Monday, March 19, 2012

The Monster Inside

I have never been one for confrontation.  Call it middle child syndrome or a naturally peaceful disposition or just plain cowardace, but when something gets on my nerves I almost always hold my tongue.  Sounds perfect for living in Japan, the passive aggressive capital of the world, does it not?

I hadn't realized it, but the extreme passivity of Japanese culture is too much, even for me. All the complaints that I have bottled up have begun to vent themselves... without my permission.

Just in the last month I have snapped on at least three occasions for offenses ranging from the extremely menial (persistent reminders in a facebook game) to the more peeving (America stereotypes) to the truly obnoxious (extremely loud neighborhood announcements at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Screaming back at loudspeakers doesn't make me insane, does it?).
In almost all of these cases, I would normally just suck it up, keep the peace, say nothing... but there's a monster growing inside me. And if I keep feeding it all of my frustrations, irritations, and disappointments, I'm afraid it will take over completely.

I need guidance. How can I remain culturally sensitive and peacefully disposed without totally losing my marbles? Because, at this rate, the next sweet little granny who pats my belly and asks when I am due will be able to examine the contents of my stomach from the inside.
...'cause I'm gonna eat her.

The End.

*Chigaou is a Japanese expression which literally means "it's different" but is used in place of "no" because it's less confrontational... See what I did there?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Secret Single Behavior

One of the hardest things to adjust to during my first year in Japan was not the language or culture or even the food, it was simply living alone. If you know me, you know that I have a big, close-knit family. We are talking packed-house-screaming-babies-running-children-blaring-TV all the time. I am quite accustomed to chaos.

When I moved to Washington to attend college, I embraced the dorm setting and constantly left my door open to allow a steady stream of my dormmates to enter. I was never really alone until I was passed out asleep, and there were many nights that I had little slumber or all-night-study parties, too. I love, LOVE to be constantly surrounded by people.

Cut to my first week in Japan: I don't know the language or culture, and I only know a couple of fellow teachers, so I am home a lot. I live alone. No internet, no cellphone. Deathly quiet. Alone.
See #7
I hated it.

At every opportunity, I avoided the apartment. I'd stay at work way too late, doing nothing, just to be around other people. I'd go to McDonald's or Starbucks just to hear other voices. I'd drive and drive and drive--forever avoiding the quiet and loneliness waiting for me in the apartment.

It's been nearly three years, and slowly, gradually I've adjusted. Recently, I've noticed that I even enjoy being alone. Maybe ... even... prefer it?  *shock*

I started thinking about this subject after reading an article a friend shared called The Freedom, and Peril, of Living Alone, and I realized that I've developed my own little quirks from living alone, my own Secret Single Behavior (the "single" referring to my living status, not my relationship case you were wondering) . 

Some of the behaviors will remain secret forever, but I am going to share a few of the less terrifying/repulsive secrets with you today.

Secret Single Behavior #1: Cleaning
Cleaning is not exactly my strong suit. I love tidying and organizing, but not cleaning. Living alone, with no one to do the cleaning for me, I've developed a system. What I do is put off the cleaning for a few days or a week, then take the whole evening, or the whole day, and devote it entirely to the task. I put on some music or a movie, clear my mind, and just slowly work my way around the apartment, cleaning everything. I don't talk to anyone, do anything, or think. Just clean.
So clean!
If I had a roommate or a family living with me, this system would probably never work, but living alone, I really enjoy it! Is that odd?

Secret Single Behavoir #2: Eating
I am terrible at cooking for myself. I enjoy cooking for others, and have dinner parties often, but if it's just me eating dinner at the end of the long work day, I am not likely to whip out the recipe book and start trying new and exciting dishes. Until recently, I would grab a piece of bread and a piece of ham and just eat them, not even bothering to add mustard or cheese to make a sandwich.  It was terrible, and I often found myself unsatisfied and snacking on junk food later, or just skipping the food prep all together and eating out. I've gotten a little better by making all my meals for the week on Sunday, but it's still a limited (and repetitive) menu. 

Secret Single Behavior #3: Doors
Some doors should be closed at certain times, but a single person such as myself might not normally need to worry about said doors. Sometimes that gets tricky when one does have guests, however, and I have to be careful to keep awkward situations from occuring. 'Nuff said.

Secret Single Behavior #4: Noise
One of the coping mechanisms from those early days of loneliness that has stuck with me is background noise. I am embarassed to admit that I still require a constant output of music or tv noise in order to bear being home alone. If I did have someone else living with me, I would hopefully be able to break the habit. In the meantime, I am never home more than ten minutes without turning on the radio or loading a tv show online, and the noise doesn't cease until the moment I close my eyes. Sometimes I even watch TV while I shower; I put my laptop on a chair in the next room and watch through the open door (see #3). It's a disease, I tell ya.

