Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ruby Tuesday/The Search for God

My posts have been uploaded late because the internet is being all weird about video.

Weekend recap as follows: Saturday a few others and I helped what’s-his-face celebrate his 24th birthday. We went to a yakiniku restaurant, which can best be explained as a kind of like do-it-yourself kebab without skewers. There are grills in the table, you order the meat and vegetables you want to grill, and cook your savories how you wish. Delicious. Then we went to a bar called Ing, based off of some Rolling Stones something or other. Lots of classic rock, blah blah blah. Not particularly my scene, in both the bar and classic rock sense, but again I was in an unfamiliar area at night, so I stuck with the crowd. No carrying anyone home this time, so overall it wasn't half bad.

On Sunday I went with Margaret to some International Center up in the mountains for the International Fest I mentioned in an earlier post. We learned about Serbia (from a Serbian man speaking Japanese. Augh!), how babies are made (with really cute pictures and what might have been free verse poetry), a little bit of traditional Korean dance, and something about people who made stuff with bamboo. I didn’t catch most of it, but apparently everything in Europe started with the Slavs. Who weren’t actually Slavs, by the way, but a lot of them had “slav” in their names, and so were dubbed Slavs. The Serbian/Slavian man presenting thought that was unfair. Also, the French claim to be the root of civilization. As do the Italians. My vote is for the Israelis, but it’s not my battle.

Then they showed a Senegalese film about FGM, which made me cry. I was the only dark face in the room/building/all of Kameoka, sitting on the front row, wiping my eyes. We saw one of the men from the taiko group there, and when I showed up at taiko yesterday he said something to me, mildly mocking, most likely, about crying during the film. Curse you, cinema, for your hold over my emotions!

I left early to walk down the mountain and catch a train. I left the Center at 3 p.m. to give myself two hours to get to Kyoto Assembly Church’s English service. I should have given myself four.

Walking that scary road down the mountain, like the places where the sidewalks ended and the mirrored curves began, took about 50 minutes. I also took a picture.

I watched the train I needed pull out of the station, a strangely ominous sight that would set the tone for the evening. I paid too much for a ticket because I couldn’t read the kanji on the screen, got on a train, and headed back into the main part of Kameoka. I had given myself a little extra time to get to where I needed to go, but when I discovered that I had forgotten to write train changes down on my map, I had to dash home and look them up on Hyperdia. And so it goes.

Scribble, dash, watch train I need pull out from station.

Buy ticket, take deep breaths.

Get on train to Kyoto. Arrive, get confused.

Call Margaret to ask about kanji for station I need.


Find station on map, buy ticket, realize will be 15 minutes late.

Confusion. Call Margaret to find platform I need.

Watch train I need pull out of station. Panic, almost leave and go sit by the river and drink coffee and journal my despair.

Get on next train. Realize I’m going to be thirty minutes late.

Get of train in Nihonjin area of Kyoto (where there aren’t other foreigners) and realize lost ticket and map. Ask station
attendants for help.

Realize lost map. Can remember directions (pretty simple) but have to find a way to cross the street and go north. Call Margaret.

Go north. Turn east at a street whose name I recognize from the map. Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Ask for directions.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

It is now 6:15. Turn back towards station, defeated.






Return to Kameoka and break out a Chu-hai.

Why, God?

However, the good thing is that I got exercise and inadvertently convinced Margaret that she needed to accompany to church next week. I also managed to prove to the rest of the Kameokan crew (at another evening Nodame Cantabile vieweing that night) that Christians can get frustrated up to their ears and snappish without completely losing their religion. I did warn them by shouting, “I’m CRANKY!” when they walked in the door, so they thought my grumpy attitude was more amusing than anything else. How do I know? They told me.

I was sore yesterday and am sorer today. Even my arms are sore (from swinging while I walked? Heck if I now why). Taiko therefore was a little bit painful, but still a lot of fun. Phil, Margaret and I were there for the second week in a row while Liz and Paulette joined us for the first time. Just beating some drums. I did manage to get my thumbs under control, so congratulations to me. The Nihonjin at taiko are very friendly and genki, and since I have no other means of communication I resort to hamming. It's surprisingly cross-cultural. I think I might have gotten sincerely complimented on my taiko almost-skills, but I couldn’t quite tell. They never do it to our faces, just talk and point until they see us looking back. I got pointed at a couple of times, and they weren’t laughing so…Success? That or they were figuring out how to politely tell me to never come back.

