Tuesday, November 21, 2017

10/1/2001

10:30pm JYAC bedroom
Yesterday was a lazy day. We all slept in after our crazy night at the snake place. Our first job was to get a cab to TGI Friday's. It was great. We ate tons of food. JalapeƱo poppers, hamburgers, mudslides, the list goes on and on. We finished that (it was relatively cheap) and went exploring. We didn't know where we were on the map, just that we were North. There were lots of little shops along the side walk. I tried on some shoes but nothing fit. Instead I bought perfume at The Body Shop and film. The streets very very difficult to walk on. They were all broken apart, flooded out, and many pipes in the street were being dug up and replaced. It smelled very bad in many places.

G and I went to a coffee shop to try to get away from the crowded dirty streets, but it was just as crowded and dirty there- but the bathroom was nice.

We took a cab back here and spent the rest of the evening hanging out like college students. We ordered pizza, watched movies and played games.


(Monday) Today was more interesting. After class and a nap we walked North. We went to the Taipei Astronomical Museum. On our way I noticed a different Taipei. The sun was shining, it was drier, it smelled better (in places) and it was cooler with a nice breeze. There wasn't too much of a difference in the crowd, except as we got near Taiwan Sea World. There were tons of families and children all running around. At the museum there were more families.

It was an ok place. Nothing was in English so it was a fast visit. There were three floors covering space flights, the history of astronomy (East and West), the solar system, and many other topics relating to space. Most of the exhibits were about America, and the NASA space program. It made me think a lot about how much we take our science for granted. There's no way Taiwan could build a rocket or a shuttle. They just have to learn about ours. The museum did have much more of a global perspective about things though. Russian missions, French and Chinese and Indian rocketry were all included with American developments. The history of astronomy also had interesting sections about Chinese astronomers and their tools and models of the universe. Unfortunately, the explanations were all in Chinese so I may never know what the "Quarter Model" was. They also have an IMAX and 3D theater. It was $100NT so I didn't go.

We walked from there to the Shih Lin night market and Jungle City. Jungle City reminded me of Navy Pier with the carts that sell jewelry. We ate at the McDonalds (again- we really need to stop doing that. Perhaps we could ask for recommendations of good local restaurants to supplement our steadily degrading diet). We walked around the side streets for a while, watching the vendors set up their stalls and blankets on the street. This market looked smaller, but with fewer kitsch and more clothing and accessories. It was more crowded and more uncomfortable. We ducked into a CD shop to see wha the prices were like. They were a little better than at home. I got a CD of popular American music for $320NT. G heard a good song playing and bought the CD. The chorus was "ichi ni san she" or "1 2 3 4" in Japanese. But I think it's a Chinese group.

We walked back and did out share of hanging out.When it got dark enough we made an excursion to the roof. It was creepy up there until we looked at the view. We could see the entire city. Right next to us the big hotel was all lit up. We could see the bright top of the tallest building in Taipei. Airplanes flew low over the city to land nearby. The city looked beautiful from where we were. Overhead a thin later of textured clouds veiled the full moon. It was very bright. Some Germans came up and Jeremy, to my surprise, spoke fluent German to them. When Emily came up some fireworks started. They looked like just someone lighting them off by themselves, but it made the Moon Viewing night really great. We stated out there for a long time.It was hard to imagine that the city below was cracked and muddy, that people often wear face masks to avoid breathing the fumes of cars and scooters. Today I finally began to see Taipei like it probably was before the typhoon. The physical damage to the city must have changed it a lot. I would love to have seen it a few weeks before now, before the flooding.

9/30/2001

9:00am Jiantan YAC
Friday was just a travel day. G and I were on the later flight with only 300 people so things went pretty smoothly. We took a bus to the airport. Before we left, Mama Asai climbed on the bus to wish us a good trip and all the staff members waved to us until we were out of sight. Kansai airport was almost empty. It took no time at all for us to get through security and customs and immigration. We had a really long time to wait so we just sat and relaxed. There was a Coke machine that only took US dollars so we had a little fun and spent American money. Of course, it was $1.00 for a regular can, so it wasn't all that great.

The airplane was empty too, so once we all got on we switched seats. G and I had a row to ourselves but we just both read books. The flight was crazy bumpy and a flight attendant spilled a drink on me. We also got a meal on the plane. From the plane we got another bus. Actually, we could tell we were in a different country from the minute we got off the plane. There were huge signs that told us that the punishment for bringing drugs into Taiwan is death. That was fun. Plus there was a disinfectant carpet. Another round of immigration, baggage check, customs, and then bus. There was a great guy on the bus who told us interesting facts about Taiwan and himself and was pretty funny. He said his name was either Mr. Nee, Mr. Gui, Mr. Gnai, or Mr. Gay. This weekend begins the mid-autumn festival when people visit their native homes away from the city. This meant that the roads were all jammed up. It took almost 2 hours to go 35 miles.

