Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Proud to Be An American - Well, Kind Of

So let me start this off by saying that I am the last person that anyone would describe as being patriotic. Sorry, but it's true. I'm that annoying person that when asked who I voted for, I'll say "Jesus" and what's more annoying is that I actually mean it. Now, don't get me wrong . . . there are a lot of wonderful perks to living in America, but I also think that there are a lot of wonderful perks to living in countries all over the world. Which leads me to today's subject.

Japan is a country that works hard. And this is because the Japanese work ethic is through the roof. They push their children to excel academically. They push for recycling and doing things the "green" way and pay high taxes for things like trash in an effort to curb waste (which is pretty darn effective - despite the lack of trash receptacles on the street.) The crime rate is very low, their sanitary standards are thorough, and I could just go on and on and on. Now with all of this said, would I be confident as to say that the Japanese people just have it all figured out? No. Would I say that they are model citizens for everyone? No. Would I say that I would want my children to grow up living the Japanese way of life? No. <---But that's just me.

My coworker on the other hand has had nothing but wonderful things to say about Japanese people, which I think is really cool and for the most part, I agree with her statements . . . BUT she can never say a kind word about them without putting down Americans. Like I said before, I'm not the most patriotic person and I know that Americans can be rude, loud, fat, lazy, stubborn, racist, wasteful, the list goes on and on and on but some of the stuff that she says is a little extra. Also some of the ish she brags about for them (I think) is less than praiseworthy and some of the things she downs about Americans (I think) are actually commendable.

For example, during an exercise today with one of my adult students, I asked them to name all of the stereotypes they can think of for Americans. (If you want to see the complete list, go to that other chick's website!) One of the things that my student mentioned was that American children go to bed early. Now I asked her, "What's early?" and she says, "9pm." She then looks at me with the question mark face so as to confirm or deny this stereotype. I told her, "Yes, we do put our children to bed around maybe 8:30 or 9pm - but to us that's not early at all. We think that's normal." I then asked her what was a normal time for children to go to bed here in Japan. She says, "Maybe 12am." Now personally, I don't think that's ideal (and it occurred to me that that's probably why a lot of my students are half sleep in my classes every day). Especially considering that these children have to wake up at like 6am or 6:30 to get ready for school that starts at around 7:00am or so. But I respect the fact that this is their culture, not mine. Not better . . . not worst . . . just different. So when I brought it up in casual conversation, my coworker went into her "God Bless Japan for being better than America" talk, that she normally does.

"They work sooo hard . . . Unlike our lazy American children who go home, eat and then go to bed because they don't have anything to do." Wait, what? Since when did a child getting less than 7 hours of sleep turn into something that's commendable. And why are American children lazy because they go to bed before The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson comes on?

Next, the topic of household chores came up. Now I've read (and heard from my students) that in Asian countries children are expected to focus on their academic responsibilities more so than any household responsibilities. Again, not good, not bad . . . just different. Generally, in American culture, it's expected that the children help out with household chores.

"Japanese children are so busy with their schoolwork, unlike lazy American children who have nothing to do except maybe eat or sit around the house and do chores."

This was when I asked her, "What kind of privileged childhood did you have that you just sat around the house all day?" First of all, I had to change the whole focus of her statement from the "American people" to just her. Second, maybe she didn't have a privileged childhood and maybe it was just her "American guilt" speaking, but I don't have "American guilt." I don't feel guilty for my "American" childhood (or adulthood for that matter.) I also don't feel sorry for the Japanese people who are obviously just living life the way that they feel is best for them. And yes, I'm an American but I'm not rude, loud, ignorant, racist and DEFINITELY not lazy. And, I wasn't going to sit and generalize or apologize for the American people as if we're all overly privileged, ignorant and lazy. I've always gotten good grades in school, did my homework and worked my butt off whenever I had a job.

YES, I got more than 6 hours of sleep every night and yes, I also enjoyed some of the perks of being an American and living in a superficial, leisure-driven culture, BUT I've also had to suffer right along with the 44 million who have to work their butts off in order to pay an exorbitant amount of money - out of pocket, mind you - for healthcare . Yes, I enjoyed junk-food when I was younger, but (contrary to common Japanese beliefs) I wasn't allowed to eat that ish everyday! So when she says all of those negative things in front of my Japanese coworkers, I try to make sure to clean that ish up real quick. This woman is speaking about HERSELF!!! At one point, I also added (and I deeply regret this) that I would never want to raise my kids in Japan. Now I didn't mean to go overboard with that statement - maybe I was caught up in the heat of my newfound patriotism and maybe I would like to raise my future kid(s) in Japan, who knows? - but I didn't want to mince words. The Japanese are great . . . but they don't have it all figured out. Why? Because nobody has it all figured out.

