Writing Exercise 01: The Character

“People should feel more as they become older, not less.”

– Page One Adventures

character

Introvert. Too talkative. Emotionally repressive. Intellectual. Stupid. Passive aggressive. Inability to express emotions verbally. Socially awkward. Eloquent. Anxious in social situations. Perfectionist. Head in the clouds. Works too hard. Depressive. Creative. Cliche. Imaginative. Communist. Feminist. Republican. Pro-life. Pro-gays. Anti-life. Anti-gays. Mexican. American. Middle Eastern. Indian. Racially ambiguous. Catholic. Did not want to do her first Communion. Musically inclined. Auditory learner. Partially deaf. Needs glasses. Immature. Insightful. Needs to work harder. Easily bored. Should have been aborted. When I became pregnant with you, I didn’t need to be on my medication anymore. Argumentative. First child syndrome. Older sister. Messy. Authoritative. Hippie. Responsible.

I think of you as a child because you’re always saying you’re too cold. You argue like a child. You argue like a textbook. Stop arguing back. You were like my lawyer when your mom and sister jumped on me over the smallest of things. Good daughter. Political black sheep. Too emotional. Honor student. Average. Below average. Above average. Condescending. Down to Earth. We all thought you would be the one who’d go places and do amazing things. Geek. Nerd. Needs to settle down. Get a real job. Do what you love. Unrealistic. Likes to win. Team player. Over-achiever. Frigid. Blames others. Under-achiever. Assumes all the blame. Devil’s advocate. Too physical. Overly optimist. Too pessimistic for her age. Too direct. Doesn’t get to the point. Adventurous. Recluse. Don’t pick her for the basketball team. Tall. Uncoordinated. Agile. Ugly. Pretty. Big nose. Too thin. Too fat. Unhealthy. Athletic. Overly analytical, to the point of detriment.

Too liberal. Serious. Needs to learn to laugh. Too conservative. Laughs too much. Cry baby. Unsophisticated. Intolerant. Aloof. Best friend. The worst. Impatient. Always so patient with clients. Leaps before she thinks. Thinks she knows everything. Pick her for the group project. Ask her to lower her grade on the chem exam so we can all be graded on the curve. Sit next to her on the day of the test. Ask her for the answer. Freak. Theoretical. Why are you studying something like Politics if you can out-perform the majors in the Geology department who have been studying this for years? Not detail oriented. Why are you studying Politics if you don’t even know what you want to do in the field? No self confidence. Overly subsumed by the details. Does all the extra credit. Does enough to get by in class. Humanities.

Needs improvement. A+. B. C. D. F. In danger of failing. Four eyes. Academic excellence. Witty. Boring. Caring. Thoughtful. Over dramatic. Shares pencils. Reads a lot too much. Mean. Rude. Selfish. I hate you. Kind. Shy. Giving. Always there for others. I love you. Verbalizes complaints too much. Doesn’t say enough. Speaks her mind. Asset to the department. Asks management too many questions. Doesn’t like being told what to do. Goody two shoes always does what she’s told. She’s just always so cheerful. Why are you always so depressing? Failure. Successful. First baccalaureate degree holder in family. I’m glad I met you. What are you doing with your life?

This began as a writing experiment. What kind of character would I be if I had to write myself truthfully in a bildungsroman? Would I even want to be friends with myself? These are the echoes of characteristics/phrases that have been used to describe me or my life situation (as spoken to me by people I have met during my 23 years of life). I used family and friends. Teachers, professors, psychologists. From elementary school, junior high, high school. From college. Of course, from now as well. What we see as a positive trait and what we see as a negative trait will vary. Which is which?

So what is a character? What is a person? Are they simply a list of attributes, personal and physical, like the one above? Are they a spectrum  that slides around on a three-dimensional graph? Is there a point of no return? It’s been an interesting journey, going through those memories of all those years and all those fights and laughs alike but I’m no closer to answering the set of questions that I originally posed myself. In fact, I’ve started to ask more questions than ever before. About myself and about others. About my relationship with myself and my relationship with others. How I perceive and am perceived in return.

How do we maintain a semblance of authenticity in a world that is constantly expecting more and more, that rejects who we are, and in some cases tries to fix us. Or depending on how you view it, tries to help us become better versions of ourselves? At what point do we draw the line between societal expectations and being “who we are”? At what point are we responsible for others, if at all? When as an adult you no longer exude the brimming excitement and curiosity of a child, does that mean you’ve successfully matured? Or are you dead inside? And if at twenty three you’re still too excited to embark on an adventure in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a prefecture with nothing but nature and rice fields, are you a childish adult who needs to grow up? Or are you simply trying to keep yourself alive inside? It’s so easy for media, for books, for specialists, for everyone to say “Be yourself” without truly exploring the full ramifications of such advice. Being yourself is just as likely to get you passed up for a promotion as it is to make you the hero of the next Pixar or Disney film. But more importantly…

…At what point, is it enough simply to be?