But during that time we all felt so much at home. Drivers drive on the right side of the road here. The cars are all normal size. Looking out the bus window it looked like we were driving from O'Hare to Schaumburg. When we got here, Prof. Winship was ready with our $NT allowance ($2000NT, or just about US $58). We got room assignments that were different from what we signed up for, but that was ok because Emily and I got to room together with Giordana (who I actually don't know that well). We surveyed the snack shop, then went upstairs to unpack.

This place is wonderful! 3 of us in a 4 person room gives us so much space. The beds are on one wall, there's a desk on the other with a TV and water boiler. There's benches and plenty of floor space for our suitcases. In our room is a bathroom with two sinks and a shower and a toilet. The beds don't have mattresses, and the pillows are tiny, but the comforters are great. It does seem a little dirtier than other places. We've been warned about geckos and bugs, though I haven't seen either.

Anyway, after admiring our suite G and I went exploring for dinner. We walked out of the Center and it hit home again that we were not in Japan anymore. Motor bikes everywhere! Like a bicycle race packed together but motorized and faster. We were warned that traffic rules were merely suggestions and to be careful. In places there weren't even crosswalk signs near big intersections. People pretty much just did whatever they wanted. Scooters sometimes even drove on the sidewalk. They usually park their bikes there.

There were no other pedestrians, the sidewalk wasn't even all that great- it was cracked and uneven all the time. Things were just really dirty. The air was humid, there was a rotten egg smell in the air combined with scooter smoke. As we walked it felt like we were walking through a slum almost. Stores were tiny and messy, people were dirty and dressed in dirty old clothes. There was garbage mixed into puddles on the sidewalk. We walked past the 7-11 (big landmark) and down the street. We didn't see anywhere to eat really. Just more of the same. There were cars parked on the side of the street so we had to walk in the street. Once we realized there were no more lights we turned around. We explored the 7-11 for dinner. G got a hot dog. I got some light bread, noodles, and custard. We came back to the YAC and ate while watching Austin Powers 2 in English on HBO.


So, yesterday was unbelievable. It started with a lecture by an Ecological Demographer. I took notes. Then lunch of whole fish, shrimp, some BBQ meat with bones in it, octopus, rice (thank God) and a miso soup with unidentifiable meat in it. I got cookies (really rice cakes with sugar on them) to supplement that meal. We all took a few hour break to nap, read, watch movies, so we could have more energy for the fabulous night we were about to have.

We left here at about 3:30pm and went to the subway station. It was wet outside, but no rain. Humid like Tokyo where standing makes you sweat. The subway was easy, but the cars were not like Tokyo. They were more like Chicago with hard plastic benches in groups of 2. There were no sleeping businessmen and we were just as loud as other Taiwanese. The car only went two stops because the rest of the line is flooded. When we got out it took us a long time to orient ourselves. We wanted to go South through the city and end up at Snake Alley after dark to experience it.

That's what we did. Again the sidewalks were uneven but there were more crosswalk signs here, and bridges over the intersections in many places. There really wasn't much to stop and see. Many food stalls, shoe stores, and tons of men sitting on boxes playing cards. We passed dozens of stray dogs. The goal temporarily became to find TGI Friday's. We got hungry before that and split up. Jen, Jeremy, G, Eric and Eric went to a buffet. Meghan, Emily and I went to McDonalds. It was wonderful  to know exactly what I was eating and get full on it. Plus we talked about being annoyed at people, and that's always cleansing.

After dinner we went shopping at NET which resembled GAP in many ways. We all found clothes we liked that fit. I was still looking for shorts- the closest I came was a pair of capris that were too small. The boys all bought matching Back Street Boys white zipper shirts, and we girls bought Team 1 sleeveless shirts (only $99NT). We continued walking in search of the night market. At one point we passed 3-4 blocks of what looked like pet shops- birds in cages mostly but also mice, gerbils, baby rabbits, cats and dogs. It smelled disgusting and I just had a feeling that this was not really a pet store.

We finally got out of that area at another big street. As we were waiting to cross, a Taiwanese woman in dirty clothes started yelling at us in perfect English. Despite that it was in English we really couldn't hear what she was saying. Something about the "Chinese dirty Americans, why are you here scum of the Earth?" So we walked quickly away. Very quickly. We kept walking until the boys saw a dirty alley and assumed snake alley would be down there. Nope. Just people selling old clothes and probably stolen electronics.

Someone asked directions and we kept walking. Eventually we found a temple. It looked open so we went inside. It was absolutely beautiful. The colors were great, the decoration was great, there were rows of decorated columns all lit up (lots of lighting, very flashy). People were praying and bowing with incense in their hands. The pots were overflowing with the smell. There were tons of people at different areas of the complex. Around every corner seemed another place to pray. Incense pots were everywhere. There were lots of tables with food on them and flowers. We saw people kneeling and bowing, offering food to the gods. Every inch of wall, ceiling and pillar was beautifully decorated. There was music coming from somewhere, but I don't know where. Along one side of the temple was what looked like an office with people sitting behind desks. This surprised me because it was already 8:00 at night. Outside the temple but inside the gate were 3 waterfalls. I don't think they were natural, but I couldn't really tell. There was moss and trees and rocks and a koi pond at the bottom. There were lights in the water also and it was beautiful. We stood there for quite a while and took pictures. We looked at the map and saw that we were very close to the snakes.

