Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I'm in Thailand. I'm having a fab time. I'm going brown. I'm nice and relaxed. And my feet are back in flipflops, which is where they belong....
And I can't be arsed to blog now - but I AM keeping a diary so I'll blog it all sooner or later.
There are a couple of things I love about this time of year. One is how pretty everything looks coated in fallen leaves and, in Japan, unlike in England, the sky tends to stay blue pretty much all the time, even when you are freezing! The other thing I love is the holiday season.
The cold I could live without though.
To skim over some personal history, I've not always felt this way. I used to hate this time of year. I used to become very depressed at this time of year. Until I 'reclaimed Xmas' for myself I hated everything about it.
As a kid this time of year put me under great pressure. Now this is something I haven't ever blogged about before but the time just feels right to do so now as I feel I'm undergoing a transition (more about this another time). I have some friends that are very special to me and who I really don't want to offend with what I'm saying, so I hope this comes out okay. Advance apologies if it doesn't. You know who you are and hopefully you know me enough to know I mean nothing personally by this.
Religion. I don't get 'institutionalised' religions. I just don't get them. I don't understand how people can pick and choose which bits of religion suit them and which don't. And I don't see the necessity people have for. I struggle with labels, especially imposed labels and I have my own set of beliefs that don't fit into any 'box' and never will. They're a bit Pagan, a bit Buddhist perhaps and I don't believe in a 'god' but do I DO believe in an earth force - mother nature or what have you.
Religion to me is a negative thing. Religion equals fighting and hypocrisy and embarrassment. I will never be able to get over this. I AM interested in religions but only in the same way I'm interested in history or anthropology. I want to know, but I don't want to do anything about it. I'm curious, but that's it. I don't understand it and so I'm searching for answers. But that's all. I'm not looking for a religion, if that makes sense.
So, why these feelings? My parents are Jewish. Unfortunately, by Jewish law, this (having a Jewish mother) means that I am Jewish. Why 'unfortunately'? Because, for me, "being Jewish" has been nothing but a negative experience in my life and it's a label I strongly dislike.
As a kid, my first awarenesses of religion were that I was different because of my religion. Can you imagine being forced to go to Sunday school lessons every week? So much so that you were often literally in hysterics or crying before leaving the house? And how, at the least, it meant a weekly blazing row? Can you imagine how it felt to be part of a not particularly well-off one-parent family and to be forced to spend time with Jewish spoiled bitches who had massive houses with swimming pools, tennis courts, etc and who went to private schools. Clearly you can imagine how much a one-parented comprehensively schooled girl would have in common with them. Can you also imagine how it would feel if your mother felt the sun shined out of the bitches arses and how you should be more like them? Oh, and of course I should add that my non-Jewish friends just weren't good enough for me?
Are things becoming a little clearer now?
I got picked on and bullied for being Jewish. I got singled out for being Jewish. I looked Jewish and I hated that SO much.
At the same time, I could see the hypocrisy of what was going on in my own house. How my mother was picking and choosing the bits of the religion that suited her. How I wasn't allowed out on a Friday night because it was a sacred night, but how the next day wouldn't be followed by going to synagogue. How I would feel embarrassed every year when the teacher brought Easter eggs in for all the class but how I had to say no because I wasn't allowed to eat chocolate over Passover. How I had to skip a couple of days at the beginning of the school year each year to 'celebrate' Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?
Can you imagine arguing over what YOU wanted to eat?
Actually, can you imagine arguing over everything? Because that pretty much sums up my childhood and teenage years.
Going back to Christmas then. Christmas and Rosh Hashana (Google if you don't know the Jewish festivals, I can't be arsed to explain them - I just don't care enough) fall at the same time of year. Rosh Hashana means eight days of presents. Christmas means lots of presents. I always got both. And we always had a big Christmas dinner with the works - minus the bacon, obviously. BUT it was tinged with - and this sounds pretty stupid now, but remember we're talking about a kid / teen who just wanted to fit in with her friends and not be seen as different -the embarrassment/jealousy at not being allowed a Christmas tree. Again, more arguments.
I have absolutely no contact with any of my family. With my father this has been about 23 years. With my mother this has been about 16 years. This is as it is. It won't change. It's easier like this.
My mother and I NEVER saw eye to eye. We were as alike as chalk and cheese. We had nothing in common and no common ground to meet on. Apart from personalities, there were two major reasons for this. One was my father, of which I'm not saying any more in this post, and the other was RELIGION.
