Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Japanese Fourth of July

Howdy! This past week didn`t start off too well, with constant, torrential rain, crippling heat and my computer breaking, but it sure improved towards the end!

My computer breaking is probably the hardest thing. It means I can`t download new Japanese lessons onto my I-phone, can`t type or do research for my stories or email agents/publishers at home, can`t download pictures from my camera, can`t have skype Bible study, and can`t talk to my mom or anyone else in America! Isn`t it funny how much we can come to rely on technology? A year ago I didn`t have any of those things and didn`t even know some of them were possible! But a year ago I wasn`t in Japan, either. I asked a friend to take a look at it, and then the school computer teacher, and both determined it was the hard drive and I will have to take it to a repair shop. Drat.

The inconvenience has resulted in me staying a school much longer than I used to, doing some of the many things I typically depend on my computer for (though downloading and skype are still off limits). It hasn`t been so bad, and proven to have a small blessing in disguise, because it saves me on my air conditioning bill. The insulation in my apartment is so bad (actually non-existent) that the inside is at least ten degrees (Fahrenheit) hotter than the outside! As if the walls actually act as an oven, especially in my kitchen. I actually ordered pizza last night just so I wouldn`t cook myself while I was preparing dinner! Two nights in a row I keep waking up at intervals in a hot, feverish, sticky sweat because there is no air conditioner in my room. I keep a high-power fan trained on me and open the windows at night, but it does little good, and I awake in the morning feeling physically sick from the heat. It`s hard to find the energy to do anything, even to think or write. I should probably start sleeping on my futon under my air-con unit (air conditioner) in my living room. Hmm, bad back or fever? Hard choice, but for awhile, anyway, I`ll take the bad back. I can always go to the chiropractor later.

But on a much happier note, I got a wonderful letter from an agent the other day! I had written a snail query letter to Seth Fishman of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. about a week ago and didn`t even expect it to get to him for maybe two weeks. But low and behold, less than two weeks after I sent it, he wrote me this:

I received your query and had the chance to read it, thanks so much for sharing. You are legit good. This is Anne McCaffrey meets Janny Wurts. The thing is, as much as I like fantasy, I really don’t do much of it. I’m more of a hardcore sci-fi guy. Have you tried Don Maass? I’m so sorry I’m passing for such a simple reason – but you don’t want an agent who angles in the wrong direction – I don’t know the editors you need for the book! I wish you the very best of luck – I know this will work out for you.

How about that? Even though he didn`t take it, this is the first “sign” that I`m on the right track. After twenty form rejection letters for Treasure Traitor, I finally get one that tells me I`m doing it right! Yeah! Funny thing is, just before I got this, I already sent it to Amy Boggs at Don Maass! She still hasn`t responded yet and it`s been a few weeks, so soon as it hits the one month mark, I`ll send her a little reminder and let her know what Mr. Fishman said! That ought to earn me some brownie points!

Thursday I think it was, Pastor Toshi told me about the most amazing thing ever! A tour to Mt. Fuji beginning right at Nabari station! I was going to go with one out of Osaka, and though this one is a little more expensive, it`s totally worth the convenience (Mom and I don`t have to wake up at 5:00am to catch the bus and not get back until 11:00pm the next day). No getting lost, no worries, just catch the bus right across the street from my apartment and follow the crowd! The only downside is that we have to climb late at night, but we`d probably have to do that anyway in order to catch the sunrise, since all the mountain sleeping huts are booked and camping isn`t allowed (but who wants to haul a tent up a mountain anyway)?

On Saturday I had a pretty big disappointment when both Kayoko and Karen said they couldn`t go on my planned birthday trip to Nagashima Spaland. And it rained. But I didn`t want to be cooped up in my apartment all by myself, so I got the “brilliant” idea to go to Universal Studios Japan. The unofficial name of USJ is “America Land” (what with Spainland in Ise, Dutchland in Nagasaki, and Chinaland in Yokohama, it only makes sense) so I figured they would no doubt have a Fourth of July celebration, yeah? My computer being down, I couldn`t check this assumption, but I was so convinced that I went anyway. Well, it was pouring. Half the shows were closed. And no, absolutely nothing on the schedule about America. So I “pulled an America” and soon as I read the schedule, marched right back to the gate and asked for my money back. It took me fifteen minutes and a fee of 500 yen, but eventually I got the other 5,600 yen (about sixty dollars) back. I hope that wasn`t too rude of me…but I didn`t ride any rides or see any shows, so it`s no skin off their back. I left the park and took the ferry to the aquarium (with the combo ticket, together they cost 2,300 yen, less than half of USJ). That proved to be the best choice I made all week.

