We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. — Anais Nin

I’m not gonna lie. This is definitely a problem of mine. Being a writer never helps. I’m constantly wrapped up in daydreams, some less realistic than others. And I am always wondering, ‘what if?’ And so, for the fourth time, I’ve moved halfway across the planet.

Yup! Back in Japan. Back to blogging. I’ll be better (again I say this. I will TRY this time.)

But this time I live in the country. I’ve never lived in the country! I’m a city girl, through and through. I know you know. Even if you wouldn’t say it to me, we both know you know.

And now I live in city about the size of my suburb, surrounded by Strawberry fields and a ring of mountains in the distance. It’s not helping with the daydreams.

Fortunately, I’m so…what’s the best way to say this….confident, yet mildly terrified and stressed out about driving, that I’ve been super aware of what I’m doing in the car. (Yes, I have a car. It’s rental, it’s tiny, like shorter than I am, and it’s boxy and I kind of hate it, but love it too.) And I have to have a car, not because its the country. There is a train; compared to Yokohama, it’s a pathetic little thing, with trains every 20/25 minutes and only two directions to go in. But as we have already established, I am a city girl, and Yokohama spoiled me. Anywho, I NEED a car because I have 10, TEN, 1-0 schools. TEN!!! Wait, one more time, 10!!!!!!!!!!

Yup! Three elementary schools, 6 kindergartens, and a nursery school. Yeah….yup. I don’t know how to get to most of them. But that’s what GPS is for. (I do know how to get to the ES I go to almost every day. So as far as that goes, I’m good.) But two of the ES are straight up in the mountains. Like, they don’t think my little-motorcycle-engine car will make it up the road if it snows. (I learned to drive in snow…I’m not too worried about snow, but if there is ice, I’m not sure the car is heavy enough to keep it from sliding down the mountain.)

But because it’s in the mountains, there are cows! Yeah i know that doesn’t make sense. It’s Japan, what do you want? COWS! And this farm/kids education place/? that makes really, reeeeeeeeeally good ice cream. It’s really good! I will try to stop there like every week when I go to that school.

(I’m only half kidding.)

Other than that….classes haven’t started yet. So, I dunno? People seem cool so far. And the kids all seem pretty nice. I don’t have the preteens this time, thank god. I’m planning on making posters all day tomorrow. Prolly about the months. Cause English really had a field day with naming months. Japanese did the smart thing and used numbers; first month, second month, etc.  To the kids, it probably seems like English just smashed random letters together, stood back, and said ‘that’ll do’. So I’ll be thinking up some way to make it easier to remember…if there is one?

Mmm. Yeah. I’ll post again soon.

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” — Mark Twain

(Good thing I’m a writer. And insane. Well, just a little bit.)

I know, I know! I’ve not written in ages!! Days! Weeks! Months! maybe not months. Actually, I’m not sure how long it’s been. So I’ll try to make this one count.

What have I been doing? Do I even know? A lot of school work, which is why I’m here so that’s all well and good.

I just had my first assessments due. Which is basically like midterms, but a different word, because, of course. Can’t use the same words as those crazy Americans. Or the same grading scale. (Why? What is D1-5, P1-5, F1-5 First of all, why do you need to number the Failing grades. I think just failing is pretty much all you need there. And then whats passing versus distinction. WHY IS THAT A THING???? What happened to percentages……..’cause seriously I think the distinctions start at 77%….That’s a C. A high C, but a C.) I don’t know what grade I got yet. Or, ever, because I don’t understand the grading obviously. We’ll find out soon I guess. It’s only 30% of the total grade. But still. Meh.

One of them was a research plan for a novel. Maybe that’ll get written at some point. Maybe not. I might get my feedback, and all it’ll say is, no. Don’t. Naaaaah. Hopefully it doesn’t. But at least that book has a plot.

The book I’m developing for Creative and Editorial Development……..doesn’t have a plot yet. BUT! I know what to do to get a plot. It’s a near-future speculative science fiction. I’ve spent a lot of time looking into viruses. Which is a form of procrastination. I don’t have a plot though. Had no idea what one of the characters wanted. But now I think I might. Maybe. She’ll get there. Whatever. I’ll work on it. Part of my grade in that class relies on figuring out a plot. Oh! And my mentor thinks it should be around 80000 words. I just looked at her….like okay. Sure. And I’ll invent a new math at the same time. I don’t have to start writing it yet. But if I want to use it as my major project for the summer, I shouldn’t start writing it yet. Otherwise, my mentor will tell me to start a new project. Because as helpful and motivating as she is, she’s also a little bit…..over enthusiastic; and mean. Not mean mean. But you get it.

