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Light at the End of the English Teaching Tunnel

One more month left teaching English.  The company sent me a new lesson plan for one of their schools.  Even though the plan was for 6th graders, it seems to cover an awful lot of ground.  Unless the students have had some English before, I expect a lot of blank stares and not much retention.  I will try to follow it as much as possible, but if things start to go downhill and the Japanese teacher starts to panic, I will slip into my standard 6th grade routine.

The boss of the English company observed me teaching a couple of weeks ago which I worry was a bit of a bore.  I really do very little in the middle school classes.  If she wanted to see me doing anything more that playing parrot; I would have recommend coming to an elementary school where I actually have fun interacting with kids and making English learning fun.

I’ve told the company about a discipline problem with a couple of third-grade classes who are giving trouble to their teachers.  The lesson plans that the Japanese teachers have prepared for me are really light (if they’ve been prepared at all), but with a little quick thinking, they can be fleshed out into complete lessons.

That school has two teachers.  One, with whom I have only worked one day, had no lesson plan whatsoever. The other teacher will usually prepare something abstract, like presenting me with alphabet flashcards, and I have been building the day’s lessons and games off of that.  Basically, I have to put myself in the Elementary School mindset, and everything works well.  It just falls apart when dealing with the troublesome 3rd graders.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that the school was unable to hold on to the foreign English teachers like me because they would call in sick when assigned to that school.  This might explain why the teachers there are not accustomed to preparing lesson plans.  I think that by working together with these teachers over the next month (4 days, total), they will have a better idea of how to prepare for my replacement.

Speaking of which, the English company asked me for my final dates teaching with them.  I’ll know better after I talk with The Rocker in Korea, but my goal is to continue all the way to the last day of June as we initially agreed.  Strange, I started teaching English to keep paying the rent, but it’s really not as bad as I thought it might be.  But of course it helps that I see my real job as being what is printed on my business cards – the work that I’m doing for Taiwan

Planning for the Year to Come

I still need to know what the schedule for Taiwan is looking like.  The Rocker talked about 2 months of creation being in July and August but he also mentioned that I might be off in July and that we may need a month of preproduction in October.  This may conflict with offers I have to direct in Boston in September and October that I might be able to ask between 500 and 1000 USD a week in addition to per diem, but if July is off, I might try to push their project to July which would give me a chance to go back to the US with a much better idea of budget, cast, etc, to pitch to our contacts there.  I just have to see if it would a problem to fly me in to the festival from the United States instead of Japan.  In any case, for now I am keeping my schedule free after the festival in case there are any opportunities that pop up.

It’s hard for me to explain to my family and friends what I am doing.  I do not like to talk about anything until it is definite; that’s a good way to get a reputation as a guy who talks a lot but doesn’t get anything done.  I have to keep my mouth shut.  As it is, out of about every 10 potential projects we get, only 1 comes through.

I am enjoying my job a lot.  Basically, I organize special events, set budgets, find acrobats, arrange their fees and their airplanes and hotels and all that, and then help direct the event.  Since I am doing the casting, it means that I also get to be in the shows, which is nice.  The Rocker lets me basically do whatever I want, and since he is Canadian, we are eligible for a lot of Canadian support and he is introducing me to a lot of contacts in Canada and Asia.  Our big problem now is just that events come very slowly as our name is just getting out there.  No one really works like this in Asia which means that clients are not used to paying the kinds of budgets we have, so we lose a lot of leads.  Once people see the quality we bring, hopefully business will grow.  So that’s what I am trying to set up over here.  I think that I will know if things are going well by this December.  If things are not going well, I will need to rethink my strategy, but so far, I am happy!

I think my big goal is to keep my eyes and ears way open for the next couple of years to learn everything I can about this scene and about producing and directing and making all the contacts I can in Asia.  Once nice products are being produced, if the door will still be open in Canada and Asia, we’ll see what kind of opportunities are out there.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to work with my circus school friends again just like what we did in 2003 and 2004, but this time with real budgets!  Two years ago, budgets in the millions were totally unthinkable, but when I saw how enormous the budget is for the festival and the new creation in Taiwan I almost died!