So, to sum up what I've just been saying: I always hated Christmas as a kid and teen because of how stressed it used to make me feel.
As an adult it got worse though. Whereas I would have been happiest to just forget about it, for many years I was put under pressure by well-meaning friends to spend Christmas with them and their families as it was such a bad thing to be on your own at Christmas. Can you imagine how that felt? Being pressured to enjoy yourself and being made ever more aware of what you had missed out on as a kid? - ie both Christmas AND a 'normal' family? And how rubbed in it felt every year that Christmas was a time for families but that you didn't have one? But it was okay cos you could enjoy someone elses?
Every year I started dreading the Christmas period more and more. I would get very depressed. I'd cry. I just hated it.
And then suddenly one year I decided to fuck it all. I decided to reclaim Christmas for ME. I decided to celebrate the fact it meant some downtime and some me time and some not working time that I could just relax and re-energise to. At that point I decided that the Christmas period WAS something to look forward to. As long as I could do it MY WAY.
The last few years, I've spent the holiday period ON holiday, enjoying the sun, meeting new people, collecting good memories and good experiences. I always look forward to this time of year now because it's MY time of year and it's full of good memories.
I think it's probably about 7 years since this time of year made me full of hopelessness and sadness.
P.S. on the subject of religion, have you seen this, with Marcus Brigstock? Absolutely hilarious, in my opinion. DO watch it!
Oh and in four days time I'm a gonna be in BANGKOK!
Nay - that should be in TWO DAYS I'm flying away from the Tokyo coldness for 19 days sunshine.
Supper was yummy: sliced carrot, cucumber, avocado and sun dried tomato, rolled into crunchy lettuce leaves and rolled into a sheet of nori (seaweed).
Super simple, super crunchy and super delicious.
A colleague today commented: in the US Marines [before going to fight in Vietnam] we were taught how to shoot babies.
Now WHY would anyone share that information???
(the context for the conversation being the woman who had taken a gun with her to church and who shot the gunman because god told her to)
The other day I was coming home in the evening and someone had fallen down the stairs at the station, cracking open their skull. Well, from their lack of movement and flow of blood I'm assuming that's what had happened. So, a member of station staff was 'looking after' them while the ambulance was coming and another person was also kneeling down and looking concerned.
What got me though was the crowd of onlookers. Why do people stand around staring at accidents when there is nothing they can do. That kind of voyeurism makes me uneasy. But not as uneasy as someone in the room telling me they were taught how to shoot babies.
I've got a runny nose today. Not a full-on cold, just a runny nose and low energy. I spent most of today sleeping, to be honest. I did think about exercise, but just wasn't up to it.
Is this psychological or physical, is what I'm wondering. I mean, on the one hand, I'm rundown right now, but I generally always am at this time of year (hence the NEED for a holiday).
Of is it because my body really doesn't like even the smallest amount of cooked food or alcohol?
Friday night I went out with some work mates to an Izakaya. I didn't drink that much (a few kiwi sours) but I was a bit stoned (not that that is any kind of excuse, and it was the first time in a long time) and whilst the eating started off healthily enough with edamame and a salad, chips and pizza were ordered (not by me) and I couldn't help but help eat them as they were there.
Does this mean I, quite simply, cannot ever go out to eat?
Last night Veggie Paradise had its Xmas party. Sigsy, Jen and Jan came with me and I met up with the raw vegan meetup group I've joined before going in. It was really fun! The food was fantastic, as ever - loads of delicious creations. And I restricted myself to three glasses of (organic) wine and had lots of good conversation with some lovely people.
The food was all vegan, of course, but was a mixture of raw and cooked and I knew I shouldn't... but I really wanted to start easing back into a bit of cooked food before Laos. The result of the cooked food? Of course it was lovely, and I didn't have much, but it was enough to make me feel less than 100%.
Anyway, Laos is around the corner now and I can't bloody wait. Did I mention that?
And, when I get back, I intend to get into a regular routine of gym and yoga.
Two weeks tomorrow (Thursday 20th) I'll be off to Thailand. YAY!!! AND I got a bargain flight up to Chiang Mai for 1,180 baht (about £18) - including taxes, etc.
