Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Post Haste

Three weeks ago, I visited my sister for her baby shower.  It was a lovely time had by all.  When I returned to Cville, I realized that I had left my keys under my sister's guest bed.

Now, the pre-Japan me would not have made such a mistake.  My mantra before leaving for any location was always, "Phone, wallet, keys."  Keys were valuable - I never left them behind.

In Japan, I didn't carry keys per se.  I had a wallet that allowed me to attach my two keys - apartment and lab - to two little chains that zipped up inside its main pocket.  It was quite convenient and so, in Japan, my mantra before leaving any place became, "Phone, wallet."  But since my phone was only operable as a clock and a camera, I often would get along just fine with "wallet".

You can imagine, then, how easy it was for me to make a mistake when I got home.  I put those keys under the bed, hoping to keep them out of the confusion that is helping Baby to get dressed and ended up leaving them behind, even though I checked the room at least twice.

As soon as I returned to Cville, I realized my mistake and called my sister.  She promised to send them right away.  "Will you be okay without your keys?"

"Sure," I said cheerfully.  "I can survive for a few days without them."

My sister went out the day after and sent out my keys.  A week and a half later, they got sent back to her.

She sent them out again.  Two days later, they were sent back to her again.

She sent them out a third time.  Third time's a charm, right? This time, the postman lost them in his effort to return them to her.  My sister had to go the post office and call them several times to track them down again.

When they finally got them officially sent off, it was Saturday afternoon.  When did I receive them?

Monday afternoon - the same afternoon that Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the same afternoon that all of Cville shut down and boarded themselves in anticipation of the storm of the century.  Only one business day after they were sent.

It turns out, a person can survive without their keys for longer than a few days.  Well played, life.  Well played.

I also have another adventure to add to the other about my experiences with the postal system (although this is my first domestic mishap).
This picture was taken on my walk to work today.  A lot of the leaves were blown off by the storm.

In other news, I played this song on repeat yesterday although I don't know why.  I also can't figure out what the title or the song means.  Google translates it as "Woman Daejeon Small power"  by Evan Yo.  (I mean, who knew before this song that Daejeon actually means "Big (rice) field"?)

My thoughts about it:
(1) It sounds very "Chinese" in the melody and beat.
(2) How does Evan Yo looks the exact same as he did when he was 19?  (He's now 25)
(3) Evan Yo really reminds me of Atsuto Uchida.  It's as though one of my favorite soccer players can sing and dance.  Or is it as though one of my favorite singers can play soccer?
(4) The girl in the video panics over a cockroach.  Yesterday, I found a spider curled up in bed next to me and I didn't even flinch.  I simply shooed him away and went to sleep.
(5) Yeah, not understanding the title or main line of the song really does put a damper on what I can comment on.

And yet, I'm still playing it on repeat.  Is it addictive to anyone else?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Pretty

Real conversation the other day with friends:

Friend 1: Hey, are you going to prepare for trick-or-treaters?
Me: I don't know; should I?  Do you think they'd come?
Friend 2: It's always good to be prepared so make sure you buy candy at least.
Friend 1: Yes, and be sure to put your porch light on.  And maybe, since you live in a basement apartment, you should put something Halloween-ey on your steps to lure children down to your door.
Friend 1: You know, when you think about it, Halloween is a pretty creepy holiday.

Another thought: In the fairy tales, all the witches are shown as women who own lots of cats and lure children to their doors with promises of candy and cookies.
But you know what else that description perfectly fits?
Old maids.  Yep, that's right.  Old maids are notorious for getting a few cats themselves to keep themselves company.  And sometimes, yes, old maids even use sweets to bribe children.  (Let's be honest; parents sometimes use sweets to bribe their children)

Do you see the problem with this stereotype then? Do you realize how hard it is to get the kids at church to like me if their storybooks are telling them that I am the woman who wants to take them home and put them in my soup?

Maybe that would explain why the little girls in church today kept giving me strange looks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Indian Summer

Overheard today:
Person 1: You really can't beat this weather lately, right?
Person 2: Yes, it's just so beautiful.
Person 3: Isn't this what we would call an 'Indian summer'?

Turns out, the phrase "Indian summer" has been in usage for over two centuries in America but it's origin is unknown.  The earliest uses of it in writing treat is a commonly understood term.