So there I was, attempting to defend the American people . . . or at least attempting to defend myself. It was a weird situation. But it has given me a broader perspective on how I view the world. I know that I had my little stereotypes about the Japanese people before I got here, but being here has destroyed those beliefs for me. On the other hand, I hope that my work ethic, intelligence and character serves to disprove the negative stereotypes against Americans for someone (even if that someone happens to be a fellow American.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thank God for God's People

I went food shopping today with help from one of the sisters from my congregation. I was soooo happy to have been able to finally pick up the food items that I've really been needing. I can't wait to start cooking tomorrow. And don't worry . . . I'll take plenty of pictures!

Also, I went to a barbeque today. It was too much fun! I really enjoy hanging with my Japanese brothers and sisters. On top of the fact that they make me feel safe and at home, I get a free Japanese lesson out of the deal. All of us were in the house prepping food, laughing and having a good time. And after a long week, it was just what the doctor ordered. I don't know if I would be able to survive a year without them.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Soundtrack of My Life - Another Post About Music

Disclaimer: I am living in a foreign country, so I have absolutely no clue what is "hot on the streets" in America (as far as music goes) anymore. As far as "what's cool" goes in Japan, I swear I am stuck in the U.S. circa 1992 when people still threw up the peace sign, wore scrunchies and flowered dresses with tights underneath.

So music is and (for the most part) has always been major part of my life. I listen to it while I blog, while I study, while I drive, (or - now that I'm in Japan - while I ride my bike), while I read and it's just always in the background of whatever I'm doing. Life just doesn't feel right if there's no music playing. So when the time started to get closer and closer for me to depart for Japan, it wasn't too surprising that I'd already had a song picked out for the first seconds of takeoff. The song was "Window Seat" by Erykah Badu. Now, of course, this plan made absolutely no sense because #1 - I didn't actually have a window seat and #2 - well . . . you have to turn off all electronic devices when an airplane is taking off.

Either way, once I got past the music video, the lyrics to "Window Seat" really struck a chord with me and really put into words how I was feeling at the time that I was leaving. It even touched a little on why I was leaving in the first place.

so, presently I'm standing
here right now
you're so demanding
tell me what you want from me
concentrating on my music, lover and my babies
makes me wanna ask the lady for a ticket outta town...

so can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye..

but I need you to want me
I need you to miss me
I need your attention, yes
I need you next to me
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction
somebody say come back
come back baby come back
I want you to need me
come back come back baby come back (3x)

so, in my mind I'm tusslin'
back and forth 'tween here and hustlin'
I don't wanna time travel no mo
I wanna be here
I'm thinking
on this porch I'm rockin'
back and forth like lightning hopkins
if anybody speak to Scotty
tell him beam me up..

So can I get a window seat (Chorus)

but I need you to miss me
I need somebody come get me
I need your attention
I need your energy
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction

somebody say come back
come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back (3x)

So can I get a window seat (Chorus)

Now, I can totally identify with the idea of just needing to get away. Needing to go somewhere and not be caught up in the every day problems that wouldn't be so important if you were just somewhere else. And the desire to just look out the window and watch everything disappear into the distance. I can also identify with the idea of being mentally scattered, back and forth, here and there . . . thoughts everywhere except where they're supposed to be. Oh, and feeling nuts (if anybody speak to Scotty, tell'em beam me up!). And last but not least, despite the fact that you want to get away from it all so badly, you still want to know that people actually care that you left. You want to know that someone wants you're crazy butt to come back. So that's what I got out of that song, and that's why it was chosen as my "takeoff" song.

So when I got here, I kept hearing this song. I posted it in my last blog. For those of you who don't want to click the link, it's a song called "Sunshine Girl" by a Japanese artist named Moumou. I thought it was cute and while I was in the music store, I heard it play over the speakers so I decided that since it's been playing on rotation in my life's soundtrack, I might as well buy the single . . . which I did. So while at the record store, I also picked up Janelle Monae's album, "ArchAndroid." I decided that she has a very "not human" thing going on, and I feel like I'm on another planet . . . so what the heck?

