Thursday, October 14, 2010

It Gets Better Project





i love this project. all of the recent occurrences of bullying, gay bashing, and suicide have been so prevalent lately. not that the situation is necessarily getting worse, but with social media becoming so visible, so intrinsic in our lives, the things we may not have been informed about before are now splattered across every webpage. in a way, things are getting better with more gay acceptance in popular media, and an increasing number of states legalizing gay marriage (fuck you cali, i'm so ashamed of my home state). but when people are still in their teens and 20's, trying to figure out who they are in every aspect, being gay may still seem like being a social leper. with how unsure of myself i was in high school, i cant imagine having the added pressure of either coming out and probably being attacked, or hiding something that was intrinsic to my being. i'm not into labeling, because it seems so exclusionary, but if i had to i guess i would consider myself bisexual. because i am sexually attracted to women, have had same sex encounters, and i think that most women are truly bi. however, emotionally i prefer hetero relationships. i'm not really interested in having a female lover, because of the guilt i feel knowing that it is purely a physical attraction, and i dont feel i could ever devote more to the relationship. so at first i was a bit miffed that this project was for LGBT only, and wasn't open to ALL teens that are feeling rejected by their peers. but what is good about it, giving something a label, is it creates a feeling of unity, allows one to feel a part of something when shunned by others. personally i have always been a non-joiner. the whole refusing to join a club that would have me as a member kind of thing. discovering my sexuality, my character, who i intrinsically am has been a very organic process for me. of course there are the ups and downs, a paradigm shift here and there, but i have never had to bear the burden of any serious shame for who or what i am. maybe it's because of the variety of things i can identify with being a tattooed motorcycle riding human and environmental rights vegan atheist bisexual bibliophile. i've never felt that any of these things DEFINE who i am, but they build the cohesive structure that makes up who i am. and i am not saying that being queer makes someone one dimensional or anything. but i just never had to "come out" with anything, it was always just there in the background. but that is mostly because there was no reason for me to hide anything. being forced to lie about your sexuality is tearing down the foundation upon which a person builds themselves. without that stability, it is so hard to grow in other aspects of your life.

so i really hope that this project and others like it get as much media coverage as the shocking victimization stories that make for good ratings. because i have been allowed to be completely honest about who i am. those who know me are fully aware that i am so totally open, maybe sometimes to a fault. but that is one of my favorite things about being me. for me its like proof that you dont have to play the game or live by the rules that others have set out for you. you can build your own rules, or fuck the rules all together. finding the path that allows you to do so is not easy, there are so many small-minded people out there that will knowingly and purposefully act as hurdles to hinder your progression. but at one point in my life i realized i could just walk around them, or better yet, break them down. i dont have to say "how high" when someone says jump, i can just say "fuck you" and blast right through. when i finally became aware that i could be exactly myself in everything i did, it was such a relief. not that i havent worked for it, the jobs i've taken, the friends i have, all of my experiences have been made with the caveat that i will only be myself. if not, it's a deal-breaker, and i'll have no part in it. i have a lot of people to thank for that, and i try to let them know it often, because few people are so lucky.

so no matter your gender, sexuality, whatever, try to be honest as you can be, first with yourself and then with all those around you. because if you can do it, it may give others the strength to do so as well. figuring out who you really are is a rough road, whether it be parts of your humanity that are chosen, or with which you were born. and this is obviosuly something that is ever changing, (hopefully) people evolve through the course of their entire lives. but once you have determined the things that hold you up, the things that make you proud of being who you are, share them with the world. the people i am closest to do just that, and they do it without pretension or judgement. because of my lifestyle i have friends that i correspond with only a few times a year. but there is a reason i DO stay in touch, even though it may not seem to others not strong enough to hold onto the bonds of friendship. it's because all of those people made such an immediate impact on my world-view, they made me see how amazing a person could be by just being themselves. being uncluttered and non-farcical, people that you can take at their word in every aspect of your relationship. i have had great friends in the past that i have moved on from and are not likely to contact again. the times we spent together were great. but the ones that really last, that i will consider friends throughout the entirety of my life are still in my heart, because i know who they truly are. and they know me. my life has taken me all around the world, meeting people with different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, etc. but all of those things can make an even stronger bond when shared with integrity and trust. i have been more fortunate then most in many ways, but one i never take for granted is the knowledge that there are people out there who accept not only me, but any person with a high quality of character. so let yourselves show people. the things you are proud of, the things you are working on, and all of the amazing qualities that you have which will help build the communal structure that is our society. its more than "i disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." that is not enough, you have to defend the right to not only say it, but to BE it. for me, i think the belief in god is a fantasy that people use to give their lives meaning, because they are blind to the meaning all around them. but as long as they aren't infringing on others rights and beliefs, let them have it, and respectfully. people deal with this life the best way they possibly can, and we all know we have to live with ourselves for, well, our whole lives. so be what you are, love what you are, and say what you are, because the more people that do so, the more we can trust in society as a whole. we are disgusted with the politicians that speak out against gay rights yet are caught partaking in homosexual relations. but if that person had just been honest about who they were from the start, they could be a beacon of integrity and someone to be praised. i'm not saying it's easy, it will take a hell of a lot more work going against the grain. but the more people that do it, the easier it will become, until the word "acceptance" is rarely used, because no one would consider any other alternative. it will just be the m.o. so if you've got the guts to do it, shout out who you are, and take it even further by giving support around you to those who want to do the same but are afraid of the repercussions. the point of this project is "it gets better", but it is more than just our lives getting better as we age and are okay with being ourselves, and maybe others are okay with it too. it's about society getting better, humanity getting better, something that will outlast us and our own insecurities, and become yet another rung on the ladder towards "acceptance". it's a movement that i want to be a part of, and encourage others to do so as well. because for all of my faults, i love who i am, and every person on this planet deserves that feeling. those of us that have it have a responsibility to work towards making it happen for others, or the pride we feel in ourselves comes to naught. i mean, who wants to be proud of themselves in a world that demeans others? certainly not me, and i'm pretty sure most of you out there would say the same. so say it. do it. be it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the benchmark of bland posts

so i've been feeling kinda shitty lately about a whole bunch of stuff going on, but just a couple of barely noticeable events happened, and made me remember how important the small things are.  so i started thinking of all the things i have found to like recently, and such a shame i just dont have anyone to call and gab about this stuff with.  so i'll just gab about it to my blog, we all know i like hearing my own voice best anyway :)

you know what new show is pretty good?  the big c.  i have always liked laura linney, and the casting for it is pretty fantastic.  the dude that plays her romantic interest is one gorgeous hunk of man.  i've always loved black guys with english accents, and this one is a looker.  anyway, the premise of the show is about a woman who has a soon to be fatal case of melanoma, and she is living out the last year of her life without telling her family about it, just trying to get the most out of the life that she has left, while figuring out what the point of it all.  it's not fantastic, the writing could be a little less trite, but it has an organic feel, not gimmicky like it could have been.

ok, something that is nice but sucks at the same time.  this very cute guy asked me out on a date 2 weeks ago.  we messaged back and forth a few times, he called me the night before to confirm, but then in the morning he says he is sick.  so i figured he probably had a girlfriend that unexpectedly got off of work or something.  but he messages me later, promises he is REALLY sick, and wants to make the date for the next weekend.  so he texts me everyday until the upcoming weekend.  he had been missing work because he is still sick, but he is sure he will be fine by the weekend.  friday he goes into the hospital.  and i cant even figure out what is wrong with the guy, we dont have enough of a common language for him to explain it to me.  so at this point im thinking maybe i should block his calls for the sake of my health.  but he seems pretty sweet, so when he asked for one more chance i said okay.  then he asked if we could meet this saturday, of course its the first saturday in ages i cant get out for even a few hours.  cock blocked by my new coworkers and they arent even here yet.  i dont think i am going to be able to see him, because my psyche cant handle much more.  i have had to feel the anticipation of a first date multiple times now, and still without payoff.  it turns out the giddy part of the giddy-nervous feeling kind of wears off after a while.  now i just feel like its too much trouble.  its a shame too.  good lookin guy with great hair, a blue collar worker with just enough english skill to make everything just a little bit funnier i.e. more awkward.  sigh.  maybe i can figure out how to give it one more shot.  he drives a taxi, maybe i can just stand out on the sidewalk until he passes by.  thats how a girl finds a nice guy, stands out on the street corner, right?  good, thats what i thought.