End of a Trip Abroad Back Home

I am sitting here, needing to leave in five hours to get to the airport and return to Japan.  Madness.  Looking forward to it, actually, but I’m sure I will be missing this vacation soon enough!

I finally did get a chance to do that hike, and it was perhaps the highlight of the trip.  Walking out, watching the humpback whales leap out of the water right next to the horizon, watching dolphins jump over each other in perfect synchronicity, watching the waves crash over the volcanic rocks below me.  Stopping here and there to explore tidepools or caves.  Having to steel myself to cross a bridge consisting of a single timber precariously balanced over a chasm.  I saw wild albatrosses feeding their young; chicks the size of their parents.  I walked on the only native and protected sand dune environment on the island out to the skinny westernmost point of the island where you can stand on a small jetty of volcanic rock and have the waves breaking on both sides of you.

Sitting there at the edge of the world with the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands crouching on the horizon under a blanket of clouds, I am surprised to find that I have been sitting not 5 meters away from a member of the endangered monk seal population.  Formerly numbering about 50, now growing in population to around 500 or 1000.  I am illegally close to him.  If I am caught, I will face a fine and prison time.  But there is no one around for miles, so I relax and converse with him in silence.  He has been attacked by a shark.  A tiger shark by the size and the shape of the bites.  He is missing a pectoral flipper, but seems to have taken it in stride.

This is the most remarkable beach… the sand is not sand at all, but bone-white coral shards, smoothed into round, palm-sized pebbles that are rough enough to keep from sliding over each other when I walk on them.  They hurt my feet; remind me of Taiwanese foot massages.  I also see a giant sea slug.  The older brother of the two I tried to rescue earlier in the trip.

After an hour of sitting there, seeing this place as hard as I can, I head back, scanning the darker lava for other monk seals.  I am not even surprised to find another one there, just on the other side of the rock that my shark-bitten friend was lounging on.  The third monk seal of the trip, the fourth of my life.

I body surf on Makaha Beach on the way home, knowing full well that there is a great white shark out there today, preying on the dolphins and seals that I have been communing with all afternoon.  He won’t bother me here, though, I think.  And he didn’t.

A man made blow-hole, glass on the ground, the way these mountains look after all this rain…  It is impossible to describe, and infinitely frustrating that way.  The whole trip has been that way a little.  Other stuff happened too, Hanauma Bay, dinner with my uncle, a trip to an American club, my last ever goodbye to The Contortionist, bookworm-infested paperbacks.  All impossible to explain in writing, I know, but these little journalings have been my humble attempts to capture some of this month-long journey abroad to my home.

Vacation Mode

I guess that I have finally set into vacation mode.  I can tell when I sit back and try to think about what I have done that day and it involves lying in bed, watching TV, and then driving aimlessly around the island in search of sun.

It has been raining for six weeks here in Hawaii, and there are landslides and a lot of unhappy tourists everywhere you look.  Everything smells because of the rain.  There has never been weather like this, and people are frowning in paradise.  Me, I like rain and bad weather and funny situations, like the fact that the entire sewer system for Honolulu broke down, sending millions of gallons or raw sewage into the public canal here which empties into the ocean.  For a few days, everything was fine, and the shit was carried directly out to sea, but in the last two days, the wind has shifted, and it has officially caused the most famous tourist beach, Waikiki, to close down.

It is an interesting sight.  Tourists in raincoats lining up along the coastline staring forlornly at a stew of brown bacteria-infested sludge.  It is also surreal, because normally, this stretch of beach is just buzzing with surfing lessons and catamarans, people splashing around…  but it is entirely devoid of anyone except for the occational Japanese tourist who cannot read the English signs wading out or throwing their toddler into the mess before a lifeguard comes down to explain that they are at risk of serious infection and disease.

But life is OK, and if I wanted this vacation only to get ready to face working in Japan again and everything that goes with it, it seems to be doing the trick.  I am anxious to get back!

Looking forward to an ohanami with the other refugees, even if it is under naked sakura trees.  We can imagine, no?