The album did not disappoint. It was different, but refreshing and the girl is talented. Some of the songs were kind of out there, but they really matched my current environment so it was all good.

Either way, this is what I listen to every morning.

Other than that, I've been listening to a lot of the same'ol stuff from my iTunes. For now, I'm keeping my ears open for anything new that I may be missing out on in America and also I'm trying to expand my horizons and latch onto some talented Japanese artists.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My First Couple Weeks (part 2) "The Yang"

All right, here's part 2 as promised . . .

Fell Off My Bike
It was the outgoing teacher's last night and boy was I HAPPY!! I couldn't wait to see the back of his head disappearing into the distance. We had a great dinner and I had even planned to do karaoke with my American coworkers when on the way to the karaoke bar, I mistook a deep curb for a shallow curb that I could hop onto with my bike and the next thing I know, I'd flipped over and was sprawled out on the ground. (But don't worry, I did it in a really classy way!) Needless to say, no karaoke that night. I went to bed and decided to go to church the next morning because my spirits were loooow.

Found God . . . Again
So I woke up early on Sunday morning and forced myself to go to the local house of worship (which is the same denomination as the church I attend @ home.) The people were so kind and generous that they even invited me to go to lunch at one of the member's houses. It was a wonderful experience and I made a number of new friends, one of them being an American like myself. I was so happy that I was brought to tears. All of my prayers were answered when I met these people. New life was breathed into my experience and I suddenly felt like I could really do it. They volunteered their time to helping me get anything that I needed, which leads me to our next subject.

Got Internet
One thing that was never mentioned during this whole recap but was very much prevalent and constant was my continuous pleas and attempts at internet. My connection to the English speaking world was dwindling day by day and I was slipping into a world where I had to depend on pictures, sign language and my 2 American coworkers for every little thing. I felt like Helen freaking Keller and that was not working out for a grown woman. I started getting depressed. The company that I work for gave me the impression that my coworkers would help me to get set up with services such as phone, internet, and learning the ropes of my new environment and at some point my coworker did help me to get a phone, but that was about it. I didn't know how to use it and I didn't even know my own phone number. The instructions were written in Kanji, so I couldn't even attempt to translate that ish. But back to my pleas for internet.
The interactions were something like this . . .

Me: So, when do you think I can get internet?
Guy: Not today. Maybe in a week.

(One week later)
Me: You think we can look into getting internet tomorrow?
Guy: Why are you so obsessed with internet?
(...and adding her 2 cents) Girl: Yeah, I think you're spoiled.

It was then that 2 things occurred to me at that very moment...
#1 - I hated this guy. I hated him because he spoke fluent Japanese and could read Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. I hated him because he was living in a world that he could navigate with ease. I hated him because he'd been here for well over a year and had more than enough time to master this foreign environment without the extra burden of not knowing the language and having to rely on instinct and the kindness of others in order to get simple things like a packet of sugar or a bottle of aspirin. I hated him because everything that was extremely difficult for me, came easy to him. And most of all, I hated him because on top of all of these advantages, he was inconsiderate and dismissive of the one thing that I desperately needed in order to feel normal and circumvent the oncoming depression and loneliness that was closing in on me like a dark cloud. (Honest to one point, I was on the verge of weeping when I heard "The Wheels on the Bus" song in one of my baby classes.) I was literally dying inside and this is not a feeling that anyone would understand unless they've been in a distant country, separated from everything they know and everyone they love.
#2 - I also realized that he was not going to help me get internet.

So when I went to church, the wonderful God-fearing people I met there understood how lonely I might have been and jumped to action.
Guy from Church: We've got to get you internet. I can imagine that you must be really lonely out here.
Me: (one tear drizzles down my cheek)

I can't explain enough how much these people were God sends. First they showed me what my phone number was . . . then they took me to the mall and got the ball rolling for me to get internet. It was an interesting experience seeing these complete strangers that I'd just met, translating and working out the logistics to my internet connection. And on top of this they hooked me up with a wifi device that allows me to get internet anywhere in the city. The thing fits into the palm of my hand.

That's hot, right?! Ms. Green LOOOVES IT!!!