another thing i love.  frozen coke zero.  im eating half of a 1.25 liter like every day.  crunchy, sweet, and not fattening, and cold enough to lower my body temperature and let me work without the fan for a few minutes.  i hate fans.  not as much as i hate air conditioners, but i hate air blowing on me.  part of it is because if it is in my face it dries out my contacts (HATE car aircon for just that reason), and also because it disturbs my peace.  just now i crunched on enough frozen soda to feel a chill, so i switched off the fan.  now i can hear the crickets and the wooden wind chimes outside of my window.  i know the sounds of howling dogs will cover all that up soon, but its nice for a few minutes at least.  hm, i wonder if it is bad for my teeth?

alright, i am going to watch episode 8 of the big c while i eat the rest of my coke zero and text this guy that has a sickness that i hope is not an std to try to set up a date in the not too distant future.  man, he just needs to wait a little longer.  after all this time out here i am finally going to have TIME to date.  all this and now i probably wont meet a guy for ages.  well, theres always that street corner...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Day Has Come!!!

i could give all kinds of excuses about why it has been SO INCREDIBLY LONG since my last post.  i could whine about all of the field work i have been doing.  or the big changes in the company that have to be hammered out.  or the fact that a couple of months ago i just about reached the end of my rope.  but i know all of that will be forgiven.  because today was the day.  the culmination of 8 months of stress, tears, pain, love, joy, anxiety, and family.  there were times for each of us when we questioned our decisions to take on this challenge. questioned, but not doubted.  we all knew it would be a hard road.  of course, my part in this house was the easiest.  sure, i had the burden of most of the actual labor, but no matter what i will someday go back to my home country and return to a normal life.  these people have never even had that to begin with (at least not what most of us would consider normal).  so even if everything works out, all the fear, the processing, the torment that they may have caused harm to others, even when they reach their destination, this "normal" world will still seem like landing on another planet.  sure, we are doing our best to put support systems in place.  i myself am determined to keep these great kids a part of my family.  but since i may not be back for a little while, i have encouraged my father and brother to plan lunch dates, send photos, and of course christmas gifts to them until i can be the one to fill that role.  i know for them to call me a sister, it is pretty common in their culture.  but like many americans, for me calling someone a sister is a promise.  a promise to do whatever is in my power to support them for the rest of their lives.  i have never actually had a sister, but i cannot imagine hoping for someones success as deeply as i wish for theirs.

i know it sucks that i cant be more specific about my work.  i am trying my darnedest to relay the emotional intensity of the last few days, while keeping my bosses from making me delete this :)  but the bottom line is that today, two wonderful girls stepped over a literal boundary that would severely change the rest of their lives.  from today on, they will no longer have to be ashamed of who they are.  and in a couple of weeks when they reach their new homes, they will be able to scream it in the streets if they feel like it.  they can put it on display, use it to identify themselves.  or they can keep it comfortably tucked away and only bring it out when it seems meaningful for them.  its the near unlimited choices that will be the best part of their new lives.

for me, this is obviously pretty emotional.  im not really a crier, i usually have a more visceral reaction.  after my work had reached the finish line, i couldnt even get in a cab, because i felt so much going on in my body.  a stomach clenching nervousness about their future hurdles, the chest tightening sadness of losing two members of my family (for now anyway), and of course the very surreal awareness that a tiny, relatively unskilled, obnoxious know it all like myself had a direct role in making this happen.  and of course if i wasnt here, it would have been someone else, i wasnt anything irreplaceable.  but the unbelievable good fortune that has followed me my entire life landed me in this place, at this time, where i could feel so proud of every person, and i'm not so humble, so yes, greatly proud of myself, to have given so much effort to make this happen.  and some might say that the field work is the most challenging in certain ways.  but in my opinion, the rewards are so far beyond that.  i have the best life in the world.  honestly.  i wake up every day to a beautiful, hard working, determined, and ever growing adopted family.  and even if we wanted to tear each others hair out sometimes, every day we treated each other with the respect and dignity that we all deserve.

this is not the end of the line for me though.  i m not sure how long i will stay, but i have enough time ahead of me to continue to fight the good fight.  the peeps back home are working as diligently as ever, and although this was a great step, there is so much more work to be done on this issue.  so whatever i have left in me to give, i give it gladly.  so thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the people who put their hearts so devoutly into this work.  before i actually started this part of the job, i used to go around talking to people about the issue.  one thing i would say is that at first you wonder if it has any difference to be doing work that indirectly helps these people, that you might never see come to fruition.  but after meeting them, hearing their stories, i felt it to be incredibly presumptuous of me to like, have my name attached to this or that outcome of our work.  luckily enough, i did end up out here, having a direct responsibility.  and honestly, being out here might make it seem more tangible.  but the knowledge that you are working for the betterment of mankind (i know it sounds a bit cheeseball) within the limits that your situation has placed on you is all that anyone could ask for.  because most people dont get even nearly that far.  i am lucky enough to have a lifestyle where i can throw a few books into a bag and head off to just about any place in the world, for just about any amount of time that i want.  and because of that, my situation is easier than those who are trying their best to make a difference while struggling with school, multiple jobs, house payments, dependents, and the admirable trait of not wanting to leave their loved ones behind.  it proves that any commitment that can be made, any devotion to make a difference, will make huge changes that you may not be able to see for yourselves firsthand, but will change others lives on such an incredible level, and it never could have happened without your assistance.                      

                                              my girls on their big day!!!

so i promise to get back to semi-regular posting.  it is always hard, i want to share so much, because there are so many inspiring events that occur here literally daily.  but all i can really say is, sometimes i get down watching the incalculable number of things that are just evil in this world.  the devastating death of the student at rutgers, the senate still having tabled the 1 billion dollar relief fund to haiti, the insanity of the teabaggers, it just seems like too much.  but my father reminded me, that these crazy things go in cycles, the mccarthy trials, the internment camps of WWII. but the thing that stays steady is the community of people that have love for every fellow human being on this planet, and they will fight with an unparalleled tenacity to see justice brought to the world.  and today was the proof that no matter the odds that continue to stack up, we can trust that there will be those that fight for us.  unfortunalty, for some it is too late to reach them.  but their cases should just make us all the more determined to stand up and demand change.  most of us live in countries with true freedom, and can shout our presence down every street if that is what it takes.  and for those who cannot speak, we should do it twice as loud, twice as often.  it can become a roar that in the beginning many people will try to pretend isn't there.  but the more of us that lend our voice, the sooner it will be that they can ignore us no loner.  so seriously, scream out your window right now about an injustice that you know needs to be dealt with immediately .  and tomorrow during your lunchbreak, evening at home, or few hours of respite on the weekends, make a small but tangible effort to spark a change, and a commitment to keeping that small fire alive and growing until differences have been made.  it may not be life changing for you (who knows, it may), but it certainly could be for someone else down the line.  when i decided to take on this specific issue, i never imagined where it would take me.  two years ago i was wondering if i would ever walk again.  but in that time i learned how some people have so little freedom, the would have done anything to be in my situation.  so this has been the most enriching experience of my life, and if not one person remembers my part in it, it so does not matter.  because i will remember it, and it will be a part of who i am for the rest of my life.  so to my two best girls, i know you are fighters, and you are ready to take on the world.  with just a little help you have blossomed into capable, determined women who will take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, and even the ones they must discover for themselves.  you are my sisters, my blood, and when i meet you again we will meet as peers, ready to support each other with all that we have.  until then, show us all that you can do, and i will keep on fighting for the ones that will join you in the future.  ganbatte! aishiteru!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

in/sincerity




so i thought i would put something to a little test.  it was testing myself as well as another.  although i am always aware of one of the rare jewels i got from my mother, "never test someone unless you will be okay when they fail" or something along those lines.  its the same way for everything; if you ever lend money plan to never see it returned.  if you ask a question, be prepared for the worst answer, and dont blame the person, its you who did the asking.  you know, hope for the best but expect the worst kinda thing.  no one would describe me as pessimistic, and i dont think i am.  but human beings are so amazingly fallible.  even the best of people cannot take the right road every time.  sometimes we will be selfish, sometimes arrogant, sometimes greedy.  but the thing that is a deal breaker for me, the reason that i refuse to get married, is that no person can be honest, all the time.  at least not any i have ever met.  and i dont mean everyone is constantly throwing blatant lies around, to me not telling something you know you should is just as bad as a lie.  i have tried my absolute best to be completely honest.  i think that is why some people appreciate my writing, because there is nothing i would feel ashamed to share.  the same reason i am able to earn respect in this crazy house i am living in.  recently (i'll blog about it later when i figure out how to do it safely) i was in a situation with an individual who was drunk beyond anything i have ever seen.  total loss of control emotionally, physically, a complete mess.  ranting and raving and throwing ill-timed punches into empty air.  but i grabbed this persons hair, yanked their face down to mine, made sure our eyes locked, and forced them to be aware of me.  the reaction was astonishing, and makes me a little proud of how hard i have tried to be as close as family but still the authoritarian, at all times.  instantly, the eyes focused and the yelling quieted.  the look of total trust and respect was amazing.  it also made it clear to me that this person as not a lost cause, but could be brought back to reality if done with patience.