We found the sign that said Tourist Night Market and walked in. It was a lot like Asakusa in Tokyo. Clothing shops, little souvenir shops, electronics shops, all on either side of the aisle. There were also many food stalls selling food I've never seen before. There were foot massage places (real ones where you could see people getting massages), fish market stores and "adult" stores. The adult stores were pretty numerous. Plus, they weren't hidden. I thought a lot about the stores in relation to the population speech we got in the morning. Anyway, as we walked we started hearing men speaking in Chinese over microphones. We found a man speaking at a table with a snake and a headset mic. He was playing with the snake, petting it, cleaning it, coiling it up and uncoiling it, making loud noises to scare it, showing it a rabbit.

After quite a while of his constant stream of Chinese, he put the snake on the ground and hit his head with a hammer. Then he hung the snake by the head and it wriggled a little. He took a small pair of scissors and slit the skin about halfway up the snake. He pulled the skin off and snipped an artery. The blood drained into a mug of whisky. He lifted the tail and folded it to squeeze it all out. Then he cut the heart out and dipped it in something that looked like alcohol. The heart kept beating on the table for about 5 minutes all by itself. He skinned the snake farther down and cut out a little black organ. He pinched the organ and drained the black liquid into a clear liquid. He poured those two into separate shot glasses and then two more different liquids into two more shot glasses. These he placed onto a tray with some soup and gestured back to the restaurant. That was great- just wonderful. I felt extremely uncomfortable. G got excited and ran to find the boys. They watched another snake get the same treatment (without the knock on the head), and went back to the first guy whose stall looked cleaner. Jeremy, G and Eric all took shots of the blood (which included a fairly large pill of perhaps antibiotic). We walked a little farther and got to a game stall. There were little BB guns and balloons. You won a beer if you shot 5 balloons. Of course they were very deflated and the BB's were light plastic. Despite that (or because of it) G's BB's kept bouncing off and one hit me in the face. It hurt and I ducked down to the floor for the rest of the game. Eric won a beer. I was ok, it hit my glasses. We took the long walk home after I stopped at McDonalds for a pit stop (poop on the squatter). I crashed after that but everyone else stayed up and hung out.

Monday, November 6, 2017

9/28/2001

4pm Flight to Taipei
After that I went back to get G from the internet cafe. We left on our way to Gion to try to see some geisha. On our way we saw Meghan and Menka. They were going to the Temple with the 1000 Buddhas. We really didn't have much else to do so we went with. It was a pretty long walk South along the river. We arrived a little before 4:30pm so we had to hurry. It was almost empty inside- after the school groups left. There were indeed, hundreds of Buddhas. It was easy to assume that they were just stamped out at a factory. But these were all hand made. Each by itself was beautiful, 36 arms each! Each hand was different, either in a different position or holding a different object. We had to go quickly through the temple to see it all and make sure they didn't lock us in. We weren't allowed to take pictures, so I kept the pamphlet. It took a good bit of time to walk all the way back. But we walked through Gion, hoping to see some geisha. We walked slowly and probably stared at every woman wearing a kimono. I thought I saw one, but she didn't have any make-up on and didn't look at all that impressive.

When we got back it was almost time for Skiaki. The grills- or burners really- were set out. As we say down there was pork cooking with some noodles, mushrooms, and leafy something. We got bowls and eggs. We were told to put the egg (raw) in the bowl and mix it with soy sauce. Then we took the very hot meat and vegetables and dipped them in the egg mixture. We discussed the possibility of salmonella versus the effectiveness of hot food touching eggs. We ate it anyway. It was really a fun meal. Eric and Emily were eating with us. We started just using our own chopsticks to eat right out of the pot. We had one bottle of beer to share between the four of us and it resulted in a tiny glass per person. At the end of the meal, Norio and his staff poured saki for anyone who wanted it. It was pretty sweet and not strong at all.

After dinner I worked on writing my Population paper and Culture response to Ryoanji. I felt so productive I read a few pages of the Population textbook and fell asleep.

At breakfast, G's host mom called him. They made plans to meet at the subway station and go to the monkey park, then meet for dinner. Wait. We met Kristy's host mom and sister to go to the park. Anyway, after class we ran to exchange a little money (to ship our boxes home) and eat at McDonalds. As we were waiting for Kristy's mom I had to go to the bathroom. While I was back at Hagashiama YH I found her and Akina (her 3 year old daughter) and took them back to meet G. Kristy, Hannah and Katie were down in the subway station. We all got together and found the bus that would take us up to the monkey park. The other girls entertained Akira and were really good at figuring out the bus thing. Unfortunately, I think we were supposed to press a button at our stop, but we didn't so we accidentally went one stop too far. That was ok. We took a really nice walk. It seemed very un-touristy and more authenticly Kyoto-like. Lots of fishermen in boats, little old people walking around.

