personal

Another day in Nihon Machi

I swear I didn’t initiate another trip to Japantown, today. It just sort of happened. Whether or not I ended up materially gaining anything from that trip (or losing money from same) is a different question. I stuck to spending cash so that I wouldn’t go overboard.

You know…a short while ago, we did get a Zojirushi. For the uninitiated, this is a hot water heater. Which for some reason has an elephant for a logo. But it’s not just any hot water heater. It will heat up up to two liters of water, and keep it hot. For things like tea. TEA!!!

We’ve been drinking a lot of tea. I think the habit (drinking tea instead of juices or sodas) is causing weight loss. M recently found my Chrysanthemum tea from Teance, which I had been searching for — it’s a year old, but I unsealed it from its foil just earlier this month. It is so good. It’s enough to make me want to go herbal with my tea drinking (not to mention, opening my Lupicia low-caffeine teas).

Chrysanthemum tea used to be a favorite of my grandmother, who would ask for it at Chinese restaurants. I’m used to it tasting something like what I imagine unflavored artichoke steaming water, would taste like (if the lemon, rosemary, salt, and garlic weren’t there). The Teance stuff…you can actually taste the nectar in the chrysanthemums as it steeps into the liquid. It’s sweet, but mildly sweet. The liquor is golden. The whole blossoms expand with hot water, which I can watch through my Pyrex teapots. It’s just kind of magical.

The first day, I did have some itching in my throat (I’m allergic to pollen), but this subsided with drinking straight water, and after the first two cups of tea. It also didn’t bother me the next day, when I drank more. Chrysanthemum is supposed to help take down inflammation and allergies — I’m not sure whether this is an actual benefit, but it makes sense. Like eating local honey will expose a person to low levels of pollen, and that’s supposed to help desensitize them to hay fever. (It has been a while since I’ve had bad allergies…I blame it on moving away from the freeway’s tire dust, and away from constant mold and eucalyptus. After I moved to a well-lit suburban area [as versus a shaded hillside near a freeway and industrial steam], my allergies and associated ills [asthma, eczema] essentially disappeared…not to say that everyone will have that experience.)

The day after I drank this, I went back to Organic Jasmine Pearls (a bulk item from the local grocery), then ended up dumping out that pot and steeping these chrysanthemum blossoms, instead. I mean, if I was going to drink something, I wanted to drink something I enjoyed.

I started out with two ounces in the little pouch I got from Teance. I don’t know how many I have left, but it’s a lot, even after I dropped too many blossoms into my teapot, the first time. (That teapot holds over 600 ml of hot water.) I realize I went high-end with my tea, here, and that another pouch of this will not come cheaply. But it is so worth it.

Having a convenient source of hot water has also gotten me to realize that I don’t have to use a high-volume teapot anymore. Today I was at Cha-To by Kinokuniya bookstore, waiting and looking at the little Pyrex teapots. (It helps to bring people back, the fact that they welcome you with a little cup of iced tea.) Then I realized…if I have a ready source of hot water, I don’t actually have to use Pyrex. I can use an actual handmade ceramic or iron teapot.

Like, a real teapot. A real, actually nice, teapot. A NICE TEAPOT. And I can actually only brew what I’ll immediately drink (over and over and over again) and extend the life of my good tea. And maybe I can get it in dimensions that will be easy to clean out, unlike the two tall Pyrex pots I have.

Good tea is…I mean, it can be really good. And with bad tea, it’s like, “why am I drinking this?” I mean, just drinking water is often better than drinking bad tea.

So…now I have to find a good Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) tea again: I tossed mine because it looked like it had expired three years ago (the label I put on it said, “’16,” as in, “20…’16,” though I don’t know if I bought it in 2016 or it expired in 2016)…being an oolong (partially fermented) tea, I was wary of using it (microbes!), though I’m now told it basically lasts a really long time when it’s kept dry and sealed (which it was; we have too many tea tins).

I am now thinking, though, of going herbal. Jardin Sauvage from Lupicia is another tea that I’ve liked, which has no camellia leaves in it (“true” teas — black [called “red” in China, IIRC], oolong [called “black” in China, IIRC], green, and white — are all camellia leaves). Camellia sinensis is the plant that normally gives regular tea its caffeine content. “Herbal” teas are anything that is not camellia, regardless of whether it is medicinal or not.