Why? Well, first of all there was a free indoor Hawaiian festival in Tempozan harbor village right next to the aquarium. I spent a few enjoyable hours watching dancing and eating cheap American fast food. Then about 4:00, I went to the aquarium. I was just in time to see them feeding the Asian river otters! They pull on the keepers pants and chirp! They`re sooooo cute! Mischievous little devils, though, always fighting and pulling pranks, quite obnoxious. I wouldn`t want to be their keeper! But who should I find also watching them but an American family from Connecticut! The oldest son and daughter were really interested in coming to Japan more, so I ended up following them around until the aquarium closed, answering their questions and discussing Japanese culture with them as we enjoyed the wonderful sights of the aquarium together. I love whale sharks! They`re probably one of the few animals I would actually wear a “I (heart) such and such” T-shirt for. Sun fish are pretty cool too…and there were baby penguins! Here`s a picture the daughter, Robin, took:

Here`s one they just sent me of us all together (except the Mr. Engel; he`s taking the picture).

Anyway, they treated me to dinner at a restaurant I recommended. All in all it was a really awesome day!

Sunday my phone died, so I couldn`t call anyone to pick me up for church so I walked with my cupcakes. It was a really nice service, and afterwards everyone decorated my cupcakes red, white, and blue in the shape of the American flag. It was quite funny to see everyone so confused about how an American flag is supposed to look, but then it is a quite complicated design in comparison with the extremely simple Japan flag: a white field with a single red circle directly in the middle. (There`s something to be said for simplicity.) But despite some misplaced stars and stripes, the cupcakes still tasted delicious.

In the afternoon I went to Jusco`s American food fair and bought a ton of slightly overpriced American meat, fruit and vegetables! Yum! Subsequently, Pastor Toshi and Pastor Kumi graciously invited me to another barbeque, and this time I remembered my fireworks. Ayatan and I played with my glow lights while we were waiting for the food, then we enjoyed American steaks! I brought some vegetables, fruit and pork. Japanese pork, ironically, never gives me a headache the way American pork does, even the sausages, but these being American pork CHOPS I didn`t have a problem with them either. Ayatan and I must have set off and chased each other with a hundred sparklers before I finally went home about 11:00. I even got to enjoy some leftovers for the next day`s lunch and dinner!

So the Fourth of July was pretty amazing! I got to introduce Japanese culture to some other Americans, have a barbeque with my church family, stuff myself with American food, shoot off fireworks, the whole nine yards! Maybe I`ll just stay in Japan forever. No, I miss my American family too much, especially my mom. But she`s coming two weeks from tomorrow! Yeah! I can`t wait to see her. I have so much planned for her! But I don`t want to spoil the surprise.
The only other thing to report is that I bought a really cheap yukata (cotton summer kimono) yesterday! It`s so beautiful. It`s black with purple and pink flowers, petals, and glitter. They wouldn`t let me try it on before I bought it, but I tried it on when I got home and it fits great! I just don`t know how to properly wear it…I`ll have to do some research on youtube. That`s how I learned to wear an Indian sari.

Prayer requests for this week: Please continue to pray that my computer gets fixed soon! Health despite the heat would be nice too. And remember my class for parents and teachers last week? Well, two of the ladies started coming to my Thursday night church class! And the other two new ladies are coming regularly and are responding very well to the lessons! Last time we talked about America`s Christian roots, famous American Christians and their impact on society. Please pray for these ladies, that God will open up their hearts to receive His Love and Salvation. God is doing great things!

Until next time, keep loving and keep praying,

L. J. Popp


Claire Dawn said...

Congrats on the agent letter! That's amazing :)

Rich said...

I know this sound like a weird question after all the interesting stuff in your blog, but pizza in Japan? That just seems such as oxymoron to me. I know that Japan is very modern and cosmopoliton and all that, but it just leaves me nonplussed. And is your apartment unusually drafty? Are you roughing it, or are most Japanese aloof about their housing comforts?