What Lies Ahead

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Last month I signed the papers that will officially end my time in Japan. I didn’t make any pro-con lists, and I didn’t really consult anyone about the decision. This was something I knew in my gut was right, and have known for some time.

I still love being in Japan, though I’m the first to admit that living here sometimes drives me up a wall. For all of the awkward misunderstandings, cravings for food I can’t find, and impatience in the face of extreme rule-following, this experience has been more than I ever could have wanted, and nothing like I expected. Continue reading

Heartbreak and Fear, and Moving Forward

On Tuesday night I went to bed hopeful. It was just barely Tuesday morning in the US, and my sister texted me to say she got to the polls at 5:45am to vote. I planned out a white outfit to wear to school, in a nod to suffragettes. I proudly pinned my “Future is Female” pin on my sweater and fell asleep after crying, because I truly thought the next day would mark the election of America’s first female president, and I was overwhelmed with joy and hope.

Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the US) I got to school and caught only the first few states before I had to leave my laptop and teach two classes. The staff room TV was tuned in to the election, and several teachers had asked me about it. They all asked if I liked Trump, and when I said no they smiled and said they agreed.

When I got back to the staff room 2 hours later, the mood had clearly changed. Everyone looked at me, then at the TV, a look of concern on their faces. When I realized what was happening, I literally ran out of the school to get my phone and call home. I listened as my sister watched the election coverage, and I cried again, this time because I felt hope was lost.

America, we have just elected a man who has the full support of David Duke and the KKK. We have elected a man who will go on trial next month for child rape. A man who has used hateful and degrading language to talk about women, Muslims, people of color, people with disabilities, and anyone who is not like him. This is not about economics, or a push for smaller government – this is about spitting in the face of civil liberties because people who look different are scary.

I know that some of the people I love voted for him. I would like to think that they hesitated, they felt some slight shame or concern, and I am angered and disappointed that in the end fear won out. Many of my friends are posting notes on Facebook telling anyone who voted for Trump to remove themselves from their lives. I understand, and for many of them this is important for their safety and sanity. I will support them.

I wish I could do the same, but I know that’s not how we fix this.

Family and friends who voted for Trump, I am angry, I am disgusted, and I want us to talk. I need you to understand why my friends, many of whom are Black, Asian, and queer, are afraid for their lives in the coming years. I want you to tell me why, knowing full well what he stood for, you supported this man and pushed him to the highest office. I want you to explain why Hillary was such an abhorrent choice, because I sincerely don’t get it.

I worry about the future of such a divided nation. But I also know that we have risen above in the past. I hope those of us who are shocked and hurt today are motivated into action. We must support organizations that work to uphold our civil liberties, especially when they are threatened. We must recognize those who will be hurt most in the coming months and stand up for and with them. We must remember that political action is not limited to voting every four years. Our government still exists to serve us, but we must take action to demand their service. Call your representatives about issues that matter to you. Vote in midterm elections. Donate your time and money to organizations like Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. And most of all, talk to people who don’t look or believe as you do. Don’t shy away from the chance to change someone’s mind. After all, that’s what got us here in the first place.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’m going to fight like hell to make it better. I hope you will do the same.

Kagoshima Road Trip – Camping, Hot Springs and Archery

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Selfie at Cape Nagasakibana, in front of Mt. Kaimondake (the “Fuji of Satsuma”)

On the road again after my stop at the Ibusuki sand baths, I took several detours – I visited Cape Nagasakibana, the southernmost tip of the Satsuma peninsula, and Lake Ikeda, the largest lake in Kyushu. Both were gorgeous, offering stunning views (despite the crazy heat) and interesting history. A highlight for me was the statue of Lake Ikeda’s resident monster, Issie (pronounced ee-shee), which is absolutely the Japanese version of Nessie. The lake is actually home to giant eels, so as far as I’m concerned the lake does in fact have monsters. Continue reading

Hot Springs Weekend – Ibusuki, Kagoshima

Japan is made up of 47 prefectures. I live in Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu. Much like in the US, it’s very easy to travel between prefectures, and many travelers make it their goal to visit as many as possible. Personally, I’ve visited roughly ten prefectures, mostly via road trips around Kyushu. The travel fanatic in me is very tempted to go the “gotta catch em all” route, but it does seem a bit unreasonable if I’m only living here for two years.

So instead of traveling the whole country, I’ve been enjoying the sights a little closer to home. A few weeks ago we had a national holiday on a Thursday, so I took the opportunity to make a long weekend for myself and do a bit of exploring in neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture.

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Old Friends, New Places, Names We Can’t Pronounce – Taiwan Day 3

On our last full day in Taiwan we braced ourselves for another excursion out of the city. But first, we treated ourselves to a Taiwanese-style pancake breakfast down the street from our hostel. It wasn’t really a pancake as I think of them, but more like a Taiwanese version of a breakfast burrito. In any case, it was delicious! We settled into our meal and skyped some friends back in the US before hopping on the train. Once in Taipei Main Station we were surprised to see a familiar face. Aleisha, the health coordinator on our Pac Rim trip, was on a billboard for a Taiwanese university! This does make some sense, as she spent some time studying there not too long ago, but still, what a small world! And as it turns out, we actually knew two people on the billboard – another Pac Rim staff member, Pase, was towards the back. Naturally, we had to snap a few photos to send back to the group.

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Hi, Aleisha! (Pase is off-screen, to the left)

After our surprise run-in with Aleisha and Pase, we finally made it to Jiufeng. Continue reading

A Thirsty Waterfall Hike and Some Magical Watermelon Juice – Day 2 in Taiwan

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When planning our trip to Taiwan, Annin and I were both set on getting out of the city for at least a day. Taiwan being a fairly small place, it’s known mostly for its major city, Taipei. And while we were interested in exploring the city, we had also heard some pretty great things about the Taiwanese countryside. If you travel just an hour outside of the city, you have easy access to some gorgeous mountain hiking and beautiful coastline rock formations. After a bit of research Annin found a particularly appealing waterfall hike, and so on Friday morning we set out for Sandiaoling. Continue reading

A Trip to Taipei

Summer in Japan is a great time for festivals and fun, as noted in my last entry, but it’s also a great time to get away from Japan. Students in Japan don’t have quite the same summer break as we do in the states, but there is definitely more time off over the summer than at other times of year. Sadly, this time off is mostly just for students, not teachers, but with a bit of creative scheduling I was able to plan a trip to Taiwan with my frequent travel buddy, Annin. Continue reading