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.

jewelry, personal, psychology

Recap, and envisioning my future self.

Okay, so…that bit of time when I was up until after midnight this last Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, and had to wake early Wednesday? I’m still feeling the aftereffects. (Of course, it is only Thursday. The days seem to be going slower for me, recently.)

I fell asleep by accident at 8 PM last night (Wednesday), then woke up at 3:30 AM (today, Thursday) from the local fox screaming in the backyard. (It’s probably a girl; we read that vixens scream to attract mates.) At that time, I realized I had missed my 9 PM medication…by 6.5 hours…and got up to take it. I also had to eat a little bit to avoid becoming sick from the meds — plantain chips. (It must have worked, as I didn’t get nauseous, and I wasn’t nauseous when I woke up.)

Then I brushed my teeth and got back in bed, to wake up at 9 AM for the live meeting of my current course. That was relatively difficult to get through; I went back to bed at 9:50 after it ended, skipping produce shopping for today.

So…I think that will have to wait until tomorrow, to avoid being on the road during rush hour. We did go out, though I basically had to eat two meals to stay up. The only way I am staying up right now is that I drank a caffeinated soda. I’m also eating some chocolate, which is likely not a coincidence.

I still haven’t written about last weekend, though…I wonder if I wrote anything by hand? I know I did, some. Any names mentioned here would have to be altered or omitted for confidentiality reasons…but basically, my dad’s cousin had a family gathering, and I got to meet family whom I had met maybe once before. There’s a lot of history that precedes me here; some that precedes my father; it’s not proper for the blog, but whose family history is…?

In any case, it was nice to meet people, though I kind of wish I had been more up to the task of being social. Because I’m a shy person by nature, I did do a little tatting at brunch to withdraw a bit. I am amazed at how many people know what tatting is! It’s sweet when they find you and recognize what you’re doing. <3

I’m also starting to really love tatting, or at least the fact that it’s extremely portable, and calming. I find that I can listen and be aware of my environment at the same time as I’m paying attention to what my hands are doing. Having my attention nominally on my handwork, though…it means that I’m not expected to talk.

I guess it’s kind of like the smartphone in the hands of the kid sitting next to me; it gives the impression that one is occupied, though I find that tatting doesn’t take up as much cognitive attention (as versus fine motor attention) as the phone does. I gave him some visual cues to signal that I could talk, but he was absorbed in his phone. I assumed that he didn’t want to talk as much or moreso than myself, so I left him alone.

So…after that, we headed off to Monterey. I still have most of a bag of candies from there (okay, about 60% now)…it’s kind of hard to visit Monterey and not come home with salt water taffy. The time we spent down there, we were with one of my aunts. It was nice to talk with her one-on-one, though I wish I had said more than I did. I just happen to be a listening kind of person, I guess.

Also, we visited the aquarium, which was interesting and cute. There were two high points for me: one were the birds (including the aviary [where I saw someone unsuccessfully try to entice a Snowy Plover into his hand: the plover just looked at him, about eight inches out of reach] and the Pigeon Guillemots in a separate exhibit); the other was the diving beetle exhibit!

Okay, so the two Pigeon Guillemots whom we saw in an exhibit were playing with the people looking at them by acting cute (trying to swim up to us, even though the glass obviously blocked them). I’m thinking they had learned that if they interacted with people (even people behind glass), they could get us to do things. :) They went away when I looked up to try and figure out what they were. I think they thought I was signaling disinterest (they couldn’t see the sign I was looking at), though I was really just a little embarrassed by how cute they were (and that I couldn’t give them any fish).

The diving beetles, though…that was just amazing. It was crazy seeing all the little beetles swimming around underwater! They have two paddle-like legs, and a bubble of air under their shells, and they just…swim. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen diving beetles before! (They were at the end of the Viva Baja exhibit.)

So…the places we stayed were also really nice, although I think there was some covert racial bias we encountered outside of the hotels. It’s hard to tell if it was that, or just a couple of instances of poor service.

So I don’t forget myself, I should mention that I visited a gallery/boutique on Cannery Row where I was able to purchase a black ceramic ring with a metallic polish. It reminds me very much of a hematite ring I had (and loved) in high school, and kept until it finally got a stress fracture. I found out later that hematite isn’t the greatest material for rings, as rings have to be hard-wearing, and hematite is vulnerable to stress fractures from rapid temperature changes, and also to fractures from shock (say, by putting one’s hand down on a table).

