- So, yes, as last post mentioned, I went home for a few weeks in July. First to Chicago where Tom finally met the family after nearly a decade, and I think it was a mutual love-fest.
- My brand new and scary Nikon D5100 dSLR camera was there to greet me along with Tom. I'm still very much a novice, and I haven't had a ton of time to truly learn to use it to it's potential, but I am loving it, and I do understand picture-taking stuff I didn't before I got it. I've only used the zoom lens that I bought with it in the package once. This year I hope to have used it, and appropriately, at least a few times.
- My sweet orange baby kitty, the one you've seen in a million pictures here that came back to the States with me from Japan with me back in 1998, had been very sick before I came home. Long story short, while I was home we found out that he had cancer. Timing allowed me to be there to hold him and love on him for a few days and then say a very peaceful goodbye. I was amazed at how peaceful it was. As heartbroken as I was (and crying as I write this 6 months later), I am grateful for the day he wandered in my life, and I think we both felt well-loved, and that somehow made it oddly easier to say goodbye. It was time. We knew it. I will carry his whiskery little orangeness in my heart forever.
- A new JET year began at the end of July/start of August, and I hit the jackpot. There are four of us (two JET, two non-JET but basically similar) in my tiny town, and it has not always been hunky dory. We got some new folks that I LOVE and another that I LOVE but didn't get to spend nearly enough time with last year stayed on this year. The four of us get along famously, and it is truly a delight, the very thing I'd wished for from the start when it was lacking.
- In September there are a whole bunch of days off right around each other that, if you fill in with a few vacation days, make for a really nice chunk of time off. Well, maybe only a week, but only at the cost of 3 vacation days. I went to Taiwan. It was truly amazing. I could easily live in Taipei, especially since so many people can speak Japanese, oddly. Time and again it happened that way, that Japanese was our best, most efficient medium of communication. And we'd all laugh when it went that way. Anyway, the amazing food, the awesome night markets, the friendly people, the big-city modern subway system filled with people who automatically give up their seat to someone who may need it more - all of this and more made me love Taipei.
- In December I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). It's changed since I took it a million years ago, so I took the same level again, Level 3, but this time it's a bit harder and renamed N3. I actually hardcore studied Japanese in preparation, something I hadn't done in years (studied anything, really). I felt prepared. On test day, at first much of it was really easy, making me feel like I would pass with flying colors, and then there was the reading and grammar section that may have annihilated me badly enough to fail the whole thing. Results come out in February, so we'll see. In either case, I plan to take N2 (the next hardest) this year. I've already started studying for the July test. While I can get by in my day to day life in Japan, it's a little embarrassing how broken my Japanese still is after so many collective years of living here (3 years many moons ago, and 2.5 yeas now, not counting the 4 years of supposed study in college, where, looking back and comparing to recent college grads, the last two years of it were a bullshit waste of money because we were not required to actually use any Japanese - it still shows).
- In December, I also went home for Christmas for the first time in many years. Tom met me in Chicago. Then we went down to Tulsa. I packed up a bunch of my stuff for him to take with him when he moves up to Chicago this year in advance of me. That's the plan. Chicago next. At least for a few years, and we'll see from there. As much trash as I talk about Oklahoma (we don't see eye to eye on 99% of political/social issues dearest to my heart), it was sort of hard not to listen to country music while looking at that gorgeous Oklahoma-style sunset and romanticize the best parts of it. I can't go from here back to there, though. We know this. Still, any of you who were reading back in the day know how much our pit stop in Tulsa saved us by having a job for Tom when Portland didn't. We took a chance, a big leap, sending him there, then grandly reuniting there when I lost my job half a year before I'd move to Japan. Tulsa worked out for us and will always have a place in my heart.
- It's January. A new year. A time for resolutions and new starts. Most people have this conversation around the first of the month. It's halfway through it, and I'm just now getting around to thinking about it. From above, I know that I want to learn my camera better and find a reason to use the extra lens I bought with it. I want to take and possibly even attempt to pass the next level of that Japanese test. Tom and I plan to meet somewhere in May for Golden Week (last year, it was amazing Thailand), but we don't know where yet. In any case, I'd like to visit at least one country for the first time this year, ideally with my love. I debate whether I want to get all the way back into blogging and all that it ends up entailing. Part of me wants to because I do miss it, but I don't miss how consuming it can become. So, no promises, but I would like to not be such a stranger around here. We'll see.
|Me, Tom and my new camera toy at The Bean, Chicago, Summer 2011|
|Saying Goodbye to My Original Orange Kitten of Love, Summer 2011|
|Looking out over my tiny town from the 3rd floor of my school at the start of a great new JET year|
|Taiwan in September 2011, a feast for all the senses|
|That amazing Tulsa sunset, January 2012. |
This is straight out of camera, in all it's glory.
To anyone still reading this, thank you for reading.