Whirlwind Tour Part 4 – Minnesota

Oy yoi… so let’s see where we are.  The world has changed.  For the worse and for the better.

The terrible news obviously is that I am still reeling from the loss of 7500 dollars.  This is in no way a good thing.  It is because my expo pay was reduced by 20% to go to the Japanese government, but I was supposed to get a reciept for that money so that I could get a refund on my tax return.  Unfortunatly, that reciept is not forthcoming, and it looks like that money is lost forever.  on top of that, I had savings bonds that my family and I had calculated to be worth around 1000 dollars in the US, but when I cashed it, it was worth only around half that!  Put the two together, and I am 7500 dollars poorer coming back to Tokyo.  Sad things, but life is life, and this is the one I am living.  But The Rocker sent me an email that really cheered me up even though one of the grants he was after won’t be coming through, but I hope that something better will come in because of it.

Let’s leave that sadness and get up to date with these rambling gypsy-like travellings across the United States.

First of all, I love the life.  I love stopping into town to see a little cross section of what life is like there for just a couple of days and then zooming away in a weird zen-like state to the next port of call and absorbing that lifestyle for a little bit.

I wanted to meet with a friend of mine in Montreal for just an hour or so before leaving for Minnesota, but wouldn’t you know it, we started drinking and a lot of other friends showed up and we started talking about life and everything, and I didn’t leave Montreal until 9pm, about 3 hours later than I had planned to.

But it is fine, I love long road trips, night time doesn’t bother me, so off I go!

But I only get about one hour out of the city, just approaching the border from Quebec to Ontario, when I collapse.  I can’t go any farther.  I get off the highway and park in this huge housing development for rich people and sleep in my car in front of a big mansion.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work because I have no coat and no blanket and it is minus 10, so I drive to the worst looking hotel I can find and stay there for 50 dollars, and leave at 5am to get back on the road.  The rest of the trip is pretty uneventful, and it looks like I will get into Minneapolis to see my sister that evening, but it gets later and later, and I get hit with this fatigue again!  it is still way too cold to stay in the car, so I have to call my sister again to say that I will die if I try to drive for another four hours, and I find a nice hotel instead.

But the good news is that my sister is sounding really happy on the phone.  The last few times I had spoken with her she had been sounding down and depressed,  but she seems really happy and happy to see me soon!  This made me feel good.

So I sleep at another hotel (I feel like money just wants to jump out of my pocket!) and get up early to arrive in Minnesota around 11am.  Ah, Minnesota.  What a strange place.  I see my mom again, and no matter what, you turn right back into a kid, I think.  I said that I needed to do a little business, and I apologized, but I just quickly called all of the organizations I was supposed to meet with before heading into town with my mom to shop for underwear and deodorant (my mom’s idea.  strange.)

The weird thing is that my mom seemed to think that while I was working on the computer and everything, my email was totally there for her to read!  But at least she got to see me working and I think understands better the kind of work I do and that despite the fact that I am not getting paid right now, it is still hard work and very stressful!

But my mom announces that she knows I am very busy, but she has taken these three days off to be with me, so she will drive me around to all of the meetings I have to go to.  I told her that it seems weird that my mom will be driving me to my business meetings and that I don’t really want to walk into all these theaters and companies with my mom, so she says she will just wait in the car.  In the cold.  Reading.  I agree to this, but I am still confused about everything… is this normal in minnesota?

The first stop is seeing my dad at his company, which I have never seen.  My mom drives me there and then waits in the car, reading, as she told me she would do.  The secretary of the company sees her and says:

“What’s your mom doing in the car?”

“Waiting for me.”

“Invite her in!”

“She’s reading.  She’s happy.”

“I’m gonna go get her.”

“No, she’s ok.  She feels eccentric today.  If you invite her in she will feel robbed of that.”

“Well ok.  But we want to watch her!  Well, not watch her, but look at her.  See her.”

“…”

Is this normal in Minnesota?

All the secretaries crowd around me.  They keep asking me about my clown life.  Weird.