Life Begins
The first thing I did when I got home that day was talk to the manfriend for hours on end. I didn't realize how much I missed him until I got to my apartment and called him at . . . I dunno . . . like 5am in the morning and heard his sweet voice and saw his face after what felt like an eternity of silence. I talked to him, my mother, one of my best friends and even emailed a few people. It was glorious! My days began to drift back into a more bearable existence. The weather here started to get warmer and each day was more beautiful than the next. Oh, and after showing up at the job every single day for two weeks (after his official last day), sitting in the lobby, playing with the students and occasionally scratching his balls, the outgoing teacher finally left. And with that the experience became more real to me.

Now everything is far from perfect here. My schedule kind of sucks. I work from 12pm to 9pm, Tuesday through Saturday. That's like the worst possible hours ever! But it really is one of those "when in Rome" things. Those kinds of hours are normal for Japanese people, believe it or not. So, I'm learning to accept it and have become a bit of a night owl. It also allows me to talk to my family at a decent time. I'm blessed to be able to live near the train station and sometimes after work, I take the train to a friend's apartment who lives in the next city over and we have drinks and vent about our day. Either way, I have been learning to adapt and still consider myself blessed to be able to have this experience.

So, that's all I got and I have to go to bed. You're officially up to date!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My First Couple Weeks (part 1) "The Yin"

My first week at my new apartment and school was pretty quick, but full of action. It started off a little rocky. Here's the outline . . .

- Met My Boss and Coworkers
- Almost Died
- Went to a Party
- Had a Revelation
- Strange Conversations
- Felt Like a Weirdo
-Fell Off My Bike
- Found God . . . Again
- Got Internet

Met My Boss and Coworkers
She was a short, strange and jittery woman who greeted me as soon as I stepped foot off the train. She informed me that some of the parents were throwing a party for the guy I'm replacing which is not something that happens very often, but apparently the guy was such an awesome teacher and spoke such wonderful, fluent Japanese that the parents couldn't help but to honor him with a going away party. Oh . . . and I could come too if I wanted. "Do you speak Japanese?" she asked me. "Um, no," I replied. "Oh" said she. (Awkward Silence).

So we picked up the guy I'm replacing. He was a skinny, greasy-haired guy with glasses and a big nose. (Not being mean, just keeping it real) We also picked up the girl I would be working with, a short, dark-haired, freckle faced girl with really dark, drawn on eyebrows. They were both friendly and polite.

Almost Died
The manager was so pressed to get to this party that she rushed through my mandatory apartment checklist, missing several things that I'm sure should have been checked thoroughly. She sped down the road in her car and almost ran onto some train tracks attempting to beat an oncoming train. My life flashed before my eyes and at that very moment I went from trying to make a good impression, to being pissed off. This woman was putting everyone's life in danger for some hors d'oeuvres and coca cola. I guess it wasn't too crazy, considering the driving is absolutely horrible in Japan. I've never in my life seen such terrible driving. You know that stereotype about Asian people and driving? Yeah . . . well, I don't know if it's true, but I can definitely say that the Japanese people are holding up their end of the sucking bargain.

Went to a Party
So we went to the party and boy was it awkward. I didn't understand too much of what was said but I did understand that I was being watched (mainly by my female American coworker and the manager). There were children running around and climbing all over the guy I'm replacing and the parents looked on lovingly, laughing, smiling and speaking Japanese. I really wanted to go home to unpack my stuff and get acquainted with my apartment. I also wanted to throw up and kill myself.

Had A Revelation
It's too late to go home.

Strange Conversations
This is one of the recurring conversations I had after first meeting the outgoing teacher...

Guy - Where are you from?
Me - Philadelphia.
Guy - I thought you said you were from New Jersey.
Me - I'm originally from New Jersey, but I live in Philadelphia
Guy - Oh!

Now I'm only referencing this conversation, because it took place several times and to be honest I found it a little strange and slightly annoying. Why? I emailed dude and told him I was from Philadelphia several weeks before I arrived in Japan. I never mentioned anything about New Jersey. How he found out that information . . . I don't know. It creeped me out a little and also made me feel like I had to defend my right to say that I was from Philadelphia which was indeed where I was coming from when I was offered and accepted the job. What would be the point of mentioning New Jersey, when I was no longer a resident and hadn't been for years? Also (and I'm getting ahead of myself here) when I shadowed him throughout the week and the students would ask me where I came from, he would always cut in and say, "She's originally from New Jersey!"

