The Long Road Home

Today I will fly seven thousand miles to my home, but it won’t be my home for very much longer.

I spent a little time yesterday firming up my travel calendar for November.  I probably should have done this sooner, as November starts in two and a half weeks, but there are always so many places to go and people to see that I like to make the list as late as possible so I can try to fit everything in. Yes. I know this makes me a certain kind of crazy. But in looking at my travel schedule for the month, and really the rest of the year, I realized that I only have five weeks left in Japan. This is wonderful and sad-making and exciting and terrifying.

I cannot wait to be back living in the States. In fact, dear reader, you may have noticed that I spent a significant amount of time as a Japanese resident coming back to the US to see friends and traveling in Europe. Some of you may think that’s a waste of the wonderful opportunity that I’ve had to live here and that’s cool. Move to a different country on three months notice where you don’t speak the language and live in a community where you are ostracized and then let me know what you think. Until then, please don’t be offended if I don’t take your opinion too seriously. Also, living in a country where you are 99% illiterate does not for a good time make.

All of that said, I will miss parts of living in Japan and I will always appreciate the fact that we were given this opportunity. There are perspectives that can only be gained by living like we have this year. I would not trade those for anything. I will miss the strange beauty of this country that you can only find here. It is clean here, and they value natural beauty which reminds me a lot of living in the Midwest – it is very green. And while I wasn’t crazy about the quarantine rules that ended with my cat living with my in-laws for the year, being able to pet the deer in Nara and go to an owl cafe pretty much made up for that. I will also dearly miss the bathing culture. Our bathing room with a not even standard soaking tub is a million times better than a standard bathtub in the States. I will miss the shit out of the trains here. I’ve always loved traveling by train and Japan has spoiled me with its efficiency in this area. Amtrak, get your shit together.

I’m looking forward to finding our next home. In both of the places that Will and I have lived together the living situation wasn’t a decision that we made together, it was a matter of circumstance. In the first, I moved in with him to an apartment that I learned to love but never would have picked for myself or us. The Financial District of New York has some amazing apartments, but not much of a community around it. In Japan neither of us had any say in our living arrangements. Panasonic has for years, rented the same place in Mikage. It’s a beautiful residence very close to a train line that can easily deliver their liaison to work, and also potential children to some of the international schools somewhat close-by. It was perfect for the family they originally rented it for. Not so much for us. I cannot wait to find a place for us to live that will work for us, instead of finding ways for us to work with the space that we have.

However, for the second year in a row, I find myself not knowing where I’ll be living in three months. I don’t mean which neighborhood I’ll be in, I mean which time zone. I asked Will to look around at other cities he’d like to look in and we’re now waiting to hear back from a great firm that interviewed him in San Francisco. Will really wants this job. I really want him to get this job. Waiting to hear back on a job is hard. Waiting to hear back on a job that is keeping your from planning your immediate future is really hard. If Will doesn’t get that job, we go back to New York. To be clear, here, New York is a perfectly acceptable option. I have a great collection of friends on the East Coast that I will be happy to see on a semiregular basis. If we do end up in San Francisco, well…at least the flight back to see them won’t be as rough as it is now.

For now, a day of trains, planes and automobiles.

In My Bubble

While overall I’m having a smashing time at Capclave this weekend, there was one encounter last night that I could have very much done without. My personal space was invaded, and someone made a remarkably inappropriate comment about what I was wearing. Why why why are these still situations that we have to deal with?

The Comment

Well into Saturday evening I made my way to the elevator lobby with my friend Sherman to go do something that I can’t remember. After waiting a few minutes, an elevator arrived and several fans spilled out. Most took a right turn down towards the parties but one walked right up to me. He bent 45º so that his face was only about an inch from my chest and said “Your shirt is ripped, I think you need a new one!” He then laughed, stood back up and starting making his way to the right down the hall to the parties.

What do you even say to something like that?

It should hopefully be understood that that was a hypothetical question. I know what you say to something like that. “Fuck off.” “Get out of my personal space.” “Please don’t say that to me.” “Don’t ever say that to me, it’s in appropriate.” “I don’t know you, please leave me alone.” But I couldn’t say any of those things. I was so stunned by the encounter that my mouth refused to form the words. Instead I laughed nervously, mumbled something about liking the shirt that I was wearing as is and scurried onto the elevator with my friend.