So, technically, at least in my region, Yerba Mate would be herbal, even though it also is a stimulant. Tulsi (Holy Basil) is the same way. I don’t think they work the same way in one’s system, though…not to mention that some teas (like Tulsi) will interact with medications, as they are essentially medications, themselves.

Disclaimer: I just need to let you know to do your research and take responsibility for your own health before drinking an extract of anything you don’t understand, as there’s a possibility it could harm you, especially if you’re on other drugs (even prescription ones).

There’s also a chance that if you’re allergic to preservatives, you could have a reaction (possibly severe) to things like dried fruit which have been added to teas and also treated with preservatives. I’ve personally had my throat start to close up because of eating Golden Raisins (which, like standard dried apricots [which I also can’t eat], are treated with sulfites to preserve their color and flavor). I’ve been driven to vomit from eating dried apple slices which have been treated with preservatives. I just, at this point, know that my body doesn’t play nice with sulfites (at the least).

Note that I am saying this as a person, not a Librarian, and I am not representing anyone other than myself on this! Every time you choose to put something in your body, you take your life and health in your own hands. This is true for food; this is even true for tea.

In any case, Jardin Sauvage is a blended herbal tea from Lupicia (basically, a high-end tea company which you’ll probably only be able to mail-order from) with a base of Green Rooibos. It does have dried fruit in it, and also flower petals. Rooibos is an African plant which is usually oxidized, and makes a caffeine-free, red liquor. Green Rooibos is not treated the same way as regular Rooibos…I’m not sure if I can describe the difference in taste or aesthetic, as I still haven’t broken into my straight Green Rooibos herbal tea. I’ve also tasted such different qualities of Rooibos (sometimes also called “Honeybush”; and I am still unclear on the difference between the two), that I have no standard baseline to compare it to.

However…Rooibos can be good. Jardin Sauvage is just particularly…nice. At least, to me. I generally don’t drink flavored teas, either. Even though I am allergic to sulfites, and there is dried fruit (mango?) in this tea, I can still drink it (at least, so far). Not everyone will have the same reaction, though.

Elderflower is also something that I’ve had good luck with…we still have a tiny bit of Elderflower + Chamomile here, which is a gorgeous tea, flavor-wise. It also has that effect of putting people to sleep. :) Should I go to sleep? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning, right now…

I…there’s just something about this that makes me feel like I actually am Asian-American, which I know I am, but still: I’ve felt excluded for a fairly long time, because of the race thing. It wasn’t really until getting into the fact that I am, ethnically, different from most of the professors I had in college…that I did start investigating this.

Some things you grow up around, and you don’t realize until late in the game that not everyone is like you. Not everyone eats yokan at New Year’s. Most people don’t know what yokan is. Not everyone sees New Year’s as a thing to celebrate, and I’ve been participating in osechi for decades without knowing the word, “osechi.”

By the second generation, it’s common for children of first-generation immigrants not to pass on their parents’ native languages to their own children. Even though English is the only language I’m currently skilled in to the point of functionality (same with my parents), that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t have a cultural background that originates outside the U.S. It also means that maybe the people who do speak those other languages might not be so different from me.

Grandma may have tried to be, “American,” but that didn’t erase the environment and family she grew up in, or the training that her parents had. They provided the context of her life in her formative years. That has to leave a mark on someone.

That’s not to ignore culture from my other side, or the experience I have had of growing up in this area. It is just that I think the parent I’m thinking of now, did want me to have a cultural grounding…which is not always easy to come by for someone whose historical reference to a “home” outside the U.S. was essentially obliterated. What culture there is, we made, and we inherited. Without necessarily knowing that was what we were doing. That there was something different that other people did, or that we did, and that it made us, as a community, unique.

And that’s complicated. As is the difference between myself as nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth) and the experience someone who grew up in Japan, would have. It’s not a bad difference, or a “wrong” difference, but it is a difference. (The word for “to be different” in Japanese language is “chigau:” it also means “to be wrong.”) And yeah, that’s something I’ve grown up with, too! People thinking that I am wrong, or that I shouldn’t exist, because I am different (in some way that mattered to them, but was based on appearances — on race — not deeper realities of culture or family. Or clan).

