Monday, July 30, 2012


Sometimes I start to feel like everyone is bilingual but meeeeeeee and I get out my Japanese books and I do exercises. After 7 years of fitful efforts, I have decided that I will really learn Japanese, for real, or I will stop trying forever. Like this: 
 1. Slowly translating Japanese language brochures and guides from around the US.

  2. Labeling everything in my room (ceiling, ironing board).
 3. Reveling in my little accomplishments.
 4. Reviewing Japanese for Busy People; listening to the associated AJALT tracks before bed.
 5. Planning to translate or read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- still quite a stretch for me. Right now what I'm doing is reading the katakana (in this book, English names and words that are transcribed, rather than translated) to find out what the page is about, then getting excited because the kanji I know=the most frequently used kanji. And then getting discouraged because my list of kanji to look up is so long, even with nciku.
6.  Reading my Let's Learn Japanese illustrated dictionary.
7. Switching most used websites to Japanese.
8. Switch gadgets to Japanese.

9. I got a scribble slate at the dollar store! This way I can practice without a record of how badly I'm doing, unless I took a photo for some reason. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Visit to the Japanese Embassy!

For my first visit to the Japanese Embassy's Japan Information and Culture Center I had two goals- get out of the house, and get a map of DC in Japanese. I forgot to have the goal of arriving on time to the showing of Children Who Chase Lost Voices. We were super late, and I don't know why because I allowed 80 minutes to travel 6 miles by car. There wasn't even traffic most of the way. Driving here is the worst. I guess Casey and I are just going to check out all the free embassy events, in particular anything in Spanish or Japanese. I was totally impressed by the JICC venue and staff (I checked out their job posts, of course, and they want an unpaid, fluently bilingual intern in her 3rd or 4th year of undergrad or in grad school...), but Casey thinks China's will be great because China is working on its image.

The movie we saw was Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and it was really beautiful and only a little confusing. Since we arrived late, and sat in folding chairs, I couldn't quite see the subtitles over people's heads. So I would sit on my feet to see the subtitles and get the hang of what was happening, and then sit on the chair and try and listen. This was the first time in ages that I've heard anyone say anything in Japanese in person, although I have been keeping netflix and itunes on Japanese stuff every day.

I picked up a newspaper on our way out, and we went to get a bagel and I tried to read it. It's been a long time since I've read a paper newspaper, but this article looks like it's about the Olympics, right? The "London-five-something-somethingIknowIknow-something-he"? But the article is about Obama and Romney and something escalating. So I was thinking of translating it for myself, but I have kind of a backlog of Japanese language fliers and similar. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Free matter for the blind

I signed up for a heap of free samples and brochures and things last week, and this is what arrived today:
It's a sample of contact lens solution and a braille alphabet card, or, "FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND." So at first I felt extremely terrible, like I was defrauding the American Foundation for the Blind. In front of my postman. I tried to remember whether I defrauded them deliberately. But when I inspected the letter I learned more about blindness when I saw that the flap was tucked in instead of glued, and that reminded me that the AFB is just increasing my understanding of accessibility. And then I realized they just make good use of their free or reduced postage. (working at the post office I learned that its only subsidies are for military and disabled voters, but this sure looks like FREE: MATTER FOR THE BLIND postage.)

Friday, July 20, 2012


I'm thinking about studying a new language. And then Japanese would be jealous and stop being so difficult. Or maybe I would appreciate the difficulties as a change of pace compared to the ease and accessibility of a Germanic or Romance language. It sounds amazing- all of the vocab would look or sound like its English counterpart, and I would already be able to read. I could just sit down with a German-English dictionary and a German brochure and decode/read it in a single evening.

I feel discouraged with studying Japanese. I bought the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for my birthday eight months ago and I haven't finished the first chapter. I had hardly started reading the xerox of a xerox history of Monterey that the Monterey Visitors Center gave me by the time I got the Yellowstone newsletter which I have now let languish because it is such slow going. I think I read the title and sounded out the transliterated English names and then I got mad very mad at my dictionary and stopped. The dictionary didn't have the word geyser, the word Yellowstone, or the word Wyoming. And I couldn't use google translate because I was camping. At Yellowstone.

And a new copy of my old textbook is too boring and books are too hard and the only thing that's perfect is my Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary. So I thought, as long as I am never going to be bilingual, I might as well be trilingual. And now I get to pick a language. I think Spanish would be easy and useful, with easy access to books and television. But I feel like I don't have to study Spanish- I already speak Spanish; I am an American.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Casey and I both love to get mail, but since we moved in together/moved to the East coast, his main correspondent (me) prefers not to use up stamps to send him letters, and I can't do something cute like fill our mailbox with confetti because we share it with our housemate (also I am sure it is a crime.) He asks every day if he has any mail, and so far he hasn't got one piece. But, I remembered that you can get all sorts of little free samples by mail, and I spent an evening signing him up. I know from doing this once before that you don't get real-life spammed forever, so I know it won't plague our housemates after our very short sublet is up. Our correspondence chess days may be over, but he'll be getting toothpaste and vitamins and bumper stickers  in four to six weeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Transcontinental Letterbox

At either end of Route 50, there is a highway sign that tells you how far the opposite end is. I carved a pair of letterboxing stamps for these signs. Here is a picture of me with the one in California: 

It was kind of an awkward place for a letterbox, but I figure if someone is already getting out to get their picture taken, I am not encouraging dangerous highway behavior, maybe. Each letterbox is in a camo pouch. You can see it's the stamp I used for the Transamerica 2012 postcards. 