Advertisements

Winter Kindness

Every Tuesday night at the local grocery store in Gonohe, Mister Donut comes to set up shop for us poor inaka folks. Like clockwork, every Tuesday before kendo, I’m lined up for groceries and a doughnut (or three). By now my internal clock has a Misdo switch; also it’s the only time I seem to talk to adults outside of work hours. Chatting up the lovely people at Yokomachi is my favorite Monday through Friday activity, most of them are the parents of my lovely pupils… because, you know, inaka Japan. Everyone is related to everyone… or knows everyone. But I digress. In any case, I also chat up the lovely lady from Misdo, too. By slow degrees, we’ve come to expect each other at Yokomachi every Tuesday at a given time. Pleasantries exchanged, money handled, donut (or three) delivered.

Except, this Tuesday we deviated from the usual how-do-you-dos. She asked me, for the first time, about my hometown and if I was going back for the winter.

I am not.

She expressed her regret, especially since I was from such a warm place (SoCal, for the win!), and happened to glance over at the sole remainder of that day’s special sale: a single Misdo Christmas doughnut. She glances around, slips it into the bag, and in true Japanese fashion makes a single comment:

“You may not like it, but by all means please have this.”

The tears just about started to pool around my eyes. A Christmas doughnut. A Misdo Christmas doughnut. With sprinkles and a cute paper character. On the house.

I have never 感動ed as much as I did that day. I can’t even remember how many formal thank yous I said, just that I was really touched by her winter kindness.

Misdo lady, you are my hero *salute*.

And for the winter part of this Winter Kindness post… SNOW! In all it’s glory! That sad looking snow blob you see is a snow bear. And he’s not sad! He’s just… derpy 😛 Made him with my students and we had a three person snowball fight with no clear winner.

Breakfast with Chopin + Vegetable Frittata Recipe

breakfastwithchopin

This morning hour is dedicated to the delightful music of Frederick Chopin and a simple vegetable fritatta recipe adapted from the more traditional tortilla española. The most classic of breakfast foods with one of the most romantic composers makes for a perfect rainy morning. For me, classical music has always been a source of great comfort: it’s what is left after there are no more words in any language to describe the strong emotions that remain. Compositions are moments frozen in time and immortalized in written form that bridge the gap between the past and present. It’s quite sad that most people think of classical music as dull… at one point this music was quite revolutionary and exciting! It was fresh, bold and daring!

As a musician and amateur composer, I can’t help but feel connected to the composer as well as to all the other musicians who have played the same piece, whether I perform it myself or listen to it for the first time. The same can be said of any music, really, though for me I feel that connection more strongly in classical music. Perhaps it’s because as a classical music enthusiast it’s so rare as it is to find someone as excited as I am about this genre… we’re a dying breed.

As for cooking, though, the technological revolution in mass communication has made it even easier in the past few decades alone to disseminate a world of culture and tradition with a few clicks of a mouse. Someone’s authentic Italian, passed-down-through-the-generations recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese might end up on my dinner table here in Japan one night. Metaphors and poetics aside, it is quite beautiful to feel that human link and know that somewhere out there someone might just be serving your version of apple tarts for a dinner party and so on, that a little bit of you could touch someone else’s life if even for a moment 😉

Here’s to good food, good music, and to the human connection! Cheers!

SIMPLE VEGETABLE FRITTATA

INGREDIENTS
3 eggs
4 small potatoes, sliced into thin rounds (with or without skins)
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, chopped
One small bunch of kinoko mushrooms, chopped
Olive oil
Dried rosemary for seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
(Optional: 1/2 cup cheddar cheese for garnish; Julienne bell pepper slices; sun dried tomato; fresh basil, chopped)

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the olive oil. Fry the potato slices in batches until they turn gold. Salt and season well on both sides as you fry, make sure they are well cooked through before transfering the fried potatoes to a separate plate and pat dry the oil off. Take three eggs, beat them well to form egg mixture. Add a dash of black pepper for seasoning and some salt to taste. Keep on standby in the fridge.

2. Once completely done with frying, the next step is to heat the garlic, onion, and mushroom until soft but not completely cooked through. At this point, quickly arrange the potato slices in scalloped tiers.

3. Pour the egg mixture over potatoes. Make sure to tilt the pan so that an even coating will cover the potato tiers. Cover the pan and cook on high for five to ten minutes. Flip the frittata face down to brown the top. This should take about three to four minutes. Use your spatula to gently push down against pan.