That’s been my life though. Look up science stuff. Pretend I have a plot. Figure out plague statistics. Cry a bit (not really. not yet. I have not yet hit the wall….which I think is a good thing). Then look up more stuff. Ask people in my flat about science stuff. Because they’re scientists. It’s a lot of research. Ugh.

Then there was the research plan for the other book which was, funnily enough, also a lot of research. So many books that I should be reading. Or articles. Or movies. Whatever. I’ll get around to it. I’ve got a pile sitting here from the library, and then like four from home. I’ll get it done. But it was my birthday recently! So you know, I had to celebrate!

I mean, seriously. It was a good birthday. Nothing got too crazy. I had fun. The people I’ve met that celebrated with me are amazing. They’re gorgeous people. My flatmates decorated the kitchen with balloons for me! It was great. I did tear up a bit at that. And now we get to escalate from there for everyone else’s birthdays. There’s a couple more weeks before the next one, but I think we’ve already got a plan. It involves balloons and Saran wrap. (Which again, isn’t called Saran wrap….I don’t even know what it is called; cling film?)

Oh and then my mentor offers editing services for short story contest entries and there just happens to be a scifi contest coming up, due date in January, so we’ve decided (I mean, yeah, I know I need to do this) that I can use the contest as a minor character/world-building development exercise. MORE WRITING. What did I expect though? It’s a Creative Writing MA……

Oh, we started doing this psychogeography thing….I don’t get it and I don’t like it. So my plans for tomorrow are to go get lost in Edinburgh, pretending I can walk routes from Cleveland here. Which obvi I can’t. But that is apparently what part of this psychogeography thing is? Who knows. That’s what we’ll find out next week. I’ll try not to get arrested.

What else? Not much. Making plans to do things over breaks. Like driving…? to the Isle of Skye in summer.(OMG OMG I CAN RENT CARS NOW!) I super want to come home for Christmas, but monies….. it’s just so expensive. I’m gonna keep looking for tickets though. More procrastination!

I can’t remember if I’ve done anything else….is that bad? I haven’t really been anywhere outside of the city. And even that is usually within walking distance. I’ve had the remnants of a cold for the better part of October. It’s just a cough. But it’s annoying. And I want it to go away.

But I’m having fun. I really like it here. If you’re planning on visiting, let me know. I only have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, so I have time to hang out. I mean I have homework. But it’s what it is. I do like it here. I dunno why. It’s cold and gray; so is Cleveland. I can’t understand some people still. People can’t understand me. I ordered a latte the other day and got a cappuccino. That can’t just be me though. Oh, and NO ON UNDERSTANDS WHAT I’M SAYING WHEN I SAY MY NAME!!!!!! So I guess I’m Siam now; Nice to meet you. It cannot be that hard, can it?

If you wanna know something specific, you should ask me. I’m often distracted by the two novels I’m supposed to be writing. ❤ ❤ ❤ Love you guys!

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand” — Albert Einstein

Finally. Here I am. Gatwick airport on the way home. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. Over a year, actually. But that is not the point of this post. Although I could probably write several hundred words of rant about some of the lovely people in the airport. This one, the one in Edinburgh….just great, great airport employees.

But instead, I will share some of the things I learned from my week here in Scotland. Most of it is about history or random stuff that the tour guides told me. But I find it all really fascinating.

So of course, if we’ve talked recently, you know that the second I set foot in the highlands, I’ve been enamored with them. Maybe you didn’t know that…now you do. And it’s the whole thing; the rocky hills, the lochs and glens. The highland cows, hairy coos, the thousands (millions?) of sheep. Everything. It’s gorgeous, and I’m sure when it’s actually green, or purple actually, it’s even more beautiful. The castles! Although there are a ton of castles all over Scotland. Like seriously, a ton.

Anywho, I spent three days in the highlands. The first day I went to see Loch Ness, the second Loch Lomond, and the last day back over towards Loch Lomond again, but also to Loch Fyne and Invarary.

The lowlands, where Edinburgh and Glasgow etc. are is pretty too. Stirling castle and William Wallace, which the tours guides all made very clear, is not the same person as Braveheart, nor did he wear a kilt, nor was he a highlander. Oh! The Kelpies! There is a fabulous statue near Stirling…I think, of these two huge kelpie heads. It is one of my favorite things I saw. (Kelpies are white horse, beautiful, that are sometimes mermaids that drown people and then eat them. So that’s fun.)

But here some of the things I learned, besides the history of William Wallace and how he was not Braveheart: Robert the Bruce, whose heart was Braveheart, Rob Roy, Mary Queen of Scots, James the Ist…who then became James the IVth? And some more general stories of the various clans and history of the people of Scotland. Oh! And Mac is son of but Mc is second son of….