Then my dad comes out and there are hugs.  My dad says he will show me around.  The company is impressive.  There are employees and everything, and they treat him like he is the vice president, which I guess he is.  I find out he is retiring in two days, which I didn’t know.  He wants to go on a two-month road trip with his girlfriend with no desitination in mind.  Just to see north America.  I am like my dad in this way.

The visit is over, and I set up a coffee date with my dad, just my dad, that evening, and then head out to see my mom.  My dad sees her in the car.

“Was she waiting there the whole time?”

“Yeah.”

“It must have been cold.”

“She has a book.”

“She should have come in.”

“…I’ll see you tonight.  Bye.”

Then it is off to the theater to see my first ever acting teacher and director.  I am looking forward to seeing her, and a theater is big, so I hope my mom will come in instead of hiding in the car.  She comes in, pees, and goes back outside.  I hope that it is a good book.

They are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet on stage.  I don’t want to interrupt rehearsal, so I wait outside and listen to my teacher direct.  I imagine that she is talking to me, and I remember what it was like as a junior high and high school student, being directed like this…  how weird everything is.  I look through photo albums while I am waiting.  There are a lot of photos of me at different stages of my life.  In a lot of them, I recognize my clothes, but I do not remember the play or the class that I am in.  What did I learn?  What was I doing?  Who am I working with?  We look like such good friends…  I am old now.  A lot of the pictures make it look like I am good at what I am doing.  I wonder if I have let myself down.  It is impossible to ask the kid in the photos what he wanted from me.

I see my teacher after she finishes up rehearsal.  We decide that meeting for brunch tomorrow will not work out.  We are sad.  We talk about art and life and everything is nice.  She is proud of me; shows me off to the kids she was directing.  It is late and my mom drives to the front of the theater.  I guess she got cold.  Or she finished her book.  I say goodbye to my director and head over to my highschool girlfriend’s house where only her parents live.

It is a big house.  Maybe four levels.  I talk with her dad.  He tells me it is not to late to be a doctor.  He can help me get into Mayo Medical School.  I tell him that would be great.  I want to go back to grad school.  He asks me what I want to do and I explain generally.  He advises me to be more specific, and I can not.  He says I will need to be.  He tells me all about science and research now; how things are going downhill, how he is lucky to get funding still.  Other people are suffering.  I know that it is because he is the best at what he does.  Will I ever be able to claim such a thing for myself?  Will any of us?

I talk to his wife about life and her kids.  I feel like I am their age and we are talking about children together.  We open up a bottle of Black Swan red wine from Australia.  It is really, really good.  I drink a lot and get a little drunk.  I tell them how glad I am to have known them.  They tell me about their daughter and her finacee.

I tell them that I hope to see Fiji (her father’s birthplace) if I work in Asia for a while.  I want to see where he came from and learned how to be a doctor for less money than anyone could ever live on, then or today.  He would operate on you for free, and refuse a chicken in payment.  Maybe a couple of eggs at the end of the month.  Now he is the world’s best neurologist.  Fiji can make a man like that.  I want to see it.

Now I am really tired and drunk.  I go to a barbeque with my mom and we eat fast.  It is only 9:30pm but they are closing.  We eat in like 20 minutes.  Not a very relaxing meal, not what I have come to expect from converstaions over meals, but my mom is very happy.  I am supposed to meet my dad across the street in 40 minutes, so I go into the restaurant.  It is a perkins.  Like Denny’s in Japan, but all Western food.

I fall asleep on the bench waiting to be seated.  The waiters must think I am a weird drunk who wandered in off the street.  They ask if they can help me, but really like I need help.  I say I want a more comfortable place to sit.  And water.  I am waiting for my dad.  They bring me to a booth and bring me water and I sit, drink, and fall asleep.  When I wake up from time to time, I sometimes see a Cambodian waitress with no age who speaks Minnesotan English perfectly.  She has a poise that I admire, and I think that she is pretty.

One of those times I wake up I see my dad.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am not drunk any more, that is for sure, but I am tired, tired, tired.  We talk for a long time, about money, my sister, about work…  about my project.  He wants me to know he is proud of me…  I say that proud is not what I am looking for, I want him to be proudER, and I am not sure I can manage that.  My dad is drinking coffee and I am drinking water.  It is late, late, late.

