Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gum, Coffee, and the Green Area

Speaking of reports, I should probably finish memorizing my Japanese speech. And I should edit and print my Creative Writing paper.

The last day of school before a week-long vacation, and they make sure before we can to said break, they break US first. Sigh.


First of all, two, count 'em, two things that I've found in Japan in the last week that I thought were neat.

First: GUM!

Looks like an ordinary pack of gum next to my pink mini stapler.

But inside there are pieces of paper in a separate compartment! But what ever for?!

I couldn't figure it out and looked it up online. The spare pieces of paper are for when you're done chewing your gum, and you want to wrap up your used gum and throw it out. OH JAPAN. You don't have paper towels to dry your hands in the bathroom, but you'll cut up pieces of paper and put them in a special compartment with gum for disposing convenience. 
But it is really very handy. Also the gum's pretty tasty, too.

 Next: Individual packs of instant coffee.
Now, these may or may not be in America but as far as I know, they aren't. It is essentially a coffee tea-bag.

You take out the pouch filled with coffee grounds and place it in a mug...

...Like so.

After you've boiled some water, you pour it into the little pouch and the pouch acts like a coffee filter in a coffee machine, holding the coffee grounds in but letting the water soak out, which, TA-DAA, makes coffee.

You pour more into the pouch until you reach the desired amount of coffee.

Then you take out the pouch and throw it away! Little instant coffee pouch is convenient for people who only want to make one cup of coffee at a time. The coffee is also tasty.


Part two is a post I wrote this past Thursday once I was done with exams. It's what I like to think is called, "Artsy," but it was really just me in writing mode and thinking mode at the same time.


After I finished my test, I still had about 25 minutes to spare before my next class, so I decided to go to the Green Area on campus.

The Green Area is…green. It’s a part of campus slightly separated from the school buildings and main street. Its prime attraction is the sun-lit grass field before a tall fountain, with some benches lining the woods that encompass the area.

I went to an empty bench and laid down on it, using my backpack as a pillow. I closed my eyes, letting the sunlight wash over me like a warm blanket.

Now, it might be because I had just finished my last midterm, or really it could be any number of reasons, but in that instant I felt so at ease. So relaxed. Lying on the bench with my face turned towards the sun, I felt a calm wash over me as my body was warmed by the sunlight. A calm I hadn't yet found in Japan.

This is where I’m meant to be.

The thought came suddenly and unprovoked, as many of my thoughts tend to do. In fact, that random thought processor of a brain tends to produce some of my best story ideas that I work off of. It never feels like I’m the one coming up with them, it’s like they form on their own, by chance.

This thought was one of those. I couldn’t help but agree with the little voice that told me I was in the right place.

This has happened once before, after I was accepted into the University of Wisconsin. I was sitting on Bascom Hill – underneath a warm autumn sun, yet again – when I looked over the city, glimpsing the capitol in the distance, and I thought to myself, “Yeah, this feels right.”

This feels right.

In that moment, laying in the sun on campus, it was like someone opened my eyes, slapped my face and said, “Dude, you’re in Japan!” It seems like a silly thing to be unable to notice on your own, but it’s true. It hit me with full force that I was in the country I’ve been working for six years to get to.

And when that realization hit me, panic and anxiety didn’t accompany it. It was me and a calm. Me and Japan.

Japan and I have had our ups and downs. 

Nobody is sure about their future. No matter what you’re majoring in college, how are you supposed to know at such a young age that’s what you want to do? Or that you’re capable of doing it? Or that you won’t end up somewhere else? It’s not uncommon for people to major in something and be part of a successful business somewhere else down the line.

But those kind of thoughts tended to send me into a spiral of anxiety. How much money am I spending to go to college? To be in Japan? And not only the money – the time I’m spending is valuable and – I’m not frittering it away, am I? Those kinds of thoughts. Those terrible, unpreventable worries that plague us day to day.

But laying in the sun, more than six thousand miles away from a vast majority of the people I love on this planet, I allowed myself to feel calm. A huge weight was lifted off my chest, lying in the sunlight. Where I realized that, no matter what the future held, I was where I wanted to be at that moment. That I had worked hard to get here, so I could finally say, “Otsukaresama.”

It was the kind of calm I imagine people hold with them before they’re about to die. Now, that may sound morbid to you (and anyway I've been reading Battle Royale so maybe it is), but it's actually a very soothing thought to me. As a writer, it’s something I’ve wanted to capture in a story many times. A place where any material worries about money and time disappear. Past that – all worries disappear because you realize they don't matter. Things you could have changed, things you couldn’t have, they all hold no importance when you’re about to die. It’s a realization I imagine you have in your last few breaths, when you realize that you can’t do anything more on the planet, so there’s no use in worrying about anything anymore. That tranquil last minute before death.

That’s how I imagine death, anyway. There are lucky and unlucky types of death, but I think that’s the lucky kind.

I was eventually torn away from the Green Area by the ticking of my watch, the minute hand pushing past the 12 and telling me I only had a few minutes to get to class. With a heavy heart, I left the Green Area.

But the warmth from the sunny spot was carried with me for the rest of the day.


Right, so this week is going to be FILLED with fun things that I will make sure to document once I get back from...Disney Sea! That's right! It's like Disney's version of Sea World. I'm going with Ayame and it's sure to be a blast. 

So I'll see you all when I get back!

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