Also, and I’m not sure if I really believe these, I heard the origin stories of the terms blackmail and armed to the teeth. Or I should say black meil and armed to the teith. Right, so blackmail. This is a part of the much longer story of Rob Roy, who was basically a cattle thief. But at some point he realized that stealing cattle was not making him enough money. So he went around to the landowners and told them that for a small fee, protection money, he would protect their highland cows from thieves, ie he would stop stealing them. Also, if someone else stole them, he would go out with his expert cattle thief-gang and get them back. So here’s the blackmail part. The highland cows were originally all black. It was only after a crossing with some less shaggy breed of cow that they all became gingers. AND meil is apparently the old Gaelic (pronounced more like gal-lick) word for money. Then there’s Armed to the teith. There is a village somewhere near the border of the highlands and the lowlands, where the lowlanders and the clans people used to meet to trade and sell and buy supplies. They would arrive in the morning, buy what they needed to buy, the go with whatever money they had left, or whatever money they had made that day, and proceed to drink a whole bunch of whisky. According to the tour guide, they would then get in a lot of great, messy, bloody fights. Then rinse and repeat. The village, unsurprisingly, didn’t like this very much. So they set up a check point just outside the village, where you would have to turn in all your armaments, swords, guns, knives, etc., before you could go into the town. Hence you were armed (up until you got) to the teith. And teith sounds a lot, identical even, to teeth. So there you go. Again, I’m not sure if I believe that. I mean why not, it seems to make sense. I certainly don’t know any other reason for these saying to exist. I guess I choose to believe it, until something forces me to actually look it up and check it out.

And I almost forgot! You know “You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low…”, right? I mean telling someone to ‘take the high road’ comes from that doesn’t it? I’m not sure. I’ll possibly look that up. But, what I think I knew, but probably had never heard was the song it comes from. Which I think is called On the Banks of Bonnie Loch Lomond. But really, I am not sure about that. I also did not know that the song was originally a letter from a Jacobite imprisoned by the English…yes. And for sure, the song is super dark and deeply depressing when you know the back story. So it’s a letter right, from one Jacobite to his family back up in the highlands, I think. But he gives to his friend, also a Jacobite, I think, who has somehow been released from jail, because the first guy has been sentenced to hang or be executed however they did back then. I guess beheading was still big? Mary Queen of Scots got it real bad with the beheading.

Back to the song. Here are the lyrics as I understand them, not to be taken as fact, but as I listened to the song and then remembered it. Words may have been changed or left out, but the general ideas are still there.

You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low, and I’ll get to Scotland afore ye.

But me and my true love, shall never meet again, on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

So some break down: high road – land of the living, low road – land of the dead as in underworld low, I’ll  get to Scotland afore ye – time is apparently immaterial to the dead, the rest of the song – he’s dead, so of course he’s not gonna meet her…not unless she dies too. So not a cheerful song. But the versions of it I’ve heard are beautiful. There’s more, this is just the chorus, but I did not catch the lyrics to the rest of it. I think it’s just more stuff about Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond. Very catchy though.

That’s the majority of the fun facts that I learned. Of course there was a lot more history. Particularly the history of the fight for independence. Lots of William Wallace and Rob Roy and Robert the Bruce (although Rob Roy doesn’t really fit that category). Some more stuff about various clans whenever we went through a particularly interesting/important/relevant glen. But I am not sure about which clan did what, so I don’t want to get it wrong. And a little about James the first/fourth and his mother Mary Queen of Scots. And some stuff about Whisky/Scotch.

It was really interesting. Not having studied any of it in school in America, particularly when you’re focused on the other side of the world (cough cough Japan) it’s pretty cool. I really, really liked it. And I can’t wait to go back, but I know that most of my time will be spent studying in the city.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” — Albert Einstein PART TWO

Subtitle: Buses and Blizzards

Today, dear friends, we return to the exciting adventure of our hero, Samara. When last we saw our intrepid adventurer, she was waiting to board the flying machine that would take her to the frozen north, Hokkaido. Has she arrived? Did she accomplish her quest to ski? And, if so, how did she do it? I will keep you in suspense no longer! Thank you! you will exclaim. Thank you! I’ve been worried sick over all of it! 

And to this I say, calm down and we will begin!!

Indeed, our hero did arrive in Hokkaido safely. The flight, though delayed a few minutes, was soon up in the air. It was a short flight, and the adventurers next to our hero shared their gum with her.

She was most grateful for such an alliance, and began the second leg of her quest in high spirits.