The Shirt

This situation makes much more sense once you know that I was wearing, am while I’m going to show you, I’m loathe to do so. Because no matter what I was wearing, this behavior was absolutely inappropriate. At no point did I say to this guy, “Yes, you can bring your face an inch away from chest and talk to them like they are sentient.” At no point did I say that to anyone this weekend, because that would be fucking weird. My shirt did not say anything on it other than ‘DC17′ and I can think of no language in which that phrase is an invitation.

This is a picture of the shirt that I was wearing that I sent to my husband earlier in the night.

Not an invitation

I feel like I should explain why the shirt looks like that, but I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have the urge to explain what I was wearing, because it shouldn’t fucking matter. But I will, and I will be disappointed in myself and the world that I live in while I do.

One of my good friends Sydnie had the fabulous idea to DIY customize her DC17 bid shirt a while back to make them reflect a little better how much fun she is, and how much fun she’s having working on DC17. Let’s face it, a black t-shirt doesn’t always scream ‘AWESOME FUN TIME WITH AWESOME FUN PEOPLE!’ I saw her wear her versions of the shirt at Loncon and at Fencon. She did a few of them with a couple different designs, and I thought that it was a great idea that I was going to attempt myself. It didn’t go quite as I expected. It showed more skin than I was planning on, but I decided to wear it after all.

I almost didn’t. I was hesitant. I asked for opinions from several of my female friends and my husband. Was it too low-cut? Did it show off too much? Did it give people the wrong impression? I have a large chest, and so frequently something that looks flirty on someone with a smaller chest, looks provocative on me. This is true from everything to formal gowns, to cut out t-shirts, to thick strapped tank tops. This is part of what it means to have a large chest. This is my reality. At a certain point you either decide that you will wear seven layers of tops even in the dead heat of summer to keep yourself looking ‘modest enough’ for everyone else, or that you just don’t give a fuck and you wear whatever the hell you want.

For the last year or so, I’ve been in the first camp. I’ve covered up. I didn’t want to be pre-judged by my breasts. This changed mid summer when I was visiting my friend in San Francisco in the middle of July and she said essentially “Woman, it’s the middle of July. Take the cardigan off and just wear the damn tank top.” Last night another step in the right direction of me feeling better about my body and deciding to wear what I wanted to wear regardless of what somebody else thought. But this isn’t about what somebody else thought anymore, it’s about what somebody else did. What they did to me.

The Reaction

Throughout the evening I found myself getting more and more upset about the entire situation. I was mad at this man who I don’t know. I’m mad that he decided that it was okay for him to invade my personal space. I’m mad that he decided to say something so inappropriate to me. I’m mad that he said it with that damn look in his eyes and with a waggle of the eyebrow. I’m mad that he thought it was okay. I’m mad that we live in a society that allows him to think that his behavior was acceptable. I’m mad at myself.

I’m mad that I was momentarily stunned and that I didn’t tell him then and there just how wrong what he said was. I’m mad that I was frozen by fear about what he might do to me next. I’m mad that I didn’t get the guy’s name to tell to the con chair when I sat down and talked to him about it. I’m mad that I had to talk to the con chair about this. I’m mad that I couldn’t find the guy for the rest of the evening to correct his assumptions about appropriate behavior. I’m mad that I’m going to be more cautious about the shirts that I wear. I’m mad that I will most likely put on conservative outfits instead of the fun outfits that I want to wear.

Like I said, I don’t know this guy. I don’t know his name. I only know that he was wearing a grey button down and that I could recognize him on site if he wandered into my line of sight again. I wish I did. I wish I could pound on his hotel room door right now and tell him that he can’t say shit like that ever again. So, grey button down shirt dude, if you happen to find yourself reading this, know that what you did to me was not okay. Know that it wasn’t alright to get so close to me, to stick your face in my chest or to say those words to me. You were wrong. Don’t do that again. Don’t do it to anyone in the first place.

I’m just so fucking mad. And I think I’m going to stay mad for a while.

Travel Bug

Today I shall pass through four airports. I will take a bus, three planes and a cab of some sort to get me to my destination: Washington, DC.

As fun as it is to travel to new and exotic places, I have to admit that it’s getting a little old to have to spend at least ten hours on a plane to go to a semi-regular convention. The people, however, are very much worth it.

So, if you’re in DC this weekend, let me know. I’ll be at Capclave and in the area until Tuesday and a few spare hours to get together with friends.

Necessary Evil

Nobody likes eleven hour flights. As much as I love going to places on the other side of the world, I don’t like eleven hour flights. But I need them. 