But my experience is an authentic experience, for me. How often have I even been able to think, that I am something that I can identify? That I can point to, and say, “that is me”?

It hasn’t been often. But maybe I’m growing into myself.

And yes, I am glad to be with family, family I connect with, again.

organization, personal, work

Languages and migration: a.k.a. Too much free time

As of last Friday, I completed my initial three weeks of full-time training. I went in to work one time this week to be signed off. Other than that, I haven’t been practicing. I’m kind of scared that I’m going to lose some of what I’ve learned…though a few days on desk for the amount of time I have experienced on a daily basis, should kick that right back in, for me.

I could also be reviewing my notes, from those last three weeks. Even with my attempt to write down only that which I did not know or recall, I filled up enough pages that I had to buy a bigger binder. Don’t worry, it’s done…and apparently a Kokuyo 20-hole binder for A5 paper will also fit Maruman 20-hole A5 paper. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Right now we have a guest, which has me thinking on the actuality of the possibility of taking a job nearer to them. This has caused me to remember plans for joining them, and the potential relevance of my learning Japanese language. It’s almost useless where I am now, but would be used daily at the place to which we’re considering moving.

So…this week has given me the opportunity to check out what I actually will want to do for the foreseeable future. Let’s say the next 5 years. This would impact me especially where it comes to furthering my acquisition of a second language. I have a choice between español (Spanish) or nihongo (Japanese), for a language I would have a head start in picking up. Which I choose, depends on where I expect myself to be in the future.

Based on my experience in learning Spanish language in middle and high school…I would say that most of my discouragement in learning the language, aside from a certain integral component (the fact that all nouns have a gender, which profoundly impacts me as a person who now considers themselves gender-nonbinary), has been in not wanting to be like my teachers. That sounds kind of harsh, but in my experience (in three out of five teachers — and one of the other two teachers was a native speaker, until he got fired) there was definitely a certain type of person — in my school district — who became a Spanish-language teacher.

Nor am I really confident in my Spanish-language skills. But I know enough so that when I start to read something written in Spanish language, I can get the gist of what’s meant. My major difficulty is then with vocabulary. There is also the point that the people I’ve known who have natively spoken Spanish, have been a lot more down-to-earth than my past teachers.

It wasn’t quite until I began reading things in English that looked like they had originally been written for Spanish speakers, that I started to take interest in the language again (I had originally chosen Spanish over French because it was more widely applicable in the Americas; these two languages were the only two I had access to in my regular public school setting). Then there is the issue of International Relations which are just being trashed with Latin America right now…it wasn’t great to be estadounidense in Central and South America before: I don’t expect it to be easier, now.

On the other hand — with Japanese language…the biggest barriers are now 1) kanji (Chinese characters integrated into Japanese writing), which I have not systematically studied; 2) counters; and, 3) practice partners. Apparently, as there is such a shortage of sounds within nihongo itself, differing counters are appended to differing types of objects being counted, in order to tell what the number applies to. There’s that, and the fact that the pronunciation of a number changes, depending on the counter paired with it.

This comes up early…which kind of makes me fear that people in Japan test foreigners by asking them to count things appropriately. (Counting things in a basic way is understandable, but generally only done by small children.) That, in turn…doesn’t have me thinking that nihonjin (Japanese-from-Japan) are really welcoming to foreigners. There’s that, in addition to the fact that I’ve lived the experience of a hapa (mixed-race) nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth)…and have experienced issues with racism from within my own family, ostensibly caused by the race of my non-Japanese parent. I say, “ostensibly,” because no minority brings the experience of racism upon themselves. Others visit it upon them, whatever their excuse.

Having said that, I’ve also experienced racial tensions all through my life in University…so I suppose it may come with the package of this rebirth.

The issue for me — when I was taking Japanese-language classes — was the bizarreness factor of being in class with a bunch of anime (Japanese animation) and J-pop (Japanese pop music) fans who just wanted to understand their lyrics or lines…and myself, who wanted to know more about my heritage, and what had helped give form to me.

In short, my drive to learn nihongo, early on, was a drive to understand more about myself and my social, cultural, and historical context. I knew I did like Japanese pop culture (and appreciated what of Japanese culture I did participate in due to family influence), but I didn’t know why. I have a lot more of a clue about that, at this time.