im not trying to tout myself here, but that is something i have really tried to develop as i get older.  i have always been an open book, probably too much so for some people's tastes, but there is no part of myself that i will try to bury so it wont be noticed.  this includes my past, my dreams, my flaws.  and it took me a little while to realize that it not only made people trust me, but i gained their respect as well.  and since then i have tried even harder to always be exactly who i am.  even in the workplace that should be more professional, once i have proven myself to be committed to doing my best, i take liberties that most people would not.  my emails to bosses are still peppered with vulgarities, in japan i was wearing short sleeves within 2 months, in direct violation to the very strict "no visible tattoos" policy.  because i knew it was bunk, my tattoos became a great talking point, funnily enough most often with the older housewives.  i would explain why sakura appealed to me so much, how it represented different parts of my life.  after the lesson the would look at me differently, i think because japan especially is a place where almost all honest personal information is kept below the surface, and one always "shows a good face".  rules that are made to make people feel less offended, more comfortable, are just assuming that one cannot respect something that they arent used to, dont understand, or have had a negative experience with in the past.  people really welcome naked honesty, and i think maybe because it is so rare.

even in relationships, sexual or platonic, i feel that if all information is shared completely, any type of relationship can be sustainable.  straight married, gay married, committed, open, monogamous or not.  if everyone has the truth at their fingertips, than they have no one to blame but themselves if they make a decision and it goes awry.  if the relationship is built on truth in the beginning, there is no need to worry about infidelity if you tell your partner that you love them and want to be with them but still want the opportunity to be involved in other relationships.  and the opposite is just as true, if a person is looking for a deep, committed, monogamous relationship, the other person had better not be bitching about things getting "too serious" if they were already made aware of the other persons intentions.  and even if the one-off happens, a moment of weakness perhaps, the best thing to do is to is to bust out with it asap.  because the lying is usually what hurts the most, at least for me.

of course i am an impossible individualist, i never put any sort of important decision in someone else's hands, or trust anyone to do as they say they will all the time.  honestly, i have zero trust in people.  when things get really rough, just about every time someone will cover their ass before they admit wrongdoing.  this can be something as minor as breaking a shopping date or as major as infidelity.  one of my biggest pet peeves is when there is a large group of people together an everyone gets excited about an activity (spending the next weekend at the beach perhaps), but everyone knows it is meaningless chatter.  and im the one standing there with my beach chair and a lonely look on my face.  i am a bit of an impetuous person, so if someone says (true story), "hey, you want to go to maui with me tomorrow", i say sure.  at first they dont believe me, but when they become aware of my sincerity, they are pleasantly surprised.  because it is such a rare thing.

now im not saying if things really got hairy for me, i would be able to be little miss goody two shoes.  i have yet to be in a situation where i have really had to question if i could fess up to something.  of course im not perfect, everyone falls through sometimes.  i will keep a date even if i get a better offer (ha), but will tell them honestly if i have to break it for a job interview or something.  but this i really the small stuff.  when it comes to the big, the really big, i cannot understand why SO MANY PEOPLE cannot be totally honest.  even when they are good people that you know love you.  my ex-fiancĂ©e was very much in love with me when i found out he had slept with someone from work.  but the lying to unsuccessfully cover it up is what really disgusted me.  the people closest to me in my life fail time and time again to keep their word, and then they wonder later why it was so important to me anyway.  no one can be all themselves, all honesty, all the time.  well, why not?

i had a very good friend in hawaii who broke about 60% of the dates we would make.  she drove me mad, but her personality was so adorable i always wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.  but after a while it was just too much.  why couldnt she say, "i'll try to go but ive got other stuff going on too", or "definitly, id love too, but you know me, i might always change my mind at the last minute."  so much better than the "i swear this is the last time, it wont happen again."

so like i said, i put myself to a little test.  i decided to see if i could commit to someone in a relationship, as in trust them at all times, and know that they will make decisions in regards to BOTH of us.  i havent done this in many years.  but in the end, i only ended up lying to myself.  the person failed miserably, even after repeated chances, constantly chose the more selfish route and in the end admitted (after a telephone slip up forced it), that he had been unfaithful.  actually not a big deal, we said we wouldnt date anyone else, but it hadnt been long, and things were always a bit rocky anyway.  and this is where i was really lying.  the person i chose to do this with, i already knew the exact outcome.  i knew from the very beginning he would lie, because not only is it with the odds anyway, this person is particularly shady.  so i touted to myself and others that after years, i was finally going to give someone an honest chance at a relationship.  but i had never once expected anything but dishonesty, insincerity, and hurt.  i guess its good in one way, because it hurt a lot less than if i had REALLY thrown it all in.  but as always, i kept a good chunk out to rebuild from when it all went to shit.  to him, i was honest, even about doubting my ability to trust, blah blah.  but i lied to myself, that i would ever believe someone totally and completely.  that when an individual told me something, especially about a touchy subject, that i would have no reason to doubt their word.  and the knowledge of that kills me.

and i know its my fault that i feel like this.  humans lie, cheat, fail, disappoint.  who am i to expect perfection, i have innumerable flaws of my own.  but why is it so difficult for people to just be honest about their intent, their actions and most importantly, who they really are?  not a front or a farce, but sincerity that pervades all aspects of their lives.  i know, i have MANY MANY flaws, i am not saying i am better or worse than anyone.  but on this point, why is it so exceedingly rare to find absolute honesty.  saving someones feelings or covering up your own indiscretions only serves to feed the beast that is insincerity.  it doesnt always work out great, just recently i was contacted by an individual in a very unprofessionally worded email about a very serious topic.  so in the first few sentences i explained that the position she was inquiring about took an intense amount of professionalism in the right places, and the greeting of "hey girl" was just inappropriate.  (thank god it didt say hey gurl, i cringe just thinking it).  but after that i wrote paragraph upon paragraph to answer all of her questions, and that even my first tirade was just a way to stay sane in this job.  i got a very terse two sentence email in reply.  obviously being myself and letting her know my true reactions to her email did not go over well.  but i wouldnt change one thing.  like when i first began to contemplate my tattoos, one of the biggest worries was about being denied a job because of them.  but my dad said, "can you really see yourself working at a place that would have a problem?"  and he was right, even the place that did have an issue allowed me my freedom once i showed my professionalism in other areas.  if they came down on me after being an otherwise exemplary employee, i would have just left.  because i want to be taken as i am.

so this is all a bit less cohesive than most of my writing, because this issue has to be dealt with logically and emotionally, and sometimes it is hard to get those two to meet.  logically i know that there is a good chance a person that i allow to get very close to will use that same knowledge to hurt me deeply.  so i think that is why i have really taken this stance of "always being who i am".  because if i am totally open with everyone, i dont actually trust that anyone is doing that in return.  prepare for everyone to disappoint, and you'll never be taken unaware, and you will always have a plan b in place.  maybe that in itself is dishonest, to act like i see this as an even exchange when i am really expecting failure.  and like i said, isnt it too much to ask anyway?  i dont know, but i have met people may have been as sincere as i am looking for, but never became close enough to them to find out, i have a feeling there are a few.  but when eventually meet someone i can unquestioningly put complete trust in, and we actually have enough of a relationship that would allow me to realize it, that will be a pretty awesome day.  because i know that there are others out there that ache for the sincerity that although unlikely, is still possible.  i mean, just think of those rare conversations when you meet someone and you want to know everything about them, and they about you, and you feel you almost cant cover the topics fast enough.  its a it of a childish feelings, like best friends forever blech.  but it is such a pure feeling, that you have no roadblocks, nothing stopping all of you from just spilling out and mixing it around with the things that make up that other person.  i've had it a few times, even recently, but never had the opportunity to see if it is long lasting or just part of the exciting newness of a just made friend or romantic possibility.  so if you are looking for that little bit of sincerity left in the world, first let it out yourself.  be who you are, unabashedly and honestly, understanding and dealing with your flaws but wanting for the world to take you as you are.