I frequently find it impossible to disconnect from the world. I feel itchy if I don’t have a wifi connection that can help me connect with people. Some of that I’m sure has to do with the volunteer work I do for Worldcon, but it’s also because of how I keep in touch with the majority of my friends and family. 

For the last five years I’ve lived at least several hours away from the large groups of people that I love and I used the internet very heavily as a crutch to keep in contact with them as I didn’t have the money to visit as frequently as I would have liked. 

Now, while I have the means to visit my friends frequently, I still live mostly in isolation and my phone and my laptop are very real extensions of myself that allow me to keep up with the world around me and the world my friends are in. 

But sometimes, I just need silence. I don’t get as much as I should. The ability to be connected to everyone has turned into what feels like an addiction, and even if I’ve sworn I’d put my phone away for dinner, I’ll sneak away to the bathroom to catch up. The ability to connect like this allows us to ignore our reality, and to a certain extent, ourselves. 

So, what does an eleven hour flight have to do with this? Well, turns out that most flights from Tokyo to England or the US lack wifi. I cannot connect. It’s a blessing and a curse. After I get rid of the shakes that come with the realization that I can’t in fact open Chrome and play on Tumblr or Facebook, I relax. I listen to music, I read a book, I sleep, I ignore the rest of the world, sometimes I even write. I cannot be productive in the usual way that I crave to be, but I am given the time to recharge so that I can be. 

I hate eleven hour flights. I love eleven hour flights. 

Two Weeks Notice

Today marks living in Japan for two weeks. If I had it my way, Will and I would probably never leave. 

I don’t like change. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve has so much of it in the last year. Either way, I dragged my feet quite deeply about moving here. I was scared. I was scared of moving to another new place. I was scared of not being able to speak the language. I was scared of missing my family even more than I normally did. I was so silly. 

I love our neighborhood. It’s perfect. And I do mean perfect. If you had ever asked me to describe my dream place to live, Mikage is what I would have told you about. It’s quiet, but still urban enough for my tastes. There are flowers and trees everywhere, with a train a block away that takes me swiftly to the heart of Osaka. Our apartment is a dream. Hard wood floors, floor to ceiling windows, and a soaking tub that I can actually cover myself with water in. Even if I hated Japan, I could hide in this little slice of heaven forever. 

The language barrier isn’t as high as it was when I got here, and it’s getting shorter every day. I admit, I’ve lost a little bit of momentum in my learning, but that’s due to how much of the day I spend exploring the area. It’s a trade off I can happily live with. I’m starting to track words that I see out and about. Even if I have no idea what anything means, I can still sound words out and that gives me a certain amount of pride. Most things can be communicated through hand gestures and pointing, and enough people around here know key phrases in English than we can have a short conversation. 

With the exception of the first day here when I was fighting hard against jet lag and total culture shock, I haven’t ever felt alone. I miss my family, sure, but not any more than I usually would. And the constant stream of traveling I have planned (off to England on Thursday) will help keep any feelings of isolation at bay. It’s hard to mope about missing family when you’re planning a trip to the Great Wall of China with your brother and then a week in London with your mother in the same month. 

The only thing I wish was different here was that I had more time to write. I’ve been keeping a paper journal with me so that I can write down what I’m doing with each day, but I always run out of time at the end to transfer all of those thoughts online. I want to share all of my experiences with all of my friends right as they happen! Instagram is helping with that, but I really need to find a way to get everything online. Will has gotten the hang of it over on G+, we’ll see if he has any tips for me. 

Tonight more adventure are in store. I’m about to catch a train so I can meet Will in Kobe. We’re going to a ramen shop that he’s been trying to drag me to since I landed. There will also be some furniture scouting (our place is still a little bit bare) and most likely another pilgrimage to Lush for more bath bombs. The daily soaks here are really eating into my stash. What a hard life. There will be pictures of our evening, promise. 

Not Quite Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Life in Japan is beautiful, though not without difficulty. 

I have never lived in a place as breathtaking as Japan. Had I known what it would be like to live here, I don’t think I would have come. I’m very glad I didn’t know. Too often fear of the unknown keeps me from doing amazing things. 

