Friday, December 31, 1999

Due to bronchitis and general ennui, the new year has been cancelled. Please stay tuned for further developments. (If only it were that easy....)

Monday, November 29, 1999

Thanksgiving was this past Thursday, but because I was so busy with my totally fabulous life, I didn't have time to count the things I'm most thankful for. So here's a short list: I am thankful...

...that I don't live in El Paso;

...that I don't have to drive to El Paso again any time soon;

...that I am an American citizen who doesn't need to go to Juarez, Mexico, to renew a student visa;

...that I didn't have to work on Wednesday so I could go to El Paso/Juarez;

...that I didn't have to work on Thursday or Friday so I could recover (sleep-wise) from my trip to El Paso/Juarez.

Only 32 more days until the last year of the millennium begins.

Monday, November 22, 1999

Just a quick note to say that I'm doing well. I've been working with several nonprofit organizations, helping with training representatives to build web sites and organizing this beast of a project.

I went to the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit yesterday at the Dallas Museum of Art with several friends. My fondness and respect for her work grew even more.

Monday, September 27, 1999

I read a really interesting and meaningful book recently: Mark Fritz's Lost on Earth: Nomads of the New World. Even though the majority of the people in the text were escaping genocide or starvation, I felt somehow *linked to their narratives.

I, too, have been *lost on this world after the end of the Cold War. I was raised on a farm in East Texas. During all the time I was growing up, I heard about those awful Russians and godless Communists. Somehow I never managed to believe that those people could be as evil as my "educators" claimed. (Of course, because of my ties with Poland, I now *know just how evil and godless the Russian Communists could be. But that's a different story.) I fell passionately in love with Russian composers while studying music at college: specifically Shostakovich and Khachaturian. When I transferred to a university, I specifically chose one where I could study Russian language and culture. I wanted to be one of those really interesting people who traveled to the unknown frontier to "see what he could see." I just knew there had to be something different than what we in East Texas knew.

Everything was fine: Gorbachev was making lots of press, we had a few defections, martial law, the Cold War seemed to be a bit colder. But then 1989 happened: free elections, Solidarity, the televised revolution from Romania, pink tanks, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember standing in line one January morning waiting for financial aid with other Soviet studies majors, talking about the television special "When Dictators Fall" (or some such equally sensational title) which was broadcast the evening before--the one that kept showing that alley in Bucharest where Ceausescu and his wife were assassinated. We somehow knew that our degrees would become an anachronism before they were even awarded. We were becoming more obsolete with every news report.

When I did graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in 1991, there was no place for me to go. That is to say, I was accepted into the Peace Corps and flown to Warsaw to educate the heathen Poles about the values of consumerism. I didn't even last until the end of the three-month training period. No longer could I allow myself to be a tool of the neo-colonial, neo-imperial evil empire and its reigning Dark Lord of Psychological Oppression (George Bush). That's the closest I ever got to what I was looking for. But my youthful idealism prevented me from even seeing the possibility and potential of my experience in Poland at that time. I had to leave. Damaged and cynical, and eight years later, I'm teaching myself Russian from scratch. And still trying to find my lost self on earth. So I recommend this terrifically written book. Now that you know my melodramatic narrative, you should read about *real people who don't have American passports or return tickets back home.

Monday, September 13, 1999

Things are beginning to adjust to the spaces around me. Or rather, I am beginning to adjust to the space between things. I do feel more *at home these days, while still longing to be somewhere else. The time I've spent with my three cats this past month has been incredible: I miss the giant mammals terribly when I'm away. I could easily sit around my apartment for hours a day and just watch them sleep. I guess I'd make a scary person someday.

Monday, August 30, 1999

Howdy from Dallas. I've been back in Texas for almost two weeks now. Life is crap ... or at least it's easy for me to believe such a thing: I'm unemployed and horribly busy updating my resume and letters; I miss my friends in Japan and Europe; and the Texas summer has become unbearable to me (I'm already planning to shave my head just to cool off some).

Friday, August 13, 1999

This entry is most likely my last from Europe. The past few days have been really great. School ended. I had a good enough view of the solar eclipse. I went to a really great techno party with my Ukrainian pals. I'm really looking forward to my 24 hours in Amsterdam, starting Tuesday morning. And I can't wait to visit my friends this weekend in Piaseczno (south of Warsaw). Unfortunately I'm absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep. I've been getting to bed around 1:00 for the past two nights and having to wake at 7:30. That's certainly not enough sleep for someone my age! If I'm not careful, I'm going to start looking like other people my age.