In the end, I drive back to my mom’s house.  I can’t remeber anything about what happens.  I am supposed to meet her the next day for lunch at 12:00 at a greek restaurant where I will meet her new friend who turns out to be a really nice guy.

Before that, though, I wake up and run to all the small town theaters to try and pitch my project to them.  It is weird.  Like they have never thought of bringing an international show to this little town.  They probably haven’t.  I know it and knew it, but it was interesting to try to talk about the possibilities, to help them see the potential.

I feel like my friends in the Refugee Camp and I are all kicking our asses in Japan and feeling beat up because of it, but is important to know that any day we wanted to, we could go back home and be superstars.  Unfortunately, that could all too easily be the beginning of the end.  why keep trying when we can be so satisfied with where we are?

I print up some more little folders and then head across the street to my former high school to see if I can meet any teachers.  Only one of the three I wanted to see was free, and I met with her.  She was my german teacher.  She is from Bavaria.  Now she teaches math, and it is weird speaking to her in English.  I feel like I will lose points for it.  Her daughter is in Taiwan now, doing marketing or some such thing.  I should meet up with her when I am there.  I give her my email address to pass on and we talk about what I am doing, I ask her how she is, how she thinks about the kids in the school today.  How is school treating her.  Is she happy?  All through everything there are students in the class who are doing extra work.  They have lots of questions.  One gets yelled at for not doing her work early enough.  This is Minnesota education.  I never let myself be a part of it, and I see why.  We say our goodbyes, it was nice seeing each other again, and I walk back to my car.

I wonder if she actually remembered who I was.

Dinner with my mom’s friend.  We talk about America and the way America is seen by other countries, how I feel being back here and all that.  Dinner is nice.  Gyro sandwiches and calamari.  I thank him for being a good friend to my mother in what could be a very hard time for her, and later, she tells me that he found that I talk a lot and am passionate.  My breath smells now, and I need to drive to Minneapolis for business meetings.  My mom says her friend wants to adopt my sister and me.  I chew gum, and barely get there on time.

Actaully, I have 10 minutes and need to get coins for the parking meter, so I go into a coffee shop and have a coffee.  I talk with the girl behind the counter…  I ask her what she does.  this must not be her full-time job…  no, it is part time.  So what does she really do then?  What is her art?  She says she has no art, no passion.  But she has a friend who is an actor.  She is friendly and pretty, and nice to talk to.  After 8 minutes I leave to go to my meeting, putting coins in the meter as I go.

Business meeting… what can I say?  It is great.  Everything that doesn’t happen at a Japanese business meeting happens at this one.  He is excited by the project.  wants to know how he can help!  What are the details!  Can he come to Taiwan to see it?  Tell us how much money you need…  let’s make it happen.  I smile as I leave and put his card in my pocket.

I have some time and want to call some more theaters, so I go back to the coffee shop.  I feel like I am important when I make the phone calls.  not because I am, but just because I am a small enough to feel important by starting a phone call like:

“Hello, this is Travelling Acrobat in residence at the national theater of Taiwan calling about the potential for developing our project for a flagship tour in the Minneapolis/St Paul market.”

I am a fake, and I will pay for it someday.

Today I just pay for my juice.

I have 45 minutes to meet my ex for a drink.  She works right across the bridge and around the corner.  We meet and I have a Guiness.  I order nachos, but she eats them all.  We laugh a lot about a lot of things.  She will be married in a week or two, I guess.  She asks if I want to meet her fiancee that night.  I say no.  I said that it was strange talking to our teacher and her parents about her.  She knew it.  We have a history, I say.  That is what he says, she says.  It is time for me to go.

Next meeting is at a Minnesota circus school.  They make a lot of money but rarely leave the state, much less the country.  The owner thinks he could benefit from my project.  He is particularly proud that Cirque du Soleil wants to use his huge school as a training ground for their Cirque du Monde program.  “We are going to be where Cirque trains its coaches,” he beams proudly.  I’m concerned by the number of kids that seem to be taught by volunteer parents and how many are falling.  It is true that if they partner with us we are eligible for a lot more money in educational grants.  It is a sad, sad lie I live, sometimes.