4. Transfer to plate, face up, and serve immediately. Goes well with home made tomato salsa or creamy guacamole (neither of which I made this time around but it tastes amazing on its own as well). The optional veggies all taste so well when combined in this recipe but I don’t have access to them at the moment. Living in a small town has its down sides: fruits and vegetables are not always available as consistently as they are in markets in bigger cities, where demand pushes availability.

frittatanflowers

How to Pack for Long-Term Travel Part I

suitcase_packing

introductionIt takes many types of people to make the world go round but to some extent or other we are all travelers by nature: curious, adaptable, resourceful, and of course survivors. Our species has spread and evolved across every continent and settled in as varied a geographic setting as any that can be found on planet Earth.

But these days we travel more so for business or pleasure than for outright survival, still travelers we remain: from the casual weekend family visit and the cross country road trip to the international months-long backpacking affair and the long-term immigration settling. Unlike our medieval ancestors who were more likely to be born, raised, and die in the village/town/city of their birth, current generations are uprooting more frequently than ever before in history. Mainly for economic reasons (ironically, I cannot find a job in the country that prides itself on perpetuating the ideal of the American Dream even with a degree), which make experimentation with international unions quite popular because they facilitate this kind of uprooting for the citizens of participating such as in the case of the European Union. As such you are most likely reading this article because you are contemplating making such a move yourself and don’t know where to start. Welcome!

This article will be focusing on travel packing for upwards of a year or more but is easily applicable to the semester study abroad student stint. It’s broken down into three easy steps that will cover the initial essentials of packing and how to choose what you will be taking abroad with you.

resesarchPut those research skills to good use, my lovelies. Find out everything you can about your destination: geography, geology, and the highest/lowest/average recorded temperature are all great places to start. Become a fluent converter of Celsius (also known as Centigrade in some countries) and Fahrenheit. You may even want to look up humidity levels because dry heat and humid heat are two different situations entirely. Trust me. As a native Californian I thought I could handle heat, after all the running joke in this state is that California has only two seasons: summer… and not summer. That is until I found myself in Tokyo’s muggy, typhoon mess and between swimming in my own sticky sweat vs weather that was twenty to thirty degrees hotter but drier, I choose the latter any day. So… prepare yourself! Even when you think you’ve got something, turns out the differences might surprise you, too.

For those going to countries with significantly colder weather: although you may feel like investing in TWO suitcases just to accommodate all of your winter regalia, first stop and investigate what options, if any, your new home country will have for you. Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase it on location than it would be to pay charges for extra check-in baggage. In the event that your new home country will not be able to carry your size (Japan, if you’re a taller/larger/wider American female such as myself – woefully a comfortable medium in USA sizing is an extra large over there) just buy the jackets/boots here and have them shipped in a box. This will save you packing headaches down the road and can be a nice care package from and to yourself 😉

inventorySo what’s in the closet? Once you’ve established what kind of climate you will be up against, the next step is to take stock of what you already own, what will work, what won’t, and what you’ll need. This is the part where people start tearing out their hair. When you’ve settled down somewhere for a comfortable amount of time and have a space of your own that you think of as permanent, you tend to settle down and accumulate stuff. And fast. This goes for furniture and living utensils as well as clothes. Rarely, if ever, do people take a mass inventory of their life’s accumulation for the sole purpose of tossing it out. Be honest, when was the last time you went about doing this?

However, this is also an amazing opportunity to donate all of your unwanted items: thrift shops, women’s shelters, religious organizations, and the Salvation Army will always welcome your used and well-loved items. If tight on cash yourself, you could always opt for the other route, which  is to sell your items as “vintage” on Etsy or eBay, but try donating what you can first to those in greater need than your own.

Start a list, draw it out, sticky notes… whatever helps you get organized.

weedingResearch. Check. Inventory. Check. Now comes the fun (or not so fun, depending on how indecisive you are)! Time to choose what to keep and what to give away/sell 😀 Below you will find an infographic from this neat website which is geared towards simplifying your closet weeding and it gives you a point of reference for what you can keep and what should get thrown out. Generally speaking, I love the flow chart style and it works if you promise not to make special allowances for a single item of clothing. Okay, well, maybe you can give yourself up to three passes but only those three >.>

Once you can mentally take a picture of everything you’ve got and everything you will most likely need to take, this will make it easier to purchase the appropriate type and amount suitcases for your trip. My rule of thumb is pack for a week and a half. Do your laundry more often and accumulate clothes over there as needed. It is astounding how little you need to actually survive. Most suitcases can’t carry much more without going over the weight limit so check with your airline and weigh as necessary.

closetweeding

 

And those are the first three steps to packing for long-term travel 😀 Next we’ll cover choosing suitcases and the lost art of packing them!

Till the next post!