I cannot read, speak or understand most of the language here which is a much bigger deal than I could have understood it be. Will wrote about how isolating it was when he got here, but he has several years of Japanese, even if he was a bit rusty. I had no idea, but I’m not sure you can really grasp a feeling like this until you experience it. Not being able to read? Man, I just don’t even know what to do with that. It’s the most basic skill that so much of my life is built upon and it’s so easy to take it for granted. Even going grocery shopping yesterday was a trial. I only picked up some basic things, the house was unsurprisingly void of food when I arrived, but grabbing vegetables and hangers took me about three times as long as it would have at any other store because I couldn’t read the basic signage, and I certainly couldn’t read the map. 

I also wasn’t counting on being stared at so often by so many people. I did some exploring of the neighborhood and found some parks and inquisitive children. They weren’t so bad, mostly they just tried their basic English on me, but the teenage boys who stared and then pointed and laughed were harder to deal with. I didn’t realize how much the stares and laughs would bother me, but looking back, I’ve never really had to deal with much of that. Even being a sci-fi fan, I got to skip most of that phase as most fannish things were in the mainstream pop culture by the time I came around. 

Today I shall unpack the rest of our luggage that arrived via courier last night. I was 300% done with the world by the time we landed on Monday so we decided to not try and drag the several large bags with us on the trains. It meant lacking clean jeans yesterday, but I survived. It’s been decided that much like the NYC apartment, we’ll just each have our own closets. Will get’s the one in the master bedroom and I get the second bedroom which is good with me because it has much more shelf space. Once the weather clears up, and after I’ve killed some more zombies I’m going hunting for furniture. Will and I found a great antique place when we were out on Wednesday and he told me this morning about another one. 

I still appear to be a morning person and that’s just fine with me. I get up an hour before Will which means I get most of my inbox cleared out before I wake him up and we get more time together that way. On the downside, I’ve been crashing out really early, though that may be the con crud I’m still fighting. We’ll see if this lasts. I hope it does. 

 

Japan – First Blush

For the first time in my life, I am a morning person. 

To be clear, I don’t think this will last, but waking up and being cheerful an hour before Will is a very odd experience. It was nice to watch the day break in our neighborhood and start cataloguing all of the differences between here and the other places I have lived. I watched the fog burn off of the mountains (which are much closer than I thought) behind our building. The range arches around behind us and around the train station (only a block away) so that we can see both ends of it from our two balconies. 

This may be a function of the neighborhood we live in, but I was very surprised by how much space we have and how far apart the buildings are here. Our apartment has three extra rooms we’re not entirely sure what to do with yet other than stuffing friends and family inside when they visit. I also spent an hour rearranging things in the main room (living room/ dinning room/ office) because Will has many skills, but furniture layout is not one of them. Also, the trees, grass, and bushes are all very expertly manicured around here which is very different from the forests surrounding the airport in Tokyo. From the air, Japan doesn’t look drastically different from any other place that I’ve flown to (except that NOWHERE is as green as the UK), but as we got closer to the ground I noticed just how full the forests looked. The trees seem to grow right on top of each other. I plan on doing some hiking of the mountains behind us, so I’ll find out just how real of a thing that is. 

The buildings in the neighborhood look like they’ve been thrown together with very little thought to the general aesthetic, which I really, really like. There are no standard buildings, each one is a different design (there are few – countable on my hand- repeats) and different color. It gives the area a personality that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The streets are wide, and oddly empty. I’ve got a wide balcony next to my desk that allows me to look easily at the street. I only see a few people every couple of minutes, and there didn’t appear to be any sort of morning rush. 

That’s all I’ve really had time to discover, but a representative from Panasonic is coming to meet us in a few hours and I’m sure I’ll learn and see more then. I can’t promise pictures (If I do, I’ll be sure to not do them) but I can promise to try and remember. 

Going The Distance

I feel like I’ve been going about 100mph for the last month and a half. This certainly isn’t a complaint, as I’ve been having an absolutely wonderful time going places and seeing people, but I’m very glad to be in the middle of a recovering week in Chicago. 

I love traveling and I always have. I think there is a little bit of personal magic in traveling. Yes, I know how corny that sounds. You get to learn more about yourself when you travel. How much of you is you and how much is your situation or your location? And of course, this things that are dear to you become immediately apparent. For instance, it isn’t my computer that I need, but more the ability to easily communicate with my friends around the world, and the ability to create. Of course, those things pretty much require a computer, but details and all…

I’ll admit that while traveling is awesome, being away from Will isn’t all that great. We haven’t spent this much time apart since before we were dating and it sucks. The major difference in the time zones wasn’t something we could really have prepared for. Our daily schedules have very little overlap, and we’re only awake at the same time for about nine hours. It’s more like having a long distance co-worker than anything else. 