Secret Single Behavior #5: Clothes
It's hot here in the summer. Like, really hot.  And I don't use air conditioning. *Ahem*
Moving on....

Secret Single Behavior #6:Tidying
I mentioned in #1 that I prefer tidying over cleaning and what I mean is that I love keeping things in their places, even if that place is dirty. For example, the dishes go in the cupboard if they're clean and the sink if they're not. Sometimes they're not clean for weeks at a time, but as long as they are in their proper place (and not stinky), I don't mind. Clothes go in the hamper if they're dirty and in the closet if they're clean. Sometimes "in the closet" means in a healping pile on the floor of the closet, but it still counts.
See what I mean? Tidy but not necessarily clean. And I sure do love to keep my apartment tidy! Having people stay too long can be a little stressful for me because I have to constantly resist the urge to tidy their things. My college roommate understood this about me and gave me permission to tidy her side of the room if it got to me. I love her for that.

Secret Single Behavior #7: Photos
When I get really bored, or really creative, or wake up with really cool hair, I take pictures. Of myself. Sometimes in costume.
This miiiight be the most embarassing SSB of them all. Maybe.
So there you have it, a glimpse into my single-living life. It can be a pretty strange, somewhat scary place, but it works for me, and I like it.

If you live (or have lived) alone, what are your Secret Single Behaviors?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

10 Things That Have Made Me Giddily Happy Recently: 2012!

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve blogged, so I am going to make this update quick and full of photos. In keeping with tradition, this will be another installment of Things That Have Made Me Giddily Happy Recently!

(In somewhat-chronological order) 

1. Visiting Idaho 

Being home for Christmas and New Year’s means so much to me, and I am incredibly grateful that I could go. I felt especially blessed this year to spend time with my great grandma (pictured in the center) before she passed away. I love you, Grandma!

2.  Visiting Seattle
No trip back is complete without a trip to Seattle. I feel so vibrantly happy and alive when I am back with my friends dancing, eating, singing, playing, adventuring. I love it!

3. Javier
 My sweet man was supposed to permanently leave the island in January, but he was back within the month because of some work issues. He is disappointed to delay his career change, but I am super happy to have a little more time to spend together! :)
4. Cooking with Sarra!

Sarra and I have started weekly cooking adventures where we try to make some new delicious (usually Japanese) dish. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week, because I love spending time with Sarra and, let’s not kid, I love food. 

5. Sakura

Cherry blossom season has already come and gone here on the island. I attended two hanami festivals and an illumination in February, and it was a great way to usher in the spring.

6. Sunflowers

On the topic of flowers, there is also an annual sunflower festival in Kitanakagusuku. It was beautiful to see all those sunflowers stretching out around me. If only the sun had been shining at the same time. :) 

7. My Alarm Clock

This little bird has made my balcony its morning perch, and I often wake up to his trilling song. I love it so much that I went and bought bird seed to encourage him to stick around more. It seems to be working! 

 8. International Food Club!

Another food post, I know, but it fuels life and friendships so how can it not make me giddily happy?!  For Chinese New Year, some friends and I put together a fun potluck at my apartment. We all tried our hands at Chinese food, to varying levels of success, and it was so fun and delicious that we decided to make it a monthly event. 

Our second meeting was Thai food and the food people brought was even more delicious than the Chinese food. I made pad thai, and was pretty pleased with the outcome, despite the absence of tamarind paste.
 I also thoroughly enjoyed decorating my apartment for the occasion, and used the excuse to buy a bunch of thai style décor that I’ve had my eye on for awhile. :D 

9. Student Skits
Lady Gaga?
 I always reserve the last few weeks of Oral Communication class for skit. It’s probably my favorite thing to teach because I get to enjoy my students’ creativity, encourage them to be expressive, and shock them with my dramatic outbursts. ;)

10. Western World!!

 Sarra, our friend, Logan, and I learned of this magical place over a year ago but we didn’t make it all the way to Okinawa City to check it out until February. Now, we can’t stay away!! Sarra and I are absolutely obsessed with line dancing and two-steppin’, the atmosphere is really friendly and fun, and we can sing along to almost all the songs (I had no idea I knew so much country). We love it so much that we went twice last weekend and are already itching to get back this Friday!

So there you have it! A short, and hopefully not boring, update of my little life here in Okinawa. I hope to be consistent with blogging again, but my technology curse always seems to rise up and present some obstacle. I am finding new and creative ways around it, though, so keep your eyes open for future updates. :)

Thanks for reading!