as happy as I had been in America. It was more of that I was actually surviving and that was enough. But now, it's all caving in again and I just have to ride it out. I know this'll pass and I know I'll be happy here one day which is why I'm still planning to recontract for another year. I'm not giving up. I'm not going to work this hard to make it just to end it all after one year. If I didn't plan to stay, I doubt I would feel this way. I'd just let it pass over me and not let it bother me that I can't speak Japanese, that I haven't made as many friends as I would like or that the friends I have made don't actually know who I really am because there's no way for me to communicate it to them. None of that would really bother me. But the fact is that I am staying, and these people do mean something to me and that's why I'm so upset. That's why I have to get over this and get better and do better.

I'll survive this. But it's really not going to be easy...


Jan 8, 2007 5:17 PM

Yeah, it sounds like I'm ok...and honestly I don't know anymore. This morning I woke up with tears in my eyes for no reason. I was having a small panic attack when I woke up but I didn't feel particularly bad besides that. I wasn't beating myself up or feeling sad or anything. And then when I sat up in bed, tears were coming from my eyes! It sounds like something right out of a book. And once I got up out of bed, I was ok again. I feel pretty good right now.

I went off with Kae to go to Yuumi's house (my yuumi) to put on her kimono. It was awesome, but that's beside the point.

I've come to the conclusion that Yuumi is evil and she get's it from her very evil mother.

That mom has done some very nice things for me but she has also said some very mean things as well. I can't believe that it's a cultural thing.

Yesterday, I went to the coming of age party and since I was so used to the Sendai cold and because it wasn't supposed to be all that cold yesterday, I only brought a light jacket. It, in fact, wasn't that cold but the wind was crazy so it felt much colder than I had expected. But I wasn't dying or anything! At one point, someone asked me why I was wearing such a light jacket. Yuumi's mother promptly joked that it was because I was poor. (lit. "She doesn't have money")

Later, someone asked me if I had a boyfriend and when I told her no, Yuumi's mother called me a liar (in a joking sort of way, but a liar nonetheless). I told her that truly, I'm single. She was a bit surprised. And this means one of two things, either she's stupid about the whole Sou thing or she thinks I'm a slut. Either way, it makes her look bad in my book. I mean, she was freakin there in the room when it was announced to the world that Sou and I were not a thing anymore. How could she just forget that or think it wasn't true?!

Then, to put icing on the cake, today, when they were putting the kimono on, Yuumi's mother made the nice comment that I've really gained some weight since I've been here. When they were putting the kimono on me way back when, they kept commenting how thin I was. She wasted no time in telling me her thoughts about this to me.
I don't like her. And I don't like Yuumi who finds pleasure in other's misery as if everyone else's life is her entertainment. She's gained a little weight too and has two ugly moles on her neck, so Poo Poo to her!

Ahhh, when did I become so shallow?

It doesn't matter, I looked good in that kimono ;)

Pictures later.


Jan 9, 2007 10:19 AM

Oh, no no, she knew I knew what she was saying. When she said I was poor, it was very simple Japanese. Though for that one, she might have thought I didn't get it, but for the boyfriend one and the fat one, she knew I knew.

People are people regardless of the culture. There are some people who are just naturally more arrogant, rude, selfish, etc than other people. Yuumi's family is quite well off which might make them think that it's ok to act the way that do, but I think most people don't like them, they are just polite and tolerate it. One thing about the Japanese culture is that if you don't like something, you generally don't speak up about it. Depending on what that thing is of course. When it comes to people you don't like, you don't say anything to them but in small circles of friends, you gossip about them. Sometimes it gets back to the original person which then teaches them that they need to stop what they're doing but mostly, the gossip stays as gossip and from what I've seen, either it never gets back to the original person, or the original person doesn't care enough about it to actually change. i dunno, but most people here want to be accepted by others and that means they need to be polite all the time. Apparently, Yuumi and her mother are secure enough with themselves to easily put others down. Maybe people are afraid of them. I don't know....

Kae's the one who first told me that Yuumi's mother was selfish but they're still friends so.....I don't know.

And as for hearing what people are saying about you when they think you don't understand, it gets old. I'm starting to understand what people say when they mean that they're tired of standing out and never being accepted. I figured as long as they had friends, why would it matter if they were accepted by everyone else? Well, this past week, I met a lot of new people. I was usually with a friend of mine, Aozora, Kae, Aozora's mom, whomever, and they would start talking to a friend and that friend would turn their head slightly towards me and ask whomever I was with "so who's the foreigner?" always in a very polite and formal tone, never condescending or rude but they always used the word "foreigner". Why couldn't they use friend, person, whatever.

I remember hearing people tell me about this sort of thing even before I got here. I always thought, what's the problem? I am a foreigner! So why should I dislike the label so much? I don't know but it's bothering me more and more.

Honestly, gaijin are so rare here that there's never going to be an uproar or anything of people trying to educate the Japanese on the proper etiquette when speaking to someone of a different race. They don't understand the political correctness thing. Can you imagine what would happen in America if someone did that? So who's your Mexican friend? When he's standing right there assuming he only speaks Spanish!


I talked to Aozora about all of this. She said that Yuumi's mom must be a real bitch and it's not normal for Japanese people to say that kind of crap. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

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jessica said...

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