Tag Archives: pad thai

Butterburgers, gas station burritos, and 33 pounds of dog food

The most peculiar thing is that I now feel like an outsider who is inside, or perhaps someone who was always here but isn’t any longer. In Japan I am acutely foreign, both invisible (like Internet advertisements to a seasoned browser) and visible (bright, flashing Internet advertisements), depending on the interpreter. This duality has become part of my consciousness in Japan, making me always aware that to everyone I am at least someone or no one. In America it is different, because I am neither someone nor no one but Everyone. There is no duality that comes from being different, to be ignored or stared at but at least one or the other–there is just existence, part of All People.

Yet, still in command of the I’m In Japan mentality, I find myself mostly oblivious to their presence around me, conditioned as I am to mainly ignore what I recognize as the same (most people). The problem is that I am also conditioned to recognize what is different, which for the last year and a half has been “foreign people,” and by foreign of course I ironically mean “not Japanese.” To suddenly become aware of all the conversations those around me are having is like someone flipped on the switch that opens Pandora’s Box, forcefed me the apple of the tree of sin’s origins: can these people really be comfortable with knowing that everyone around them is hearing what they’re saying to each other? Then, two realizations: 1. I just asked that out loud to my sister, completely forgetting that suddenly everyone around me can understand me too, and 2. to someone for whom the regularity of constant bombardment of exterior conversation is not remarkable, it is unlikely to be even slightly of note that someone around them is speaking to someone else.

I’m lonely but not alone, I’m everyone and nobody: nothing on my face says I’ve been an outsider for this long, or that I’m still just temporary. I get a thrill out of speaking in a cool, casual way to gas station attendants and the guy who gets the game out of the rack at Target, catch myself speaking way more politely to anyone than I ever would have thought to before, and find myself for what is likely the first time in my life genuinely unconcerned about what anyone thinks about the things I say, do, or how I look. Peculiarly enough it’s only since I have lived in a place where I am forced to acknowledge that I am the Other that I am capable of believing I’m nothing. Is the suppression of self-consciousness what self-confidence really is?

In other news: huge burritos, frozen pizza, steak, cottage cheese, Thai Kitchen, Jimmy John’s, American football, and other such delights, hung from low branches like ornaments, and I am the cat.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning.

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It can never become clay again

Nearing the end of May now, stricken still with how quickly a year goes. We’ve been here for almost ten months, and summer is coming back, which I am unenthusiastic about. I remember now just how hot it was when we got here, sweat dripping off, clothes soaked upon getting back to the apartment, the only respite a cool shower since we had no air conditioner. Still, I fear for my summer houseguest: the spare room is well outside the reach of the conditioning unit, and we have but a single tiny fan. Maybe I will allow him to sleep on the living room floor, or standing up in front of the open freezer. Probably there is no option but to sweat sweat sweat (and drink lots of ice-cold beer).

Jessy and I, now both routinely busy all day with work and then evening Japanese classes (I on Monday and Thursday evenings, her on Tuesdays and Fridays), are regularly unable to spend any time with each other during the week except in Sannomiya for an hour after school. So usually we just meet for an hour and grab a bite somewhere. The variety of culinary treats now routinely available to me is exciting, and I am tickled to finally have opportunities to dine out instead of just cooking at home every night. I would be remiss, however, not to mention that I am (a mere three weeks in) beginning to miss going home after work to prepare a meal and watch some television programming/. Surely the benefit of gaining sufficient command in the Japanese language outweighs the possibility of constant apartment relaxation, but I certainly do now more concretely value my free time.

Last night I had the pleasure of chowing down a huge bowl of special Nakau gyudon with mushrooms and glass noodles on it during our scheduled meet-up. After we parted ways, and in an effort to really enjoy my time at home, I surrounded myself with enjoyable things: a Suntory Old whisky cola, some Belcube cheeses and saltine crackers, a little Jazz, balcony door flung open with cool breeze, the puff of one of the small cigars I got last weekend, a Super Famicom brawler I’m playing for N-Sider, and later some fragrant Kyoto incense and the last innings of a Tigers game on TV. We won 8-0 (but the Japanese table tennis girl I was watching earlier was beaten viciously).