So I head back into Rochester from the cities after the circus school…  it is 70 miles, about 90 minutes of a drive, and this fatigue started hitting me in the head again!  I am supposed to meet a high school friend of mine in the same restaurant where I met my dad the night before.  I get there a half an hour early and curl up in my car to sleep.  This is starting to feel more like a little apartment than a car, but at least I have a blanket in there with me now.

My friend is a high school teacher now, in creative writing.  She has the sweetest face, like a 14 year old’s, and a really dark attitude.  I think I told her that she exhibits an optimistic nihilism or something like that.

She has finished her first novel and is starting work on her second.  I am nervous to read her first one because when she started writing it five years ago she told me that there was a character based on me.  I am scared to find out what that character might be like.  She loves the romantic side of my life.  Somehow, the instability and insecurity of our nomadic lifestyles really appeals to her.

It is stange to have these people who live in houses and who hold steady jobs jealous of my crappy existance!  They love hearing about life in Tokyo with my Lithuanian roommates, about our bathtub with a gas water heater built in…

I guess I’m telling them about a world they have never known…. a parallel world right outside of the borders of their country, and they are transfixed; transported…  not sure they would ever venture out there to see it all for themselves.

What a strange thing to want the things we can have, but not want to go after them ourselves.

I finish late, and barely make it home without falling asleep on the road.  I was supposed to meet my dad and one of his badminton students at a restaurant, but time got away from me and by the end, I was barely concious.

Another night slides by…

And I am awake and heading up to the cities (Minneapolis and St Paul) once again, but this time to see my sister and meet her new girlfriend.

My mom is driving once again, and when we arrive, she says that my sister, her girlfriend, and myself should find a nice cafe and just park my mom at some diner somewhere to read her books and make phone calls for church.

We do that, and the three of us find a nice vegetarian and vegan cafe.  I want something called ‘mock tuna.’  It tastes like tuna but has no meat in it whatsoever.  I really like it.  Then I know from the swelling in my mouth that there must be nuts in it…  a delicious brush with death.  That is how I describe it to the waitress, who applauds my positive attitude towards dying.

My sister works in a bank and takes a lot of time off to fly around the country playing music for corporate events.  Her girlfriend is a 19-year-old college student in gay and lesbian issues and something else like sociology.  She is always smiling and laughing.  And gets excited a lot.  When she is excited, she sort of vibrates and shakes and smiles.

We talk about all the silly normal things like how they met, what she wants to do for a job… I drink vegan coffee with soy milk instead of cream.  Now it is time to take her to class.

We check in with my mom, who is making loud calls to her churchmates in a very leftist cafe.  I wonder if people are annoyed.  I drag my sister into the bathroom to look at us in the mirror.  we look very similar.  Moreso every year, I think.

We leave my mom again and print up some more materials for the meeting that my mom says she scheduled with me for the Guthrie Theater.  I have been using her cell phone, and the guy I wanted to meet called while she had it on her.  She pretended to be my secretary, I guess.  My mom is being my chauffeur and my secretary.

Beforehand, I go to another cafe, this time, just with my sister.  we look at women together.  It is interesting that I find ordinary Minnesota women exotic looking now after being away for six years.  My sister finds them boring.  We talk about us, about each other, about our relationship.  About our parents and their friends.  She tells me that she has always been envious of me; that I can do everything and never fail.  That I will take a chance, that I am never afraid to look foolish.  That people believe me when I say things, that I am so sure of myself.  I tell her that I am not sure that everything she is saying about me is true.  I explain that the trick is to be the best at something and the worst at something at every step of your life.  That is what increases your comfort level.  I tell her that she should assert herself more, that she has real creative potential, but that she is locked inside.  She sort of agrees.

She drives me to my meeting and then goes to pick up my mom.  This meeting is in one of the world’s newest theater buildings, and quite possibly one of the largest.  It is not open yet, won’t be until June, but I get the full tour from a guy named James Morrison.  This is a beautiful theater.  I want to play here.  I want to live here.  At least, get really drunk here.

