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水曜日, 9月 26, 2007

All in the name of higher education

I just signed up for Facebook. To explain folk groups. Seriously.


月曜日, 8月 06, 2007

Rainin' an' pourin'

So... after working for four days on the application letter to beat all application letters... after we arrived home last night, the laptop wouldn't start. No power will move to anything. This... is very unfortunate. We will get the data back, but not until Wednesday. Ah, a nice relaxing weekend shattering around me like a dream upon waking. We are crossing our fingers that the Mac can actually be repaired--it could be one of three cheap things to fix, potentially.

Update: After spending every moment practically since rising being really annoyed and grumpy, for some reason chatting on the phone with my mother-in-law and eating chocolate almond chocolate chip ice cream while doing so has improved my mood immensely. Task: letter, creatively revived somehow from the sleepy brain that produced it in the first place. Yossha.

日曜日, 7月 22, 2007


It was with a curious sense of heaviness in my chest, a kind of tightness, breathlessness, that I left the house today to go do some shopping. The utterly mundane—groceries. We eat pizza now at least weekly. It’s funny. Ironic. Frozen ones cost only half, even a third of the delivery price.

I caught myself wandering in my head, down the side street near our apartment with the temple whose bells used to sound so regularly, a gentle reminder of the time on the days when I refused to get up, sleeping in as late as I could, lounging persistently under the sheets until the futon refused to give me any more comfort.

And I realized something—I don’t wander much these days searching for hidden treasures, out of the way shops, or ancient shrines closeted secretly between a side alley and a beauty parlor. Part of it is of course due to the baby, and her rigid schedule—one cannot wander for hours, when a gap of an hour and a half is all that is allowed in leaving the house, and returning back to the quiet of the nursery again. One cannot wander freely when there are so many needs to be continually considered. One cannot indulge quiet reflection while gazing upon the passing scenery, while simultaneously checking to see that the baby has not dropped her juice, or if the sun is not too bright in her eyes. But perhaps the number one uncontrollable factor is simply that my own feet will not carry me so far—if there are wonders to be found, they are stretched out sparsely through houses that have been stretched as far apart as possible— wandering requires a car.

I find this to be a great disappointment. We lived four years relying on public transportation between cities, and either walked or rode our mama-charis for everything else. And after the first winter, skidding around on the snow, I largely gave up the mamachari for my own secure feet. Walking draws out the details, gives one an intimacy with the streets, its hidden corners, its shady groves, its mysterious grottoes.

For a time, I tell myself. For a time will I be constrained to this inactivity, this secludedness. But I am afraid, so terribly afraid that I have lost my vision, lost my feet.

I go out with a group of people I have never met before, and my husband, tired from a long day, stays home with the baby. We eat, we laugh, we go get coffee. The mood is relaxed, unhurried, unfettered by foolish things like schedules and responsibilities. For a moment, I remember what my life used to be. I recall life lived with an ability for impromptu adventure. But I have parked in a place with time limits. How very aware of me, to provide myself the means of escape should company become tiresome. It didn’t, though as I drove home, listening to a favorite song over and over again, I was struck by how very different my current circumstances are from my previous company.

In ten years, will I regard what I have written here now as infantile as I consider the things I wrote and did ten years ago now to be? Can I even acknowledge the immature past as a source of anything except lessons learned, and thank-god-they-are-done-with-now? And what of this present moment? It feels real enough, this yearning for mystery, and the persistent niggle that perhaps I should do more to reflect on the work that I swore to finish by summer’s end, and less time shielding myself from this state by creatively fantasizing. I like to think that’s how I charge my batteries. Maybe it is simply how I channel frustration.

So, I went shopping, and I did buy frozen pizzas. I also bought condoms, and felt my cheeks burn—as if somehow a person who has already borne a child has to be secretive about such things! But I spotted something in the deli, and with a sudden lightness, I had discovered a little something delightful. The tension fled. Afterward, with as little effort as opening a door, I got a video card at the movie rental place. I hardly even had to think; had I been putting it off so long for fear of miscommunication?

Good for grilling, it said. Not this time. My discovery turned into sashimi. And it was very, very good. And we watched a real movie, curled up on the couch together. It was a small, but somehow very satisfying deviation from the dull routine.

Handouzan still mocks me for my hesitance, the Yasugawa is listening to me sing the Anchor Song, and Sawayama draws me like a lure. They are far from me now, and at times, achingly so. The nighttime ride past Hikone-jo, changing with the seasons, I fly on the bicycle beneath me, and the lights on the dark water are magic; the trees wrap the place up and it is open to my imagination. I cannot forget these things. I will not.

But tomorrow, I may take up wandering again.

日曜日, 4月 01, 2007


The last few weeks have been very stressful, especially as we had no idea how the bills were going to get paid over the summer, and of course, the tightrope-walking anxiety about funding.

But yesterday, Security Husband landed a full time summer job, with potential extending into the school year. This week, he was told in passing that he is one of the students in most high demand to be an AI in the department. (He goes to VA week after next to defend the thesis. At last!! Wish him luck!)

That left me feeling a wee bit useless, but I received a letter today--I am an alternate for AIing in the fall, so that may pan out (as I know someone who will not be able to accept her AIship). Woohoo! I'm not so useless after all! It looks like I will also be taking Japanese in the fall, possibly, depending on the test, landing in the translation and reading course. Heaven help me. Language was supposed to be my "easy" course! >_<;!

And as of a few minutes ago, I have submitted my abstracts to present in the fall at the American Folklore Society annual meeting in Quebec (city), as part of a panel on children's folklore. I am breathless with excitement, like I have done something incredibly daring and foolhardy. Now I have to figure out funding to get me up there.