Tonight, however, is Jessy’s night to chill as I am cooped up teaching at my night school, like every Wednesday (ironically, the only night neither of us have any classes of our own is the one I have to teach). In this instance, today anyway, I use the word “teach” loosely–it is exam night, which means my responsibilities start with me entering the class to read a short document aloud for the students to translate, and end when I stop reading it.

My nook is still getting heavy use, though it’s slow going now that I have started in on The Lord of the Rings. I am 163 of 1344 pages in, which is much further than I ever made it before, but feel like I could summarize those 163 pages in about three sentences: Biblo left Frodo a magic ring which Frodo is taking away from the Shire with his hobbit friends and they went through a scary forest and met the spirit of the forest and ate his cheese. That is one sentence. I will routinely “take a break” from reading it to read some other book in its entirety, come back for another fifty pages, and repeat the process.

After having spent months trying to mentally decide which instrument I’m going to start playing as a musical outlet, I have finally chosen the piano (a choice not lightly made, and as a result of much deliberation). Most specifically I suppose that means I’ll need a keyboard, primarily due to cost and size constraints, though there are nice ones with the full set of keys and weighted actions to make it feel like playing a real piano. This decision comes now as I have already accumulated more than enough distractions for the times I am spending at home, almost certainly guaranteeing that if I want one I will have to sacrifice another, a decision I am not really into making. Thankfully, it is easy to decide not to spend money on an object I will need to devote a lot of time to. All I need to do is nothing, which I am getting pretty good at.

Something else I’ve been getting better at is my Pad Thai, though I don’t really consider it “authentic,” whatever that would mean when dealing with a dish that literally varies wildly from cook to cook and place to place. Instead of the traditional flat rice noodles I’ve been using a more resilient Japanese rice noodle which remains chewy and is less prone to mushing, and I have also cut back heavily on my tamarind while adding lots of brown sugar, chili pepper, fish sauce, and beansprouts. I still include plenty of peanuts, egg, and chicken, which I guess is really close enough to fool my tastebuds. At any rate I have taken to just calling it Bran Thai, to preserve the sanctity of the actual dish. Mine is really more of a Pad Thai-style fried noodle dish. None of the nomenclature has any bearing on anything though–we still devour an enormous pan of it with barely a pause in the action.

This morning I considered finally attempting to make homemade pizza rolls using eggroll wraps, and got halfway through it before realizing I had no pizza sauce or mushrooms. I had already cooked the hamburger so I threw it into some macaroni and cheese and now I have leftovers for my three-o’-clock meal here at school too.

This is the most interesting Nomaday ever written.

Is this what journal entries sound like when you write them with no emotions or expectations of being read? It’s been ten years since I ever wrote an offline journal entry. I have to admit, with all the game writing I’ve done this week, my heart is barely in the Nomaday this time! However, out of Duty and Habit, even if there is nothing to say, I will put it up.

Did you hear the one about my great-great-second cousin who was killed in a parachuting accident ninety years ago? Yeah, as it turns out he made the jump but they hadn’t invented parachutes yet.

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Off to Iowa: the ordeal begins

With this suitcase I will take two buses from my apartment to the Pittsburgh International Airport, then two planes from there until I arrive in Des Moines.  This is the unofficial beginning of the end: my time left in the US is now short enough to be comprehended tangibly, my remaining items-to-accomplish clear, the final monetary situations and storage of goods established.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this series of adventures so explicitly over the last several months that surprisingly I don’t even feel too anxious, which is a change of pace.  Instinctively however my brain really wants to be worried, because that’s what it’s most used to.  “Shouldn’t I be really uncomfortable?”  The upcoming events seem now less like semester-end essays and more like going to work: something I simply must do, damn the torpedoes.

I’ll be spending a week there that will be kicked off by a drunken evening with siblings and pals, and followed up the next noon by lunch at my most favorite restaurant in the entire world, Thai Kitchen.  To say that this is one of my most anticipated future-highlights of this trip is an understatement, shamefully: shouldn’t I be more excited about seeing my friends and family?  Of course I am, but they exist on a different plane.  Pad Thai is a sensory enhancement, a new form of awareness!  Family is Important, but you cannot chew them.

With this I begin to pack the laptop bag and prepare for the trek to the airport.  Watch the Twitter feed over there –>
for continued updates!  Bon voyage, Nomaday faithful!

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