The 'plan' such as it is stands that I'm in Bangkok from the evening of the 20th until the morning of the 22nd, when I'm flying up to Chiang Mai, busing it to Chiang Rai straight away and hanging out there for the day. Early next morning, I'm heading to Chiang Khong to cross to Huay Xai and then spending the next couple of days heading, by boat to Luang Prabang (making it about the 24th/25th, I guess).
After I don't know how much time in Luang Prabang, I'm not really sure what, where or when but I think I might stick to the north - Vientiane, Vang Vieng, etc. I need to do a bit more research. But no hurry there.
If you're going to be around, let me know where you'll be and let's communicate by email.
The world is a beautiful place at 6.30am, with the light bouncing off the yellowed leaves and making them gleam.
The trains are not so busy at 6.45am either. Almost pleasant in fact.
Thing IS, I would much rather be sleeping still than experiencing these things, which I do every Wednesday as I trek to teach an 8am business class.
Talking of trains: I think I've got used to the rush hour now. It doesn't bother me as much as it did.
I don't know if it was the effect of the diet (which IS totally back on track again now after Saturday nights 'little' slip-up, but my period [sorry, but it's my blog so, bla bla bla] came almost a week early and, boy, was I in a foul mood last week. I've never had PMS at the same time as my period before.
P.S. How much fun can YOU have for 210 yen? (£1) - The other day I went to the 100 yen shop and bought a box of water colour paints and a pack of sheets of painting paper. Ooooo I had fun this evening. For about an hour anyway. Now I don't have an artistic bone in my body - creative, yes but artistic - no. Although I can surprise myself sometimes. But there is something so nice about creating something for the hell of it that nobody will ever see and which will end up in the bin anyway, but it's the doing it that's the fun part.
I used to muck around with charcoals for the same reason. Very therapeutic, very mucky and very satisfying.
Ditto colouring books. I adore colouring books, papier mache, play dough, making collages, making jewellery, taking photographs, writing...
Only thing IS, I keep forgetting I like these things. Often for years on end. DOH!
And, I used to LOVE doing craftsy things with the kids here that I used to teach.
Some lessons realised on this not very fine Monday morning:
1. Never count on doing 'loads' of laundry on your day off. It's currently raining. I have sheets getting wetter and wetter on my balcony, a load of wet washing in my machine and a pile on the floor.
2. I really DO have a problem with alcohol. I may have mentioned before I sometimes get 3 or 4 day headaches after drinking. Well, I have one now, that I had yesterday too. This is the first time I've had a headache in a month. Funnily, Saturday was the first time I'd drunk any alcohol in a month. And I didn't actually have that much anyway.
3. The intentions part and the motivational parts of my brain are very separate and cannot communicate with each other, ie the 'I will do x' and the 'but I can't really be bothered' parts. Is this just me?
The lovely Sigsy asked what I'm actually eating in a day. Well, today is a non-work day and for breakfast I've had a cup of (filtered) hot water with fresh lemon squeezed into it, and a BIG smoothy (did I mention I LOVE my Braun handblender) with the flesh I managed to extract from a small mango, an orange, a banana, a really juicy ripe persimmon and half an avocado. OIISSSHHHHIIIIIII, ne?!
Lunch will be a smallish salad of some kind, when I can be bothered to eat again.
In the evening, I might make some humous and chop up some veggies.
If I want to snack I have a fridge full of lovely vegetables, a big bowl of fruit on my table and another big bowl with various bags of nuts, seeds and dried fruits.
On an average work day, I'll arrive at work and have a banana and a satsuma and a 500ml carton of 100% veggie juice, probably followed by a cup of boiled water, if I have time. If I have a morning break between lessons, I'll have a 500ml carton of pure fruit juice - apple or whatever. Lunch is a packed lunch of scrummy vegetables. Maybe I'll throw in a handful of olives or some nuts and quite possibly an avocado. The rest is whatever I could be bothered to chop in the morning. It's normally quite a noisy job crunching through it all.
I'll usually follow that with a couple of pieces of fruit. And more boiled water.
If I have to go somewhere after work I'll have some nuts or dried fruit and maybe a small carton of veggie juice.
Supper - I'm generally not that hungry for supper anymore. I might have another salad or maybe just a handful of dried fruit and nuts. Sometimes I'll soak couscous or quinoa and make a salad with them.
And that's it. I eat when I'm hungry and I never eat for the sake of it.
