Tag Archive | asian food

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

Gotta Survive Somehow

When I lived in New Jersey, I didn’t know many people, and those who I knew lived at least a half hour away from me. Going to the grocery store was absolutely free of interaction with people I knew, there was no chance of meeting someone who would ask what I’ve been doing since they’ve seen me last.

Since returning to the area where I was raised, I’ve had moments when I’ve wanted to see people again. I want to talk about what I went through, how awesome my life seemed to be, how awful my relationship was. I want to connect with people and see how things have changed while I was away. Rekindling these friendships, even if we were little more than acquaintances, kind of makes me feel like this is where I need to be for now.

It still doesn’t feel like home, however. I know the roads, I know what used to be where, but I lost so much in 2014 that I can’t go back to feeling how everything used to feel. But I digress.

There are times when I enjoy being away from people I know, and today was one of those days. I went to Han’s Oriental Market again, this time starting with the bakery nearby, Tous Les Jours. I’ll save that trip for another entry. Afterwards, I went to the Wegmans that was nearby so I could get some regular food, knowing that no one would know me there or that they would assume I was someone else. I was wrong, as one of the Service Team Leaders greeted me on my way out of the store. She was one of my higher-ups when I was a cashier at a different Wegmans.

When I returned to the house where I’m currently staying, I told my friend about how I hoped to not run into anyone but did anyway.

“Are you embarrassed to be on food stamps?” she asked. “Do you not want anyone to see you using them?”

“Well, no, that’s not the case,” I told her. “I didn’t use food stamps at Han’s because I didn’t want to complicate things, but I could have.” I didn’t tell her that I went to Wegmans because that particular one has a wider selection of everything, including Asian snacks. I found a few things at Wegmans that I had set down at Han’s, so I picked them up in that trip. More than anything, I enjoyed being someplace I’ve been to before but being a random stranger to everyone. I don’t know why it’s fun to be around people and still be left alone, unless I’ve become an introvert over the course of time.

As for being embarrassed by having food stamps, maybe there’s some truth in that.

I was raised in a middle-class household, maybe lower middle-class, but we weren’t wealthy by any means and we weren’t “just barely getting by” unless it was a temporary thing because of bad decisions and bad luck intersecting at the wrong time. We were never on government assistance for anything, and we never depended on constant assistance from outside people to make ends meet.

I didn’t want to go on food stamps. I wanted to look at my current situation as being a temporary setback, that I’d bounce back from everything and be fine. And then I was urged to go on food stamps by my friend, so I signed up. Filling out the forms was like doing my taxes, as I had to list income and expenses and then provide documentation on whatever I mentioned. In the back of my mind, there was always that thought of, “what if they discover something that I didn’t include? What if they don’t think I’m worthy because I’m able-bodied or something?” Okay, I don’t wonder about being able-bodied when I’m doing my taxes, but the experience is still the same.

Now I have this card that allows me to get edible things! And I know what you’re thinking. You probably think I’m going to spend it all on Asian food. I’m not, unless I’m spending it all on instant ramen for the house. I do want to continue to try new foods, but I’m also going to buy food that I’m familiar with and that I can share with my housemates. Not everyone is as daring as I am.

There’s this unfortunate stigma that those on food stamps are getting all of these luxury items, and that’s in the back of my mind now. Luckily, I just replaced the battery in my iPhone 6S which I’ve had since day one, because there was a recall on batteries in the earlier models, so I might be able to get another year of usage out of the phone. But, I bought my phone when I had the money to do so, because I never dreamed I’d be in the situation I’m in now. I bought steel-toed Skechers sneakers because I needed slip-resistant shoes for a job I had in New Jersey, and because Skechers hold up so well for me, I still have a decent pair of sneakers for casual use. I have things to get me started with work once again, which is more important. I’m not one for designer clothes or handbags. I probably look nothing like the food stamp recipients that people complain about.

So will I buy lobster on food stamps? Maybe one lobster, if they happen to be on sale when things turn around for me. I’ve paid $15 for a whole live lobster and cooked it at home, back when Mom was alive and life seemed pretty good. I didn’t do it often, it’s something I’ve only done twice in my life. I’m more likely to go to the nearest Chinese take-out place and get some lobster lo mein, which costs about $5 for a pint and you can’t buy it with food stamps. I’m uncertain if that’s actually lobster in the lobster lo mein, but it’s usually pretty tasty.

Let’s face it, I have to survive somehow. I hate being on food stamps, but at least there’s ways to get off food stamps like making a decent income. And I’m not a fan of social interaction, but it keeps me connected to the world so it’s a necessary evil. As long as my grocery shopping excursions have all the fun of my time spent in New Jersey without needing to be in New Jersey, then my life really isn’t so bad.