Feeling Like a Weirdo
So that week I shadowed classes and had to conduct my own as well, under the supervision of the outgoing teacher. The problem was that after each class, he would give the students gifts. And I don't mean stickers or colorful book markers . . . I'm talking about PSP games and huge anime pictures that he personally painted himself. These children's face would light up and they would thank him profusely in Japanese. He would smile with pride as they took endless pictures (while throwing up the peace sign - because they still do that here in Japan), professed how much they would miss him and to dig it in deeper, he would end every class with "have fun with Arnetta Sensei!"

"Gee, thanks," I'm thinking to myself. And I'm sure the kids were probably thinking the same thing.

Then when it was my turn to teach, he sat in the back of the classroom, watching me and scratching his balls. (Yes, scratching his BALLS!!!) It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my life and became more and more prevalent and constant with each passing day. So, I'm fumbling through my lesson, the kids aren't responding and it took reinforcement from the guy to get them to do anything. Most times, he would just repeat the same thing I'd just said and the kids would snap to attention and do his bidding. It was a nightmare. I couldn't wait for this guy to be gone. Somehow, I just knew that I could get these children's respect if only he was out of the classroom.

Also, I needed to vent . . . to normal people. English speaking people who were experiencing the same thing as me. The girl at my school was okay but I wasn't too fond of the spirit in which she'd say and do some things. It was hard for me not to get the impression that she was attempting to one-up me.

For example, here's a conversation we had when I first attempted to confide in her.
Me: So how do you like living in Japan so far?
Her: Oh this? I've traveled all my life, this is nothing to me.

Here's another conversation we had while on our way to the cultural center to take our Japanese language lessons...
Her: You'll probably have the same teacher as Holly, because you two are at about the same level of Japanese . . . which is like level zero.

Maybe she was right, but she still sounded like a douche-bag saying it (and she must have said this about a hundred different times, despite the fact that I never asked - nor cared - what teacher I would get assigned to at the cultural center.)

So I say all of this to say, I was on my own.

(Yeah, I know . . . this first part was pretty miserable. But stay tuned for part 2, it gets better. Or does it? Dunh, dunh, duuuuuhnnnn!!!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Week 1 - Training

So the trip to Japan was looooong. It consisted of a whole lot of sitting and squirming around, trying to find a comfortable way to sit, which grew more impossible by the hour. My flight took 19 hours in all. Four hours to San Francisco and 15 hours to Japan. I spent the trip watching Robert Downey Junior's sexy behind running around 19th century England as Sherlock Holmes. I also got a chance to finally see Breakfast at Tiffany's. I absolutely LOOOVE old movies and this movie was pretty good. The thing that I found really ironic about the movie, though, is that there was an Asian character (I'm pretty sure he was supposed to be Japanese even though in old movies, they didn't allow too many people of color on the big screen so he may have been a caucasian person in costume) named Mr. Yunioshi, who constantly complained at the main character "Holly Golightly"(played by Audrey Hepburn). Now Mr. Yunioshi was a short man with crooked, bucked teeth, a bowl haircut, thick bifocals and a terrible accent. You know, "You-ah too loud!" "I call cops!" and stuff like that. It was really cringe-worthy, but I couldn't help but to ask why they would play a movie like this on the way to Japan. I just thought it was weird.

Anywho, after 19 long hours, I finally arrived in Japan and during the process of jumping through hoops at the airport, and meeting up with the trainer, I managed to find several of my fellow trainees who were also preparing to go the training session. We gathered into a little group of maybe 13, 14 people and took a bus trip (that took forever - about 2 hours) to the training center. By this time, it was like 9pm and everyone was exhausted. We were hauling our luggage around the streets of Okayama and praying that we would finally reach our destination so that we could go to sleep. It seemed like the stronger the desire to sleep became, the more unbearable the physical and mental exhaustion became, the more tedious information our trainer wanted to tell us. "You guys will probably want to check out this grocery store in the future, but just know that they aren't open 24 hours a day, soooo . . . yeah . . . um, well, let's keep going." I swear, we all just looked at him with blank stares the whole time he spoke. Next thing you know, he lead us to the dorms where we would be staying. I looked at the list of room numbers with corresponding names and saw that my name was not on the list.

