The train doors always open to intense blasts of yaki nikku-perfumed air in Tsurahashi Station; the rich, spicy aroma of charred Korean barbecue that used to delight and taunt me as I rode my bike through Tsurahashi on the way to work is now the delicious smell of home. If my pocketbook is on the heavy side that day, I can have my pick of some 40 yaki nikku joints clustered around my new apartment. In fact, Sean and I have already piggishly enjoyed Korean barbecue three times since moving here 3 weeks ago, including on my birthday this past Monday with the Kyoto lads and two of our delightful new neighbors.
Shots of the birthday feast, the “A” set involving cow hearts, tripe, liver and “roast.”
An “after” pic of yaki nikku is unnecessary, as it would just be an empty sauce-stained plate and a doubled-over figure groaning in the early throes of heartburn. And one must ask themselves, was it worth it? Gobbling up things you’d never eat back home, greedily stuffing your face with what should be disgusting but is somehow delicious … really? Was it? Yes – it always is.
I had a thought on my birthday and wanted to type it down as the thought developed but have found little time to write this past week. I am, for some reason, easily distracted. I have also been bombing job interviews, setting up the new house, and training for some new Junior High School class procedures at our company – training which will be useless to me since I am not teaching Junior High School students next year. Sean, however, has recently learned that he will be taking over my class of Evil 13 Year-Olds since, at the start of the new school year, I will no longer be teaching at Fujidera school on Wednesdays. The news has bemused both of us. Sean has heard me complain about these bad seeds all year long so he is on his guard. Sean is also far scarier than I am and I am sure he will put those little creeps in their place. So just go ahead and yuk it up now, Rina, Hitomi, Gay Yuki and Seiya. Draw pictures of poo with my name on them. Answer my questions in a phony whisper. Hurl game pieces and flash cards off the table while I’m trying to teach. Pretend you forgot your textbooks. Guffaw and holler. Enjoy it while you can; the Mad Irishman is coming to town and he already knows all about you.
Anyway, my birthday-themed thought was this: this blog – or at least the material of this here pigeon-monikered blog – began on my 26th birthday, 2 years ago – me, repairing the torn hem of my cheap pencil skirt with mint-scented dental floss. Always a sucker for an anniversary, that realization got me thinking. Oh, about the usual things, really – the tides of change, how the unknown becomes the familiar, how I might have calmed down a little bit had I known that in 2 years I’d be feeling so close to serene. Sitting in seiza on a mustard-yellow cushion in front of my MacBook. In a brand new apartment, set in a neighborhood glittering with lanterns and lights. Owner of a gorgeous orchid plant, courtesy of my parents, a gift for my birthday, now gracing the outdoor balcony along with the basil, the strawberry, the bonsai, and the fuchsia petunia from Sean. A woman who eats heart, kidneys and tripe happily. A woman who no longer feels crushed and worthless after bombing an interview – one of the only career-related interviews she may well get in her non-English-speaking country of residence – but is simply thinking about happier things; her online writing course (starting tomorrow), creative goals, and the fact that no new part-time job means getting to keep 4 free days a week. Sumo is in Osaka this month, and a day trip with the lads has been arranged for Thursday, a national holiday. The sakura will come, and so will the boozy, bittersweet School Year-End parties, O Hana Mi, festivals and tea ceremonies I now know to watch out for, this being my second year here and all.
Of course, I couldn’t have known about any of it – happy moments are never quite so happy if they’re expected and really, thank goodness for that. It’s the quiet, little surprises that please, really … and, anyway, I can’t help it – I feel buoyed, not downtrodden, which surely is a sign of earned wisdom. More and more white hairs are scattered at my crown and for the first time I can see where an eye cream might do me some good. I might not be a fresh 20 year old anymore, but it might be a good thing – I was insufferable when I was 20. And never fresh. Or at least too stupid to appreciate how fresh I might actually have been. And if that all sounds like the rationalization and soul-soothing of a woman pushing prime-baby making age, it might be.
Regardless, I do feel good.