one awkward step down one familiar hillNagoya, Academic Year 2009-2010

Now that everything is in it's place I find how little one understands from an image. Meeting the need to record all occurances and waves of thought would demand unpresedent time and thoroughly alter the half-hazard way of living. I have been developing my ability to cook almost entirely limited to Japanese cuisine, though I haven't written about it. Having been here since the oppressive heat of August's end, I find my body has grown too use to warmer temperatures and more dissatisfied with the cold. This metropolis of a country never seems to end. If I were to recount a common sight with lackluster you would probably understand more about my position than if you saw the segmented and limited time-frame of a photograph, which I am far too lazy to post here anywhere. Something so commonplace it's mudane, such as walking down the small mountain of a paved narrow street toward the subway system. While most streets are solid, this one was patterned with circular imprints left to imitate where horses once treaded. The appartments on the right vanish back into the dorm where I live and the outdoor stairway we all must take to get to our rooms. Those buildilngs actually come from the perpendicular road at the top of the hill, where every appartment has large glass doors leading onto a small balcony, children's clothes and parents long sleeve shirts and dress pants folded on their hangers visible from the hill.  On the left is a procession of two-story homes leveled and thus towering on the incline, protected by their stone wall that molds into their foundation. Collecting moss warms the stone, just as it does most anywhere. The mystery of Japan is how moss seems to take over the grass. It is growing even in the small drainage ways at the base of the stone walls, creating a gentle stream more akin to a creek than runoff. Steps seem to fall from so much higher, giving everyone a slightly off-balance ganter while they pass the cement power poles in their approach to the main road. The street is so narrow that two cars would have a struggle passing, and since sidewalks don't exist people just walk on whatever side they please, or straight down the middle. Many consider it worthy of off-time exercise, and even I end up short on breath if I walk my usual fast pace. Meet the main street and take a left, pass the Lawsons convenience store or stop in for your 'irashaimase' and bread or a bento meal, pass the bridal store where the previewing gowns change more frequently than you'd expect, and if you missed your light stop at the intersection, in front of the domoco store that I always mistook for softbank, though my first recollection of the place was while my host dad was asking if I wanted to try karate during my first commute to see the campus. There are usually a few people making this trek one way or the other. Be alert for the clear ring of a bicycle bell and proceed on as the road curves slightly left over time, the main hospital on your left being the reason you always hear the sirens, an empty lot on the right where the remains of an old building's wooden beams can be seen. Built into the fashion of a towering dirt mountain, it began growing slightly green sometime after I arrived but now shares none of the summer color we're all waiting for. Finally, next to the ever convenient post office you find the building into which the subway entrance was built, a passageway of quite a length and with several major turns. Most of the subways carry enough similarity, despite the differing tones for approach, so there is a homey touch to them. You live in the city and you'll spend a decent amount of time underground, from subways to restaurants and the many shopping centers built literally around the subway lines. I had dinner with my pastor's family and a few friends the other night. Being one of the few times I've visited someone's house for a dinner party, there were a few things I noticed well, such as the guest sitting arrangements being those furthest from the door and the use of the reverse side of the chopsticks for dealing with a guest's food. The meal was delicious and restored a love for experimental sushi that had become severely weakened by the American standard. We also got to play with the blender and making some pineapple sherbert. Spent a lot of time talking. Sometimes I am acutely aware when my company switches and I am the only foreigner in a group of inquisitive and lively company. You lose your back up if you can't translate yourself. I guess that shouldn't be a problem anymore, since I usually don't notice where my speaking partner is from and later can't recall in what language we conversed. Those vivid outsider moments are hardly standard. Currently I can only recall two such instances, and I could only compare it to a case of inverse  外人(gaijin) smash.
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1 Comment

  1. Melinda you do paint a beautiful picture for all of us who are strangers to Japan. You will have many things to teach us when you return. Please remember to take pictures of the visual nature to show us and plan on teaching us to cook. You could make a Japanese dish for Allison and Phil’s wedding.

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