I’m also missing New York, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Going back to the city brought great relief even though not having an apartment of my own was weird. Not having a home base is weird, in general. I had gotten used to the pace of the city even if I wasn’t going as fast as everyone around me. Now every place I go – except conventions – seems a little slow. Everything and everyone is so much closer, there. I used to hate being packed so closely, but now I feel lonely when I’m in the big empty house that I’m staying in. And how could you not love the convenience? Having three Duane Reades on our street was pretty nice. Especially since one looked sorta like a gutted, gold cathedral. 

I’m not nearly as prepared as I should be for living in Japan. I’ve been studying one of the read and point books that the wife of another liaison lent me, but until recently that had been it. Then the other night the friends I’m staying with brought me to get sushi. 

Previously I hadn’t been a fan of sushi. Until Wednesday, I had only ever had spectacularly bad rolls. I got quite the education on different types of sushi and how the different fish taste that I think will be enormously helpful for day to day life. I enjoyed most of what was ordered, but did actually have issues with the huge proportions which seemed to be specific to the place we were at.  The texture of raw fish doesn’t actually bother me, but too much of anything is a bad thing. 

In five days, I’ll be off to London for the week. Meetings with friends about Loncon and doing a bit of obligatory sight-seeing. If you’d like to live somewhat vicariously, email me about things that you’d like me to go check out. I’ve started a list of things to do, but more ideas will I think, make things better. 

10025

I’m back in NYC for a few days before I head back on the road and I feel very odd about being here. 

I’m staying with my in-laws, and while I love spending time with them, it’s very odd to not be heading back to my old place after dinner with them. It’s not like I haven’t stayed at their place before while living in NYC, but for this to be my home base…it’s just a little off. 

I’ve been having late second thoughts about all my traveling. It’s so much fun, but it’s so damn exhausting. I’m running pretty ragged after my fabulous weekend in Chicago and I’m wondering/worrying if I should try and keep this schedule up, but if I don’t what will I do with my time? Keeping busy and moving around helps me avoid the fact that Will is living on a continent that I’ve never even been to. If I stop, I will find a squishy bed to hole up in and not get out of it until Will gets back. This is pathetic. I know it is. But it’s also the truth. 

Jesus, it’s a good thing that I left the half case of Thin Mints in Chicago. 

Arisia Wrapup

I had a fantastic time at Arisia 2014. This was the second time I attended and even though this year I lacked Will, I also lacked classes which meant that I had a lot more time to focus on the people.

I took the bus to Boston on Wednesday which gave me a day to recover from moving before the crazy con stuff started and after dealing with all of the shit that the movers pulled, I was very glad to have added the travel padding. I spent the night relaxing and writing full on rage emails to our moving coordinator. Sometime early in the morning a friend, who was the hotel liaison, called to let me know there was an excursion to the hot tub planned because she had the keys to the castle and was heading down with some friends. This was approximately when I discovered that I had apparently shipped the bottoms of my swimsuit to Japan. Substitutions we’re made, good conversation was had, and the the hot tub was enjoyed.

Thursday was wonderfully slow, for some definitions of slow. I started the morning with an epic shopping run with Deb and then spent the rest if the day learning how to work things at the InnKeeper desk. Hotel work wasn’t something that I’d ever really gotten into before, I’d mostly stayed in Hospitality and Ops, and it while I’m not sad that I didn’t get into it before, I’m really glad that Nchanter brought me on board. It was so much fun and now I know what I’ll be throwing myself at once I finally pull myself away from Social Media.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are a blur of party running and table sitting. A good blur, mind you, the dessert teem was a hit, surprise surprise. Doing those things, which I don’t usually do, forced me to talk to a lot of people that I would have hidden from otherwise. Staff is my safety zone for my shyness which is why I know so many con runner and also why I work in so many damn cons. But fear of failure is a powerful motivator, and it was the push I needed to step out of my shell.

I took an extra day after the con to recover before attempting to move in to the Twin Cities, and while that turned out to be problematic for weather reasons, having an extra night in my giant pillow fort (king sized bed + seven pillows) was ideal.

I will refrain from rehashing the travel issues I had, and only say that I will never fly anything other than Delta ever again. If you’re really interested in the story you can head to my Facebook account and read about them with some very colorful language.

Arisia was wonderful and I’m very much looking forward to heading back next year.

Nothing ever stays the same.

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