but i did learn one thing from this little experiment.  it is pointless to get angry at someone for letting you down. it is who they are, and you have to take it or leave it.  so although i cant keep it from hurting, i can keep it from causing anger and frustration.  is this another way to put up a defense?  i dont know.  but i do know it allows for only an expected hurt and sparing feelings of malevolence.  not my first choice, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.  but i am ever the optimist, i know there are others who are burning with a passion to open themselves up and be accepted for who they are.   but thats the catch.  can we really accept each other, down to the core, with all of our flaws and weaknesses?  id like to think so, but then should i accept those who cannot be honest as trying to cope to the best of their ability.  but once, just once, i would like to look someone in the eyes and feel total trust and respect.  for those who manage it, giving it or finding it, kudos.  but i'm still looking...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

old days in new times

so ive been living in this same little neighborhood for about 7 months, and i am finally starting to understand all the ins and outs.  it brings me back to a time before walmarts, supermarkets, and mcdonalds.  within a 15 minute walk from my house there is everything i could possibly need.  mechanic, pharmacy, tailor (who didnt laugh at me when i brought him these ratty old jeans that had a huge hole in the crotch but i just loved too much to get rid of), fruits and veg, rice, and meat market, complete with pigs head hanging from hooks and catfish that are literally bigger than me.  but it doesnt end there, if you need a hardware store, there are 3 within walking distance.  a new door detailed by a skilled woodworker, a paint job for your scooter, a car wash, even a gay massage parlor and the requisite karaoke clubs with the girls withing outside to invite customers for a little...fun. when i first got here i was going all over the city to get things done, because they were places that spoke english, or were just very obvious.  these small stores here often have no signage, but if they do i cant read it anyway.  so i have to walk into the shop to see what they are actually selling.  the fact that i have started language lessons helps, but passing these places everyday to go to the outdoor food market, i finally got curious enough to start bringing my business closer to home.  so last week i got my jeans taken care of, yesterday i walked into the barber shop directly across the street from my house.  he was all worried, saying he couldnt cut my hair.  but it was just getting a little mulletish in the back, so i told him to just clean it up like he would for any man.  he did, it was perfect, and it cost me the equivalent of 1 US dollar.  our dvd player got repaired, and i can have any kind of local food i want, there are stalls, stands, and tiny little restaurants everywhere.  now this does have its small drawbacks, like everyone knows who i am because i am the only white girl in the neighborhood.  and our gas ran out for the stove, and normally when you give them a call, 15 minutes later a scooter pulls up with a new tank.  but today being a sunday, they are closed.  and this country has more national holidays than any place i have been, so at least every two weeks there is some holiday for which everything but the food places are shut.  i found that out the hard way when i took a 13 hour train ride to get a new visa, and found out it was a holiday and i would be waiting around an extra day.

these stores are cheaper with most items than the big supermarkets i can take the subway to, but not always. obviously they have limited time and customer base.  but the feeling on living in an actual neighborhood is great.  i mean, its cool living on a cul-de-sac and playing with all of your friends that live around you in suburbia, like i did when i was young.  but this is just such a different type of feeling.  most places i walk into are pulling what they know i need off of the shelf before i can get both feet in the door.  and everyone knows everyone, a little gossipy but more just in the way that you just know what everyone does for a living, if they are married or not.  most people pass the time sitting out in front of their business chatting to the other shop owners around them.  there is always a relaxed tone atmosphere that settles down over this place, and makes you feel welcome, even as an outsider.

recently i was talking to someone who works i work with that has a an important job with the US government, and she ranted on about how stupid these people (locals) are, how they have no drive, have servile attitudes yet are too incompetent to get anything done properly.  i do have to admit that critical analysis seems beyond some of the people i have met.  but just because they only worry about making enough money to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead, does not make them less worthy as people.  they may not be busting their ass at some shitty job so they can buy a 56 inch flat screen tv.  obviously this is going to be appealing to me, since everything i own can fit into a few boxes in my moms garage.  and moving out here for at least a year i only brought one bag of clothes and a suitcase full of books (my one materialistic need).  but the influence of western culture is seeping in, and in a not so great kinda way.  for example, of my friends here drives this totally customized truck, has the newest phone, and a decent apartment.  turns out he bought it all on credit.  and he can keep up with the payments at all because a huge portion goes to supporting his mother and little sister.  he is the most stressed person i have met out here, and its all about money.  and yes, there are people who are poor, homeless, and forgotten.  but like a taxi driver said to me once, nobody is starving in this country, because there are always people willing to dole out enough food.

now im not trying to bash on the industrialized nations...much.  i mean, i love japan and they are the epitome of working to the full extent of their ability and not being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor at all.  and i know that when i go to the pharmacy, the pills here may be made in this country now, but were originally developed in a country of workaholics.  as for higher education, obviously im all for it, i have always loved school and will probably go back for my PhD.  but it takes all kinds to make the world go round, and i have met people here that have offered to let me into their metalwork/jewelery making classes, or teach me the finer aspects of the local cooking.  there are a lot of things i could learn here that would be way more useful than say...a communications degree.  so i appreciate the fact that there are people out there who want to push the limits of mankinds abilities farther and farther.  but what makes it grotesque is how it is all about money.  free market economy, chain stores putting people out of business, banks trading bogus mortgages.  here, i never get the feeling that people are out to get anything more than the basics of what they need.  some are more ambitious, like my friend who works two jobs so he can build a house on his familys rice farm.  and some are less so, they are basically servants for a more wealthy family.  but even the guy that lives up the street that owns a taxi company lives in a very inauspicious house, and it took me forever to realize that the older woman in the house was the servant, and not the grandmother.  the only thing ive seen her doing when she's not out chatting on the stoop, is laundry.  and im assuming she does the cooking as well.  she is most definitely treated as one of the family.

of course its not always like this. i became friends with the wife of an older man who was of mixed ethnicity (sorry, cant say which), who are known to be more wealthy than the average local, and take advantage of the business opportunities in this country.  when i visited their 5 story house, i handed a bag or grapes to my friend (a rare treat), who then basically threw them at her maid and told her to wash them and bring them out with some tea.  the rest of the time the woman sat in a chair in the darkened kitchen, just waiting to be told what to do next.  i was a bit creeped out.  but i also knew my friend is incredibly kind and compassionate, she adopted an abandoned baby after seeing him on a news report.  so its definitely a mixed bag here.  i can only glean information from my own neighborhood, but it seems that most people are pretty happy with their lot and not in a hurry to change anything or expand their business.  there is this local bag designer that i love (i have mentioned his bags in a previous post) and numerous times i have asked him why he doesnt make a weekender bag, since his other stuff is so great and he's got tons of different styles and sizes, but his biggest is a touch to small for a weekend trip (well, at least if you re like me and need 3 books with you at all times).  and he just replies, well, i really dont have the space to keep them.  he is interested in his bags getting out there of course, and he works very hard, but he still has the same attitude that making money is not going to control his lifestyle.

i wonder at what point in history did humans begin to need things.  there's the little things like the latest iphone, or bigger things like an escalade in the driveway parked next your rv/speedboat, whatever.  and im not trying to be hypocritical here, i grew up as a girl camping most summers, driving around my old beat bronco, learning how to wakeboard, and in the winter, snowboard.  but these (in my opinion) are about the activity, not the stuff surrounding it.  now if i was buying new gear every season or drove my SUV nowhere but on the pavement, thats one thing.  but experiencing the joy that comes with physical or self reliant activities is hard to beat, for me at least.  but being here, i cant really wakeboard or snowboard, and i know it would be fun if i could, but i dont miss it.  the only thing i really miss is not having a motorcycle for the first time in 14 years.  but when i get the rare opportunity, i can rent one for the day and drive through the mountains and see hilltribes, temples, and beautiful, unspoilt green earth.

so the people living here i really think are getting more enjoyment out of their lives by not being so obsessed with materialism.  but i am not immune, im trying to find a used ipod touch since my 6 year old ipod is on its last legs.  but in all my life i have never had a job that i made enough money where i would actually have to file taxes.  and i have snowboarded the mountains of nagano, surfed the waves at browns in hawaii, and camped in the most fantastically beautiful places known to man, like yakushima island, the grand tetons, the na pali coast, and one right out my backyard (in the states), joshua tree.  i have lived dozens on lives, and feel fortunate to have gone through all of it.  but now, for the first time, i live in a place where my job is my life.  but not for the money (obviously, there is none), for the joy of the work and the passion i feel for this cause and the love of this country.  while my dates might never have enough money to do more than sit under the stars at a street restaurant or walk the markets to see all the crazy stuff, thats fine by me.  heck, the best date of my life was when a guy took me to a used bookstore.  recently i was offered an all expenses paid trip to india by a young man i barely know (i know him well enough that im sure hes not dangerous or anything), but i know he wants me to go as his girlfriend, and i could never see him that way, and to act it out just for a trip seems ridiculous.  and my gangster friend here has offered many times to buy that new ipod touch i have been saving up for.  i dont remember the last time a guy paid for my movie ticket, let alone electronics.  but its almost to a detriment, like when i was on my recent visa run, a man that i had met on the train who was really nice and friendly, handed the taxi driver both my and his share of the cost of the trip (there were like 6 of us).  i immediately dug out my share from my wallet and handed it to him, and both he and another guy were like "wow, independent to the last dime are we?".  so maybe i should accept just a smidge more of generosity when it is given with good intension.