We followed the signs to the entrance. We paid, left the stroller and started climbing stairs. We'd heard from other people that it was quite a journey but that it was well worth it. Well, it was. The mountains were beautiful and we climbed up them. It wasn't as bad/difficult as Akagi, but I still broke a good sweat and regretted wearing a skirt and open-toed shoes. The drop-off along the stairs was pretty much just straight down to a ravine. We didn't see any monkeys until we got to the top of the mountain (about 30 minutes later). We saw 1 or 2 and took tons of pictures. They were just sitting on trees waiting for us.

We got to the top of the mountain and were amazed. The scenery was unbelievable. To our right and left were mist-covered mountains and below us stretched Kyoto-City. We could see to the other side of the city- it was all laid out in front of us. The clouds pretty much covered the sun so there was a kind of haze over everything- making it look even more romantic. Plus, there were little brown monkeys everywhere.

I took tons of pictures and bought postcards, so I won't go into a physical description of the monkeys. There was a house-looking thing at the top of the hill and a man told us to go rest inside. Inside had a counter that sold monkey food! Bags of peanuts and of apples for Y100 each. We fed the monkeys through the windows of the house. They (the windows) were covered with fence material so the monkeys could reach their hands in. There were maybe 50 monkeys or so in the immediate area. They came up to the windows and stuck in their hands. The best way to feed the was to put the food in the palm of my hand and have the monkey reach out and pick up the food from my hand. Their hands were like baby hands. Usually the monkeys were polite and just delicately took the food and ate it. Other monkeys fought each other to be at the windows. There were also tiny baby monkeys the size of mid-sized kittens. They crawled and jumped around and got food when the bigger monkeys let them. Their tiny teeth had a hard time biting through peanut shells- it was so cute. If you stood too close with food in your hand, sometimes a big monkey snapped it right out of your hand. That was scary. We stayed there for a long time and spent lots of money feeding the monkeys. We also took tons of pictures.

When we were all broke, we sat outside and looked at the landscape. The monkeys were all around us sitting on benches, laying on the ground, picking at each other. Many of the baby monkeys were breastfeeding. A park ranger guy helped us take a group picture. When we were all together he said, "Don't touch the monkeys!!" and threw monkey food at us. Then the monkeys came and sat with us in the picture. That was also fun.

We walked back down the mountain (stopping to watch the monkeys slide down a slide and play on a swing set). Caught a bus home and I and Akino and Hannah all fell asleep on the bus.

We met Hiromi (G's host mom) in front of the Book-Off. She looked very happy to see him and said that she and her husband cried over dinner when they looked at pictures of G. She was just about as small as Marino, but she looked much more traditional. She wasn't as cute. She was also very quiet. It took us a while to form plans and then translate them into Japlish. We stopped at HYH to try to take an imminent quiz early, but without good results. So we walked to what can only be considered a Japanese dive, or greasy spoon. Maybe a greasy chopstick, where we met Massa- Hiromi's 22-year-old husband (she's 28). Their English wasn't too good so there wasn't much conversation. We had to run back and soon as we finished eating to take the quiz. When it was over we left to meet them all again too sing karaoke...........

6pm Taiwan- bus to Jiantan YAC
So. We went to sing karaoke. We went to the basement of a pachinko parlor. We rented a private room for the 7 of us. It was pretty tiny, but the music was loud. We paid Y1500 each for all-we-could-drink and eat and sing. We first had a round of beer and some cheese that Kristy's mom brought. Hiromi wanted to start off with Hero by Mariah Carey. As it started playing, the words came up in English over a background of New York City. The World Trade Center was in most of the pictures (before the attacks) and there were also American flags. It was really hard to watch and sing those words. We just kinda looked down and mumbled- glancing at each other once in a while. We didn't want to tell them because we didn't want them to feel bad.

We sang songs that the Japanese knew (mostly ABBA and Mariah Carey) and songs that we knew (Beatles, Simon & Garfunkle). G bolted out Stairway to Heaven before I could stop him. We girls had 2 more rounds of drinks and G had 3. We ended around 10:15pm with a popular and rousing version of YMCA. It was so much fun. We left to try to make it to the Hostel before lights out. We were pretty drunk. When Hiromi was saying good-bye to G she burst out crying. We left quickly so she wouldn't be put through too much pain. Oh, and Kristy's mom gave us 4 girls bottles of Yakisoba sauce because earlier in the day we said we liked Yakisoba. Oh, and at some point G bought Japanese porn, but that doesn't have to do with anything.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

9/27/2001

Yesterday was another normal day. After class we went walking around the covered mall again. We ate at a nice Chinese food restaurant. After that we found Cafe Asprine so G could type his papers. I wandered around by myself for a while and did a little shopping. I found the holy grail of T-shirts finally! A Bathing Ape! I bought one for myself and one for G. Then I cruised around some side streets for a while. I saw a shop with some cheap looking clothes and thought I might find a pair of shorts in there. Inside it was all underwear but I remembered that G said he needed a few extra pairs. I was looking at the aisle with the mens' underwear when a sales woman came by. I was looking for small but all I saw was medium. So I asked if she had S size. She opened the package and spread out the contents. Then she took another type off the shelf and opened that one. One style had the flap in the front and the other didn't. I tried to ask for a smaller size but they didn't appear to understand me. They got another sales person to come to my aid as I fished out my Japanese phrase book.