"Oh!" he said, "About 6 of you will be staying in a hotel that's a couple blocks away. After we get everyone settled into these dorms, we'll walk you guys over to the hotels and get you guys checked in." At that moment, I couldn't figure out if I wanted to die or kill this guy.

But when we got checked into the hotel and I found out that there was free breakfast every morning along with wi-fi internet in the lobby, I realized that I wanted to kiss him. I jumped into bed that night and woke up bright and early at 4am in the morning (due to jet lag) and then decided to hop downstairs and get on the internet until breakfast started. Breakfast consisted of some strange ish, and that was the moment I realized that I was not in Kansas anymore. Everything tasted pickled. Pickled cranberries, pickled lettuce, and pickled peppers. There was also soup and of course, rice balls (which I would soon discover comes with EVERYTHING).

So that was my routine the whole week that I was in training. I would wake up bright and early, get on the internet, talk to the manfriend and eat my free breakfast. The first 2 days that I stayed in the hotel, my roomate and I hung out and we explored the town we were in as well as the city that was next door, Kurashiki (the same city that would soon be my home). We were told that the first week would be very intense, and this caused some of the people in my training group to get a little tense, but for the most part, everyone hung out and even bonded a little. There was 15 of us all together and we had a great time until the weekend ended and we had to start going to the training sessions.

Now I've been involved in quite a few intense vetting processes. The most intense having been my experiences pledging a certain sorority (that need not be mentioned.) After going through that bull-ish, I've always kind of felt like I could go through pretty much anything and wasn't really stressed when they kept warning us about how "intense" this process would be. A few of my fellow trainees were upset (one of the girls even decided to quit without telling anyone) but I'd say we all did a good job. Training consisted of 9 long hours every day of listening to lecture after lecture and then having to actually regurgitate this information in the form of a lesson geared toward the Japanese children we would be teaching. It was nerve wracking to pull off, but thank God we were all a pretty tight knit group. It helps to resolve the pressure, when you have a bunch of grown American adults acting like Japanese children who are enjoying your class lesson. So day after day of this, we finally reached the end of training and the grand finale would be giving a lesson to actual Japanese children. Now this experience was no joke. The kids were not going to fake anything for us. If they weren't interested, they would get up in the middle of your lesson and just walk away. Fortunately, I was the first person to go and did my best to grab the kid's attention. It worked for the most part, but by the 3rd presentation, one of the children picked up a slipper and threw it at the girl who was giving her lesson. It looked something like this . . .

So training week ended with all of the trainers taking the trainees out to dinner. And me as well as 2 of the girls managed to get the most serious of the trainers drunk off of this really really good rose flavored wine. It was splendid and a wonderful way to end my first week in Japan. After this, everyone from my training group split off, going to their respective schools all over Japan. I got on the train and watched as everyone waved goodbye. I was nervous, but ready to get to my school and wondering if my new coworkers would be as cool as the people I'd met and befriended in training.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pre Flight Panic and the 3 Big Bon Voyages

For the last two weeks before I was to board an airplane and spend the next 12 months of my life in a foreign country, things got real. And by "real" I mean, real stressful. As you know, the manfriend lost his job, there was a whole lot of family drama going on and to top it all off, I was not feeling the support from friends and family that I expected.

Sunday, May 9th
Well, let me start this out on a positive note. I DID get a whole lot of support from my Christian family at church. All I know is that I showed up to service on one of the last weeks before my big party and someone handed me an envelope with about 200 dollars in it. As me and the man friend say, "I was hah-peee!" They treated me to dinner and there was lots of laughing and joking (because my congregation is hilarious) and my best friend (one of the biggest sinners I know) was there, and was able to see why I decided to dedicate my life to God. She mentioned that from seeing the kind of support and love that everyone shares, she can't help but to want to be a part of that. Well, hallelujah to that!

(So let me back it up again) Despite the support from my wonderful christian congregation, I had way to many "friends" asking me when I was planning to throw my own going away party. Okay, (Cher voice from Clueless) . . . "as if!" Who does that?!? At first I actually considered gathering a few of my friends together (considering that my family's "surprise" bon voyage party was being planned by one of my cousins who wouldn't have a clue about who my friends are). But then I remembered that I had to purchase a year's supply of . . . I dunno . . . EVERYTHING as well as cancel about a million and one subscriptions and automatic payments, pay off my car, close out several accounts, order Japanese yen and somehow fit a vacation into the mix. So yeah, that wasn't going to happen and after a while, it started irritating me when I would tell certain friends that I was planning on leaving and they would say something along the lines of "well, let's do something before you go. Give me a call, set something up, and I'll be there." It makes me irritated to think of it now and I've been living in Japan for 3 weeks already.

