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The Worst Is Never Over

There's a cut on my arm that has started to burn with the promise of infection. I resist appeasing the itch with my fingernails because I know that'll just make it worse.

I haven't been at a good place lately. I haven't slept more than 4 or 5 hours a night for the past several weeks. I'm antsy and nervous and irritable. I've started calming back down this past week, but bad things keep slapping me in the face.

Listened to Peter Gabriel's "More Than This" on the way home from the grocery store today and it was perfect for my mood. It in turn made me feel artsy; when I stop spilling the ugly parts of myself into this post, I'll get back to working on coloring in my latest project. (It's unfinished, but I had to give in to the temptation of splashing it with dark hues and soft, glowing light.)

I was on the edge of the edge last night and at 1am I started collecting the trash in my apartment to take it out for the Friday garbage crew and I picked up an offending paper bag on my kitchen floor and discovered what looked like a vast array of sesame seeds. Except that sesame seeds don't gather in groups in mysterious places. And they don't have ridges.

I have no idea what kind of eggs they are, but their discovery was just enough to tip the balance of my brain and send me screaming. The stress at work, the anxiety of moving, the rough patches of my relationship with my boy, the fatigue, the fatigue, the fatigue--they all bought round-and-round-and-round-trip tickets between my heart and the painful regions of my head and I could do nothing but scream.

It wasn't a running scream, it was a "stand and fling your arms away from your body in an impotent attempt to let the pressure escape from your body" scream. But I was too tired to make noise and too tired to pity myself and so I laughed in that old, scary way and cursed the occasion streak of water cooling my face, wiping it away, throwing things. I flung things out of the sink, across the kitchen: chopsticks, plates, knives.

How much poison will it take in this apartment until I am the last living thing standing? More than I've been using, I see. I poison my carpet every few weeks, I leave poison-pumping machines on 24-hours in my apartment (one in the main room, one in the bedroom), and it isn't enough. I doused the eggs with really potent poison and now I'm just waiting for them to hatch in rage and devour me in my sleep.

I'll be moving out of this apartment permanently in less than a month, and yet Satan couldn't resist just one last sweep. One final swing. Don't know why I was so surprised. Come to think of it, I wasn't really. More grossed out than anything else. Grub bug eggs. Millions and millions of eggs.

On a totally unrelated note, Colin Powell came to KG and gave a lecture in the High School chapel today. There were security checks and everything--but since this is Japan, they were a total joke--and you had to have a special ticket to get in. 400 tickets were available for non-school-related people; 2000 people applied for them. Murata-sensei managed to snag one, and she happened to find me in the crowd of 1000+ people trying to leave the chapel after it was over. (Then again, this is Japan and I'm tall and blonde--and I was wearing a bright pink shirt--so that may have given me away.)

Carolyn saved a seat for me. The title of the talk was "Where is the USA going from here?" or something like that. (「アメリカはどこに行くのか?」) It was an excellently written speech. I guess I'm used to Japanese speeches (there's no real organization in Japanese speeches, which constantly annoys me). Powell introduced his wife during his greetings, and Carolyn leaned over and whispered, "That's what I love about Americans. No Japanese man would ever introduce his wife, be that proud of her, or even bring her with him." The social commentary she makes, the palely masked reflections on her own life, make me ache for her. She's a good woman, I want her to be happy, but she's unwilling to stake and claim her own happiness. As much as I love her and love talking with her, she a reminder to me of what I don't want to ever become. I never want to be passive, to be tame. I'd rather be crazy than docile. At least they have medicine for the former....

The talk was good, although I wish Powell had talked more about the topic, and had talked about it on a more global scale--not just Japanese-American relations. I wanted to hear about what America plans to do in Africa, how America feels about the G8, stuff like that. Things got uncomfortable during the Q&A session when a student asked point-blank if Powell lied when he told the Security Council about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. To Powell's credit, though, he mentioned in his speech that being an American is not really good right now. People invariably think ill of you when you introduce yourself to the international community as an American. Walking to the school earlier that day, I wondered if he really understood what it's like being an American abroad. I'm sure he's surrounded by people spewing niceties, and I was happy to hear that he at least has some cognizance of how the actions of his peers are embarrassing us "normal" people.

He was only about 40 or 50 feet away from where Carolyn and I were sitting, and it felt pretty cool to be able to look up and clearly see a face relegated to the television.

In the middle of his speech, Powell talked about how immigrants are finally becoming more welcome in the States again, how it's easier than it was 2 years ago to get a visa, how America has reopened its doors to the world, how his own parents were immigrants from Jamaica. And all I could think was how lost those words were on all the Japanese people around me. This is a country that does its best to keep immigrants out. A country that makes it extremely difficult to get a visa. You can't get an apartment here unless a Japanese person signs your lease, "guaranteeing" that you won't skip out on paying your rent. ExCUSE me? I hate that so much. This is a country that treats all non-Japanese (and even part-Japanese) people as non-humans.

Kelsye told me at dinner tonight about an experience she had that was a similar slap in the face. I had one--yet another in a long line of reminders--earlier this week. At the high school, there's a book published by the PTA every year that has all the teachers in it. There are dumb surveys in there ("What would you do with 100,000,000 yen?") alongside each teacher's picture. Neither Carolyn nor I--even though we're full-time teachers--were anywhere in the book. Carolyn found me and plopped down near me onto a seat in the English Research Room and just vented when she found out on Thursday afternoon. The same obnoxious PTA moms who insist that we do stuff with them a few weekends out of the year failed to include us in the teachers' book. The weak, complacent women who made me play stupid games upon my arrival at KG and threw a farewell party for me apparently do not seem to understand that I exist. Nor that Carolyn exists. Does that mean that the CD they made of pictures of Carolyn and me teaching them how to cook chili on one of our precious Saturdays didn't actually happen? Even Kawai-sensei, who isn't even a real teacher yet, was in the book. I didn't particularly care, but Carolyn was incensed. She started ranting about how, even at the local supermarket, people working at the store will suddenly start stocking goods near where she is, to keep an eye on her and make sure that she doesn't steal anything. I've had the same thing happen. When she and I were at Yodobashi, desperately trying to spend all of our research money last year, a security officer followed us around the entire store. Had I been in Japan as long as Carolyn has, I think I would have thrown a fit, too, but--while open discrimination (overt or not) and misguided suspicion make me angry--I'm certainly not at the boiling point. Not yet.