The airport in Hokkaido was nothing, easily explored. But, unknowingly, she walked straight into the second test.

THE BUS!

Our hero was smart about planning her adventure, even if her packing was a little..last minute. She had been assured passage from the airport to the quest location lodgings. However, the second test was not to be so easily conquered. She would need to discover the place of departure for the bus. The first step: procure a map of the location. Quickly done, our hero had a map of the location of the map.

If she had a map, you interject, how hard could this test be? And your questions are not unfounded. Our hero too, took the test lightly, proceeding to catch some lunch and lazing about by the cars for hire.

In fact, this test was not one of difficulty or intelligence. This test was one of group thinking. Our hero, having understood the directions she was given, proceeded to the location of the bus, only to find out that this was, in truth, not the true location. She’d been duped!

If only, instead of trusting the counter dwellers she had negotiated with for the map; if ONLY she had read the map, she would have realized a second step to obtaining the true map. For indeed, she only had a map of where to find the map of the bus!

If she had followed the other lost looking foreign adventurers, she would have known. Eventually though, after asking help from a herder, she found her bus.

At last! you think. She is truly on her way now.

And so she was. The trip was a long and not particularly dangerous one. Over hills and around harbors they traveled, the outside world obscured through a veil of snow.

How is that not a concern! you interrupt, again. And if you had let me continue, I would have describes this veil, thus: It was a threadbare veil. The majority of the cloth holes.

You sigh, and slump back into your chair relieved.

Truly the only point of interest at the place in our narrative is that somehow our hero had picked up an unknown sidekick. A small ladybug rode with our hero part of the way, until it landed on her face. And since our hero had no knowledge of this companion, swatted it away to search for a more welcoming party.

The sun set, and our coach finally reached the lodgings out hero had secured. It was quite nice lodgings: warm with central heating, which is all out hero could really ask. She quickly was shown to her room, and without a moment to lose, set off to truly begin her quest. She sought out, the dreaded rental cave!!!

The lodgings, catering to daredevils such as her, had its own questing site, complete with lift and storage for the various items one needed to equip for a large range of quests. Or hero need not delay from her quest, though the sun had set.

In fact, her lodgings were well equipped for NIGHT QUESTING. 

Ah-ha! Night questing! Could it be so easy?!  you ask, curiosity running over and around your tongue, tripping it up. So much so, that your exclamation sounds something similar to: Ah-ha! Nigh guesting! Cout ib eezo izzy?!  But I understand you dear listener, I do. My answer to your question is INDEED IT WAS! Within the hour, our hero had been equipped with weapons for defeating the downhill slope, and set off to do just that! And in the process, she conquered another mini-quest.

Another?! Could it be? Did she really?

But don’t forget, dear listeners, this is Samara, hero and adventure! Of course she managed such a feat!

The mini-quest: gain secret intelligence. Our hero: easily completed this task, while looting for the perfect equipment to slay the mountain dragon! The rental cave denizens, suspecting our hero to be just another traveler, happily chatted away in front of her. It was not until she was leaving that they discovered her understanding, and amid smiles and laughter all around she set off to ski!

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” — Albert Einstein PART ONE

Subtitle: Adventures in Airports

Once upon a time, a specific time in fact, there was a girl. This girl’s name was Samara. And one day she woke up. Well, she woke up almost everyday, In fact, it was so close to being every day that we might as well just say she woke up every day. But there was one day in particular upon which she awoke that we are talking about. It was a Sunday, and it was early.

Earlier than usual, but there was a very good reason for this. It was after all the day she set out on an adventure. An adventure?! you may be thinking. And the answer, as I just said, is yes. An ADVENTURE!

To where? would be your immediate response, quickly followed by, For what purpose?

To the frozen north! I would respond, and then for further clarification, Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan. If this still did not satisfy your curiosity for knowledge of exactly where this adventure was to take place, I can only suggest you look it up on a map. I mean really.

But why? you’d scream, the need for knowledge tearing at your very being until tears fall from your eyes. Why would she go there?! What is the adventure? WHAT IS IT!

A little taken aback at this show of emotion, I would first: clear my throat, second: hand you a tissue, and third: say the following,

TO SKI!

in a very loud and kind of important announcement like voice.

For to ski was she going. Downhill or across country would she ski. She would ski in the morning and then again in the afternoon. At least, she planned on doing so.

But we are ahead of ourselves in the story and need to backtrack. It was Sunday, she awoke early, for an adventure. She gathered her bags and (after turning off the lights, heater, and checking that everything in general would be alright, locked the door and) set off. She walked and for meters and meters to the train station, and then took a train minutes upon minutes to a bus stop! From there she bought passage on a bus bound for the airport!

