6.26.2004

lost in egyptian cowfields

After reading Diego's and Dansen's reviews, I would like to add my 2 cents re: Lost in Translation. I thought the movie did a great job of showing Japan - through the eyes of the two main characters. The movie's goal was not to show a true representation of what Tokyo or the people living there are really like - it was showing how it was perceived by Charlotte and Bob Harris. They would notice the aspects that tend to be stereotyped by Americans first (in many conversations I've had lately with people whom I've told about going to Japan, the amount of stereotypes and the number of people who share them are mindboggling, and the more of my own weird preconceptions I become aware of), but then they began to learn about and appreciate Tokyo. When Bob is talking to his wife on the phone late in the movie and mentions that he wants to begin to eat a healthier more Japanese diet, that's him changing and learning and growing because he's been exposed to another culture. That's also him hoping that maybe this new experience can help rescue him from his midlife unhappiness. Many of the jokes that many viewers perceive as racist, I thought were making fun of the Americans far more than they were making fun of any Japanese characters. For example, in the hospital when Bob can't understand the person asking him when he came to Japan, the women in the background are laughing hysterically at him and it's a really comical scene. The scene is poking fun at him and his inability to understand and the goofy way he reacts - not making fun of the Japanese characters in the scene. I'm not saying that other perceptions of it are incorrect - who knows what the director was really aiming for - but that's how I saw it, having watched it probably 7 or 8 times by now. The more I watch it, the more it's about the awkward and touching relationship between Charlotte and Bob, and it could take place anywhere where both of them didn't fit in. And the characters of Charlotte's husband and the actress who is really obnoxious are just as stereotypical as any of the other characters and they are American. Actually, I thought the movie made upper-class Americans look pretty silly overall, and that's who the movie is about - the Americans who would be staying at the fancy hotel and have enough money and time to have crises about what their life means. OK, enough ranting for now...

The fun continues here in the land of furniture made out of antlers... I wish I had a digital camera so that I could post some photos of the weirdness around here. Ah well. Yesterday we drove around past fields of hay, alfalfa, and many many many cows, and in the middle of these fields and absolutely nothing else, there is a new movie theatre with four screens called the PharaohPlex. It's an Egyptian-themed movie theater, with actually some pretty cool Egyptian art and statues inside, and one wall that is a fountain with water streaming down the wall amongst statuettes. But, it's in the middle of cowfields, not even really very near any towns and there were maybe ten cars outside total when we went to see The Terminal (pretty good film by the way). It's quite weird to me that it's in the middle of nothing. And right next to it is a big bio-tech research firm that is doing research on cancer vaccines and treatments. Surreal. Anyway, I never cease to be amazed, as I was today when a rancher wearing no shirt, but just wranglers and cowboy boots walked into the travel agency I was at and proceeded to go through the process of buying a ticket to Oklahoma City, and everyone acted as if it was completely normal for shirtless guys to walk into businesses. One benefit of the rural atmosphere though - a massive ice cream cone from the drive-thru cafe in Stevensville is still only 50 cents.

OK, enough about here, let's talk about there. The high school I'll be teaching at in a suburb of Takarazuka called Nakayama. It's a fairly new suburb built right on the side of a mountain, and there's a forest behind it. We'll have an apartment lined up by the time we get there, I don't know exactly where in Takarazuka it will be, but hopefully fairly close to the school. However, there's only about a 30 minute train ride to Osaka or Kobe from there, so we definitely will be in the midst of civilization. Takarazuka is most well-known for its all-female musical theatre revue, established in 1914 to provide roles for women since kabuki theatre only has male actors. It also has a manga museum for the creator of AstroBoy, who was from Takarazuka. Also some hot springs and temples, and it is described as a resort town for the Osaka area. It sounds completely perfect. Still waiting for some more detailed info, but at least I can now point to a dot on a map!

Sorry for the infrequent updates, but it's hard to have much time to sit down with a house of five people sharing one phone line, and we've been busy driving and driving to various nearby towns to do stuff, shopping for teacherly clothing, that sort of thing. It's a bit nice after my phase at work of checking my e-mail every five minutes for news from JET to have a bit of distance from the net connection actually. And there's actually sunshine out here, so the outdoors calls...

6.19.2004

old habits...

Montana is truly a completely different planet from Bellingham, and while it's familiar, I far prefer the northwest coast. The scenery here is beautiful, but as we drove our Uhaul + Saturn caravan toward the outskirts of town and past the first Missoula city limits sign that had been riddled with about 50 bulletholes, I was quickly reminded of why we don't fit in here. From the heads of dead elk and antler-bedecked skulls all over the walls of the gas station where we turned in the Uhaul to the incense set at the mall that had incense cones in the shape of moose droppings that rested upon a ceramic leaf, I'm feeling out of place. Which is strange because, while I loved Bellingham, I always felt like a transplant. But I feel even moreso here, and in a month, will feel much much more a foreigner because we actually will be. I guess I should learn to be at peace with that feeling, but for some reason I've always connected very strongly to my surroundings, and that connection feels severed. At least I'm gathering some good writing material here, and will have even more when we head to the eastern part of the state. It's really quite weird to be staying with my husband in my old bedroom (packed in with boxes of all our earthly belongings) with the whole rest of the family here. It feels like I'm in high school again and like the last eight years never happened at all. Especially yesterday, running into the most popular girl from high school in the mall, and she had not changed a bit in appearance from 10 years ago. Although neither have I, so I guess I can't hold that against her. Anyway, I guess I feel a loss of independence, as it's hard to have your own time when staying with family, and I'm just so darn exhausted from this whole moving thing. It is great to visit with family though, and to breathe clean good-smelling air, and tomorrow will hopefully go visit the community theater that we used to nearly live at during high school. Will update more as my brain recovers from moving. We miss Bellingham and our friends there already!

6.04.2004

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRENCH!

Happy happy birthday to the best person I know!

I can't think of anyone else that I would rather move to Montana in twelve days with. Move to Japan in 51 days with. Flee from my desk job and spend two weeks seeing how fast our little car can go on gravel roads with. Flee from this country and check out what it's like to live somewhere else with. I'm lucky to be with someone who reminds me that life everyday is a wonderful adventure, whether you live at the same address for your entire life or you travel around the world.