I DO need to start getting a regular exercise routine sorted though. I bought the required 'indoor shoes' for the local gym - ie they require trainers that have never been worn outside. (This is Japan. They do things differently here. Just cos something is different doesn't mean it's wrong. Ahem.)
And there are some yoga classes a couple of stations from here that I'm going to start going to as well. As long as it's not raining or I'm feeling too lazy! Seriously, once I actually start the routine will be easy to follow.
And it's STILL raining!
Okay, what I actually ate the rest of the day after breakfast:
Lunch - I wasn't in a salad mood, so I had some dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
Snack - a satsuma
Evening - again, I wasn't in a salad mood so I made another smoothie: two oranges, a tomato, some lettuce, some cabbage, some currants and filtered water to make it a bit more liquid. And it tastes GOOD! Really! (But hey, I've always liked combining foods other people might find a little strange).
I also find I don't need to drink as much water as before as I'm getting so much more from the food I'm eating. Well, apart from when I'm at work and standing in a heated classroom.
Another thing I really like is the amount of garbage I'm throwing out is SO much less than before thanks to not having all the bloody packaging everything comes in in Japan. IF I had a garden, I'd bury the skins and food waste, but I don't. Shame really. Still, a serious cutdown of garbage is another good that's coming from this. It really drives me nuts just how wasteful the society is here with regards to overpackaging things.
I mean, in shops, if I refuse a bag for something I've just bought, they always look at my like I'm slightly mad, before handing over the unbagged good. Oh well. Thing IS - if you listen to my students talk, you'd believe the environment was number one priority for everyone here. I guess it's fashionable to talk about it, but not so fashionable to actually do anything about it.
P.S.I'm thrilled. I just booked a flight from Bangok to Chiang Mai for £18! (1,180 baht) including taxes on a special festive deal.
As determined as I was to not plan my trip to Laos, there's a few people who'll be around Bangkok and Laos at the same time so I need a vague idea of where I'll be when. The beauty of email though, is nothing has to be set in stone to meet up with people.
Anyway, I'm flying into Bangkok late on December 20th, and heading up to Chiang Mai early on December 22nd.
I haven't 'planned' any further yet. I'm dithering about whether I want to hang out in Chiang Mai, as I really liked it there last year, and maybe visit the Elephant Conservation Park again, or whether I should save the time and head to Laos as quickly as I can. As it is, I plan to overland (over water?) it slowly so maybe I don't really have much time to hang out in Chiang Mai this trip. oo dilemma, dilemma!
I've just got excited about the trip again though. I mean, I NEED to book a winter trip each year to get me through the cold months leading up to it but because I book so early I tend to not get excited once the initial thrill of booking the flight wears off. But anyhoo, I'm rambling and I've got to iron some shirts for this week. Boo, hiss!
That's me. Little Miss All or Nothing. After a month of feeling good after everything I ate tonight I went and blew the lot, so to speak.
Two mates had a birthday thing in a Mongolian restaurant. I uhmmed. I ahhhed. I was convinced there'd be enough salads and things to keep me amused. BUT you put food in front of me and I'll eat it. THAT'S my problem. And I did. Starting with fried, greasy vegetables, moving onto fried, greasy noodles, and topping it all with lots of red meat.
I can't actually put into words how ill I felt. AND it's not like I'm so stupid as to not have KNOWN that would be the result of eating that way. Heck, I didn't even drink that much - just a couple of shots of vodka and an apple shochu - and then soft drinks after that. Can't believe what an idiot I was. I certainly learnt this lesson.
On the plus side, I did have fun, although I felt embarrassed, yet again, at my total inability to communicate or understand Japanese after having been here so long.
The restaurant, in Otsuka, was fun. Everyone was seated on low tables on the floor and about half the customers had donned Mongolian robes and hats, as supplied by the restaurant. One of the restaurants staff or owner or someone, kept wandering around giving away shots of vodka to everyone, and making men strip off and put on Mongolian wrestling outfits - and arm wrestle with each other. It was a noisy fun place and very brightly decorated, albeit a tad too smokey.
I AM annoyed at myself though that I wasn't more sensible though. I mean, it's not as if anyone was forcing me to eat it, was it? GRRRR.
British female who wishes she wasn't moving further and further away from 35. After nearly six years in an alternative universe (ie Tokyo) the real world started screaming at me to come back. And so I ended up in a surreal world in Libya, Qatar and finally now in the Emirates. For now. I drink lots of coffee, teach English and travel when I can... Join me.