Perfectly designed for the director, performer, technician, and audience member alike.  It is a pleasure to see such a temple to the performing arts.

James loves this project; wants to make it a priority for himself this fall.  Wants to see it travel across the USA.  We meet for an hour, and by the end I am smiling.

My mom and sister pick me up; they have bought me a bubble tea.  My mom tells me that the woman behind her in line lived in Japan.  When my mom said that her son lives in Japan, the lady’s first guess was that I was teaching English.  My mom is so proud to say “No.  He is a show producer!”  Oh the shame of a successful lie.  When the woman finds out that I do circus and that I had been to the Minnesota circus school the day before, she tells my mom that her kids studied at that school, but that she didn’t like it.  My mom told her that I had visited and that I wasn’t sure myself.

I blew up at my mom.  I am very mad.  She is sorry.  I tell her not to tell people anything about what I say.  OK, fine, she can say what I do, but don’t mention the names of any organizations or what they told me.

Silence.

I say I’m sorry.

Maybe I was a little too dramatic.

But she needs to be careful!  She says she will be.

I know she won’t.

But it’s OK.  She’s my mom.

We get my sister some new glasses and then we go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house.  She is a teacher too.  My uncle is recovering from recent surgery.

I run by all the things I talked about with my friend heather about teaching the new generation of American students; kids who have lived their whole lives in the era of the internet.  It is truly a different world, and the kids are far more difficult to teach, I guess.  At least by the old methods, so they are trying to find new methods to teach that resemble the pace and colorfulness of television and the internet.

My aunt seems to have a very global view of the United States as seen be the rest of the world.

Now, it is off to a Mongolian barbecue where the whole family eats.  It is uneventful, but I sit next to my sister and look at her proudly throughout the whole night.  I wish I could help her with her dream to get away from this city and state.  We pose for pictures at the end of the meal.  At the end, my family tries to recreate a photo that we had taken 16 years ago.  We do a pretty good job, I think.

Before driving back home to go to bed for my last time in Minnesota for a while, I hang out with my sister at her apartment.  We see her band, I look at pictures of her, talk to her and her girlfriend and play with her cats.  I take pictures of them, and say I am glad to have made a new friend.  This makes her vibrate and shake with happiness.  I download some music onto my ipod from my sister’s computer, have my picture taken with her, and head back to my mom’s house one last time.

The next morning, my mom let’s me log in to her computer to write to my friends in Boston to tell them that I am coming.  The Political Scientist logs on from Tokyo, and I get to chat with her.  It is nice.  I have been missing that girl so much, but I feel like I will see her so soon, everything seems unreal. I am fatigued and jet lagged and depressed and excited, all at once!

Finally, I am off.  It makes me sad to see the colored paper signs that my mom has hung up on her garage door that spell out “Welcome home, Travelling Acrobat!”  I have only been home two and a half days.  I don’t deserve to make people that happy just by showing up.  I pull out of the driveway and start the long trek to Boston.

 

Three Month Notice

I have been busy now that I have a job.  I was hesitant to teach in Japanese Junior High Schools and Elementary Schools at first, but in the end, I actually enjoy it even though it’s not something I thought I would enjoy.  Teaching kids can be really rewarding, and it is not that different from teaching acrobatics, except I have to deal with their shyness instead of their fear.

Ironcically, now that I know I’ll be leaving in the summer, I need to write the English teaching company and quit.  My plan was initially to wait until the last week of the school year and then to give three-month’s notice, but they just offered me a full-time contract as a manager with quite good pay and possibility to advance rapidly in the company.

I could have just shut my mouth, signed the contract, worked for higher pay for 4 months and then said that I was quitting because of some family emergency or something like that, but I just don’t believe in such dishonesty.

Instead, I offered to work April-June, full time and help find and train a replacement including accompanying them on their first week or so teaching in the schools since lack of a transition seems to bother the schools more than actual turnover in the teachers.

So we’ll see, they may scrap my employment immediately and start fresh with someone else.  So be it.  I just think that this was the best way to honestly propose a solution to my upcoming departure.