The new woman came out to me and said, "mens." I was getting frustrated and really just wanted to leave so I found the word for husband. Their next English phrase was, "What color?" They pointed to a pair of Y1300 shorts and I tried to say that they were too expensive. My phrasebook wasn't helping. I couldn't find the words I needed. They took out more pairs of shorts and I tried to explain that I wanted to find my "husband" so he could decide. They just kept asking me "What color?" I found the word for "lost/forgot" and continued with "husband". At that, someone nodded and indicated that she understood. I said that I'd be right back. Repeated Arigato several dozen times and walked away. I walked back and forth in front of the shop a few times to pretend I was lost.

9/25/2001

12:00am HYH Lounge
Quick journal from a boring day... got up, had class, ate at Shakey's pizza again. G went to find a little remote control car he heard about and I went to an internet cafe. After a while there I went shopping in search of a pair of shorts. They do not sell any type of shorts in Japan. They sell skirts of all materials, shapes, lengths, and sizes. They sell pants, jeans, capris, pants in size -4 - 2, dozens of shirts with millions of designs on them, socks of every design and pattern, and leg warmers for popular people. But they don't sell shorts in Japan. So I got a crepe filled with whipped cream, ice cream, strawberries and chocolate instead. It was ok, but not terrific. I found G and left him to write his papers at the cafe. I came back to the hostel expecting to get homework done, but I slept for two hours instead. G woke me up and we ate dinner. After dinner we attended a dinner by a Noh mask maker. He was a lot of fun and we took pictures of the various finishes and unfinished masks. Some of the finished ones were painted with gold and worth thousands of dollars. He was very funny and interesting. He also makes recorders for himself and invented one that plays harmony and melody.

When that was over we sat in the lounge downstairs and he sat with us for a while. We spoke Japanese with him and his wife (who translated a little). He was very friendly and gave Jocelyn his card. His wife dragged him away and I spent the rest of the night finding anything to do except writing the remaining two papers that I have to write.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

9/24/2001

8:30am Shinkansen train
When I woke up, Marino told me that American people shower in the morning so I will shower now. And I did! She made me a great breakfast with bread, scrambled eggs, fried pork (not bacon), and cabbage. We talked a little and she told me about Lake Biwa. I showed interest so we went. Unfortunately, Taku was having a huge fit, hitting his mother on the head while she was driving and screaming at the top of his lungs. We parked the car at the lake and looked around for a little while. The lake didn't look too wide, maybe 2x as wide as the Mississippi, but it was long. There was a lot of industry and a city across from us. There were some wind surfers and kite flyers on the small rock beach and Marino asked them to take pictures of us. She wouldn't let me take pictures with my own camera ever. She kept saying she will mail the pictures to me. We left quickly because Taku was hungry.

We went to a sort-of mall and ate McDonalds for lunch. Taku ordered a very big bowl of ramen and Marino got a teriyaki set which she shared with Yuki. They also got toys. We went from there to the third floor of a Y100 shop. I got stickers of Japanese words for guys in the office. The kids got toys. We walked through a kimono section and she showed me pictures of 20 year olds at their "coming out" party. They were all very beautiful. Then I saw the prices and WOW! Y20,000 minimum for accessories. On our way out we passed an arcade. Of course the kids went nuts. They got money from their mom to play games. Marino told me to get in a tiny bus with the kids. She put money in it and it started rocking back and forth. At the end it took our picture and printed up stickers.... We went down there and Marino told me that I was going to make an easy American dish for the Hippo Family Club potluck that night. I found spaghetti noodles and tomato paste and parmesan cheese.

When we got home I gave the family their quarter-set gift. They were in awe of it. They kept saying it was a treasure. I taught them about the quarter program and they said they would keep it forever. We made the spaghetti and there was TONS of it, at least, Marino thought so. It was about 1lb. I added the tomato paste, some basil from her herb garden, some garlic, and a lot of salt. It didn't taste good. But we packed it up in the traditional Japanese "tupperware" box stacking thing and wrapped it in a scarf. We drove somewhere to what looked like a family community center. We took our shoes off and got rubber slippers. Upstairs were a lot of families and Robin and Lindsay. We tried to talk to each other but the families wanted to show us off. When all the families (about 15) arrived we played games (1-2-3-4-5-6-7, London Bridges, and an unusual version of duck-duck-goose). Many of the games were in foreign languages because the Hippo Club learns more than 12 languages at once. After game and song time we played "put up the tables and chairs and set up food". Someone put a beer in front of me, and I filled a tiny plate with many different types of foods. By far, there was the most pasta left untouched. Marino introduced me to a 26 year old mother of a 9 month old. The baby was really cute but the mother seemed tired and distracted. She also breast-fed the baby right at the table. The baby drank tea and ate tiny pieces of food from the mother's plate. It seemed unusual to me, but I don't know that much about American babies so I didn't say anything.

