Well, its been almost exactly seven months since I first sat foot on Japanese soil and I feel some benchmarking is in order. How has my life changed in seven months? How has it stayed the same?
First, I am definitely better at Japanese. I can read and write hiragana and katakana with relative ease. I am also getting much better at kanji. Speaking-wise, I am still struggling a tad. I think this stems from not talking to a lot of people very often. I am trying to figure out ways to change this but so far, the only solution I have come up with is to go to bars more often. While I like drinking, I do not like it THAT much. We will see what else I can come up with; it just aggravates me that there are not more places to meet people in my town than bars. My Japanese lessons are okay but not what I expected, I need to find someone that can teach me more fundamentally and on a more regular basis than the free lessons I am taking now.
One of my other goals for this big experiment was to get into better shape. If you read this blog with any regularity, that has been a theme for the last two years. Since coming here, I have lost quite a bit of weight but not enough in my opinion. Starting next week, I am going into a "go crazy on your body, ultra-narcissistic, must get chiseled" mode. I have a plan...kind of...and we will see how that works. Seeing that I walk and ride my bike a lot, my focus won't be on my legs so much as my upper-body. My legs actually look pretty good. Even some of my students have commented about how they can see ripples (good ripples, not pudge ripples) in my legs. My calves are built, and kids have hurt themselves when trying to kick me there. I rock. My new diet that I have been hammering out is ready and I am already trying to make a couple of converstions to get ready for it. Starting next week, any beverage that is not healthy and has calories is going bye-bye. Downside to that is the going to bars more often thing, need to work on that.
As far as my mental state goes, it varies. I think being here has made me more happy and at peace with myself overall. There are still days that are weird but I suppose everyone has those. I still don't sleep a lot, or more accurately, I still don't sleep regularly. I have come to the conclusion that my body is just wired to function at night. I think I sleep a tad better when I do sleep though. My life was so messed up when I left the States that I do not think my sleeping could have gotten much worse. At least here, I do sleep. Over the past month or so, my sleep has deteriorated again but I know why and I am trying to correct it. I think it may just be an annual thing for a while to not get a ton of sleep in June. Hopefully, this June was the last time it will happen, I think it will be.
As for other stuff, I am a better person now, as a whole. I see the world, life, and pretty much everything for that matter in a different way now. My confidence in myself has never been like this. I honestly, pretty much feel like I can do anything. Experts say that most teenagers have a mental state during puberty that helps them to feel immortal and bulletproof. While I do not feel immortal, I do feel somewhat bulletproof. Things don't bother me like they used to, people don't bother me like they used to. I for one reason or another, feel like I can pretty much take everything in stride now, regardless of difficulty. While I have never had the best self-esteem or self-confidence, I can certainly say that confidence is no longer an issue. Still working on self-esteem, I don't think its may be esteem so much as it is image. I have grown more concerned about how I look to other people and what other people think of me. I never used to do that, but I think part of this stems from the fact that some of my students tease me about my weight a lot. That is the way Japanese people convince other Japanese people to lose weight, they ridicule the daylight out of them. While its not the nicest way, it works. My mom pointed out to me that I am very concerned with how I come off to other people. I never cared when I lived in Idaho but the more I think about it, I care a lot now. I think that is what drives me to learn Japanese quicker and I know that is what drives me to lose weight and look better. Having seen the foreigners that come here, a lot of them look like dipsticks and I do not want to be one of them. It amazes me how fat most white people look to me now, myself included. This may be why I avoid mirrors more now than ever, despite the fact that I look better now than I ever have. My self-image is the biggest issue for me, I just do not like the way I look. Period. But I am really trying to change that.
My daily life in here has gotten simpler. I can go anywhere and do anything that most Japanese people do with ease....except speak. My apartment will get a new look soon and that will be nice. Oh, I forgot to mention, this blog had its two year birthday a couple of weeks ago, way to go little blog.
2006 is definitely different than 2005. So far, this has been a better year by a longshot and I do not see that changing a ton. From last year, it can only improve. Stuff needed to change though and it did. My life is better for coming here. So for this progress report, I am giving myself a solid B+. Things can improve but so far they have been pretty damned good.
On that note, I leave you all with some pictures that I have been taking over the past week or so.
First, you will see a cool looking flower that I have found tons of here, I love their colors. Next up, a pic of the Golden Temple in Kyoto, followed by a wall that is in a park in Kobe. Lastly, is a pic a took from the ground level of a little walkway that went through a rice paddy behind my apartment. More pics will be displayed on my pic website this weekend.