I just can’t see giving up Japanese language study for Spanish, just because Spanish is easier (being closer to English). Spanish would give me a better window into European cultures and American Indigenous cultures…the thing is, I’m not heavily interested in European cultures, compared to my interest in China, Japan, Korea, or Tibet. (I don’t know much about Southeast Asia at this point, but I can see myself curious about that, once I get a baseline understanding of the more northerly territories. There’s also Polynesia, though French may be of more use, there.)

Finding information on American Indigenous cultures is so far from my present capability that I really don’t know how long it will be before I can even source words from the people I want to hear from, or tell whether it would be recorded en español or in their specific native languages. I suppose it makes sense that I would be more interested in regions connected to my diaspora.

Anyhow. I…have restarted my nihongo practice via my library. I can work through the 12 classes, and then see where I am. After all, it’s not like the español knowledge is just going to evaporate. It has hung around for two decades, after all.

And Japanese is so beautiful when written. It just will take some practice to learn. And I have time.

career, personal

Today worked out.

Well, I can say that…at least this day wasn’t wasted. In addition to finishing my Cataloging work for the weekend, I read a bit into an optional reading, worked on my Japanese skills, and read a good number of pages in my book on Reference Interviews. I also reviewed the fact that I have signed up to walk the Stage in Spring, and that I still need to complete my submission for the second Convocation (not to mention dealing with the regalia), but have a lot of time (at least a month) to do it.

Over the past several days, I’ve been able to find that I am best prepared, right now, to work in a Public Library. Probably in Technical Services, or Reference Services…though most Librarian I (that is, entry-level) positions seem to be in Reference & User Services. Knowing this means that I know where to focus my energies in the near future, because I have some skill gaps that I can recognize and work on (and am working on).

And…I can work on JavaScript if I have extra time. I won’t be able to do this all immediately, after all.

I just sent out a posting offering to help people understand “entities” versus “attributes” and “relationships”…because it’s going unexplained, and I feel for everyone who doesn’t know what we’re talking about. (I was in that pool, once.)

So aside from this, I know that if I really…am working on all this stuff, I’ll need to “build in” time to do things that aren’t related to libraries or computers or tech. (I don’t know if there’s yet a term for this.) I did this recently by teaching myself Feather Stitch in embroidery (it’s possible!)…I can also read, and make jewelry, and sew. And maybe finish that **** blanket. I am on the verge of beginning a kick having to do with Transcendentalism and Muir and Ansel Adams, the Sierra Club, etc.

It started with becoming interested in Cannery Row by Steinbeck, but I haven’t started it yet, and going by what I see online, I may be more interested in Muir’s work than the former.

Then, there’s also the fact that Roosevelt (Theodore, not Franklin) was highly involved in taking over Hawaii, which is more than mentioned in some of the books I picked up on my last visit there (which I haven’t yet completely read).

I don’t know what it is about the mid-to-late 1800’s and on that’s so interesting to me, but my studies keep pulling me back there. I suppose it doesn’t really help that Spiritualism also started around that time; I’ve had an interest in that, but I wouldn’t have known without becoming irritated with/excluded by the occult wing of the Western Mystery Tradition, and trying to look beyond it.

Yeah, so not going to get into that. Not that Spiritualism is necessarily better, but at least it’s something I can understand, as an outsider to the religions that typically informed the Western Mystery Tradition.

This is what I do when left to my own devices. If I’m going to be a Public Librarian, though, it would indeed help to get some leisure reading under my belt. Right now I’ve got White Fang waiting in queue.

Well, it wasn’t a day wasted, which is kind of surprising, because I have had some wasted days, in there…I wonder how much of it is related to having been social (IRL), yesterday? Or, no: actually, I know what it is: it’s the fact that I did the research to narrow down my job prospects to something recognizable and actionable. In addition, I can clearly see some skill gaps, and everything I did today was to work on those skill gaps. Well — almost. The graduation stuff doesn’t have to do with career, so much as celebration (and basically recognizing that I’ve achieved something, rather than plodding along endlessly).

Of course, I still feel the need for additional training in Cataloging…but we’ll get to that when we get to it.

I also need to deal with a particular professional association…