The three American girls had to give a speech. Marino taught me to say, "Nagano, wakolohim!" which translates somehow as "I don't know Japanese language." After the speeches (which no one could hear because the kids were so loud). We had cake and sang Happy Birthday. Apparently, it was the fourth anniversary of this particular Hippo Family club. Then we went home.

We talked around the kitchen table for a long time. We talked about New York, my job, and the female reproductive system. Fuminori is an OB/GYN who specializes in in-vitro fertilization. A paper of his just got accepted into a journal and he wanted me to read it. It was about the presence of messenger ribonucleic acids in the fetuses of in-vitro fertilized mice. The words were very big. I complimented him many times on his knowledge of English. Marino asked me to translate, or at least explain an email she got from a friend. It was a chain letter from a Canadian Essayist who was defending America against people who say that we deserved what we got. It was very political and took a long time. They looked awe-struck when I finished. It was again past midnight- so we went to sleep.

6:30pm Shinkansen train
So, I woke up Sunday and went back to bed. I finally left my room at about 10am. The kids were sleeping and Marino sent me to the shower. I decided to use her shampoo and soap. But when I got wet and looked at the bottles, there was no English. So I washed my hair with both. Bad idea. I think I used the soap last. Out of the shower we had pancakes for breakfast. Glorious, sweet, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside pancakes. I grabbed the butter before Yuki could eat it all and put what turned out to be honey on them. It as a beautiful thing. When Taku finally woke up we drove to a "festival," really a fair. 

There were rows of "white houses" (or tents as we say) that shop owners set up. Most were restaurants. In the center was a large stage. There was some costumed Power Ranger show going on that Taku really got into. It was hot, so we left the middle as soon as it was over. The next few hours is easy to explain: cotton candy, soda, candy, ice cream, games, toys, and train. One of the games was a ring toss. Marino paid and told me to win something for Taku. But when the guy saw me they moved the sticks really far away, and I lost. I felt really badly and apologized a lot. They gave Taku a prize anyway. 

Marino got us all yakisoba and we ate it while watching Taku ride a Thomas the Train ride a dozen times or so. It was a little golf-cart thing with benches attached. Fuminori got there from work and sat with us for a while. Marino left with the kids and came back with more candy and a book of postcards with pictures of Lake Biwa and Mount M-something that's the second tallest in Japan. It was beautiful! We left there to go to a museum about bronze bells. I have a lot of brochures about it, so I'll look at them to remember what exactly the museum was about. Fuminori walked with me and explained a lot of the exhibits. Before we left we dressed up like traditional rice farmers in robes and funny hats and took a picture in front of a big bell. They also bought me some beautiful prints of sutras. 

We stopped back at the apartment and I got my bag. Taku complained a lot, threw things and kicked toys. They decided to drive back to Kyoto in the hopes that the kids would sleep. Taku yelled most of the way there. Marino gave me a set with a mirror and coin purse made of kimono material. She told me I am her younger sister ad she made me promise to come back to Japan and visit. I tried to tell her how special her family is to me, since they are the only family I stay with in Japan. They're my Japanese family. But I started getting choked up so I stopped. When we got back to Higashiyama, Marino and I and Yaku got out of the car and Fuminori went to look for parking. Inside we waited for G so she could meet him. We talked for a while over cookies and coffee. It started getting to be time for dinner so we waited outside for the car. When he pulled up he said hi to G and I said bye to Marino. We hugged, my eyes teared up, they waved to me until the car was out of sight. Ichie Ichigo. I miss them and can't wait to send them a post card or email.

We ate dinner, had a seminar about Hiroshima, went for a walk, and watched F get drunk on his gift-bottle of sake.

10:00pm HYH
This morning started out very early on the subway and then we took a bullet train- Shinkansen- to Hiroshima. The train was the second fastest in Japan, not the first. Still it went really fast. Scenery went whipping by. We passed whole mountains in a minute or two. It did feel smoother than a normal train but it swayed a lot. It's like being in an airplane with turbulence for two hours. I did get a little motion sickness when I looked out the windows, but once I stared at the inside of the train for a while I was ok.

We arrived in the bustling Hiroshima metropolis and took a trolley to the Peace Park. The first thing we saw was the A-Bomb dome. The building is just a brick and concrete shell. We walked quickly through the park to the museum. We walked past the Peace Flame that will only go out when all the nuclear weapons have been destroyed. At the museum we first had a speech by the president of the park. Then we had two hours to walk around. It started pretty tame: videos of mushroom clouds and airplanes, photos of the destroyed city. All through this I was struck by the timeliness of of our visit here. We, the US, did this terrible thing to other human beings. We created this living hell of fire and blood. What happened in New York was devastating, but we have produced so much worse. The death toll from the bomb was hundreds of thousands.