Japan is fucked. It's running out of young people. The geriatric population is getting too large, and Japanese people are having fewer children, but it's so hard to get into Japan, and when you do, it's a huge pain in the ass, so they're not getting the numbers of immigrants that they need. I was talking with Dan and Andy about that the other night, and we were wondering how long it'll be before Japan realizes that it needs foreigners.

To be fair, I know gobs of Americans who are just as narrow-minded as Japanese people are, but at least I can argue my point with Americans, because I'm one of them. No matter how good my Japanese is, or how Japanese I become, it's my round eyes and time abroad that will always make me an outsider. I am a criminal by virtue of the fact that I was not born here. Even if I were born here, I still wouldn't be accepted. The Japanese even discriminate against themselves; it's ridiculous. Japanese people who have been abroad too long or act "non-Japanese" (whatever that means) have a hard time fitting into Japanese society.

It's like I told Kelsye: "I keep forgetting that I'm not a real human being. Silly me. When will I learn that I don't actually exist?" Then again, being ignored completely might be better than the suspicious glares or open stares or glass walls. Japanese women face a glass ceiling; foreigners in Japan face a glass cage. Sometimes it moves up and down, back and forth, but no matter where we go or what we do, we are always trapped, different, segregated.

I think foreigners often flock together because we all know what kind of shit we're all getting. It's like Dan said in his blog: we're all part of the same club. And it's true. I liked his analogy: if you were wearing a funny hat and you saw somebody else wearing a funny hat, of course you'd smile and say hi, since you know you're both part of the same club. Well, Dan put it better than that, but that's the general idea, as I recall.

Alright, enough bitching. I have a meeting tomorrow from 9:30am to 4pm, so I'd better get to bed soon. Tomorrow is going to blow. The best part? I'm not a real human being, so I can't contribute anything to it....

(P.S. Note the new icon. Took it with my cellphone. I'm not actually that thin--I took it lying on my back, and gravity is kind from that angle. It's my new favorite pic.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2005 07:40 am (UTC)
from Dan
This is some of the best writing of yours I've seen, and not just because it mentions me. That paragraph on Carolyn at the Powell speech was particularly potent.
Jul. 15th, 2005 07:55 am (UTC)
I like the shadows on your icon...you're pretty.
Jul. 16th, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC)
::blush:: Thank you. I like that pic because it has a sort of "40's Hollywood Star" feel to it. Except that I don't have ridiculously long fake eyelashes. ^_^
Jul. 15th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
I loved this entry.

I didn't know that the Japanese are so judgmental. I'd never considered such things, but it makes sense somehow. I'm sorry that you're treated in such an insulting way.
Jul. 16th, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

Yeah, the xenophobia here is rampant. It's pretty amazing. But who's going to teach them otherwise? I know things will change eventually--they have to or Japan will simply fall under its own weight--but the process is (and will continue to be) very frustrating for those of us caught in the middle.
Jul. 15th, 2005 05:28 pm (UTC)
Gaikokujin-ness as a funny hat you wear consciously
You should have split this entry into two (or more) entries. It would have made the impact of the "eggs" a lot more solid. Same with the foreigner bit.

As another foreigner in Japan, I try to ignore the glass cage. To me it's not important enough to affect my outlook on life. I know it exists, but it's a social expectation. I often tire of trying to change the "world" to accommodate me, but there's always a positive I could be thinking about, instead of all the negatives.

I can understand this Japanese society's thinking. Like most of the people here think they are in the Japanese middle class, there is a seductive complacency in thinking the rest of society is just like you. You don't have to do too much mental work.

I wrote some more but I decided to can it because it's hypocritical and not well thought out. It was something like a messsage to "ignore it and set a good example", but I can't remember the last time I myself demonstrated that doing my "outsider" things did any good.

In any case that's enough thinking of something heavy for this Saturday morning.

And you got me wondering... What are those eggs? Screaming is good, you should see me at karaoke...
Jul. 16th, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Gaikokujin-ness as a funny hat you wear consciously
Usually I have a good attitude when it comes to the constant discrimination, but it gets me down every once in a while. I know that one bad experience with a foreigner can ruin a Japanese person to all other foreigners, so I try to be exceptionally good, helpful, etc., but it's still hard sometimes. >_< I figure the hundreds of times I've given up my seat on the train or helped an old person open a door or whatever have all been nullified by the few times I've selfishly held on to my seat like everybody else or refused to duck out of somebody else's path when they should have ducked out of mine. Sigh.

Add me to your friends' list already!!! Then my entries will pop up automatically on your friends' page. You can also add my other account: nothingbutsky. It's my art account (if you're interested in my art).

I have no idea what those eggs are, except that they're bug eggs. I'm really hoping the poison is enough to keep them from hatching. ::shudder::

Btw, thanks for commenting on my blog! ::feels the love::
Jul. 16th, 2005 09:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Gaikokujin-ness as a funny hat you wear consciously
I just forgot! I still want to go to that anime store in Kobe! I still haven't had a chance to go, and now I can't remember where you said it was. Wanna go sometime before I leave the country semi-permanently?
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )