I returned home from Birmingham, Alabama this evening, after very little sleep and a bevy of new impressions on a place I'd never visited before.

The point of the trip was, of course, to see Annalisa; I stayed at her place for 5 days, which was (as always) wonderful and full of good feelings and emotional connection. As a bonus, as it were, she showed me around the city that I'll be moving to in a few months. Prior to this past week I'd only ever driven through Birmingham on my way to New Orleans or Nashville or Atlanta. It's just what I think I need -- not too much excitement, no tourists, and a terrain that's foreign to me. Birmingham is all big sloping hills, forests, and various US/Interstate/state highways. Most of the buildings are fairly new and there's very little left of the city that's over 100 years old, which is nice, because I'm bloody sick of living in decrepit, falling-apart duplexes, which is where I spent most of my nearly three years in New Orleans living in. I don't care if I ever see another hardwood floor, high ceiling or chandelier ever again. Give me carpet, furnished kitchens and non-clawfoot bathtubs from here to eternity. Yeah!

I worked from Annalisa's apartment in The Summit last night, unbeknownst to my employers. I was supposed to leave on Sunday afternoon, but, you know... love stays late. In any case, staying up til 6:00am working and then having to get up at 10:00am, pack, and go to BMH four hours early didn't leave me with much headspace today. I've been in a sleeplessness-induced haze all day. After the hospitible discofever picked me up from MSY and dropped me off at my apartment, I managed to get about an hour and a half of sleep, which was filled with dreams of nothing other than kissing Annalisa, wonderful dreams which were broken by the alarm clock calling me to the office, which is where I am now and have been at since 9:00pm. I've still got five hours before I can finally sleep again. Hopefully 10mg of Ambien will ensure at least eight hours of unconsciousness.

Annalisa will be here for my birthday next month. In the meantime, it's going to be a long July.

doubt, its a powerful thing. It feeds upon itself too. Something had changed and i dont know what, but it's all different not spatially but meta-wise. maybe its just something that has come to an end and had its use, but it still hurts knowing that im not right about it anymore.
i dare not speak it's name for the fear that some how that makes it more real. it's possibly a change for the better anyway

Two years had passed since I had seen her last (before yesterday, of course). I was shocked. Two years! I hadn't even talked to her in all that time, even though we promised that no matter what happened, we'd always keep in contact and be best friends.

She was a couple of pounds heavier than the afternoon I saw her last, a week after graduation, just before I left the town to go to college, her hair was longer, and she was carrying a baby.

"Eva!" I called out as soon as I recognized her. "Eva, girl!"

She looked up in my direction, her eyes disoriented and a bit lost for a second before she recognized .

"Jenniffer? What are you doing here?!" She smiled somewhat uneasily, and I noticed her blushing.

"Oh, just visiting the family..."

An uncomfortable silence surrounded us for a couple of seconds that felt like eternity.

"Look, Jen, I gotta go... my husband's waiting for me..." her voice cracked.

"Well, I'll be staying at my parents', you still have the number?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'll call you. But I gotta go now, alright? Bye!"

We both knew she was lying.

She hugged me with her free arm, kissed my cheek, and got in her car, as I stood on the sidewalk, smiling sadly. She had turned into her mother, even after all the times she swore she wouldn't make the same mistake.

After she left, I shuddered and sat in the park for an long time, dreading the possibility that I might one day wake up and it'll suddenly hit me that I broke all the promises I made to myself and became exactly what I hate the most.

My basset hound had arthritic hips and a cancerous tumor in her mouth. She was put to death yesterday at the ripe old age of 13. May she be as smelly and comfortable below the strawberry patch as she was above it.

Before that my oldest freind's grandfather died of natural causes.

And before that, an incoming freshman I had not met died in a car accident on a steep country road. However, I did know his older brother by aquantence.

A few days after school let out, a good friend and beloved member of my small community of 4,500 died of a seizure off South Padre Island on a recon training mission with the Marines.

I have never faced so much death in such a small time-frame in my whole life. It's a little unnerving.

And on top of all that, my most recent node got nuked!

day fall down

weill in japan: day 08

The day started auspiciously enough -- despite a steady rain caused by an approaching typhoon, I got to the station and to campus just fine. Although my energy waned due to a lack of coffee, I got through class without any major problems. Then I went to the computer lab to take care of a whole bunch of tasks, including my e-mail. From there, I went home. My pad holder did not. Inside is my homework, my notes, and my passport. Damn it. I called the university from my destination station, and they told me to come to the office tomorrow morning. Hopefully they'll be able to reunite me with it.

here comes the rain

I had pointed out to my host family that although we were in Japan's rainy season, it had not rained beyond a mist since I arrived on July 3. Well, on Thursday, July 11, typhoon number 6 (aka Typhoon Shatan) will hit the city of Tokyo. Already, the city has been soaked all day with rains that ranged from mist to downpours. On television, images of the southwestern Kansai region showed entire neighborhoods submerged in flood waters. Thousands are in shelters now, and the damage is expected to be moderate in that region. I'm not sure what to expect.