but it is rare here that i will have to deal with that.  i am plenty happy that most of my days are now old school haggle market shopping, taking 2 hour walks for the relaxation in brings, and learning a bit about the new culture, language, life.  i will probably never own my own home or vehicle besides a motorcycle, but those things just arent important to me, nor can i see them being all that important in the future.  sure, maybe i'll buy a house together with a bunch of friends like a co-op or something.  but my largest purchase in 7 months was language lessons, at about $90.  as for an actual thing, i cant have bought anything over 20 bucks.  so if living this lifestyle here is having no drive or ambition, than i am happy to be a called aimless or indolent.  but i spend my days doing the most purposeful and exciting thing in the world, supporting people who are after there own freedom.  and whatever they do with that freedom, from jumping on the flashy materialist bandwagon to helping others who are like them reach their goals, it matters not.  because, like i said, we need all types to further science, industry, an so on.  but i sure am contented with my type has turned out to be.  it shows itself in my japanese name, kokaku kino which means a lone traveler and the scent of leaves and new wood.  i'll take it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

cut it with the cheeseball bullshizz already!

ok,  im still gagging on my last 2 posts, they were so syrupy sweet.  so i want to post on something that initially seems like it would be all about love, but in actuality is mostly about egoism and vanity.  that right folks, its time to talk about dating.  dating in all of its forms, the anticipation of a long held crush to the ho stroll you make back to your place after a night of wishingly forgettable sex.  but we'll narrow the field here a little bit by focusing on foreign dating.  yes, to me and many others ALL dating is a foreign thing, but im talking about dating a race other than your own, and even more specifically, where it is you who is the foreigner

dating in foreign countries adds a whole other dimension of awkwardness to an already nerve-wracking experience.  its not without its benefits of course, you get to experience new cultures, have fun finding out the different rules of dating etiquette, and cracking up as you both thumb through your dictionaries to find a common feeling.  and of course if you more are attracted to those of an ethnicity other than your own (like i am) double bonus!  but the humiliating misunderstandings and regrettable maybe it wouldn't hurt to give it a chance-es will take years to be able to laugh about.  years and years.  but in the end, so totally worth it.

insert: my most humiliating moment.  i was with a guy doing something guys i have known in the past usually like.  a lot.  nothing crazy or weird, pretty standard.  but all of a sudden this guy gives me the most contemptuous look, and says how dirty i am.  it was horrifying.  i was sick about it for days (ok, hours).  luckily in talking with other japanese men, turns out this guy was just a fucking asshole, and while this possibly may have been a cultural thing ages ago, but his reaction was totally out of line.  i was relieved, but held off on physical contact for a while.  end insert

anyway, in japan i was in metrosexual heaven.  there was the grungy guy with the perfectly selected torn jeans, 80's punk band shirt, and the ability to grow just a hint of stubble (so rare in japan).  then there was the amazingly quaffed pop idol look, with anime hair worthy hair, the pointiest of boots, and a smile that could make any girl blush.  but alas, being a foreigner (who is also quite loud and brash), sometimes it was a bit difficult to get a date.  and when i did, they just thought all white chicks put out, so they thought they found a sure thing.  so most of the guys i dated i did the asking.  and i have no qualms about that.  ive been politely shirked a couple of times, but on the whole i usually get what i'm after.  but as i know i will never be in one place for long, its pretty much a given that if we start getting along a little too well, i have to give them the, hey, you know im here for a year, two tops, right?  which then goes one of two ways.  the guy says he is fine with it, but really isnt.  and they guy who says he is fine with it, and really is.  i dont know which i prefer.  the guy i dated the longest in japan was one of my physical therapists.  and we had agreed it was casual.  but when another guy asked me out, and i asked #1  if it was ok and he was like, sure, i was nonplussed.  im terrible.  i want a guy to fall in love with me, even if i only moderately like him, and yet him to be ready to let go at a moments notice.  what a cruel bitch.

so thats actually what i have on my plate right now.  there is a beautiful local man whom i started dating because i heard he was a player.  players are handsome, easy to deal with, you both know what he wants, and he's good at what he does (hopefully).  and at first he seemed to fit the player profile.  didn't show up when he said he would, drove a ridiculous car with like 4 amps, and had the most charming smile i have seen in many a year.  so i thought i had set myself up nicely.  but when we hung out it was just dinner at home together, playing a little ping pong, and then...that was it.  a kiss on the cheek and an affectionate look was all i was getting.  hmm, this wasnt playing out as i had hoped.  but it finally gave me the goal to start taking language lessons, cause btw he speaks no english.  and i need a tangible reason to study.  and boy is he ever tangible.  but after a while i start getting pissed.  finally, i was like, ok, you are a big freaking liar, you never show up when you say you will, the neighbors have seen you with other girls on your bike, and you obviously dont even find me attractive cause ive gotten more play from my body pillow.  then the truth all comes out, so unexpectedly i cold only stare in bewilderment.  so i knew he was broke and only worked with his mother selling fruit.  but it turns out he was too embarrassed to tell me that he also drives taxis at night.  and not only does he have a car he cant afford, 40% of his salary goes into a house he is building himself on his family rice farm in the northeast (i have verified this from gossipy outside sources).  but here's the kicker.  i said, well, you asked me to be your 'girlfriend', but what do you really want from me?  i could not have been more dumbfounded with his answer.  he told me that he loves me and if i love him and we still love each other in 1, 2, 3 years, we will move up north together and get married.  WHAT?????  i didnt even know this guy was serious about me.  hell, the day before this conversation i went on a date with this kinda scary gangster just cause i was so upset that he didnt show up when he said he would yet again.  (which was a mistake btw, although i knew that going into it.  even if you refuse all gifts or privileges offered by a gangster, they are still used to getting what they want).

so now i am totally at a loss.  i cant say i love him, i dont even know what that word means.  seriously, our conversations are ridiculously simple with my inadequate language skills.  we know nothing of each others pasts, although we know each others future goals.  (A FUCKING RICE FARM!).  ha, actually, i really like farming.  i cant even have sex with him because he is pretty traditional and thinks it shows respect to wait (my language teacher has also been giving me insights into the local men, even though he does it with a red face and a stutter).  and the local culture isnt really even into kissing, affectionate touching, which i think is almost the only reason to have a boyfriend.  hell, i havent allowed a man to call me his 'girlfriend' in over 6 years.  but there is one thing that has kept me from calling it all off, even though i have wanted to many times.  i have had guys i liked, thought i loved, and one i loved for a while.  but when i look at this man, it feels like the amazing burden of this job, this lifestyle, this 24 hour a day mind fuck, has been lifted from my chest.  my heart feels light, and when he smiles at me i feel just a tiny bit of peace.  i dont know what the fuck any of this means.  its probably cause he's got an amazing smile and i cant understand the dumbass words coming out of his mouth.  but there is the tiniest chance that its something else. now, im not going to move north and live on a rice farm, i will be out of this country in two years, tops, just like always.  but it does give me pause to think about how so many people have qualities that you feel on a core level, even if you cant really explain why.  even coming from different cultures, backgrounds, languages, families, sometimes there really are kindred 'spirits'.  sexually, non sexually, there are many people whom i meet for the briefest of moments and yet remember them for a lifetime.  but to marry someone, to promise to grow together, when you dont even know how you will grow yourself?  i barely like who i was 10 years ago, why should i expect another to do so.  i dont know, it seems so arrogant to make such a promise.  but if he asked me to come live with him on his farm as his partner in love and life until we decided to part, who knows what i might say.  there could be worse things than this:

day by day

the thing that sucks about writing this blog is that all of the really cool stuff that happens, like holidays, or local events, some good and others just democratically inspiring, i cant write about them for safety reasons.  we had a festival that i know for a fact for some of the family here it was absolutely the most fun they had ever had in their lives.  one of them came to me later saying, "i wasnt happy (in my home country).  i wasnt happy in the home i tried to build later.  today i am happy, first time".  this in broken english was enough to get a hard heart like mine to melt just a little.  the unique opportunities afforded to me in this life have allowed me the knowledge of the pain, suffering, and cruel things of which a person is capable.  but it has allowed me to feel the depth of honesty, frailty, compassion, and love of which a person can be capable as well.  i know i harp on it, but one of the hardest times in my life was the year in a japanese hospital.  but my physical therapist saw my determination and was willing to push me even harder.  we would actually both be crying during therapy session, me from the pain, and her from her willingness to push even harder when i begged her to.  she is such an honestly empathetic person, someone so pure of heart i cant believe i will meet the likes of her again.  but i know i will.

