Thursday, July 14, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
A memory from Japanese school:
(not a picture of my school; this is similar to what it looked like, though)
It’s my first day of fourth grade, in Japanese School. Mom is going to walk with me and the other girls, who I don’t know yet. Our neighbor, Yoko, is coming also, since she’s the only one we know who speaks both English and Japanese.
The walk is long.It goes across a busy street, through a neighborhood and up a steep hill. We pass bright green sakura trees on the way and I wonder what they will look like in Spring. The other girls chatter to themselves. I’m sure they’re talking and giggling about me.
I’m wearing my most Japanese-looking outfit. It’s a brown tiered skirt and a white blouse with lace collar. Very cutesy. My sister had worn a pair of khaki shorts and a florescent-pink shirt to her school, the American one, but I’m pleased I planned ahead. The other girls are wearing skirts, too. I even have my socks pulled up almost to my knees and have on Mary Janes. But it’s not quite right. My socks aren’t long enough to really reach my knees and my shoes are clunky next to theirs. Mine are generic. American.
Yoko and mom talk as we walk. My mother asks her more questions. She thinks I will regret choosing to do this, but she doesn’t say so out loud. I know from her questions and how much more she is talking that she’s worried.
The power lines reach up and up, and they buzz. They’re as loud as the girls. Emi, one of the girls, laughs and says something and then they all giggle. I glance at them, but they aren’t looking at me. Mom and Yoko are ahead, the girls are behind me, and I’m in the middle, alone. I look up and watch as a bird lands on the power line. It flies off when we get closer.
Other children have joined our walk and now we are a parade of kids with backpacks. The first-graders have red or black patent-leather packs and yellow hats. Yoko says it’s because others will know they are young and will take care of them. I want a red patent-leather backpack, but I have my nylon Eastpak one. It’s plain, and American. Emi doesn’t have a backpack. She has a messenger bag slung over one shoulder. Her skirt even has a lacy trim. And so do her socks.
The school is a four-story cement block building with windows streaming across it. Most are open already. It’s September, and the school doesn’t have air conditioning. The air is starting to warm up, but I ignore it. My blood is already hot today.
We go through the gates and my heart thumps in my chest. I’m really doing it. I chose to come here. I am just like Indiana Jones. I will learn this language and some day, I will speak them all.
We part from the girls and go into the shoe changing area, which smells like feet and leather. We are told to take off our shoes and put on slippers. I brought my new school ones; they’re white canvas with red racing stripes on the side. The girls wear red and the boys wear green. Mine are big, bigger than the others ones I see on the shelves. Even bigger than the boys’.
The school principal bows to my mother. She bows and says her one Japanese word,
I’m embarrassed that my mother doesn’t know the language already. I know how to say more than that. I can say the names of the months, count to twelve (which is the same thing, really), and say hello, good evening, and good morning. That’s more than my mom.
They tell us via a combination of Yoko and an electronic translator-calculator that the children are all assembling in the gymnasium for a welcome-back orientation. Watanabe-Sensei will be my Sensei, they also say. He is a man with poofy black hair and a scowl. Then they take us out of the main school building, across the dirt-and-gravel play yard, to the gymnasium. It is filled. Every inch of the floor is covered by children, all sitting or kneeling in neat rows in order of grade and then class and then height. Someone shouts and every pair of eyes turns to look at me.
I see the girls I walked with sitting with their fourth-grade classes. They are looking at me with the same expression as everyone else. There is no sense of recognition.
One boy, probably a fourth- or fifth-grader, calls out,
“Harro!” and half a dozen other boys laugh. I smile at him, but he wasn’t really trying to speak to me. He is grinning at himself.
The principal goes to a microphone on the stage, on the other side of the gymnasium, and says something in Japanese. He speaks for what feels like forever while mom and I stand in the back corner with Yoko and the assistant principal. I try to stand still, but I can’t. I shift from foot to foot, wishing I could go and sit with my class. At least then I would be in the middle of them.