This was however her first trip within (domestically, by air) a country to which she was foreign, and she was not sure of the correct procedures. Not wishing to offend, and perhaps delay her trip, she was cautious.

Why was she cautious? you ask. Was there a dragon or giant troll to defeat? A magic spell to break? 

Again, I would clear my throat, this time a little irritated at the intrusion on my narrative! And say, with a stern look in my eyes:

It was still early. In fact it was…three and a half hours early. Having grown up in  country where air travel had become a complicated dance of government issued paperwork, large sums of money to exchange as a bribe for more official papers and the need to wear easily removable outer layers and shoes, she was prepared. She had forgone the easily removed shoes in favor of sturdy walking boots, but she was prepared to remove them when necessary to prove her worth to the guardians of the flying machines.

However, upon entering the airport, she found that she was TOO early.

The shock upon your faces says it all. Indeed, she was two hours too early. Still, she check in her more cumbersome baggage, and set off on a mini quest! To find a warm cup of coffee!

Have succeeded, quite easily and quickly, in finding coffee she sat and waited, ten, twenty, thirty minutes. Still here flight number had not appeared. She began to worry.

All she had was a piece of paper that said, in a script that was new to her, e-ticket. What this strange ticket was, she was not sure. There was not seat number, no gate information. She asked, but was assured that she would be granted passage, at the appropriate time. So she returned to the seat to wait. Another fifteen minutes passed.

We are skipping a lot of time here… you mutter. And yes we are, I agree. But unless you would like every detail of the pinteresting (I’m sorry I had to!) way in which she distracted herself, it is not that important to the adventure!

Soon, she saw the flight number appear on the announcement board. She join the queue to enter into the belly of the beast, so to speak. As we have covered there is no beast here, just a metal flying machine weighing thousands and thousands of pounds and consuming the long-dead liquefied remains of actual monsters.

Slowly, she moved closer and closer to the guardians of the flying machines. And was surprised to find that not only were shoes left on, but so were coats and scarves. She grew wary. Her ticket, this lax guardianship, would it be alright?

She approached the first guard and handed him her ticket. He took it, scanned it, and gave her the information she had been missing! A seat number! A gate! Huzzah for the first guard!

She slid her remaining baggage along the metal chute, removing all electronics from her carry on belongings and prepared to be asked to remove her coat as well. Instead the second guard waved her through, and when the sensors did not beep, let her pass. She felt relief and moved ahead, to await the arrival of her backpack.

However, she could not get away as smooth as this! It was an adventure after all. Something must happen to give our hero a fight!

As so, the third guard approached. Her baggage had been sabotaged?!

WHAT?! you exclaim. The horror of such action against our hero bringing rage and fear into your eyes. When!?

But I will not keep you in suspense. The third guard took her bag and again ran it through the metal scanner. The adventurer behind her had passed a bottle of water through the same scanner and had proceeded easily. What could be causing such an exertion with her bag? Had she not complied with their unreasonable decrees. That no liquid above 3.4 ounces be obtained, and that no fragile or explosive or dangerous items be included with her belongings?

She was sure she had! But wait! She had packed carelessly the night before, scoffing at the seriousness of her adventure in favor of the pursuit of making pancakes! What if in her hurry to cook dinner she had indeed included something she had best left at home?!

The backpack returned along with the third guard. She asked permission to open the bags and look, in person, at the objects within.

The small bottles of liquid and creams that our hero had fretted over were passed by. What could it have been? What could be in her belongings that would cause her to be delayed from her adventure?

Her pen case was taken.

It was scanned a third time, and the third guard returned.

Her pen case! Of course! in her absent-minded packing she had left her pen case in her bag. The scissors, collapsible as they were, were still inside. Would they be taken? If that was all that was wrong, she would gladly give them up.

The third guard took them, and pulled out a measuring stick. She examined the scissors carefully, and pronounced them acceptable.

What! Our hero thought. She was allowed to keep her scissors? Could it be?

But the third guard waved her on, and she hurried away.

Oh! you say, relaxing back into your seat. The muscles you hadn’t known you were tensing relaxed at the easy resolution of this first test of our hero. Good, I’m glad. 

And so you should be. For, to be sure, this stage of the adventure is not over, and our hero only awaits being called to the gate. Unless some heretofore unforeseen  foe should appear, all will be well.

But this is not the end of our hero’s adventure! This, friends, is only the beginning.

What will happen? Will she ever complete the quest? What kind of skiing with she be able to accomplish? What awaits our hero in the frozen northern lands? Stay tuned, friend. Stay tuned.