Friday, May 7th
So long story short, my closest friend and sorority sister came through and planned a small get together that was supposed to be for me and the other 3 girls on our line (5 of us all together). And surprisingly, 2 of the girls were missing which was kind of ironic because they were the main ones leading the "we should all get together - and you should plan it" brigade. Of course, they both had a weak excuse for not showing up, but I didn't care because I was so happy to be able to get some support from the 2 that did and it was also nice to be able to take a load off and have some girl talk (which resulted in the "Let's Talk About Sex" blog post that I did before I disappeared off the face of the got-dang planet.)

So the next day, I had my family get together. Now there was some drama with that because the 2 big matriarchs of my family was feuding and it put some serious pressure on me. At one point I even cancelled the whole thing because I felt like no one was going to show up. (Isn't that jacked up . . . to cancel your own "surprise party") Long story short, at the end of the day, the whole freaking family showed up and I had a WONDERFUL time. The manfriend video-taped the whole event and although there was still some weirdness coming from the two "main components" of my family, there were so many people and there was so much food and so much support that I forgot all about it and all I felt was happiness and appreciation for everyone and everything. It was a freaking love fest. So after that, my bon voyage felt right.

May 14th
So the day of the big flight, I packed with my best friend until 3am in the morning. At 3:30, the manfriend drove me to the airport where I met up with my dad, mom, sister and niece. I was a little sad because I didn't get to say goodbye to my dog a little longer (shutup!) but when it was time for my flight to take off, the manfriend surprised me and told me that he would be taking the flight with me to San Francisco and that was why the dog had to go with his "grandmom" for the night. It was a lovely surprise and I really appreciated it. It was also a little awkward because I know that my mom and the manfriend must have planned that together (and also, I know that my dad and his new wife don't approve of the manfriend - so for my dad to be witnessing this "manfriend/mom collabo" must have been a little weird). Either way, it was an emotional goodbye and it still gets me a little misty eyed to think of the way my mother looked at me after I hugged her and let go so that I could walk away. *Tear - Lip quiver*

*Oh, and I didn't end up getting the Amazon Kindle. Because of all the support I received from my congregation, friends and family (and also because the Amazon Kindle isn't very foreign country friendly) I got the Ipad instead! And I absolutely love the thing!!!

So at the end of the day, one thing is for sure, if you ever want to know who really cares about you, and I mean REALLY cares . . . move to a foreign country. Everyone that you see in those last few days, weeks, minutes are the people who care. The people who hand you a card, or even a picture of you and them . . . those are the people who care. People who try to find out if there's any little thing they can do to help . . . or better yet, the people who don't ask at all and just help you . . . those are the people who care. The people who call you out of the blue just to tell you that they love you and will indeed miss the hell out of you and make sure that you know you are appreciated . . . those are the people who really matter. Bottom line, I had NO IDEA that I had so many people who cared about me, BUT I also didn't know how many "extra" friends I can now delete from my life. Leaving the states was a very sobering experience. I didn't expect it to be this deep.

Well, that's all I got for now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm Back Snitchezzzz!!!!

I'm baaaackkkk!!!!!

Thank Jehovah, I'm back!!! I don't know how I made it for so long in this country without internet, but I did . . . and now I'm back! Okay, let me get to the point.

I moved to Japan 3 weeks ago and without internet, obviously I was not able to blog about my experiences. However, I've been writing down every. single. thing. that has happened. So I'll start by catching you up on all of the juicy morsels of my experiences thus far. You may see more than one post in a day, but just know that I am catching you all the way up. Also, there is another blog that will feature some generic (i.e. family friendly) stories and pictures (yes, pictures) of my some random Black girl that I don't know nor have any connections to whatsoever's experiences. She seems cool, so feel free to frequent her blog whenever you get a chance. The addy is . . .

So that's all I got! Stay tuned snitches!

(Oh and thanks Manfriend for blogging on my behalf a little bit, even though you put our business out on the street! So freaking mushy . . . Gawd!)