Then Liz and I danced like goofs around the empty room, once the drums had been put away. The children laughed and the peasants rejoiced. I missed modern dance (Liz is a dance major, and totally could have spanked me if she had chosen), so I rented Step Up 2: The Streets when I got home. See review below.

I’ve already gotten into a terrible sleeping schedule of going to bed whenever the heck I want and getting up in time to shower and be mostly dressed when Margaret knocks on my door in the morning. This means I’m wiped for the whole day, then I go home and sleep with the windows open (since I’m too tired to go outside and enjoy the weather) until about 7. Then I wake up, eat something, and putter around until I'm sleepy again, which is usually around 2:00 a.m. Repeat. That’s going to stop really quickly when I start teaching and have to catch a bus at 7:09 in the morning. Curses, you mountain schools!

I laminated my pictures for my self-introduction today, and naturally the other members of my department had to expect. They laughed at the difference in height between pictures of the kids as children and now, asked me how old my dog was, and said it was very cool that my father is a pianist. They were extremely complimentary. My family, apparently, looks like it's made of movie stars, but guess who's ichi-ban kawai?


That's right, tell everyone you know. My grandmother is 97 years old, she'll be 98 in December, she can still drive for 20 miles on a clear day and is genki as can be. And the Japanese men I work with think she's cute. The number one cutest of the whole family, to be exact.

I can't top that, so I'll end here.

Movie Review: Step Up 2: The Streets
Acting: Better than I expected. Cassie should never open her mouth. Not to sing, not to speak. The awesome part is that they label her character in the movie as a triple threat (acting, singing, dancing), yet of all the lines delivered in the movie, hers are the least convincing. Also, she dances rarely and sings never. Shut up, Cassie. You’re only famous because you’re pretty. Even the corny, “Andie, you taught us that blah blah blah,” when all the crew shows up on the main character’s doorstep are more better. Maybe it’s because it was the only line some of them had in the whole hour and a half, so they put extra effort into it. Of course, since I was watching this on my computer, I pretty much skipped all the parts when people were talking, so this may not be the most accurate assessment.

Plot: Nobody gives a crap about street dancers having something to say. For real. The dancers might, and I might sympathize, but when it gets down to it, nobody considers b-boys and b-girls as a force to be reckoned with in the society. They do make for great selling points in commercials and music videos. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re all light-years cooler than I am, and smart as whips (I guess, I don’t really know). However, what happens when the days of street dancing end? Mayhap I am being extra-harsh because of how the street dancing sense of community and purpose was presented, but so much of those, “Hey, listen!” speeches was complete and utter idealistic bull. Has anyone watched someone spinning on his or her head and thought, “Ah. I do indeed need to reassess my personal values,” or “Indeed, that portrayal of love hits close to home”? Speak up, people. Whatever; I dance for the money, bro!

Also, there was a nearly-disregarded subplot about the main character learning to do something like feel the music. She never really changed, so I’m pretty sure she never learned jack diddly. So much for dance school. Also, why the heck would any school reject a kid with perfectly white teeth but a slight need of dental work? The character of Smiles made no sense as an outcast.

Dancing: It’s why I rented the movie, of course. I got exactly what I wanted. The dancing is pretty amazing. That shirt-trick in the beginning could come in handy in the future. I’ll watch it again tonight, but just the good parts, a.k.a. the dance scenes and the credits, when they dance some more.


  1. I love that movie! And not becaused of the plot. I mean, you could write a whole book on the problems in Hollywood portrayals of race based solely off this movie, but man is that dancing good! And this main girl can act much better than the last one. Plus, this guy is cuter. Also, I want to dance in the rain and be all...well, I just did it in my cubicle but you couldn't see.

    And hey, God knows you tried your best to get to church. He loves you.

  2. Dear Laurel, Got your blog from your Mom and Aunt Jan....It's a scream.(esp the video) and I think you're having a wonderful adventure. Prayers for you, Dear. Not-anonymous, kay whitson