Anyway, the next session was about nuclear weapons. It was scary to think that not only can today's missiles cause so much more damage, there are so many of them. There was a video about nuclear winter. There it first hit me tat any use of nuclear weapons would kill everyone. I started changing my mind about war. Before today I considered joining the Reserves to fight for our country.

The next section detailed the effects on human beings. The first part was a diorama showing a mother and son running from the burning city with their skin falling off and bleeding. There were photos of victims' skin, faces, arms. Actual clothing that had to be cut away from the bodies of burning children. Fingernails, hair, scar-tissue, a watch stopped at 8:15am, pieces of glass found in the bodies of victims after they were cremated. It turned my stomach in the most unbelievable way. To see what we did to human beings, children. War is such a terrible thing. There could never be any reason to create this hell on Earth.

We left and went to eat our box lunches in the park. While I ate I started thinking of the people who died right where I was sitting. I looked over towards the sky where the hypocenter was and imagined how it must have felt to watch that bomb fall through the air and realize a split second before that you were going to die.

Wow. I'm way off subject. Ok. After lunch we walked around the basement of the museum. It was an exhibit dedicated to a girl who folded 1,000 paper cranes while praying to get better from the leukemia she had. She died when she was, maybe 12. I folded a crane myself and wrote on the wings: For Peace in USA and World.

Our next event was to attend a presentation by a bomb survivor. I didn't really catch her name but she looked a little like a Jewish mother. It was a translated speech so it began a little slow. Many of us were crying by the end of it, especially as she described the death of her mother. I took notes as she spoke so I would always remember her story. This woman and other people like her are the most vivid reasons for Peace I can imagine. When it was over I had G take a picture of me with her and told her I thought she looked beautiful. We gave her a standing ovation.

We next took a walking tour of the park. There were many big and small monuments. One to Korean victims, children, the students who were working on the roads and died, and many many others. We (G) placed our paper cranes at the memorial to the children and the girl with leukemia. We ended back at the A-Bomb dome, and this time it meant so much more to me. The inscription on the memorial to those who died keeps sticking in my mind: we will not let this evil happen again. We can't have a war. It's the worst possible event humans can produce.

9/22/2001

10:20pm Kimura House
I'm frustrated with my lack of journalling. Yesterday it was hard for me to sit in class because I was so excited. When class was over, G and I ran to a bookstore and bought books for our families. We got lunch at McDonalds- thinking it would be the last time for a while. When we got back, there were people everywhere. G grabbed his stuff and headed for Osaka. I ate my lunch and sat in the classroom with the others who were meeting families in Kyoto. There were tons of mothers and a few children. There were maybe 2 or 3 men. We were trying to guess which ones were ours. I guessed right! I recognized my host mother from her picture. She looked just as cute and tiny in person. We played some games and at the end we left.

Marino- my host mother- is a little shorter than 5' tall. She is so sweet! We took the subway to the train station. The whole trip we were with Lindsay and her host mother Madu, and Robin who was meeting hers later. Marino helped carry Madu's children. Marino and I spoke on the train a little and I showed her my pictures. She thinks G is cute and Jimmy is VERY cute! She was very honest and speaks good English. Her family is moving to San Francisco next year and she wants Taku and Yuki to learn English so they can go to school. Marino is to tiny, like a little stick figure. I bet she'd be a child's size 14 at the biggest. She reminds me of my tiny Aunt Lynn. Anyway, at Robin's stop her host mother wasn't there so we got off the train and waited only a few minutes. The other mother was very sorry. We got on the next train and went one stop, I had no idea where I was, so I stayed close to Marino.

We got off the train and took a cab to their apartment. She kept saying they live in the country, but it looked like the same size as my hometown. They even have a few Pachinko parlors. She said a lot that her house was small. When we got there and walked to the door I noticed that many of the doors were very close together. The doors were all metal and there were decorative bars over all the windows. It really didn't look on the outside like a place for a doctor to live. She opened the door and let me walk into the genkan first. Right away I turned around and took my shoes off, carefully stepping out of them.

She stared at me with her mouth wide open. "So polite! Such good manner!" She kicked off her shoes and walked in. No inside slippers. She said she was first going to show me around. The first room on the left was my room. By my standards it's huge with a queen size bed, desk on the floor, and vanity table made of wood. It's about half the size of my brother's room but the fact that this large amount of space (and enormous bed) almost made me cry. Across from my room was the bath/laundry room- although the washing machine was covered in stuff, implying that it wasn't used very often. I didn't get a good look at the tub and shower but there was a sink with a mirror next to the washing machine. Next on the right was a tiny toilet room. The toilet was the type that as a sink on top that runs water when you flush. The light's on the outside of the room and I keep forgetting to turn it on.

Through a slitted curtain was the rest of the house. A small, but very nice kitchen, a kitchen table, and a complete desk. To the left are two tatami rooms. One serves only as the children's bedroom, and the other is a TV room with a long closet/dresser and a low table. I think they might have given me their bedroom!

