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Post-Honeymoon Phase

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Things are changing here. The weather has almost overnight gone from the muggy 80s and 90s to the crisp windy 50s. My apartment is no longer a lonely place with only a warm computer for company, I now have a roommate whose favoite passtime is eating my fingers. The training trips and seminars are over, replaced by the far less inebriated five day work week. As the every day life in Japan sort of settles in, the wonder of being here wears off a bit, and I find myself - I don't know quite how to describe it. Just a little lower than I was during the first couple months.

There's a JET guidebook that describes the stages of "Culture Shock" and it looks like I'm right on schedule for phase two. They describe it as irritability and frustration, and I don't think that's quite right, but it's like I've finally let the breath out that I have been holding since I landed in Tokyo, and started breathing normally, only to find that there's nothing so amazing about this air anyway.

Last weekend I was sitting around for almost all of Saturday and I think I realized I was feeling differently for the first time. I resolved to make something of Sunday, get out of the house and go do something, anything. I hadn't taken my scooter out to take pictures since my crash so I decided it was time to change that. I put the camera under the seat and headed out around my neighborhood. One of my favorite things to do around here is try to get to the top of every little mountain and hill around. I'll spot a house or an antenna and just try to get there. Most of the mountains here are criscrossed with tiny windy roads, and so after driving through a little alleyway for a while, I found a road that went off and up into a mikan (mandarin orange) orchard. Up I went, enjoying the sun and the sound of the scooter (that one is an acquired taste). I got to the top, and just before the road went angling down to the next valley and peak, I passed a little cemetary next to a mikan orchard. The road passed above it, the oranges sloped down the face of the little mountain I had just driven up, and a new cement wall held the road up above the trees. Down in the valley was the main drag of my town, I could see the supermarket, the hardware store, and my office at the Board of Ed.

I turned off the scooter and put the kickstand down. I looked around for a little bit and took in the view, and then sat down on the wall. The sun was shining on me, there were birds flying around, out ahead of me a big Kite was soaring on thermals. All around me I could hear crickets and grasshoppers. The smell of the inland sea floated up just a little bit, mixed with the smell of old oranges fallen from their trees. A stray dog walked up, looked at me, and then walked away. I don't know what it is, but there is something about being up high and seeing a nice view, it takes me away from whatever is on my mind and just lets me relax. It's as though my my mind needs an actual concrete contrast to sitting in front of the computer, and so I go out and find the most dramatically different thing I can find.

As I sat there someone set off some loud fireworks to scare the birds from their rice fields, I watched the flashes and puffs of smoke appear and start to blow away before the sound came rolling across the hills to me. I walked down and grabbed an almost ripe orange from a tree and ate it, the taste halfway between an orange and a lemon. Sitting on that wall, eating an orange and looking at that view was like setting eyes on where I am living for the first time again, exhilarating and liberating.

Now it would be perfect if there were some amazing pictures of the view, pictures that capture the feeling and the light and everything, but the truth is that as far as places go it wasn't the most beautiful view, and I wasn't particularly concerned with taking the perfect photo. I was already having a sublime moment. Of course, I didn't leave without taking one photo. I'm not completely losing it.

Late in the day I went out again, criscrossing rice paddies, using the tiny cement lanes that farmers use to get around. Off in the distance, ever tempting me is the Bowl Osaki building.

You can probably see that the color of the fields has changed. Goldenrod has just come into huge bloom here, it's everywhere and as tall as I am.

I had to get at least one typical flower photo up here.

The other thing I want to post about is the spiders here. Have you noticed that I take a lot of pictures of spiders? That's because I think there are more spiders on this island than people by a lot. First this one.

This one was onthe rice paddies and somehow lost two legs. That does not prevent it from being maybe three inches across and seemingly very successful. It seemed to be posing for me in the light so I couldn't resist.

The next day (Monday) after work I (surprise, surprise) saw a little narrow road going off up a hill and followed it. It didn't go far, just up a ways to a gravel yard, but on the way up I noticed that the resident giant spiders had pretty much taken over the road.

First of all, they were giant. This one is eating a wasp. A large wasp.

More impressive, though, was the setup of their webs. The covered all the trees and bushes around, but deciding that wasn't enough, they somehow covered the entire space between the fence at the side of the road and the powerlines above. Hundreds of spiderwebs, each in perfect condition, puffed out in the wind a bit. It might be hard to see in the picture, but you get the idea. It was like a spider city.

Just one more, because I think these spiders are beautiful.

Also, in case you were worried that no one was keeping an eye on my behavior here, don't be concerned. There's a lady here who keeps her eye on me:

Here, she is determining whether my pants and shirt match.

(They did.)