Read Part 1 here.
It’s Monday morning of Day 3, and the rain is at its peak. As we reach the summit, the path is just wide enough for two feet. On one side lies a mountain face. The other, a steep cliff thick with trees. One false misstep could mean some serious trouble as there’s no reception 1,000 kilometers high in the mountains. My friend and I check the map to make sure we are going the right way. As we venture forward a few hundred meters, we spot a hand-made sign on the trail, “You are going the right way.”
As we ate our breakfast and watched the morning forecast, my friend and I thought that we could beat the rain to our next hotel. “Hopefully you’ll just be able to miss it!” the Minshuku owner said as we departed.
No more than a half hour in, it began to rain.
Hiking Time: ~5 Hours
Mileage: ~19 km
Without any inclination, one of the older ladies came behind both of us and started giving massages. As my face winced with both pain and relief, someone else shouted, in a friendly manner, “You’re hurting him!” “Geez, you’re back is tense!” the lady said to me as she dug deeper into my shoulder blades. When she was finished, she gave me a hardy slap on the back. “Be careful out there, sonny!”
I walked and completed another pilgrimage recently. Luckily, it was a lot shorter than my previous stints in Shikoku. For four days I walked along the Kumano Kodo Kohechi, a trail with over 1,000 years of history. Monks and aristocrats alike would use the path to travel between Koya-san, the Shingon Buddhism headquarters, and Hongu-Taisha, the grand Shinto shrine in the southern part of Wakayama.
While it is far more normal to walk the trail from Koya-san to Hongu-Taisha, my friend and I decided we wanted to save the best for last and started the trail from the grand shrine in the south. While many people found this unusual, having a nice temple stay and a whole day at Koya-san was quite worth it in the end.
Because I don’t want this trip to span over months of writing, I am going to condense it down into a photo essay style and show the highlights of the trail. Anyone looking for a nice, enjoyable, but somewhat challenging hike with an exuberant amount of history should really check it out.
Solid confession: I have never enjoyed math. I have never been good at it, and those unfortunate to have seen me try to split a bill know that all too well. I barely slid out of high school and college with the most basic requirements for graduation, and I remember the semesters where I never had to take a math class again. It was fantastic! While there are certainly other subjects which involve math that I have an interest in, my overall feeling of the subject is still one of disgust.
Having said that, I was one of the “bad students” in the math classes. Not that I caused trouble per se, but rather that I never really studied, never really applied myself, but also never really made any progress even when I did have to buckle down. Now I often wonder how much of a bother I was to the teachers: having that kid who actively hated your class with the bonus of never seeming to “get it.” Granted, they probably don’t remember me at this point, but I’ve thought about it retroactively.
Now being on the other side I see plenty of my past self in my students.
While I am here to help, between the bureaucratic beasts that loom around, societal aspects that are far larger than me, and questioning the willingness of the students themselves, I find myself frequently asking the all too familiar questions: Am I really needed? Am I making a difference? What would or would not change if I wasn’t here? I could go all day as to the arguments on both sides of these questions, but talking in hypotheticals can get a little moot at points.
One time when I was talking to a veteran ALT friend, and he began with a metaphor that I think best solidifies this quandary. Something along the lines of a “is the cup half-full or half-empty?” kind of thing. And that is to ask “How much do you believe in the power of the droplet?”
I had my first dream fully in Japanese the other day. Not to say this is a first: I’ve had plenty of dreams in the past that involved the other language. But this was the first time I had a dream almost completely in Japanese. Yes, I know dreams are just one of the things people should never talk about, so I won’t bore you with the details. I will say the dream had me speaking some pretty fast and wild Japanese, with words and phrases saved only for the dramatic. Out of what I remember, at least.
Most likely this happened because I’ve been actively studying and hearing the Japanese language every day for the last two years. I like to believe I’ve come far in my Japanese studies, but I still have a while to go. However, there are many times right when I’m about to practice I run into an all too familiar situation:
What happens when the other person you’re speaking to only wants to speak English?
When I published my first Bojack Horseman review back in April, I really wasn’t sure what kind of reaction it was going to get. Honestly in retrospect, I think it reads more like a confessional than a series review. But I was honestly surprised by the response. Many friends reached out, commented, and appreciated the fact I wrote the piece. Even more shocking was when I noticed a high up-tick in page views here and saw that my article had been linked in another review (meta-linking?).
When the second season of BoJack came out in mid-July, I was a little hesitant to start. “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” and “This year… He’s really trying to be a better Horseman.” were the main taglines for the upcoming season, and I was a little uneasy about what direction that meant for the show. The parts that impacted me most in the first season were the “honest truths” the show presented, and I was worried the writing was going to suffer if they tried to go in a different direction. Depending on how you read that, I guess you could say a part of me still wanted BoJack to be in a “hole”. But that’s unfair to him as a character, and unfair to the message the writers tried to present this season. And I do think it was for the better.
Not too long ago, I found myself in a discussion about the impermanence of the JET Program job. This should not come as a shock for anyone with JET experience, as it’s bound to come up as a conversation point. For a job that only just recently allowed a five year stay instead of three, the topic of “what’s next?” is bound to emerge at some point.
While I am still in the midst of writing a summary about my Golden Week trip to Indonesia, in the meantime I made a video with some of my favorite photos I took along the way. So, take this as a preview as what’s to come and enjoy the video!
Some people may look at two words in that headline and get a little uncomfortable. Some may see those two words and have a little light bulb flicker in their head. Others may completely ignore it, or even wonder why I’m bothering to write something that has nothing to do with Japan, my job, nerd stuff, etc.
But then I remind myself that this is my blog and the only staff on duty is myself. And when something comes up to where I feel I can only express it through my writing, I’m going to do it.