Marino offered me something to drink and I took some orange juice. We sat in the tatami room and she showed me her wedding pictures. She had a traditional Japanese wedding. Both her husband and she were in traditional kimono, and she had an enormous Star Wars hat on with a Japanese wig. Her face, neck, and hands were painted white. Her husband was wearing the same outfit G had on at the kimono demonstration. All the family members were there- the men wore suits and the women all wore kimono. There were a few pictures of the actual ceremony, and many posed pictures of Marino and her husband. She did not smile in any of them and she said that was ok. There were a few pictures in a white wedding kimono, then a huge blue evening dress- Western style, then a red kimono with a really heavy head piece, and a white Western-style wedding dress.

After looking at photos we went to pick up the children from nursery school. We went in the car- a Toyota station wagon. It as weird to sit on the opposite side. Once we got there we saw the teachers all standing in the rain with umbrellas saying hello to mothers and goodbye to the children. I had to wear a blue ribbon because I was a guest. There was a playground with sand and gravel that kids were using to get dirty. All the children stopped and stared at me when I was near. I usually smiled, but then they ran away. Inside were more children (we had taken our shoes off outside) and tatami mat play areas. Marino looked for her children. They popped up right in front of us. Taku was very "active" though in America we'd say hyper-active. Yuki was very quiet and just stared and smiled. We walked around the school a little. The classrooms did look like American classrooms. I met someone who I think was the principal. I'm not sure though.

Marino collected Japanese lunch boxes and bed rolls. She said on Friday she always takes home the furniture. We got back into the car- the kids both sat/stood/played in the front seat and I in the back. I don't remember if we stopped home at first, but we went to the video store. There was an American movie section and Marino told me to pick something out. I chose something with Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudro and some other famous people. None of the words on the box were in English, but Marino said the movie was called, "Hug on the Phone". Taku chose a Japanese action cartoon. When we started to leave, Marino realized she forgot the video rental card. She tried talking the clerk into letting her rent anyway but the clerk wouldn't let her. We left and went to buy food for Sunday's lunch. I told her I like yakisoba so we bought that. It looked exactly like an American grocery store except for all the Japanese people, and the labels on the food. The kids ran first to the candy aisle. She let them pick out some sweets. Taku chose a tiny plastic gun that popped out white balls of candy. Essentially you have to put the front of the gun in your mouth to eat the candy. It didn't seem to bother anyone else, so I didn't say anything. Marino pressured me into picking a sweet that I liked but since I didn't know what anything was I asked her to recommend something good.

After that we got the yakisoba ingredients and went home. Marino said she was going to make tempura for dinner and I asked if I could help. She said yes but when the time came she told me to go rest. I told her I was ok, but she insisted I go rest, so I laid down in my room. This bed is so comfortable! First, it's huge! Then, it's got a real pillow and a very heavy thick comforter.

Taku came and got me to play. We kinda just stared at each other then we watched TV together. Marino's husband came home (I really need to learn his name) and we sat down for dinner. He's a bigger guy than most Japanese men. He's gained some weight, Marino told me. Dinner was good, but there were some things I didn't finish. Marino said if I don't like something I could just leave it. So I left the fish and tofu and mushroom pudding. But the rice was good. They told me that after dinner we were going to go to the public bath. Marino said I should bring a change of clothes, hairbrush, and facial soap. So, I packed up those things and we all got back into the car. Fuminori (husband) drove and Marino sat in back with Yuki and Taku. The kids weren't in seat belts or anything. Once we got there I fully understood why it's called a "public bath". It was as big as a YMCA and as crowded with as many people. Both children bathed with Marino. Everyone stared at me. I was probably the first American to ever bathe there. I was embarrassed for the first 10 minutes but after that I guess I just got used to walking around naked. The facility was huge. There was a small cold-spring, a big swimming pool-sized shallow hot part, jacuzzi part with 5-6 individual spa sections- all three inside. We went outside (it had tall walls) and there was a rock pool (I stubbed my toes a few times), waterfall, cave area, and Chinese scented pool. There were also what looked like two faucets about 10 feet in the air that shot down water onto women's backs. I don't know how long we stayed there, but Marino noticed that my face was very red and we got out. Once we got dressed there was a room with mirrors and hair dryers. Marino dried Yuki's and her own hair. Again, women were staring. Once in a while they would talk to Marino about me but I never knew what she was saying.

Back in the main area, Fuminori had bought the kids ice cream and they were filthy again. In the main area was a restaurant, a snack bar, video games and a bar. The atmosphere was very social. We left there and stopped at the video store to get the videos we picked out earlier. A last stop at Lawson for bottles of water and more ice cream for the children, then we went home. Fuminori left again for the hospital, Marino started doing laundry, the kids fell asleep soon and I watched my movie by myself. Marino folded laundry and watched the end of the movie with me. The girl's father dies. So I cried a little bit and she didn't understand why the movie made me sad. It was after midnight when the movie was over- so then I just went to bed and had the best night sleep ever.