No one is looking at the principal now. They’ve all turned to look at me, and the principal had his hand out to me and bows. The whole school, all four hundred children, bow at me and say konichiwa in one loud, wobbly voice.
I bow back at them. My face is hot and I want to run away. Maybe I should have gone to the American school instead. I would have been in fifth grade. I would have been in the TAG group.
But I am here in this high-ceilinged gymnasium and everyone is looking at me.
Yoko says the principal would like me to speak to the school. I tell my mother I can’t, but she says of course I will. She walks with me to the front, up the stairs, and someone beckons for me to go to the microphone.
“What do I say?” I whisper to Yoko. She says I should introduce myself. “I don’t know how in Japanese.”
“Just say it in English. The will like to hear it,” she whispers back.
I nod and turn to the children. They are completely silent. I go to the microphone and hold on as if it might fall over. And then I say, in English, who I am. And that I’m glad to be there. Although it’s a lie. I want to be anywhere else right now.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
A few weekends ago, I went to Massachusetts for a felting class. (It was awesome.) On the way back, I ventured to the middle of the earth all by myself (and with a group of strangers) for some book research. Since nearly half of my book takes place below-ground, I couldn’t rely on my decade-old experience at Carlsbad caverns. I needed to be inside a cave and turn on my character screen, in which I try to see everything as a character in my book would see it.
It was amazing! Howe’s Caverns has an underground stream (they call it The River Styx...ha ha ha). One of the rocks has created a natural dam, building up an underground lake, and the owners of the cave let you ride on a mystical boat* and cross the river! How awesome is that?!
I was taking a picture with my cell phone, musing about how awful it would be if I dropped it in the water, when a bunny fell into the water. It flowed downstream until it got caught in some foam**. The guide climbed down and saved the bunny (and the parents). I had to take a picture because, seriously, how often do you get to see a stuffed bunny floating down an underground river?
Look at that river. Seriously. It’s cold, it’s flowing fairly quickly, and it’s coming from outside, flowing through the cavern, and then flowing back out again. If a frog or fish washes in during floods, they make their way out, because there isn’t anything living in the caverns. (Except for a fair bit of moss that grows wherever they’ve put up lights.)
I wore my valenkii from St. Petersburg; they kept me warm and provided excellent traction***. (Thank you so much, Val!!! They’re gorgeous!)
I emerged, after an hour and a half, with a mind chock full of details (textures, sensations, emotions, images, etc). It was totally worth it. Plus, now I know of a great place to spend Halloween.
The absolute best part was when the tour guide turned off all the lights. I’d never been in such complete darkness, in such a large space, with such a large group of people. (Agatha Christie would have had someone murdered and tossed into the knee-deep water during that moment.) It was perfect because the very last scene I’d written in my book had one of my characters walking deep into a tunnel, in the middle of the earth. In the dark.
Status on my book: I’m 2/3 or 3/4 of the way done (it’s hard to judge, exactly). My critique partner Emma is hoping to finish hers by mid-February, when she has February Break (a strange NY school tradition). So it’s my goal, as well. I need to keep up with her so we’ll stay on track and be able to read each others’ completed draft at the same time.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Today is one of those days, and I can't figure out why. The house is relatively clean (other than a few piles of laundry to be put away). One child is at school and the other is sitting quietly beside me watching Veggie Tales while I type this. (Ok, now he's playing with the plug to the computer and asking me what I'm doing. The Veggie Tales people need to beef up the enterprise.) I don't know what started this sinking feeling. The book is going well and I should be done soon. Felting is going well, although I have nothing to put on my Etsy store yet. I've been exercising, even.
So what is it? Is it Stay-at-Homeitis? Or Winter?
What I can do is forcibly change my mood. I can tell myself to suck it up and look at the bright side: we have a warm home, the snow is falling down like sifted sugar, and we're all healthy. The rest shouldn't matter.
If I make myself be happy, I will be. If I let myself feel sad, then I will be.
And if I make myself finish my book, I will. ;-)