When I was a young elementary school student, I remember using that term but I didn't really know what part of autumn it referred to.  In my elementary school head, I defined "Indian summer" as "that time of year when you have to wear sweaters and coats to walk to school in the morning and when you only need a short-sleeved shirt to walk home.

It's that time of year. Bring on the layers.

In other etymology, did you know that "jerry-rigged" and "jury-rigged" are words that sound similar but have completely opposite meaning?  Jerry-rigged means shoddy craftsmanship.  Jury-rigged means ingenious temporary fix.

Also, why are "farther" and "further" so hard to use properly?  Ever since I have started making an effort to use them correctly, I find myself choosing the wrong one, almost consistently.  Then today, I saw a Ford commercial and the tagline was "Ford: Go further."  My first thought was, "Shouldn't that be 'farther'"?

Coworker: I thought of you earlier.
Me: Really?  Why?
Coworker: Bob was telling some visitor about the jets on the scramjets and said they would allow us to travel to Japan in 45 minutes.
Me: Ah, yes, the connection to Japan.
Coworker: You mean, boyfriend in Japan.
Me: Hahaha.  That would definitely benefit an intercontinental relationship.
Coworker: "Honey, I'll be home in an hour.  Keep the sushi warm."
Another coworker: So, this is why you're in this field!
Me: Haha, yes!  Scramjet technology needs to happen NOW.

And to add to this random post, here is a video of me singing in Japanese.  Headlight as performed by Monkey Majik.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More of Autumn

Living in a basement has its downsides.  But one upside is this: whenever I leave my house in the morning, bracing myself for a cold day, I find, instead, a nice warm day awaiting me.  It's a welcome and pleasant surprise and good motivation to leave my cold apartment.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Yesterday, I substituted as a visiting teacher for my new friend in my ward, who happens to be Japanese.  Last time, we visited her, she prayed in Japanese and so this time I asked her if she could teach me to pray in Japanese.  She brought me a sheet of phrases already printed out that she had previously used in some Japanese lessons for a church activity.  We quickly reviewed the grammar associated with the basic phrases.


VT companion: So, you're going to give the prayer in Japanese right?
Me: Wait, what?
VT companion: Sure!  Why not?
Me: <gulp>  I, uh, wanted to practice.  What if I did it next time?
Friend: That's ok too.
Me: <deep breath> Ok, I'll do it now.

Everyone bowed their heads and I started in on my first prayer in Japanese.  It was painfully slow and extremely hard (which thinking back, is pretty funny, considering that I was practically just reading from the paper in front of me) A number of times, I had to stop and ask my friend how to say something in Japanese.  At the end, everyone raised their heads.  My Japanese friend smiled at me and reached for a tissue and then wiped away tears that started streaming down her cheeks.  "Thank you," she said between her tears.  "That was a very powerful prayer."

When I took Welsh in college, I learned that even though Welsh people all spoke English (so much so that Welsh became a dead language although it is now reviving), when it came to religion, they preferred to hear and learn things in native Welsh.  They called it their "heart language".

I think things strike us deeper in our heart language than in other languages. Somehow, my stumbled little halting attempt in her language was enough to touch her heart in ways that fluent eloquence in mine never will.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Fun

Can we get a hip-hip-hooray for cleaning out the wind tunnel on a Friday?  Yep, that's right.  I don't know if life gets better than spending a beautiful autumn day wearing a gas mask and getting myself covered in iodine while listening to One Ok Rock.

No, really, I'm being serious.  There's something satisfying about doing physical work.

Good thing I feel that way since I have an entire apartment in need of a good thorough cleaning.  While eating breakfast, I marveled that people live in houses and keep them clean.  So many rooms...

On another unrelated note, here are some pictures I took on the way in to work today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lab Clean Up

After being here for six years, I honestly thought there were no stones left unturned in my insatiable appetite to discover all of the awesome in my lab.

You see, my lab used to be a Naval Ordnance Research Laboratory.  This means that aside from being used as a facility for highly secretive research on artillery, this lab used to have a lot of money.  The marks of previous wealth are quite distinct: we have a machine shop that would make most machinists green with envy, we have entire rooms full of old electronic equipment that (back in the day) was state-of-the-art, we even have a room that we call the "lunch room" although it has long been relegated to neglected office space.