i sit here at my desk, legs folded under me, in a tank top and undies because of the heat.  as it is evening and my window is westward facing, the shafts of sunlight are filtering their way through the leaves of the large tree outside my window (where many noisy, early rising birds live).  i can hear some laughs form downstairs, a few watching a dvd together or something.  but i know its not everyone because i can also hear the gentle sweeping of the old bamboo broom.  the yard is beautiful, everyone cleaned it of the years of accumulated leaves as a surprise while i was at my language lesson.  there is ping pong table, dart board, kiddy pool, and the jankiest basketball hoop in existence (i cut the bottom out of a washtub and lashed it to an dry old tree).  inside we have learning materials, toys, games, and a houseful of people who love each other.  i know my last post was corny as hell, but sometimes these things need to be said.  because when im talking politics to my dad on skype (which we do often) we often reach the point where it seems like, why even make the effort?  things are so fucked up, and there are so many people out there with too much power who deserve a good bash in the god damned skull.  how can you ever help enough?  when does it become sacrifice?  how much should each person be expected to give?  i have no idea about the answers to these questions.  i have a habit of being quite the judgmental bitch, but who am i to determine that you aren't doing your part.  all i know is i have lived my life doing what seemed (and in this order) fun, educational, and acting on behalf of others when i have a say and they may not, whether it be environmental or civil rights.  and really, it has always been about the fun. its not like im saying if this job wasnt fun tomorrow, i'd be taking off (cause there are plenty of days this job is the antithesis of fun).  but its about taking whats important to you, looking for that well hidden niche that you can fill with your everyday skills yet gives you more than an everyday kind of feeling.  i am no prodigy, i have a slightly above average iq and the benefit of not incurring the loss of idealism that seems to come with age.  i am no saint; i cuss and have occasional random sex and am selfish as often as the next average joe.  but i have found a thing, maybe the thing, i dont know, that has allowed my to do decent work and still live every day with excitement, anxiety, love, hope,and  heartbreak, but to like an extreme level.  like off the charts.  my efforts are not world changing, but they are life changing, even if it is just my own.

Friday, April 16, 2010

true family

i know, i know, i have been terrible about blogging lately.  because things in the house have changed so much recently, so many crazy things going on, not the least of which getting two abandoned children in the house (they are not related).  it was quite a shock, and their journey here was one of deceit and intentional miscommunication.  i swear to you, if i ever meet the person who is responsible for this again, i will punch him as hard as i can in the fucking face.  i have never had such a want to physically injure someone, but i can feel it in my gut.  and trust me, it would be justified.  anyway, so now we have a couple of kids that we, at this point in time, have to raise.  not to help, or watch out for, but to educate-shelter-love-discipline.  we are their family, for a little while.  this is really strange for me, as most of you know i have never wanted children.  thats not to say that im not good with kids, because i kinda am.  i will play the same way they play, even if it means rolling on the ground or getting play-dough in my hair or stopping my work to built a fort.  but i am also a hard ass, and have no trouble disciplining them when they need it.  and EVERYONE in the house has a pretty limited common sense, as they have been living in such a crazy, nonsensical world for so long.  so age 23 or 6, its all about the same.

but there are unique challenges that come with kids, having to always put their needs first, having to be at least partially aware of what they are doing 100% of the time.  they are expensive, emotional, and erratic.  but they are also huggy, giggly, innocent, and all the things that make you willing to put everything aside for them.  the littlest is also handicapped, so communicating with her has been a whole other issue.  but when she giggles and grabs on to you, its such an example of unconditional love.  on both sides.  which i  might feel stronger than i ever have before.  i know i am not their mother (although if i could i would consider adopting them), and i am fully aware that the youngest probably will forget i even exist as she grows up.  which honestly doesnt bother me one bit.  of course i would love to know about their lives in the future, who they become.  on their end i know the relationship may be fleeting, but for the present i consider myself undeservedly fortunate to fill the role of their mother, father, friend, whatever they need.  when the children first came into the house i was very worried that some of the other people here might not want to deal with the shared burden of raising two kids.  two very emotionally damaged kids.  and honestly, it was tough, for the first time since i have been out here i felt really stressed.  but everyone has manned up and taken their share of the responsibility.  even to the point that now its not an issue at all, we all feel fortunate that they came to us, and couldnt imagine the house without them.  i wanted to send them on their way asap, but now the idea of long term care seems like a gift.  but its borrowed time, i know.

i heard a lot of horror stories about living/working here.  and i can only imagine the difficulties that my predecessors had to deal with.  but every individual to come here has been a wonderful addition, like there was a hole that needed to be filled by their presence.  thats not to say we dont have our troubles.  i am the dominant one in the house, everyone knows what i say goes.  im usually so brash and loud, so if i get quiet and serious, they are not just worried, they are a little scared.  which is a good thing, someone had to take that role here, and im glad to do it.  my word is law in this house, and is unquestioned.  but recently for the first time someone doubted the reasoning behind some of my decisions.  this is fine, sometimes they dont, or cant, know the whole story, i am usually glad to explain why certain situations go as they do.  but this individual was actually putting the house at risk with his actions.  so for the first time, i brought out the big guns.  i got nose to nose with him and cursed in his face.  i expressed so much anger that i was shaking.  i ranted about his selfishness and attitude.  not that he understood it, he doesnt speak a lick of english.  but he got my meaning.  i have never seen someone go from belligerent to docile so quickly.  the other people in the house that witnessed it were terrified.  when asked later, they said that if i had done that to them, they felt they were not fit to be human.  but as soon as he calmed down, i explained logically and clearly (with an interpretor of course) the reason for my outburst and the fact that safety is my number one priority here.  then i walked it back and told him quite a bit of personal information about myself, why i am here, what i have faced.  he was astonished, he had no idea who i was, or really even why i was there (he is the newest addition, and a standoffish male, so we havent really bonded yet).  he understood that i could empathize with his situation, that my efforts were 100% for his, and everyones, well being.  i then explained to him the reasoning behind a lot of my decisions that he was doubting.  i think (hope) that he fully comprehends why he has to follow my word no matter what the situation.  we hugged it out, very honestly and deeply.  i told him he was my family, and i would do everything i could to secure a good future for him.  so even though i had just gone off on him in the strongest way i could (okay, maybe like 80%), we came to a better understanding than we ever had before.  neither of us bares a grudge, and we get along just fine.

i have no fantasy that we all have this amazing bond that will last a lifetime.  we will go our separate ways as soon as it is possible, and will have little, if any, contact.  but when the littlest one comes in to call me for dinner, and we all gather around the table and laugh, joke, talk, emote, whatever, it really and truly is my family that i am with.  my lifestyle does not lend itself well to long term relationships.  but what i lack in time i make up for in sincerity.  whether they know it or not,  i would die to keep these people safe.  they are my life, my loves, my friends, and my true family.  most of them have been spurned or treated cruelly in their past homes.  but here, i know that some of them feel safe for the first time.  now im not trying to tout myself as this selfless, heroic individual.  not at all.  the deep feelings i have may or may not be reciprocated.  but that is not the point.  when we sit down together, we have a bond as strong as any blood related family might have.  i am so humbled that i am able to have these relationships, so fortunate as to be even a whisper in their lives.  in the past i have struggled with my decisions to never stay in one place long enough to build long term relationships, but this makes up for it all.  like i said, its the quality, not quantity.  and that they will go on to build their own families in the future makes me so contented.  it is a struggle for everyone here, and one of the things i told them is that i understand that we see the worst sides of each other, even worse than usual because of the very out of the ordinary situation we are all in.  but that makes it even more real, and more amazing that we care for each other so much.  so i can no longer wonder if when i come to the end of my life, will i have ever had children or a family.  because i have it now, and to me it is just as sacred as any blood family, and i will cherish it while i have the opportunity.  

so for all the people that dont have a loving family, or are worried about being alone, know that there are people out there who will live and die beside you, if thats what it takes.  they may not have your skin color or upbringing, but they will be willing to build an amazingly close relationship with you, and share parts of themselves that they would never share with an outsider.  and that is honestly more important than blood family, isnt it?  because we could opt out of this family if we wanted to.  but we dont, because we know that we are the closest people we have to each other.  so i am immensely appreciative of the time we have together, and of the people that i can call my sister, brother, son or daughter.  even if it is just a stepping stone for them, it is a necessary one, because they would not reach the other side without it.  and now it has become more than it being my duty to shelter them, it is my hearts greatest wish to see them succeed and create happy and healthy lives.  my family is here, and although it is not permanent, it will be part of who i am for my entire life.  





