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First post and explanation

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DON'T PANIC! DON'T PANIC!

Last night, with the aid of a magnetic erasable white-board to write things on and a dictionary, I was able to carry on a forty-five minute conversation with my host father.

It spanned the religious beliefs of the Japanese, reincarnation, his personal views on superstition in Japanese society, Aum Shinrikyou and the subway attack, home visits that Japanese teachers pay to their students' families, similarities and differences between the Japanese and American civil servant systems, the polarization of Japanese and American society into increasingly rich and poor, the concurrent polarization of the education system, and the fact that 'fifths' is an unreasonably difficult word in English.

You're damn right I'm proud of myself.

I've finally started to become comfortable with my family. They've noticed the change. I joke more, I participate in the dinner conversation, I don't mind asking them to clarify words I don't understand (which is an enormous number most of the time, unfortunately, but they show saintly patience), and I know what I can help with around the house and what I can't.

I'm still a little distant around Kouichro, I admit because I don't want him getting familiar enough with me that he starts smacking me without provocation like he regularly does to his mother and father, and I don't talk much with Sakiko, though she seems to like me, but at the very least I can now tell my parents honestly when I've had a bad day and explain to them in detail why.

Up to the conversation with my host father, yesterday was a bad day, by the way.

Class didn't go badly at all, luckily. Advanced seems to be exactly the right level for me. Sometimes I can't answer the teacher's questions very well, but other times I know what she wants and I can give it to her, albeit slowly and with a textbook's worth of terrible grammatical errors. She hasn't yet had to elicit further detail from me in my answers like she sometimes has to pry from the other students.

When I told my family I'd placed into advanced level, they'd seemed surprised. I was disappointed, since I interpreted this to mean that they thought I should've been at a lower level, but later I finally made out that they thought I'd been placed too low. That was gratifying. The people who placed into High Advanced could talk circles around me even hungover, sleep-derpived, and with piranhas gnawing at their ankles, though, so I'm glad my host parents' expectations weren't fulfilled.

Anyway, class went fine, but after class things fell apart. I ate a good lunch with friends from the program and felt like walking a bit, so I followed Lauren to her home a few blocks from the school (I'm a good hour's bike ride away. Urayamashii yo.) Unfortunately, what I'd hoped wouldn't happen, did.

See, we were told in our homestay guides not to go over to other students' host homes unexpectedly, since this would put a sudden burden on the host family. They have to welcome the guests, they have to stop everything to make introductions, it's all very not-American in its formality. So I was just going to see Lauren off at the corner. But just as we arrived, the host mother walked out of the home and beckoned all of us over.

Here's the problem. I would've been able to function in this situation under normal circumstances. But I was surprised and I got nervous, my nervousness interfered with my speaking, my inability to speak compounded my nervousness, and I ended up stammering incoherently and looking like a monumental idiot in front of Lauren's host mother and father.

They invited us in very nicely, but I was about ready to have a heart attack from anxiety, so I mumbled out a really lame excuse that I had to go home since I lived far away in what I am absolutely positive is the worst Japanese I've spoken since I arrived here. It was humiliating. I was infuriated with myself. Even worse, I could've given them the real excuse that I'd promised friends I'd come back right away to meet them in front of the HIF center, but I was so distracted with my own awkwardness that I didn't remember.

From there on, mild annoyances piled up to stress me out. The internet connection crashed while I was trying to talk with people over E2 and on OkCupid, cutting me out mid-conversation and before I'd checked all the sites I'd wanted to. The friends who'd said they'd wait for me didn't (I ran into them downtown later). I got lost on my way home.

The straw that broke the izu's back was something that normally doesn't bother me. There really aren't any foreigners here in Hakodate. The only non-Japanese people I've seen in the city are either teachers at the Russian consulate we share our building with, or HIF students. So a lot of people stare at me, a very tall white man with light brown hair, as I walk by or ride my bike. The adults do so discreetly, probably assuring themselves I don't notice. The children do so blatantly. They point me out to each other and watch me pass, sometimes with their jaws dropping. I'm like the walking, not-very-well-talking spectacle of the century.

Often, especially if they're middle schoolers, they'll yell something out in English to me. Like "Herooou," or "How aru youuuuu!" or "Bai bai!" I'll say something simple in English back to them and they'll burst into fits of giggling. It's usually cute. But yesterday it wasn't. Yesterday I just sort of wanted to not stick out like a ulcerous thumb ready to shrivel up and die for, like, maybe five minutes.

So the kids would yell stuff at me in English as I passed and I just hunched my shoulders and biked faster. I can't tell if they're mocking me or not, but I know they don't mean any harm. Still, yesterday it stung a little. I felt homesick and lonely for the first time, not really because I wanted to go home, but because I wanted that feeling of not being a total and obvious foreigner that so pervades my life back in America.

Everything's alright though. After I took a nap and had the conversation with my father, I felt comfortable again and the homesickness dissipated. If I happen to be over at Lauren's again, I'll keep myself relaxed and make proper introductions. There's nothing I'll ever be able to do about being a foreigner, so I might as well just focus on being myself.

