Travel Journal of my Time in Japan

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March 29, 2003

Here's a photo of Conor and me during one of our planning periods.
I just had to post this photo - he's such a goof! :-)

Perceptions on the War in Iraq... from the other side of the Pacific Ocean
So many ideas... too many. I haven't written an update for a while because I needed to sort some of these ideas out first. In fact, I'll probably be sorting out more of them as I write this. I'm not sure where to start...

First of all, many of you have expressed concern about me being abroad during this war with Iraq. Scary times these, and I will admit there is serious political tension between North Korea and Japan. But so far, no real danger. So not to worry. The limited information I have makes me think that Kim Jong Il (North Korean Leader) won't try to attack Japan. It would be suicide for him to do it. Besides, if he was going to, he probably would've done it by now. He sounds like more bravado than anything else. Overall the Japanese don't seem too very concerned about it, so I'm trying not to think too much about it either. Just the same, you'll be happy to know I've been registered with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo since October. They have my address, email address and cell phone number. Besides, I'll be stateside before you know it. :-)

Many of you know I have a cat. (Bear with me, this does relate to the topic at hand.) Her name is Julie and well, to put it bluntly, she's a bit crazy. Here's a photo of her during one of her relaxed moments. My grandfather used to call her 'that goofy cat'. She runs from (and hisses at) just about anyone, except me - and sometimes even me. My brother used to play a game when he came over. He'd try to get a glimpse of her before she ran and hid. He'd jump into rooms and around corners. He calls her 'the white flash' because all he'd ever see was a streak of white fur for a few seconds, if he was lucky. Julie jumps at the slightest sound. And she cries at the big sky when she finds herself outside - I used to try and walk her on a leash. She is particularly afraid of other animals and children. When there are guests in the house, special arrangements have to made for her so she doesn't get overly stressed and put on kitty Prozac... she's goofy. But she is MY goofy kitty, and has been my dear friend for 15 years, and I miss her so much.

In the same vein, it occurred to me that America's not perfect, but it is MY America, it's been my dear friend my whole life and I miss it very much. I believe in the ideals of America - freedom, liberty, etc. I just hope those are the basis of Bush's war, I hope it's not based on money, oil, revenge, religious prejudice, cultural differences, etc - there are so many other possibilities that I wish I could dismiss, but I just can't. I can't help worrying that America is turning into the next power-hungry nation, an empire. The problem is there's no way to know what's in a man's heart. I can't get into the heart of Bush, much less Saddam. So who's to know who is right? Who is the victim? Maybe Saddam killed many of his own people, but how many dictators has the US propped up for economic reasons, particularly for oil? And how many people have those dictators repressed, or even killed? These are the reasons bin Laden was able to amass so much of a following. So perhaps both... no, I should say ALL sides have made mistakes. The facts around these mistakes, and the extent of these mistakes change depending on what you read - there's so much conflicting information out there. I guess in the end, I'm troubled because I can't believe for sure that America is completely innocent. However, at the same time, I can and do believe America is well-equipped to fix its mistakes, and fix the problems in its system that cause mistakes. I think of America as an experiment. It's only 226+ years old, and we still have quite a few kinks to work out, but there are systems in place to facilitate this. Overall, it's a great country. That thought helps restore my faith in America, and I want to believe in America very much.

Part of me tries to think back on how the war could have been avoided. If only this or only that... but I'm coming to the conclusion that humanity still hasn't evolved beyond war. I believe it's on a path towards outgrowing war, but there's still a ways to go down that path. For now, when diplomacy fails it becomes time to choose sides. Bush has made that leap from diplomacy into war. He drew a line in the sand and asked - no DEMANDED that everyone around the world, (individuals and countries alike) choose a side. Was he right to do that? Was he standing up for a worthy cause? Or was it too soon to give up on diplomacy? Is he just wanting to assure his place in history? Only time will tell. In any case, decisions have been made, actions have been taken, and there's no going back. As my Uncle Corky used to say, rather colorfully, 'there's no use looking up a dead rooster's butt.' (An image that has always spoken volumes for me.) Anyway, at this point all we can do is hope it ends quickly with the least amount of deaths possible on both sides. I hope that's something we can all agree on. And as an American, I have to take a risk and believe in my country without 100% assurance of facts about this or that issue. I've never been very good at blind faith. I've always preferred faith based on clear vision - or at least on my instincts. But I don't have the luxury of undisputed facts to drive my faith or my instincts. And so, I take that leap into the unknown and hope America doesn't disappoint me. Of course it's easier for me to take that stance, than it is for someone who is being trained to kill others, or putting their life on the line as in the case of the military personnel. I imagine things look rather different from their perspective... but I suppose in the end, at some point, you must take the same stance - the stakes are just much higher.

So... my country, right or wrong! Geronimo!

Noriko's Bell Choir - Do you remember Noriko? She and Rieko planned a party for our discussion class, and they took me to the bookstore here in Nagaoka with English books. Well, last weekend I stopped in to Noriko's bell choir rehearsal. Rieko and Masatoshi drove me over so we three were their audience. Kinda like a private concert, and afterwards I got to ring a few of the bells. There were six women with SO many bells, and they played three songs - the Wedding March; Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; and another I didn't know the name of it. It was so much fun to watch and listen. It sounded beautiful. They were all focusing very hard, and they were very nervous. I guess the following day they were going to play for a woman's wedding - another member of the bell choir. This was Noriko's first performance (I think maybe she was filling in for the bride) so she was really nervous. A week later I asked her how it went. She said she made a few mistakes, but I'm sure she did great. Japanese tend to be very modest. :-) In the photo below Rieko is standing to the far right, and Noriko is the one on the left of the two crouching down in front.

Got another haircut - And yes, it's really short again. But it's much better than the last one. I managed to keep my mouth shut a little more this time. Oh, if I get another haircut here, now I have the name of an English speaking hair stylist in Nagaoka. Score!

Spring may have sprung - The past few days have been lovely. I didn't even have to turn on the heat in the mornings. I may have made it through the worst of the winter. Whew! Still no cherry blossoms yet, but I saw buds on some trees - that was very nice to see. I'm looking forward to having my lunch down by the river again.

Had a make-over - Kazumi is not a student of mine. She is one of the folks from Nameless, the foreigner bar. (Nameless - really, that's the name of the bar) She's a make-up artist and wanted to give me a sort of trial make-over. It was fun, and I learned quite a bit about make-up, at least the Japanese way of doing make-up. To the right is a photo of her and I after she was finished. I look very Japanese... a very TALL Japanese. :-)

Please don't send anymore boxes - I can't believe I'm writing that! But because of all you really cool people, I now have more than enough treats and stuff to last me the rest of my time here. I got a ton of care packages for the holidays and few more since then as well. I now know how expensive it is to ship stuff here, plus it sometimes takes months for the boxes to arrive so I wouldn't be able to use the stuff in time before I head back to the US. All in all, it's just not worthwhile. Please save your time and money. Again, thanks! But please send me emails and good vibes instead. :-)

A few more photos I wanted to post
Going out has become a little less of a novelty now and not worth telling all the details anymore. But I did want to post a few photos of some folks. First, to the left below is a photo of Stephen and Reiji singing karaoke. Reiji isone of the three gentlemen who took me snowboarding - I wrote about them in the January 26th entry.

To the right is a photo of me and Emi, one of my co-workers. She is so sweet. I will miss her so much when I leave Japan. I really think she and I will stay in touch.

Reiji and Emi are good friends and both have been very very kind to me. :-)



Dewa sono uchi ni
"See you in a little while"

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on to April 22, 2003