Wednesday, March 24, 2010

happy ada lovelace day!

like most internet trolls out there, i manage to come across the most interesting and amazing subcultures.  by and large that has to be my favorite thing about the internet.  i am by no means tech savvy, culture savvy, or socially savvy.  hell, i can barely function in social situations enough to not spill a drink on myself or unknowingly talk shit about a guy to his girlfriends face.  so i dont often find myself in art galleries saying oh how droll thaddeus, you are such a rascal!  nor do i sit outside hipster bookstores complaining that banksy is just the next shepherd fairey, exchanging his politically inflammatory and damnable art for that which the masses can appreciate and feel a part of the underground culture.  and then they buy coffee table books of the street art to put on their ikea tables next to their dwell magazines.

but back on topic.  the internet allows for the dissemination of intellectual discourse even for the most unsociable.    recently, through my normal habit of following links from a musician interview to his fav bands to their favorite webpages (with a few quick stops at wikipedia to remind myself what a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor is; not kidding, that was my last wikipedia search).  by and by i found a website called finding ada.  its all about ada lovelace, and how she wrote the first computer programs for the first computer that was more than a calculator, the analytical engine.  she has been called the first computer programmer, and the modern computer programming language is named ada.  so today, march 24, is ada lovelace day.  to commemorate this special day we are taking the time to bring attention to other unsung women in the world of technology.  at findingada.com, thousands of people are writing about a woman they think has made an important contribution to technology today.  so here goes mine.

i hope no one gets snippy, but the woman i chose did not actually have much hands on work in the field of technology.  but nevertheless, without her we would be years, maybe decades behind in the fields of gene therapy, cloning, even the polio vaccine.  although she died in 1951, she has been in the news recently because of a new book called the immortal life of henrietta lacks by rebecca skloot.  ms skloot was on the colbert report recently to discuss her new book, a clip of which can be found here.  to explain in just a few sentences, when henrietta lacks was treated at a hospital for cervical cancer, some of her cells were removed to be studied later (without her knowledge).  possibly because of inadequate treatment, her body became riddled with tumors and she died at the age of 31.  but upon studying her cells, it quickly became apparent that they did not die soon after division, basically they were immortal cells.  these cells were able to then be used to create vaccines, were the first cells to be cloned, and were even shot into space (a nice timeline can be found here).  her family was not told until years later, and seemingly have received no compensation.  the only legacy is that the cell line is called HeLa.  for more specifics on how the science of genetics and immortal cells work, i suggest checking out the new book.  i know i will, as soon as i live in a country that has it available :)  or of course you can spend the day on wikipedia, going from link to link, until the work day is done.

so maybe ms lacks did not create any major technology by her brainpower or ingenuity.  however, the cancer that ended her life has saved thousands, if not millions of others.  so we will give back in the only way we know how, buy spreading your story and your sacrifice.  even though you were buried in an unmarked grave, the people that know your direct impact on science and technology that continues today, we will remember you in our hearts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

we heart tees!

ok, since my last blog posts have been waaaayyyy to heavy, here's a nice little break.  this post is all about how to show some sweet love to that soft cotton gently caressing your skin.  i love laundry, and i love my tees, and i want them to last.  so here is how i have found to best take care of your since-broken-up band t shirts, ones you got that proudly show you have been to gainsville florida or niagara falls, or one from that boy/girl friend that broke your heart and left you but forgot their shirt, and you still sleep with it every night.  although, be warned, washing will remove the boy/girlfriend smell, so if you are really that creepy, do not follow this advice.  instead, go get yourself laid.

t shirt care starts as soon as you take of your shirt.  forget what your mother told you about putting all your shirts right side out so she doesnt have to do it when folding.  dont.  take the shirt off over your head like a normal person and leave it inside out.  this will be important for both the washing and drying steps.

alright, the wash.  do separate colors, at least to some extent.  if all you listen to is metal, i'll assume all you have is black.  but for those of us with more diverse interests, remember that your whites will really look blah if you just throw it all together.  for detergent, i have never really found that the detergent matters much, but thats just me.  just something mild, colorsafe if you want, but i dont bother.  just dont use very much of it.  seriously, like 1/4 of what is recommended on the package.  put it on a gentle cycle with cool water, and let it go.   chose a short cycle time.  now, the reason it is best to have the shirt inside out is the design on the outside will be protected from rubbing up on everything as it is sloshing around in there.  also, if something got in the wash that you didnt mean to, something that was in a pocket or something, if it stains the shirt it will hopefully just be on the inside of the shirt.  it may leak through, but hey, youve got a better shot this way.

drying.









ok, drying is the most important part to protect your beloved t.  now, living in asia, i have gotten used to line-drying my clothes for years, because people rarely have dryers.  it is cheaper, more eco friendly, your clothes dont wear out as fast and they dont shrink.  if you cant be bothered to line dry, stop reading right now cause i dont give fuck about your laziness.  others more inclined, follow along.  now, if you do have a washer that will do a quick spin to get rid of the excess water, you can use that.  then take your wet shirts to your line.  your line should be in the direct sunlight if you live in a humid or cold area, indirect if you live in a very hot, dry location.  i dont like to hang the shirts on a hanger, because i am a girl and i dont want them too long if they stretch.  so i hang them on a drying hanger or rack thing, usually used for towels.  its great cause i can hang a bunch together.  now, when you hang them, the inside of the shirt is out, and the front should be facing down, so if anything touches them, or the line is dirty, or you forget and leave your clothes out for days and days and they get sun bleached, its the inside of the back of the shirt that gets messed up.  leave them there for as little time as possible as to avoid sun damage, but make sure they are totally dry.  you dont want them getting mildewy later.

ok, time to fold.  now is the time to turn the shirt right side in again.  i used to just leave them inside out at this step, because i liked to grab a shirt at random not knowing whet it was, and wear whatever i got.  but is a reason to turn them out.  obviously, if you can see the design you can find the shirt you are looking for.  but the more important reason in this: you know when your shirt with a vinyl design starts to get cracks?   that is from both the dryer and from folding.  you can see sometimes the cracks are right around the middle, because that is a fold line.  to reduce the fold line as much as possible, the vinyl should be as far away from the crease as it can be, which means the shirt should be folded right side in with the front (or design side) folded to the outside.  it would be better to fold in thirds, but they always seem to get messed up on my shelf that way, so i like to fold them in quarters.  so grab the bottom corners of the shirt so it is upside down, shake out the wrinkles (this will also line up the seams, and fold in half and then in half the other way.  now you can see the design, and i recommend putting them all in the same direction so when you stack them they are easier to look through.

now, this is obviously not the best way to protect a shirt., its just the best way with my particular means.  if you wanted, you could hang them (but i dont like the shoulder points), or lay them all flat (i dont have the room).  basically i wrote this because every time i do laundry i have a reason for each step, and i wanted to organize it.  this is clearly not important at all, but it really does work.  i have tshirts that i absolutely love, and i know they will wear out eventually, but i want to wear them for as long as possible.  i know the vintage look is in, but i dont want that fir my colorful, artsy t shirts.

oh, and another thing i noticed is that messenger bags or any bags that go across your chest will wear out a vinyl design if the shirt is not of the highest quality.  there are tons of awesome small time t shirt designers where i live, but a lot of the time the shirt quality is sub par.  so i am extra careful with these.  this is my most recent favorite.

hope my rediculous method of caring for t's has helped someone out there.  probably not, cause if you havent already figured this out for yourself, or have your own method, then you probably couldnt care less.  but i realize i do so many things in my life pragmatically (even if my reasoning is sometimes incorrect), maybe i should keep track of just how loony i am.  so there you go.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

your mission should you choose to accept it is...wait.

so the last mission was hectic, full-blast craziness.  4 of us with 6 packages for pickup, missed timing, police, the whole bit.  this mission was the antithesis, 8 days of my partner in crime and i waiting and waiting, and yup, you guessed it, waiting.  the lunar new year had made crossing more tricky than expected, and so every day we got a call that there was no movement yet.  we went a little stir crazy with cabin fever, stuck in a hotel room, informing the front desk that we would be there just one more night.  and one more.  and so on.  (conspicuous much?)  anyway, i did take the initiative to see some of the amazingly beautiful landscape around us since i had the time.  i cant really show many pictures or go into too much detail (for obvious reasons), but i can tell you it was stunning.  i saw the sparkliest temple in existence, gorgeous organic tea plantations (and im a bit of a tea nut), beautiful waterfalls, and some amazing ethnic villages.
 i rented a motorcycle and rode some ridge trails, and got to get really off the beaten path to see an incredible range of villages whos inhabitants had rarely seen a foreigner.  if i stopped for a drink, the whole town would gather round, and even just riding through the main road, an entire soccer game stopped to watch me go by.  neat, but a bit odd.  i finally had to turn around at one point when i found myself climbing a super rocky hill alone on the bike, in a tank top with no proper shoes, having no clue where i was.  i hated turning around before i found where this road went, and of course in doing so i dropped the bike and reduced the clutch lever to the 2 finger variety.  i knew i should have just kept going!  but for once i played it safe and returned to the hotel unharmed.