 Here is a photo of how good I hid it. The freeway shoulder area was very barren, so I stuck it down alongside one of the sign posts.
 I'm not listing the letterbox on atlasquest until I get the pouch planted at the Eastern terminus. I live 144 miles from Ocean City, so it's too far to go just for this, but I have never swum in the Atlantic Ocean so I'll have to before I move home. Hopefully the pouch in CA isn't removed before I have it up.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I accidentally moved to the south.

I am sure I'm not the first person this has happened to, but it took me a super long time to catch on, considering that I have heat fatigue every day and it doesn't even get cool at night. Before we moved to the DC area from Nor Cal, I compared the forecast in both places, and the forecast for DC was absurd- 90 degrees and day after day of thunderstorms. I discounted this as a fluke, and wondered what the weather might actually be like. When we drove into Maryland from Pennsylvania, Casey spotted the Mason-Dixon line marker, but I was shouting, "Welcome to Maryland!" or something and I didn't see it.

We'd been in Maryland for four days and two thunderstorms when a comment of Casey's tipped me off. We were in DC, sweating, and I was saying what a terrible climate for something as crowded as a capital and he said that putting the capital in the South was part of a compromise way back when. And I thought, wait. If the capital is in the South, and my town borders the capital... I live in the South. I don't think this is entirely my fault- why are there even houses here for me to sublet? And then today he said something else, about the heatwave ending, and I perked right up. Heatwaves end! And then I will be able to go outside without carrying/drinking a gallon of water that then escapes through my skin.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Road Trip

Moving from California to DC was my first interstate road trip as a driver. It was a lot more eventful than the one my parents took me on the summer between fifth grade and sixth. It was fun to have so many friends to visit on the road- Casey's college roommates in Minnesota and Illinois and my friends of the family in CA and family in Indiana and Michigan. I planted a letterbox at the west end of the 50, even though we took the 80 most of the way. I have my letterbox for the east end prepared but I haven't planted it yet. 

My inexpert reckoning left us with a very short time to spend in Salt Lake City, so we didn't see any tourist things, but we went letterboxing in a very calm, lovely garden. In letterboxing you have to be discreet, so if there are people around when you need to pick up the letterbox you can pretend to tie your shoe, pretend you've dropped something, or pretend you're posing for a picture. Here I am "posing" in some ivy while I dig around for the box, which was lovely. 
After Salt Lake City we went straight to Yellowstone. I painted a ton of postcards for my TransAmerica project and we had a great time. If you go, be suuuuuper careful of wildlife on the road. I don't understand how something as enormous as a buffalo could loom up at me out of nowhere at night, but two managed it. 

 I had a great time seeing all the geothermal stuff. It is really special with all sorts of colors and everything. I bought a moose charm for my charm bracelet and I pressed an old faithful penny and then lost it.
After three days in Yellowstone we drove to Mount Rushmore. Everyone told us it wasn't so great, but worth seeing. I see what they meant. There is no entry fee but they charge $11 to park, but at 10 at night there was no one to take our parking fee.  Even at night, it was quite warm, and hardly anyone was around, so I was glad I didn't see it in the heat and the crowds. After Rushmore we couldn't find a cheap enough motel, so we drove all night until we got to Minnesota and after we couldn't sleep in the heat at a rest stop, the Sunset Inn let us check in at noon. 

Minnesota was pretty fun, considering I had no destinations or plans in mind. I got to see the Jolly Green Giant, I bought a book of Brian Andreas poems, we had hoagies with Casey's Minnesotan who introduced us to beer cheese soup (what), and I dipped my feet in the Mississippi. We went to the giant because he happens to be in one of the towns I'm sending a resolution to (I got NM and MN confused, so I was extra surprised to see Blue Earth on the list of stops in MN.)
We had a good time in Chicago. Casey's friend really knew loads about all the public art and architecture we were seeing. A storm came through and although it was fun to be caught in it, after we were soaked we didn't so much want to keep exploring. 
This was my second time in South Bend, Indiana. It wasn't as hot as I remembered, and it was super fun. My family was so excited to see me, and so gracious. It was amazing to sleep under a handmade quilt after a week of more or less roughing it (I guess that's not fair to our hosts in other states, who were super great and made us feel at home. But it was hand made by our hostess, my great aunt Patty.)

The family has really made the town their own in just 5 generations. I saw our family gravestone, my grandpa's alma mater, the house where my Nana and her siblings grew up and the trees they had to plant as kids. I grew up Catholic, so I felt right at home at the university, Notre Dame. We saw the replica of the grotto at Lourdes, and my great aunt told us that when they built the grotto a spring came up right where it came up in France where Mary's apparition had Bernadette dig. They had to cap it with a drinking fountain. We drank from it, of course.