In class today, our professor displayed the relatively unconcerned attitude about oncoming typhoons that many Tokyo residents seem to echo. Typhoons can be dangerous, he said, but they can also be fun. After having lived through many hurricanes, I personally find the idea of big rainstorms to be anything but fun, but we'll see how the locals handle it. On the news, live reports from train stations showed stranded commuters waving at the camera just as idiotically as on any American news broadcast. One elderly woman remarked that you can't change nature, so you might as well live with it.

Personally, I'm more worried about earthquakes. Japan is near a fault line, and every year thousands of earthquakes occur. Of course, most of those are too small to be detected, but there are occasionally low-magnitude earthquakes that can be felt in Tokyo. It has been almost 80 years since the last major earthquake hit Tokyo, but a devastating earthquake hit Kobe just seven years ago. A lot of people have a cavalier attitude towards earthquakes here, as in California, but I'm still not ready for that. If it starts shaking in a place, that's God's way of saying that you shouldn't be there.

entertaining entertainment

One of the big draws for a lot of people to Japan are the modern and not-so-modern forms of entertainment here. I've been gravitating towards the ever-present video arcades and electronics stores to try out games, while others prefer anime, manga, J-pop music, or the many other diversions out there. Unfortunately, I won't make it off the waiting list for the trip to a Kabuki play, so I won't get to experience the more traditional side of Japanese entertainment.

Getting back to gaming, my older brother Toshi is the resident gamer here, and earlier this evening he showed me how to use the fantasic Sony TV upstairs to play games. He started by demonstrating how to use the PlayStation, but I wasn't interested. There was another box beneath it.

Famicom

The Nintendo Family Computer, or "Famicom" for short, was marketed in the U.S. as the Nintendo Entertainment System. There are small differences between the two systems: the U.S. version could use third-party controllers, while the Japanese Famicom's controllers are hard-wired to the base. The Famicom's controllers are different, too: while both player 1 and player 2 have directional controls and A and B buttons, player 1 has START and SELECT while player 2 has a microphone (!) and volume control (!!). I didn't get to play any games that used this feature, but it looks impressive. Toshi has a collection of at least 40 Famicom games, including a couple of "copies" with plain-looking labels, and a couple of games for the Japan-only Famicom Disk System. It took a little legwork to get the connectors in order, but the system works! I am impressed -- most of those 16-year-old NES's I see in homes have long since passed into technology heaven. Even my Sega Genesis, which is only 11 years old, is taking a turn for the worse. Still, I'll enjoy it while I can. My big weakness as far as gaming goes is classic gaming. While computer-based emulators are fun, I still prefer the real thing wherever I can find it.

making contact

Whether it's over lunch or over morning coffee, social interactions are obviously a big part of my experience here. Meeting other students from all over the world is a great part of the fun. Fortunately, I've met a lot of very nice people. Not being in the dorm limits my ability to fraternize with other students, but at the same time one of the dorm students was lamenting that he doesn't get to speak Japanese enough in daily life.

As an international student here, I can now sympathize and identify at least basically with the concerns of international students back at Carnegie Mellon. Students who always speak in their native tongue, refer to their home country very often in conversation, and generally refuse to assimilate into their new culture are often criticized in the U.S., but every day my fellow students and I do the same thing. I probably speak a lot more English than Japanese every day. Interestingly, Japanese is practically an international language on campus. I'm surprised to hear people's accents manifest themselves when they speak English, but no accent is detectable in Japanese unless the person is really trying to speak improperly.

This Friday, I am part of a group heading to nearby Osawadai Elementary School to spend some quality time with 5th-grade students there. It should be an amusing experience, as the ICU students are looking forward to talking with local students while the local students feel the same way about us. Many photo opportunities abound, too.

This Saturday, Star Wars Episode 2 premieres in Japan, although I've already seen it twice and don't want to see it again. On the same day, "Pokemon: The Movie 5" premieres. That's right: there's a fifth Pokemon movie. The first one came out at least four years ago in Japan if I remember correctly, and the fad is thoroughly dead here. I was thinking about trying to get the special Japan Railways Pokemon cards, in the hopes that they will be worth thousands like the special ANA cards distributed years ago, but it's not going to happen. I'd rather be working.

The rains are pounding down on Tokyo, my passport is miles away -- hopefully behind a locked door of some kind -- and my host family has a Famicom. Things get better every day!

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