It doesn’t take a lot to crack hematite. It reminds me of another stone, fluorite, though fluorite is orders of magnitude more fragile than hematite (I’ve chipped it just by trying to bend a wire I’ve strung it onto). Opal is another one of those stones that is extremely easy to damage…it has acquired a reputation for bad luck because it’s so difficult to set.

Anyhow, the ring itself is really nice. The ceramic itself is a very hard, strong, and durable ceramic called a, “gem ceramic,” made from zircon. The last time I wore it to work, I found a shiny black chip trapped under the ring, and realized upon examining the ring for damage that the chip had to have come off of the paint from the shelving cart I had been handling.

I was just really amazed at the fact that my purchase decision was so easy — in lieu of getting a graduation ring, I got this. It has, however, also made me want to expand my earlobe piercings again. I stopped and let my piercings shrink down because I wasn’t sure I would want to go to large-gauge jewelry. However, at this point…this ring really matches the aesthetic I was going for. I’ve also worn plenty of my own jewelry, and I think it’s really okay that I wear jewelry which is different from the jewelry that I make. It’s a style decision.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m okay with going up to 10 gauge, and with purchasing earrings at that size (as versus making them). Of course, at the moment, I’m closer to 20 gauge — standard earwire girth. It will take months to safely expand my piercings again, but I’m up to it. When I originally got pierced, it was at 14 gauge, I was young, and I told myself that I wouldn’t go up in gauge until I was very sure I wanted to.

Hey, it’s been about 15 years, and I’m pretty sure I’m good with it, now! Also, if I’m going to be a Librarian or Information Professional, I pretty much don’t have to worry about bias instigated by my jewelry. A lot of younger people wear this style, though it started (here, at least) with Generation X. I’m from the generation that followed.

So recently…I’ve been able to get more of a handle on dealing with my own style. For instance…I’ve decided to keep my hair long, and to wear it with its natural curl. I’ve found that if I clip my hair back, it puts less strain on my scalp than it does when I wear my hair pulled back. We have also been visiting some beauty supply stores, and I’ve found a type of shampoo and conditioner (by “Shea Moisture”) that is gentle enough to use frequently. It does seem to be a very good thing for me to use sulfate-free shampoo.

I do need to trim my ends, but I also found a styling aid that makes it much easier to comb. I’m considering — once I get my sleep stuff under control — taking a shower in the morning and washing my hair every day or two, so that I can wear it long and curly, without having slept on it first. I also finally have a decent hair dryer which I can use to target my roots, so I don’t get too cold, and so that I can avoid mildew growth. Hair care is the major reason for me to cut my hair short: I have a type of hair that is very high-maintenance (thick, wavy, and curly), and in the past, I didn’t want to be burdened with it. However, now I know that having it long is a choice, not a requirement.

I also now have enough makeup to practice, as well; though I need to wash my powder brush. There’s that, and the fact that I have to keep my body hair trimmed, if I want to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses. Then there’s the exercise which I want to get back to so that I can tighten my body up again and regain some leanness and hypertrophy (and energy). I really don’t have anything against being larger; it’s just the belly and the health drawbacks (and the specter of the weight gain from my medications not ceasing) that are causing me to work on myself.

I almost can’t believe how much identifying (and finding a community) as gender-nonbinary has freed up so much of my energy, and ceased so much of my angst about conforming or not conforming to standards as either a man or a woman. It’s enabled me to just release it, instead of being trapped in a two-gender dialogue between compulsory femininity and rebellion against compulsory femininity.

I used to hear trans* men say similar things (a great sense of freed-up energy and sense of well-being) about their lives after transition to male, though (which made me want to transition, before I realized I wasn’t them; thus, their solution wouldn’t work for me), so I want to emphasize that the happiness, liberation, and sense of calm comes with finding your authentic self, whoever you are, and finding your own way to engage with the world, over all the noise that tells you that you shouldn’t be you. It has nothing to do with the specific identity of the point you find to be happy at.

For me, getting to this point has had to do with finding what makes me happy, and negotiating out a way to do that, with the world — regardless of others’ opinions of whether or not what I’m doing is, “correct,” (against what standard?) or whether I’m being, “trans enough” — because, cis and trans are relative and culturally contextual terms. In my case, I know I’m going to stand out (firstly, because of my race), no matter what I do, and regardless of whether I want to. My thought is that I might as well aim to become a person I am proud to be: my authentic self; and then let things play out as they will. No regrets.

food, self care

Restarting cooking.

