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.