Now that my lab is acquiring a shock tube, we are doing some major lab remodeling.  The process is yielding new things to explore and discover.

Last week, I went out to our wood shop (who knew?) to help one of our lab guys clean it out for storage.  To protect my hands from the rusty scrap metal I was hauling away, I found this awesome pair of thick, protective, leather gloves.  I called them my "astronaut gloves" because they looked very much like what the astronauts wear.  However, my dexterity was severely limited and so I spent most of my time marveling at the fine motor skills that astronauts manage while performing their missions in full space gear.  I also got to use our glass blaster to clean off a few rusty wrenches.  I'm afraid that actually created a monster out of me - once you get started, it's hard to stop.

Today, I went up to the lunch room to look through old cabinets before they get hauled away in preparation for a new researcher.  One cabinet yielded the usual haul of expensive but confusing jumble of optics.  One cabinet yielded piles of old Scientific Americans (we're talking 1950's and 1960's).  One cabinet yielded data that I have been looking for for 6 years although the media is now obsolete.  One cabinet yielded a lot of flasks and beakers.  The last cabinet smelled like a sterile hospital and was full of pipets and syringes.  I know that this was post ordnance research but what kind of research was conducted here that hundreds and hundreds of dollars were spent on sterile lab equipment only to be abandoned for 25 years?
Circa 1959 - we hadn't even taken a picture of Earth from space yet

Alternate career No. 65470: Lab historian.

What do you think?  Doesn't that sound like a ton of fun to go rifling through old documents and hardware and figure out exactly what previous research has been done in a facility?  It's like archaeology meets rocket science.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An Elephant Never Forgets

Now that I found an apartment (yay!), I have started walking a new way to my lab.  

Every day, I pass what I have dubbed The Tree.  If I were an avid photographer equipped with a camera better than a camera phone with a crack in it, I would undertake some marvelous daily photography project of this tree.  Then I would have a record of the changing seasons and documentation of what should/could be my last autumn in The Ville.  

One day I will go far away and I will want to visit.  It will simply be a matter of closing my eyes and remembering all the thousands of memories of the beauty that is here.  With the pictures, though, even when my memory fails me, I will never entirely forget. 

I have come to realize, upon returning to the States, how fragile memory is.  I came back and realized I had forgotten people's names.  I try to give directions to places and realize I've forgotten street names and where stores and places are located.  When people speak to me in Chinese, I find myself struggling to understand simple phrases.

Once my memory is jogged, I can feel the memories slowly start to make their way to the forefront of my mind but it still lags behind my necessity of that knowledge.

Now, I can see my memories in Japan start to fade away.  The other day I was telling someone that the only Japanese I really knew was "Thank you" and then I paused as I waited to remember how to say that phrase.  For some reason, my brain kept supplying the Korean word for Thank you rather than the Japanese one.  I panicked.  I only know two phrases in Japanese - I can't afford to lose even one!

You can imagine, then, my shock when I close my eyes to pray or simply to think about my schedule and a vivid sharp image of a location in Japan comes into my mind.  Where did this image come from?  Will it fade too?  Will I forget I even went to Japan?

Most importantly, will I forget the lessons I have learned and the people I have loved?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something about Ryo

He's young.  So young that he had to get special permission to be given a work permit to play in the UK.  

He's fast.  So fast that you just gape at the videos of him sprinting past defenders on the soccer field.  

He's pretty.  So pretty that when he and Shinji Kagawa attended a soccer game together, one of the commentators noted, "Ah, there's Shinji Kagawa and his wife."  
(I have to admit, I can see why people got confused)  

Turns out, he's also a bit of a surprise.  

Apparently, a few weeks ago, for initiation into a new team that he was loaned out to, he sang We Will Rock You so well that everyone demanded that he sing it twice and now play it before every single home game despite the fact that Ryo did not even know the correct lyrics.    
I hope he continues to surprise as Japan NT takes on France tomorrow and Brazil on Tuesday.  


It's been almost 2 weeks since I returned to the States.  I think I thought I'd be back to "normal" life by now.

My first week back, I realized how different my life had been in Japan.  Over there, I lived in an apartment the size of my friend's living room, never touched much less hugged another person, spent all of my spare time walking in the streets, and could travel anywhere I wanted by myself.  Suddenly I was living in my friend's spare bedroom, eating meals with her and her husband, receiving lots of hugs from her (to make up for my lack in Japan, she insisted) and there were lots of places I simply couldn't get to unless I asked for a ride.