The weirdest thing

Another anecdote

I am rarely at a loss for words. Some might say I am witty and sharp*, others might say I am rude and sarcastic. I guess none of these opinions are far from the truth. Most of the time I manage to think before I speak, but sometimes I just shoot my mouth off. I often get away with saying the most outrageous things, though, and I put that down to my big, innocent, blue eyes. Looks can be so deceiving...

But every now and then someone says something to me that really shuts me up. It doesn't happen often, but occasionally. Yesterday, as I was out with some friends, I was reminded of the weirdest thing a stranger has ever said to me. Maybe the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to me.

It was some ten years ago, at my brother's birthday party. The party was being held at a restaurant, and after the main course we were supposed to get what we wanted to drink from the bar. Worked fine. The restaurant was located in a large room adjacent to the bar room, and since I was sitting very close to the door, I got to be the one to get drinks a lot of the time.

At the bar, by the door, stood a man. He looked slightly scruffy. Odd in the way he was cradling his drink, looking intently at me when I ordered. I did notice the way he stared at my face, but I pretended not to. I had to pass him every time I went to and fro, and the most convenient spot to catch the bartender's attention was, of course, next to this guy.

The third time I approached the bar, he talked to me.

"I like your lips." he said. I shot him a glance, but didn't answer. "I would like to cut them", he continued. Level voice. Just an observation on his part.

No, I did not come up with a witty or scathing answer. I grabbed my drinks and walked past him, into the restaurant. I must have looked rather baffled because my then boyfriend immediately asked what he had said to me. I just said "Oh, nothing much"; I didn't think a bar fight would be very appropriate, birthday party and all. So I chose to disregard, but I also chose not to get any more drinks... Nothing else happened as far as this weird man goes. Next time I looked he wasn't there (I saw him at the other end of the bar later, so I think the bartender moved him away from the door).

To this day, that remark is the single most weird thing anyone has ever said to me - and believe me: I socialize with some strange folks. What was odd was, that he didn't as much scare me as puzzle me. But I must confess to never having been back to that particular place again.

Why was I reminded of this incident yesterday? Well, a guy at the bar turned to me and said: "Men say all kinds of weird things to women in bars, don't you agree?" And I did agree, so wholeheartedly that it made him frown a bit, and turn to find a more accommodating barfly. But then he didn't know what I was thinking about...


*Well, my mom says I am, at any rate. You know... my mom

The ongoing saga of drama ensues (more than a year later mind you) between the ex and myself:
She wrote me -

So we have now become friends, almost to the same caliber of freshman year, not quite though. This is the point where I freak out because things are looking to be peachy for an extended period of time. Although I am sure you think things between us are fabulous and you would never have thought twice about it, I am still not very comfortable with the situation. My problem is that the more that we are friends and the more I am reminded about how well I know you, and in the back of my mind there is the thought that we work so well together and did as a couple. Every time I catch myself thinking this I remind myself that it cannot work for reasons that we have explored extensively. Yet I still feel slightly upset. I know you aren't the best at giving advice, especially for situations that you are involved with, but every other person I can think of to talk about this would tell me that I need to talk to you about it. So really any input would be appreciated. This isn't very urgent, I am not wallowing in self pity every second of the day. I am actually really happy most of the time. Yet there is that 30 seconds after every phone conversation or when I see you online or listen to one of your mixes that I am unhappy. Maybe I will just have to deal with that for awhile, but if there is anyway that you could think of, that would be great. I know that you are incredibly happy with Julia, especially since she is visiting you and all, but if you could please give this about 5 minutes of your time to think about, and if after that you can think of nothing it's ok. I really do love being friends with you, I just still need to find a way to be comfortable. I know this is heavy and I'm sorry to burden you, but again you are the best person to talk to about this.

Caroline

PS - You may notice that I wrote this at 2:36 am my time, yes I have been drinking (not much mind you), but I have been thinking about this for a little while so the time and/or the light alcohol is not reason to dismiss the issue.

My Reply -
Hey,

Sorry for the very delayed response, I've been pretty extremely busy making the transition into the next "semester" here and haven't had time for much else but finals. Because of this I haven't had much time to think about us either, so this may do a shitty job at explaining my thoughts. I'll give it a shot though. I really enjoy us as friends, I think you're great to talk with and a wonderful person to call upon when I need help. And yeah we did have some chemistry back when we first started dating, yet I felt that as we progressed we grew back into the comfort level of good friends and were trying to force the romantic aspect upon something that wasn't there. So I tried backing out subtlety but was caught up in emotions which kept me from being firm and in the end I came to hurt you. And for that I'm sorry, but I'd really like to get us back to that point at which we were before we started dating. That may take some time, but I'm willing to try because I remember how good of friends we were before.

Alright well I've got to get back to class now, I'll give you a call as soon as I can,

Dave

There is more to it all now that these have had time to settle, but my exhaustion over dealing with the whole thing is leaving that for another time...

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