Saturday, August 7, 1999

My last week in Lublin begins. Today I've been doing touristy things such as taking lots of photos and exploring dark passageways in walls of the Old Town and walking through the most incredible Byzantine chapel at the castle. I still need to run to the train station and take some shots. And then I'm meeting some friends from the language program for pizza at Pizza Venezia, the best pizzeria in Lublin. Tomorrow I'm off to Majdanek, the second largest Nazi concentration camp (after the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex), on the outskirts of town. I'm really looking forward to leaving language school next Saturday. My experience with my classes has been very disappointing. I'm not satisfied with either my grammar or my conversation courses. Everything else about this summer has been incredibly good, except the fact that I'm almost out of money. Saturday I'll go to Warsaw for a few days and then take a night train or bus (depending on which is cheaper) to Amsterdam. I fly from Amsterdam to Dallas on the 18th.

Immediately upon arrival I have to find employment and finishing writing an article for publication. I can't wait to see my kitties and Stephen in our apartment in Dallas. I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR, HOWEVER, THAT THIS WILL BE MY ABSOLUTE LAST SUMMER IN TEXAS. Of course, next summer I'll probably spend in some place hotter and more humid.

Wednesday, August 4, 1999

I've finally made the decision to return to Texas within the next two weeks. I am looking forward to being *home with the kids for a while, listening to my fabulous music collection, playing the piano for hours a day, lifting weights again, eating good food, and oh! looking for a job so I can maintain my porn habit. I'm not looking forward to the August heat, especially since the summer here in Poland has been so mild.

My weekend in Warsaw was really great. I met my friend at the Marriott, we checked into the hotel Dom Literatura (across from the castle in Old Town), toured the castle, walked to Lazienki Park (about an hour south), went through a contemporary art museum near there, drank duzo piw (a lot of beer), walked/stumbled back, cleaned up and rested, went to a jazz concert in the Old Town Square, ate a really nice meal, listened to street musicians, then went back to the hotel to sleep around 10:30. Sunday wasn't as exciting or interesting, but we did have a nice visit over a few Polish beers. He got on a train to Moscow at 14:00 and I left to return to Lublin about thirty minutes later.

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

I'm halfway through with my five-week language course. It already seems like I've been here for months because of the intensity of the program. I've made some really great friends and am staying busy studying Polish for hours everyday. I'm looking forward to visiting friends in Warsaw this weekend, and I hope that I can make the Madredeus concert at the castle ruins in Kazimierz Dolny nad Wisla on Sunday evening. I started loving that group when I saw Wim Wenders' Lisbon Story in Krakow already three and a half years ago. Their music had such a profound affect on me after my sorta nervous breakdown at Birkenau.

I didn't get the one job I applied for in Europe, so now I'm leaning toward returning to Texas after school ends around mid-August. I really don't want to give up being/living in Europe just yet, but I would love to just sit at *home for a while and kind of collect myself. And I need a job.

Saturday, July 17, 1999

Witaj! I've already been in Lublin, Poland, for a week now, where I'm taking intensive language classes at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). I spend almost forty hours a week in class. Even though I'm in the most advanced class because I did really well on the entrance grammar exam, I feel like I really can't speak very well. But my reading skills are better than I first thought, since I haven't had much problem reading the newspaper.

It's so nice and strange to be back in Lublin after three years. When I was here before, it was winter and there was nothing but snow on the sidewalks and grey clouds in the sky. But now the sidewalks are lined with cafes and are crowded with people shopping, browsing and wandering around Old Town. I feel at home here, in a very weird sort of way. And I'm surrounded by other expats, lost souls and intellectuals who have found their way to Poland this summer to study the lingua franca of Central Europe.

Friday, July 2, 1999

Finally a Rainy Season worthy of its name! It has basically been flooding in Shimonoseki (if not all of the Chugoku Region of Japan) for several days now, with the occasional sunny and humid day thrown in to break the monotony of rain falling from the sky.

My week in China was incredible. I made some good friends and great contacts; saw some amazing sites (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Lama Temple, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace); danced for hours at a great disco (very much like something in Western Europe or a really great club in America except with uniformed soldiers around the perimeter); ate the most delicious Chinese meals of my life; barely slept; was totally mentally as well as physically exhausted; and enjoyed almost every single minute I was there.