This means mega-planning for next semester, though I intend to do some gardening this summer, and taste the joys of full time child-care. Hanging out with baby will be more and more fun--she is almost crawling now.And I might have a reading list I can get through! I can scarcely fathom such things. Maybe we can even get baby into a normal schedule so she will sleep at regular times. Ideally, we can figure out day-care things, too.

But first, these other papers and research must get finished. Three weeks and counting??? Help!!!

木曜日, 3月 08, 2007

But if I COULD, I would.

Further questions... because I can't very well add them to the essay that now walks as undead among us... Q. To what extent does cross-cultural comparison figure into non-academic discourse? Is it used responsibly? Q.What affect do the theories and uses of CCC in academic discourse affect non-academic discourse and popular approaches to comparison? Q. Would it be correct to say that CCC is most often used to deleterious ends as opposed to positive ones? Q. Could Lévi-Strauss’s formula be taken and used to prove that myths expand spiral-wise in a Fibonacci Sequence?

土曜日, 3月 03, 2007


Obviously, perhaps, I switched my name back to something vaguely not mine. Yes, anyone with a care will find out who I am. Do I fear to write things I fear may be watched? Well... yes, to a certain degree. For example, there can be no sharing with you all out and abroad about opinions I may have about class, and I already edit out quite a lot so I don't just use this place as a public soapbox for whining.

But sometimes I wonder how dishonest it is not to let you all know out there, those of you who are reading this to stay actually informed about us, that sometimes stuff is tough, and there is nothing I want more than a patient ear to hear me go off on one.

Lately, things have been busy, and stressful, and difficult. In some ways, I feel like I hardly have room to whine. I have people I know who are balancing what seems like a ridiculous amount of work, and I feel almost ashamed for wanting to cry and whine about how hard my life is. I struggle with a lot of resentment for people who don't seem to get how time-consuming parenting is. Especially since baby isn't the type to just go down for the night. Especially when we don't have baby in daycare, and likely won't until she hits a year. How an hour or two a day is hardly time enough for getting work done. How I am actually a really damn good student, a good researcher... if only I have the time to do it. When I have an hour to sort my thoughts, I feel like I regain some of my sanity, my enthusiasm for my subject matter... I wanted very strongly last semester to not have any exceptions made for me. I got all my work in on time, no begging for extensions. (Straight As, for what it matters in grad school.) I am trying to maintain the same attitude this semester, largely because I feel like I have fewer excuses.

But it doesn't stop me from getting really frustrated. Whether it is giving my all for a class I am not taking for credit and getting my feelings hurt over teacher favoritism, or wanting to scream at my time limitations--how can I bloody research a seminar paper if I have virtually no time to go the library? ...No one ever promised me this would be easy. I am planning on going back full time next semester, and this excites and terrifies me. In a way, I will luck out--I am going to be making a third of the courses LANGUAGE.

I am going to take Japanese. I am going to love it. Then I am going to take CLASSICAL Japanese, and love it. And maybe at some point, I will stop feeling so homesick.

Because that is the other part. The feeling of disconnect hasn't stopped. We are making some friends here, and are attending church, though our involvement doesn't feel like much yet. And the few warm days have me thinking of nothing but Japan. I miss the sweet smell of ume on the breeze, promising spring. The thought of a springtime without sakura makes me want to cry, the same way autumn without momiji felt empty. But I can't reverse time, nor can I return to the spots I left--the space I occupied is no longer available. The situation has completely changed. If I returned, say, to Minakuchi, what on earth would I do there? I know every road of that town walking. Or Hikone? The plum trees in the mysterious garden I never asked to enter, in the historical samurai house... they must be starting to bloom now. All my former students are growing up, and I am not getting to see it. But I would not return to that, either. I yearn for a place that has no place for me.

Someone once asked me if I was homesick for Japan, did that mean that I thought of it as home? ... I wish it were that simple. Like all things, it is suffused with profound ambivalence. What I miss is not what I despised when I lived there. What I yearned for here is not what makes me furious and frightened when I read the news.

At night, often as I feed the baby to sleep, I am swept away in vivid nightmares, waking dreams that reveal to me my powerlessness to protect the tiny creature who is my greatest gift. Is this a lack of faith? At such times I feel that being separated from my child would throw me into complete despair, total desperation. Is this instinct nature's way of assuring the protection of young? Will it lessen in intensity as she grows older, more capable of protecting herself? If I succumb to the fear, I will only create in her a dependency that I do not desire for her.

I am beginning to doubt my goals again. I thought this was what I wanted, to be back in school, to be studying this. But sitting in class, abstracting things which are real into theories, I grow frustrated. Was this what I wanted? Oftentimes it seems like everyone else has the right background for this work, and I don't. I don't even really know what I want to research. I have my interests. But my insights feel juvenile and unseasoned. More than ever, the question of applicability burns in me. The academy seems caught up in completely useless things. Is this some throwback to the academy as a place for the rich to find topics to fritter away their time? I feel like I need inspiration, and I need it fast, before I reject this whole pointless enterprise with a "So what?" I wanted to understand things. People. Culture. But I don't see anyone trying to understand, only make material another step again inaccessible and removed.

日曜日, 1月 28, 2007

Some photos, at last!

Originally uploaded by t_k3ttl3.

We had a pretty crazy break (FAR too much travelling!), but now we are back to the routine of classes again! I am full of the best of intentions about posting more. But for now, pictures will have to suffice!