when we finally got the call for the pick up, our packages were waiting for us nearby.  it was just a mother hen and her youngin that we were taking, but there were also a couple others there that had been part of another group that we were not allowed to take with us because they were part of a different program (weird, i know).  this was the most heartbreaking thing i had seen since starting this job.  here we were, seemingly hand-picking these two to take to safety, and telling the others that they had to make their own way.  there was no risk for them at this point, eventually they would all end up at the same place to get processed.  but of course they didnt really know that, the tears were freely flowing, and they were breaking down into near hysteria.  i think it was a decision on our part that should be made differently next time.  but we are all new at this, and it is part of a learning process all the way around.  anyway, once the four of us got into the car, it was a quick hop into the car and a leisurely (with a few tense points at police checkpoints) 12 hour drive back home to safety.  now im not usually a kid person, and the thought of having a little sticky handed, whining brat in the house was not that appealing to me.  but this kid turned out to be crazy smart and totally hilarious.  he would mimic my english perfectly while we played our own version of chess (he somehow managed to win every game).  i watched him carefully examine a tripod, checking each knob and joint before returning it to its original state.  and his mom man, this chick was fierce, and i mean that in the best way possible.  they were going on to ROK and not the US, so they would be staying in the "waiting" prison.  she knew her energetic son would have a difficult time, so she loaded up on games and toys, and prepared the best that she could.  we were disappointed they werent going to be staying with us for more than a few days, but she had family in south korea, and was set on going there.  it was probably the right decision, but it sure would have been a lively house with such a little character here.


so there are obvious flaws in the process as of now, a big one being communication of timing.  sometimes we are hours late, other times days early.  but its also exciting to be involved at a time when the protocol is literally being written.  after every mission we will understand more about what works and what doesnt, and how to be as prepared as possible.  i was asked in an interview recently if this procedure seemed sustainable.  well, there are a million ways we could improve it, and we will, one at a time.  but how sustainable do we really want it to be?  i mean, isnt half the point of this to create enough awareness so that the prison doors will soon swing open?  if this process has to be sustainable for very long, we are not doing our job on other fronts of the fight.  so lets keep that awareness spreading, and put me out of a job as quickly as possible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

new moon to full moon and love love love

so my last blog post may have seemed a bit disjointed, we got the call for the next mission literally as i was typing it up.  so i didnt get to finish the half that i wanted to write for valentines day and how much i adore and appreciate all of my friends with their unique attributes and amazing qualities.  i'll focus on that here, and leave the next blog post for the discussion of the most recent mission.  here we go!!!

one of the greatest blessings of my life has been all of the inspiring, dedicated, talented people i have met over the miles and years.  and of course, most of them dont even realize how effin awesome they are.  and it can start in a flash, a chance meeting that leaves me stunned with amazement about the fantastic person i just met.  (i know this will all sound ridiculously gushy, but hey, i missed v-day so i get to let it out.)  anyway, for example theres amy lee, whom i met just crashing on her couch one night when i was on tour in the states for this non-profit, and after a few hours of chatting about our goals, ambitions, fears, i knew she would forever be in my heart.  kismet is the only word.  of course im sure it will be like most of the people in my life, we will connect off and on as long as i am in the same country,or at least work in the same group.  but as time goes we will have even bigger dreams we are working on, and think of each other only with sweet reminiscence.  but thats okay.  because already in the months of knowing her she has encouraged and propelled me in my own work, and brightened my life in having a small glimpse at her realizing her own goals.  she is selfless without being a martyr, and driven without bring aggressive.  i am fortunate for having known her, and look forward to following what i know will be a successful career and a beautiful life, even if i am not there to share it with her.  and to sweeten it even further, she is now dating one of my favorite men.  clay, a man that is so gentle and kind but still exudes a comforting masculinity, he is a rarity.  i joked on my facebook that i think i may be happier that they are dating than any relationship i could have of my own, but i think it is actually true (no pressure guys).

i promise not to wax nostalgic about all of my wonderful friends, but just a few words while i am feeling such a rare explosion of emotion.  teddy, i miss you so much, there's no one else i can love the ocean as much with, and then go back and be catty about the bitches on project runway.  lila, you will find what you are looking for, i promise.  you are too rich of character to languish without direction, if you dont find it, it will most assuredly find you.  adam, for the first time with anyone i think i am not as envious of your life as envious of those who get to share it with you.  kaz, i should tell you every day how much you mean to me.  you are the best and truest friend a person could have.  i did not remember that enough in my time of suffering, and i know you have forgiven me for that, but again, you are a man without equal, compassionate beyond compare.  i love you so, and hope i can share this with your new beautiful daughter.  julia, i would tell you to get over your self-consciousness and let others see what an amazing woman you are, but i will just let you be you and get to savor that knowledge all to myself and the others who see your greatness.  raul, i have always felt like you are my number one cheerleader, and you have given me more support than you realize.  brandt, with all you went through, for you to give me such heartfelt words of support when i needed them most, i will never forget that.  every accomplishment i am making now is in part due to your support, and i will love you always for it.  artoff, i dont care if you think its weird that i say this, but i so wish i lived near you cause i think we would hang out constantly and be the absolute best of chums.  or id like to think so :).  and there are so many people i only met a few times that have impacted me permanently, so much so that i think you would be freaked out if i kept naming names.  but to all of the people ive met in the last years who have inspired me; stephanie, sachi, ben, sam, sunny, jesse, mark, you touch people more than you know.  the only thing that was missing this valentines day was a crush, someone to pine over longingly, to ache to be near, or just talk to.  but i think my love quota has been more than filled my these wonderful friends, and i will consider myself lucky to exchange the passing fancy for the everlasting friendship.


if you havent all stopped reading already (if you even started) feel free to break off now, but i have got to tell my father exactly how much he means to me.  sometimes i have gotten angry with him, and have blamed him for not living up to my expectations of what a father should be.  and im sure i will due so again, i am as selfish and short sighted as the next person.  but while i am here and salient i will tell him what is honestly in my heart, without being skewed by perceived hurts.  dad, i love you more than i can ever express in words.  i know that you feel that you may have not lived up to the expectations you had as a young man.  you have reached a time in you life that we all come to, questioning the roads taken; and those that you passed by with a glance, maybe a longing glance at that.  i of course cannot tell you which decisions that you made were right or wrong, or where you may have taken a misstep.  but i can tell you that your decisions have allowed your daughter to live a life she never thought possible.  i dont really remember having great ambitions as a child, i never wanted to be a ballerina or an astronaut, didnt know how i felt about college until i got there, i just figured things happened as they did, and i would let them.  these were not negatives, it was because i had a sense of openness, that why limit myself to one choice because i could do anything in the whole world that i wanted.  and it was because of you, because of the strength and security you gave me that i could feel comfortable with such a seemingly unstable existence.  and in my short time here i have accomplished more than i would have ever expected.  it has been hard at times; heartbreaking, frustrating, incomprehensible.  but that is what makes the beautiful parts of life so worth living.  so many times i have looked through the streets of kyoto with the cherry blossoms falling, or over the mountains of laos with the winding mekong in the distance, or most often on my moto, singing, or even screaming to myself in my helmet because i just cannot contain my joy.  all of those times i have thought of what you have done for me and our family.



i know that sometimes i will forget all of this.  forgive
me, i am human,  the slights we feel to our hearts seems to ram any remembrance of kindness out of our minds.  but please remember that deep in the core of who i am as a human being, i will be ever grateful of your sacrifices.  i know that at times you wish it was you out there hiking the jungles in kauai.  but i also know that you would give up your chance to do it every time if it meant that your child could do it in your stead.  so dad, i have this picture of us together up here in my room at the shelter, of us with rommel getting ready to leave on a bike trip up the coast.  i think you have the same one at your desk.  (i am so hoping that no one else is reading this because the cheesiness has gotten out of hand, but i dont care.)  im looking at that photo right now (as much as i can see through the tears), and i think i feel for the very first time the thing you have been talking about, being disappointed that there is no afterlife.  i have always said that the experiences that i have had already have been fulfilling enough, and i dont need anything to come after it.  well its true, except for the fact of how much i would love another life with you and cameron and mom.  luckily when i am gone i wont actually be able to miss you, because i didnt miss you before i was born, so i wont miss you after i die.  but my goodness i miss you now.  so in making sure that we make the most of our meager time here, i'll continue to play out all of the amazing adventures to you, even the seemingly mundane details that make the story so much richer.  and i will thank you every time we talk, and remind you that while i may have been able to do some of these things without you, i would never have been able to feel so complete, and certainly not so loved.  i love you dad.  (and cameron, i love you because you're my brother ;).  and for orating since dad cant work a computer.)