In this second week, I've started bashing my experience in Japan.  I promised myself I wouldn't do it but somehow it just spills out.  Japan was wonderful - no doubt about it.  I learned some hard lessons though.  And for some reason the bitter struggles from those hard lessons are now showing themselves in unwonted ways.

When I first got back, Charlottesville felt the same.  Eerily the same.  However, now I'm seeing the differences.  Some of them, in fact, are so stark that I just marvel that change can happen so quickly in 3 short months.  The JPA bridge opened up.  Newcomb Hall got such a new facelift that I ended up wandering around it in, lost.  Even my lab - I showed up the first day to find that a shock tube experimental facility waiting out in the parking lot, just waiting to be installed into our machine shop.  People too, have changed.  Friends start dating, get engaged, move away.  Those things don't just happen overnight.  Then again, they do.  People adjust and move on but somehow, I'm still reeling in shock.

Some of my old annoying habits have come back.  Mein lieblingsspieler held a minor place in my conscious thought in Japan.  Here, he occupies a decidedly much larger part of my life - do I even get through a day anymore without bringing him up as though he's my best friend?  I feel like I'm clinging to something.  It all feels so desperate.  Where does this desperation come from though?

In Japan, I was always alone and often lonely.  Here, I am surrounded by people and never lonely.  However, in so many ways, I've never felt so alone.

I think I like to pretend that Hasebe is the kid from two years ago who was lonely himself and admitted so on his blog.  (Although now I'm realizing it might have been a Google (mis)translate).  He's not that kid any more though.  His life is full and happy and good (although he later edited the Good!  GOOD!  words off his blog and I wonder why).

All of this, then, leaves me trying to pull a life back together and realizing that none of the pieces are the same.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Administrator: What are you doing in this building?
Me: I'm looking for Post Awards.
Administrator: They aren't here.  You know that.
Me: Yes, but they move around so often, I don't know where to find them.  I thought if I came here, I might find someone who could tell me where to go.
Administrator: They're in Small Hall now. 
Me: See?  It worked. 

Me: Time to take a nap Alexis.  Here, lay down next to me on the couch and watch this episode of Dora.
<I doze off>
Minutes later...
Alexis: Catch the stars Dora!  <claps her hands>
Me: <waking up> Well, I guess I'm the only one sleeping in this arrangement.

Me: What number is on my shirt?
Alexis: (whispers) Seventeen.
Me: WHAT?! Seventeen?
Alexis nods.
Me: Did you really just say Seventeen?
Alexis nods.  
Me: Baby!  My love!  You got it right!!  How did you know??

Talking with a new student in my English class:
Student: (in Chinese) Do you get to practice your Chinese much?
Me: Nai, nai, nai.
Me: <thinking> Uhhh...that was not English or Chinese but more like pretend Japanese.  Oops.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gulliver's Travels, Part II

Unedited shots from my camera.  

Sendai Castle and Date Masamune Statue

Near the Hirose River in Sendai

Zuihoden - Date Mausoleum

In front of the tennis courts near Sendai City Museum


Tokyo Temple


Gulliver's Travels

I'm back.

Nothing has changed.  Well, except now I'm homeless.

I almost wonder if I dreamed up the past three months.

...Except that I have stuff from Japan.

...And cravings for food I never ate in the US.

...And new vocabulary floats around in my head and comes out at inopportune moments.

...And these funny pictures on my phone.
On the walls near the construction area in Omachi.
 Tokyo Tower
 It only takes one, or so they say.
 On the way to Funaoka Station (Kakuda, Miyagi)
2 PM
 This was the last meal I made in my apartment - I just used up every ingredient in my fridge so that I could clean it out and defrost it.  It was amazing!!! 
 Me and Maki (I never actually called him that but everyone else did) He's absolutely awesome.
 Everything in Japan is uber polite so I was surprised by the sarcastic tone of this ad about train courtesy
 Hello Kitty bouquets!  I'm impressed that the Japanese can take something that is already pretty and cute (flowers) and make it even cuter
I liked this for the Makoto sign and then realized how unique it was to have the old style buildings on either side of it
Me in a yukata
I guess I didn't make it up after all?