Last night I was a bit glum. I've been trying to get together with some friends before leaving, and still I have not been successful. After having my plans for last night cancelled, I decided to just sit at home and pack my boxes. I felt better after taping up a box and filling out the customs declaration form.

Tonight I leave for Hagi after teaching my final classes at the university. Since it's raining, the beach party will probably be moved to a karaoke bar. I've been in Japan for almost two years, and tonight will be my first karaoke bar! I've been practicing my songs all morning. Unfortunately I have to return to Shimonoseki first thing in the morning to attend my farewell lunch with my boss and a few other workers at the university. I'm hoping to have a good dose of "morning head" (Japanglish for "hangover") for my luncheon.

Monday, June 21, 1999

I'm at the First International Conference on Auto/Biography listening to a twenty-minute speech turn into a forty-minute speech in Chinese with English interpretation. It's hot and humid in the room, and the PA system hasn't squealed in a good fifteen minutes. So I guess I'm having a good time.

I'm meeting a lot of interesting people, scholars from China, America, Canada, South Africa, Germany, France, Australia, the U.K., Israel and India. I feel like such an imposter, though really not any more here at an academic conference than during my daily life. In my space, my personal zone even, I am always the Other, the outsider: gringo, Gentile, gaijin--the person at odds with his environment as well as with himself.

Monday, June 14, 1999

This morning I had a continental breakfast: bread and cheese with a strong cup of coffee. If I would've had some fruit jam, a raging hangover and an extra ounce of self-hatred, it would've been a Swedish breakfast. (I've been laughing since 7:30 this morning just thinking about writing that sentence!)
My class this morning was pathetic. I really feel that my students are getting worse, and I'm no Ann Sullivan (i.e., a "miracle-worker"). Only one more time to meet this class again. Only two more meetings for my other classes. (Yeah!)

Saturday I finally caught the commercial that was filmed for Baiko. Enrollment has been dwindling for years now; one of my freshman classes has gone from over 20 students to only 10 in only two years. The ad was about five minutes long. For at least four of those minutes, the only thing that was mentioned was the fact that one can study baton twirling at one of the high school campuses! That's sure to bring in the crowds! (In Japan, that is not considered irony but rather established fact.) The foreigners were mentioned for the remainder of the ad, but thankfully I was cut out of most of the shots. Only my ear/earring and the back of my wrinkled shirt were shown. How am I ever going to get the big Japanese ad agencies to offer me a contract unless I get more camera time?! Can't you see me as the next super *gaijin model of Japan? I'd even consider staying here if the yen was big enough.

Saturday, June 12, 1999

I should be writing the conference paper that I will present in China in a little more than a week. But of course I am sick and unable to focus, especially after spending almost 1 1/2 hours writing and replying to email this morning. I have all day to sit in front of this computer, though, so hopefully I'll have a few pages to show for it at the end of the day.

The damn foreigners (me and my fellow American colleagues) were scolded yet once again Thursday for not properly segregating the burnable and unburnable trash. Apparently the bored housewives of Hatabu were snooping through our trash bags again. I do seriously think proper waste disposal is important, but a few gaijin not following the gomi rules is *not going to make one bit of difference in cleaning up the horrible pollution of Japan. And what kind of useless life does one have to have in order to snoop through foreigners' trash twice a week? And then to tattle to the university president? If they can't simply write us a very simple note in simple English to take care in packing our trash bags, they shouldn't have studied English a *minimum of five years in school! And as far as I can see, they should be more concerned about cleaning up the unbearable trash and pollution all over their own fucking country before they start snooping through the foreigners' bags to see if a bit of cellophane is in a bag of papers. It was just one more xenophobic, racist, ignorance-motivated thing directed at us over the past few weeks. Another example is the sign (in English, of course) posted at the high school across the street from our apato basically reading, "Foreigners keep out!" Have I said how glad I am to be going back to Europe where I'll blend in with everyone else and won't be the butt of stupid fear and anxiety from a village of racists?

Tuesday, June 8, 1999

I counted (on my fingers and toes and a few other body parts!) last night the number of days I have left in Japan: 23. That does not include the seven days I'll be in China for the conference (June 20-27). I am so looking forward to returning to Poland. It's already been three years, and it's been almost a year since I was in Europe (London). At this point, after two years in Japan, I freely admit that I am a Europhile.

