Friday, July 10, 2009

The Shine Has Gone Off

I've concluded that the shine has gone off of airing my private thoughts and experiences publicly, so I'm going to give up private blogging (again). This time, I don't expect that I'll be making a return trip.

Thanks to all of the people who read and took the time to be supportive and kind to me. I appreciate it.

I will be keeping up my other two non-personal blogs, will still be writing for Tokyo Journal magazine, and will perhaps return to Blogcritics more regularly as a means of airing my deeper notions and developed ideas. If you'd like to hear my thoughts on such topics, you can still find my thoughts on limited topics in these places. From now though, my private life and notions won't be out there for regular public consumption.

The other two blogs are:

1000 Things About Japan

Japanese Snack Reviews

And other ways you can access my writing:

My Blogcritics page

Tokyo Journal (at Amazon, though you can also buy it from Kinokuniya in Japan)

Tokyo Journal's web site

My first blog:

My So-Called Japanese Life

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Lunchbox That's Not a Bento

At one point last month, Kelly made a post about bento (Japanese lunch boxes) and asked, "do you bento?" I believe that real bento making is an art form and that it takes a certain character type and appreciation for that art to really make the time and effort put into it worthwhile. I think many Japanese people find it gratifying because they find presentation to be just as important as the quality of the food.

When I commented on Kelly's post, I said that I make a boxed lunch, but not a bento. Even if I were inclined to take the time to make a real bento, it wouldn't be the sort of thing my husband would want to eat. He won't eat cold rice, potatoes, etc. and there's no microwave oven at his workplace. Also, he doesn't like his food to touch, so artfully cramming a lot of different food into the same box is simply not going to work for him. Finally, he doesn't like a lot of fruit and vegetables so there would pretty much be a limited palette to work with in regards to what was used to embellish the box.

In our case, the preparation of a lunch box is relatively utilitarian, but it's a bit beyond the standard brown bag or lunch in a pail in terms of effort. I make my husband's lunch 4 days a week both to save money and because it's better nutritionally than eating out. He eats out once a week for some variety (usually at Subway). The preparation starts with making my own high protein bread. I have to make this about twice every three weeks and keep it in supply in the freezer. The loaves are actually on the small side, so even though he is the only one who eats it (and it is only used for lunch), it doesn't last terribly long.

I also make espresso shots once or twice a week to prepare cold lattes to take in his cold thermos, and also make hot coffee for his hot thermos. If that weren't enough on the caffeine front, I also send along a Diet Coke wrapped in an ice pack and about once a week prepare two liters of Brita filtered water for him to drink at the office. His office used to have a filter on the tap, but they recently removed it so now he needs his own water (and we don't want to create waste by having him buy 2 liters every week).

The box itself looks something like this. Everything is in a separate container so that the food doesn't touch and contaminate the other food with various odors, wetness, or flavors. From the left on the top is a sliced apple (turning brown, though I know a bit of lemon would stop that, he doesn't care), fig newtons, and a rare inclusion of a white chocolate peanut butter cup on top of a container of pretzels. Usually, he takes baked tortilla chips, but this week he's having pretzels for a change of pace. On the bottom is a container of carrots wrapped in a wet paper towel to keep them from drying out and a baloney and cheese sandwich on the low carb high protein bread.

This particular box looks more put together than usual because the fruit actually fits in it. Often, he takes a banana, strawberries, grapes, or a bigger portion of apple that won't fit into the box and has to be taken separately. Often, my husband doesn't eat all of the starchy or sweet components that are packed here, but because he works 2 long days that start at 11:00 am and end at 10:00 pm (and 3 more "normal-length" days), and swims before work, he wants to have extra food on hand in case he gets hungry during the long day. Usually, I get this box back with 2-3 of the cookies still in it, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the pretzels or chips, and sometimes a portion of the sandwich as well.

He's not a big eater, and doesn't eat all of the carbs in particular. He'll almost certainly only eat half of that peanut butter cup, for instance, if he even eats it today at all. Sometimes he just takes it to work and leaves it there until he really wants it.

I've been making these sorts of lunches for him for quite some time now, and now that we're looking at leaving, I'm thinking that I probably won't be doing this sort of thing after we go back to America. It's not so much because I won't want to, but because our circumstances will certainly be different. For instance, I expect to work full-time if I can find a job, and he expects to be a student somewhere. Because of this, I'm immortalizing this process that I'll have undertaken for 6 years for my future reference.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No Energy to Be Angry

When I learned that the move to put a tighter leash on legal foreigners in a lame attempt to catch illegal foreigners had passed both of Japan's houses (lower house at the end of June, upper house yesterday), I was mad and frustrated. With the police's illegal drug testing and searching of foreigners for weapons going on, forcing us to carry cards with computer tracking chips seems like a drop in the bucket of violating our rights to peaceably go about our business. The Japanese authorities have no respect for foreign residents. They tolerate us. They're happy to take our tax money and apply it to the needs of the Japanese people. They'll use us as labor if they have no other choice or can't find locals to accept low wages, but they have no respect for our well-being or our rights as fellow human beings.

Mind you, I'm separating the government and legal authorities from the population at large. I don't think the Japanese population on the whole knows or cares about what happens to the foreigners amongst them. Some radicals might want us out. Some radicals on the other side might very much want us here, but the vast majority are indifferent and aren't going to use the power of their votes or their voices (which are the only ones that matter - every foreigner in Japan could protest and the government would not care) to help us.

Frankly, I'm sick of thinking about it and worrying about what is to come. I'm tired of feeling paranoid every time I step out the front door and wondering if this will be the day I manage to check the mail or step out to put the trash in front of the building, or go shopping, and some cop decides I need to be checked for I.D. or asks me to pee in a damn cup for no other reason than I have red hair and blue eyes. I'm fed up with it being an issue and with the Uncle Tom white boys and their apologist mentality. I'm sick of thinking about civil rights and civil liberties and living in a country where racism is condoned not only by the 98% that makes up the native population, but at least some portion of the 2% that is having its liberties and rights violated because they're too damn stupid to understand the implications of what is going on.

Frankly, I just want to accomplish what I need to and get the hell out of here. I know America is a mess right now, but at least it's a mess where I won't be treated like a criminal for no reason or surrounded by people in the same boat as me who have their heads so far up the ass of the Japanese that they can't see the clear light of day. I'm too sick of it to be mad about it. I just want to stay off the radar for the next 2 years and 10 months and slip away before it gets any worse.