Today marks the start of my cooking again for the first time in…likely, months, if not longer. I’ve needed to begin learning (and practicing) again. One of the few things that I actually know how to do without any help (and have done relatively frequently) is tabbouleh. There’s that, cornbread, and various salads (mixed green, Waldorf, fruit, bean, etc.), that I can remember offhand.

Because I have a tendency to be overly cautious (verging on paranoid) about kitchen hygiene, I’ve been hesitant to prepare things containing meat…particularly poultry. For about as long as I can remember, we’ve had stomach trouble from various…sources. Which I won’t name. What I can say is that growing up and eating other people’s cooking (outside of my immediate family) has frequently and repeatedly resulted in food poisoning.

However, I still do appreciate some meat, as versus going totally vegetarian. (I just am not a person to think of meat as always the core of a meal.)

I know that I have done ground turkey before, as a flavoring for stir-fried long beans…I also would be partial to beef, lamb, and fish. I think I can remember also making won ton with pork and shrimp, which really wasn’t that bad, even though it is most easily mixed manually. The other option is humanely-raised organic chicken, though I’m fairly certain that this will be a treat rather than a mainstay, at least until I can get used to working with meat.

I mean, I’m a type of person who would cut my nails short (which is almost a practical necessity in my line of work anyway), wash (everything) frequently in soap and hot water, and use a nail brush after working with poultry…

Otherwise, I’m most likely to do stir-frys with various mushrooms, and things like summer squash or fresh string beans or bok choy or choy sum. It really would be great to be able to do mushroom chicken; like Criminis or white mushrooms, zucchini, crookneck or Patty Pan squash, and chicken breast.

Now that I think of it, I’ve also done some work with baking sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, and winter squash, which isn’t really difficult (other than cutting the squash in half, which can be hard).

Oh hey — and there are also the miso soups that I’ve done in the past. Because there have been Prop 65 (carcinogen) warnings plastered on dashi iriko (tiny dried fish used for stock) in the recent past, I haven’t made it in a while. I’m not sure why the warnings are there sometimes and not others, but I’m waiting for a cleaner harvest.

Also, there is hiyayakko (had to look up the name), which is basically just cold silken tofu with dried seaweed (nori), bonito flakes, green onion, grated ginger, and shoyu. I also read (at that mentsuyu can be used (men = noodles; tsuyu = the strong sauce sometimes put on top of noodles [this is sold bottled]), although I kind of can’t believe I was able to translate that out, having never seen it before. Japanese lessons must be working.

I’ve just found myself a bit upset over being dependent on others to bring food for me, but since I am graduating, I don’t have to deal with University or GPAs anymore, and have time to devote to actually living instead of just studying. That is, I’m transitioning into a phase where I’m beginning to take care of myself, rather than letting family take care of everything for me. I think it’s important.

Today D and I took a ride to the produce market so that I could get ingredients for the tabbouleh. While I had a few free hours alone, I basically made it and cleaned up everything.

Right now I’m not sure whether to focus on the job search or cookbook browsing, the next time I go in to work. I’m not certain what the different subdivisions of the 641.5s (cookbooks) represent yet, either. However, I just found a map of the 641.5 divisions at LibraryThing! AAAH!

It looks (from that page) like the “Melvil Decimal System” (which they show) is a public-domain and early version of the Dewey Decimal System. Not equivalent to the current Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) version (which they say is copyrighted by the Online Computer Library Center [OCLC]), but close enough.

I’m also getting to the point of being creative with my creativity. By that, I mean that I realize that I could direct my creativity into areas that could help me survive, like into work as a Librarian, or into cooking. For a while I’ve had an identity as a creative person, but I don’t really know if channeling that creativity into arts and crafts is serving me, in the long run.

Of course, though, making my own jewelry and clothes does give me a sense of control over my presentation, which is obviously very important. That’s especially so, as I have had stretches of time where I loathed and had anger towards almost everything that fit me and was in a gender deemed “appropriate.” So…maybe jewelry and clothes-making, I can keep. That does serve a purpose.

It also depends on whether I end up becoming a Reference and User Services Librarian, or a Cataloging Librarian. They’re way different paths. Right now I’m aiming for a Cataloging position, but I’m not sure as to whether I can even become a Cataloger in a Public Library system, fresh out of Library School (or if I’ll need to log hours as something more like a Reference Librarian, first). I need to ask a particular co-worker about that.

Still don’t know what to do, tomorrow. I guess it depends on how much time I have free, and whether I feel like browsing job ads or looking in the stacks…