Saturday, June 5, 1999

I'm at Mister Donut ("Yes! Healthy." is the new slogan campaign!) at the Sea Mall, listening to the last lines of Tears for Fears' "Everybody (Even Frankie!) Wants to Rule the World." I'm here by default: I went to the junior college so I could work (type exams, look for my next job, have cybersex), but the entire campus was locked shut. Ugh! So instead of getting entirely bent about it I began running errands to the post office and the travel agency. Since all roads in Shimonoseki lead to the Sea Mall, here I am at my beloved "misudo" drinking a chocofudge shake (soul food, eh?), avoiding the eyes of all the passersby since their gaze tends to concentrate on all foreign objects (i.e., me!) and listening to hits from the '80s. Perhaps this is the closest to civilization Japan can offer. Legend has it that there are Mister Donuts in San Francisco. I can't imagine. There are several red and green banners overhead reading "San Francisco Chinatown" and asking this very important question: "Could some of San Francisco's fog be caused by the steam from dim sum?" No, that is not *my typo! I dare not read the fine print.... I think the time I've spent at "misudo" has been my most productive in Japan: reading, writing, or just people-watching. Alas, all good things (even my chocofudge shake!) must come to an end. I shall miss you, Donut-san!

Tuesday, June 1, 1999

Yesterday I had a wonderful time with my sensei. He talks nostalgically about the American occupation after WWII, eagerly speaks in English about any topic and still remains physically active after his several decades! We were talking about fruit, and he asked me about loquat. I had never heard of the Japanese word (biwa), nor had I heard the English name. So he immediately jumps up, drags me and a Japanese woman out of his office, over the lawn, behind the tennis courts, and proceeds to practically climb the loquat tree, looking for a ripe one to offer me. It's yellow and looks like a small apricot. Its taste is a mixture of sweetness and sourness. My sensei was a bit disappointed, however, because the crows had devoured most of the fruit from his *secret tree.

I love the crows in Japan. They are larger than the American or European versions, and they have this terrific rasping caw that usually wakes me up in the morning, especially on trash days. In the park where I often jog, there are flocks and flocks of them picking through the trash, stomping and hopping about, screeching at the Japanese. I know how they feel.

I did a little bit of stargazing last night after my friend left. It was difficult to see too many stars, though, because of the (almost) full moon. I recently *discovered Cassiopeia in the northern sky. I stare at it often now, but it has not replaced Corvus the Crow, Virgo or Andromeda as my favorite constellations yet.

Monday, May 31, 1999

    My Memorial Day was rather forgettable ... at least so far. In Japan there is, of course, no such holiday, so it was business as usual, teaching my two classes.
    I'm really tired. I'm starting to worry about my health. Though I've been working out at a gym, I'm not really taking good care of myself physically or emotionally. Even after my second pot of coffee on Friday night, I only felt half-awake.

    Tonight my friend may come over and prepare a Middle Eastern meal of falafel, tabouli and hummus. It's been several months since I had such things. Of course, I lived off of falafel for a week last summer in Israel! We'll see if the Japanese version is as good.

    I know this is a bit short, but I have a coffee date with a Japanese sensei. I've been postponing and cancelling for several weeks now, and I must meet him (already 5 minutes ago!).

Friday, May 28, 1999

    Today I woke up at 5:00 and had to piss. Sometimes I feel like I would rather piss in my sleep than have to wake up, groggily get up and find my way to the toilet with my eyes crusted shut from a night of poor sleep. Then I have to go back to bed and start the horrible process of falling asleep all over again.
    I toyed with the idea of jogging, but I felt like my heart would explode if I exerted too much energy this early: I've had that kind of week. My own sampler reads: "Seven days of angst makes one weak." I did finally sleep again, only to not be awakened by the sound of the phone ringing. Sometimes the absence of sound can be deafening....

    I'm now listening to the trance channel at, trying to eradicate my own thoughts that stick in my brain like barbed wire around a death camp.

    I probably should go eat something. Unfortunately, I will go to MacDonald's across the street. I will eat "eMu-saizu Maku Furai Poteto (a medium-sized bag of fries!), Cafe-o-ray, and hato apuru pai (hot apple pie!)." I wonder if after leaving Japan I will be able to stop speaking in katakana. We'll see in only 5 1/2 more weeks.