Letter Home From Japan

I am still in Tokyo.  It has been more than a year since setting foot back on this volcanic archipelago of my childhood.  In many ways, the Japan that I remeber has crumbled into the sea.  That Japan stays forever in my memory, but what remains – presently – before me, is a land of opportunity.  It is like my ‘wild west’ has shot far past California and the Polynesian islands to come full circle and rest here in the ever-renewing, ever-crumbling Land of the Rising Sun.

Here, I can be what I want to be.  I can be White or Asian, American or European.  I can be an Artist or a Businessman or a Scientist.  I can be young or old, exotic or commonplace…  whatever I say is what I am.

I am trying to produce this show.  Starting in June, I go to Taiwan to make a new circus show.  I am working with a director friend of mine as new project coordinator and assistant director.  I am trying to produce the Japanese leg of the tour.  We are also directing the first major modern circus festival in Asia.  We get to work with former classmates, cirque du soleil artists, and some of the biggest names in circus today.  I will finally be a “producer” with a company starting to making a name for itself.  I am brokering deals larger than any I ever imagined while living in a one-room apartment with two Lithuanian roommates and no shower.

I’m reading voraciously.  At least two books a week.  Science journals.  Social criticism.  Philosophy.  Novels.  I read in French, in English, in Japanese, anything to stay mentally active.

Most people aren’t as interesting as these opportunities are so I don’t lose to much time to social things.  The friends I do have are as close to me as they are different from each other.  Journalists, politicians, teachers, public relations experts.  They keep me moving in different circles from each other so the water around me cstays clean and swiftly-flowing.

I have my vices…  I like to drink, I drink a lot every couple of weeks, and I like flirting with women.  I’m liking it a lot more than I was liking having a girlfriend.  Every month, I find I need to spend money on a nice dinner and show to feel like (despite my less than luxurious living conditions) can still appreciate finer things from time to time.

I get job offers frequently for nice, stable jobs that I will not like.  Interviewing for such jobs helps me practice negotiation and learn for myself that business is all about convincing people that they need you, and then proving it.  It is about finding out what you are worth, knowing what you are worth, getting more, and then living up to it.

I am enjoying myself, but whenever I give myself a break, I get depressed.  A fifteen-minute break from the computer writing business emails or running from meeting to meeting makes me feel like I am building everything on a lie; that everything is escaping me.  I wake up in the middle of the night to edit publicity videos, to write web pages, to contact investors.  I am never alone from my thoughts.

This is why I love meeting people.  They provide the best way to escape my own head.  I simply enter theirs, care about what they care about, and learn about a world that is as alien as any extraterrestrial planet:  my world as seen by someone else.

I am forcing myself to take a break.  I will go to Hawaii and Minnesota at the end of March, and will only allow myself 3 business stops a week of no more than 4 hours each.  I will think of nothing, and write all the time.  I will climb mountains and hike rainforests and drive in lazy loops and piercing treks across the plains.  I will excersise outside and breathe clean air and smoke a cigar on the beach.

All this will come to an end.  If I accomplish what I truly hope to accomplish in the next two years, it is time for another change.  It is time for university; it is degree time.

I am sure that someday in my life I will grow up and settle down.  I am sure that someday I will find a way to keep my mind on one path, but for now, at age 28, there are so many mountains to climb and so many paths to take.

Science, art, business, politics, writing… who know what it all means and where it all leads.

At least I have moments, every couple of weeks or so; in the neon underbrush of Shibuya or the quiet, European streets lining the inside of the Yamanote loop… in Japanese lessons with the woman who has taught my father, sister, and me for almost 22 years…  biking through the rain, or drinking a fragrant, inky wine with a beautiful woman over a savory meal and spicy political discourse a quarter mile above the quiet chaos below…  when I can step outside of myself, my life, into the realm where I exist close to the people I love – my family – a place far removed from the four dimensions of everyday life.

Where your presence warms my spirit and moves my soul and makes me understand that wherever I go, whatever I do, I am not alone in the world.

I hope to make you all proud someday,

Your loving son and brother,

The Travelling Acrobat