Obsessed Much – January 2011

So it looks like I am turning into a once-a-month sort of blogger. It’s not exactly conducive to keeping any sort of audience these days, but I’m happy as long as I don’t abandon ship completely and can still manage to eek out something remotely interesting every few weeks. While I’ve been ignoring my posting duties, pretty much every blogger I know has put out some sort of Top Ten of 2011 or New Years Resolutions for 2012 list. Obviously I’m a bit behind schedule, but it wouldn’t matter anyhow because my pockets are empty on both counts. I’m not exactly heartbroken over this. I was pretty content to see 2011 over and done with and making a Top 10 Meltdowns of 2011 didn’t seem like the most positive way to kick start my new year. I’d like to make it clear that 2011 was not utterly miserable. I gave birth to my beautiful son, had a chance to visit with family on two separate occasions and had a great teaching year. Still, the year also had many challenges, and personally I feel like I am happy to be done with it.

If there is anything remotely resembling a resolution swimming around in my head, it is “to be true to myself”. If I reflect on the past year, it seems like this basic concept was painfully lacking in my life. I was so wound up about things that were completely out of my control and spent way too much energy trying to make other people happy, convincing myself that if they weren’t content, then I couldn’t be either. This newfound perspective doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to become a huge selfish asshole and just do everything for my own benefit. However, it does mean that I’m not willing to ignore my own potential anymore. I really want to try to work on and challenge myself over the next 12 months and hopefully I will look back and see a difference.

So, I don’t have a Top Ten for you, or a list of resolutions. What I do have is a number of recent obsessions that might tickle your fancy. I often get caught up in random things that become my main point of focus for days, weeks or sometimes years. My mind is huge jumble of these items, all vying for space and priority, all wanting to be realized in some way or form. I thought I would try and keep track of them here on a month to month basis. It will give me something to pen out when I’ve run out of nifty anecdotes about life in Japan. The year is still fairly fresh and already I have a number of new compulsive fascinations to share with you. So without much fuss about it, here they are.

North Korea
Don’t ask me how, and don’t ask me why, but ever since Kim Jong Il died last December I have not been able to shake thinking about, reading and watching everything I can on the current state of the country. It started off with a random travel documentary by Vice Magazine and snowballed into a full-on obsession about the place. When I say obsession, I mean it. I think I have watched every last relevant YouTube video about the place, and names like Euna Lee and Laura Ling feel almost familiar to me. All of my friends are planning fun spring vacations to Thailand or Australia, and here I am wondering how I can go about getting a visa to visit Pyongyang to see the Arirang games, or even worse, if there are any teaching positions available there.

My husband thinks I’ve gone off the deep-end. This is impressive coming from a man who can listen to the same live version of a Grateful Dead song 50 times over and repeatedly checks multiple online-surf reports while simultaneously spaming his own Facebook page with Anarchy support links. All said and told there is something about the country and the plight of the people that has me truly fascinated.

Speaking of utterly inhospitable places to live, my other recent destination of choice has been the remote and very cold northern city of Iqaluit. Unless you are Canadian, you probably have never heard of the place, and truth be told, most Canadians will never visit Iqaluit, probably because most Canadians don’t want to visit Iqaluit. Not only is it far and very expensive to get to, did I mention that it was really, really cold? You’re talking about a place that only closes schools when winter temperatures hit around -45 degrees Celsius and where the bay is frozen for all but 3 months out of the year. Again, I’m not entirely clear about why I’ve suddenly become so enthralled with Iqaluit. It might have something to do with all the jobs that are available up there at the moment, which seems to be seriously lacking everywhere south of the 49th parallel (or so I’ve been told). The lifestyle and community are intriguing as well. The idea of living in a place where the sun never sets (or alternatively, barely rises) and where the night sky puts on a show of Northern Lights for whoever is around to watch (mostly polar bears) sounds strangely romantic.

Dan Rezler
This is actually just an extension of my North Korea obsession. Dan Rezler is an 18 year-old kid from somewhere in America who has an amusing vlog about all sorts of teenage randomness. Except, he just might be a genius, so it sort of sets him apart from a lot of other just-out-of-high-school-kids-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands types. It was his video on the History of North Korea that brought me to his site, but it is his professional video presentation (at least most of the time), clean editing and witty/quirky sense of humor that keeps me going back. If I was 17, this is the guy I would want to go to prom with, or at the very least be in his ad-hoc camera crew.

Wordless Picture Books
I was desperate to find an amazing and creative 3rd term project for my students this year, and at just the right time my sister sent me a list of about 50 wordless children’s books. The idea behind a picture book without any text is that kids can stretch their imaginations to no end when recounting the story, and so can adults for that matter. I started by ordering a few books off Amazon for school, and before I knew it I was making a Wishlist of all the ones I wanted for myself.

Pureed Food (and Feeding it to Babies)
The awesome thing about feeding a baby his first food is that it is the closest experience you’ll ever get to introducing an alien to life on earth. Actually, that’s pretty much childrearing in a nutshell. It is priceless to watch him discover anything for the first time, but food in particular is really fun. He opens his mouth, he tastes the food, he scrunches up his face unsure if he is disgusted or pleased, and then he makes a decision to try it again before he makes up his mind. And when he loves something, there is no stopping him. Apple Sauce to Noah is like M&M’s to ET. Sometimes eating can get boring when you feel like you’ve had it all. Living vicariously through your own personal baby-alien makes food exciting again☺

Bone Marrow
This past year saw at least 3 family friends pass away from cancer, and 1 who is still currently fighting a vicious battle with AML, a very aggressive form of Leukemia. It sucks to say this, but I had lost touch with my old high school friend and only reconnected with her after finding out she was very sick. It’s sort of lame, and I feel guilty for letting our relationship slip. I find myself thinking about her a lot these days. She is too weak to write emails at the moment, because she is recovering from her most recent chemo treatment. The silence can feel very heavy. Her boyfriend does a great job of updating us on the situation, even though I know it must be heartbreaking for him to post such personal feelings on his public blog.

It was through the blog that I discovered that her brother ended up being a match for her bone marrow transplant, which I think is actually quite rare. Just because you are in the same family or blood type, it doesn’t mean that you will be a match. Then I started wondering about the procedure of it all. I remember when I used to give blood back in Canada the nurses would ask if I wanted to go on the bone marrow registry as a donor, and I was always a little reluctant because I heard it was time consuming and quite painful. Well, thanks to YouTube, I know a lot better now. And even if it was all those things, now I find it such a cop-out reason to not become a donor. It’s not like people don’t have babies because it takes nine months and there is the potential of excruciating pain at the end of it. We understand the effort is worth the outcome, and from what I can tell from my basic research is that being a donor is far, far, FAR less an effort than deciding to have a baby, and can save a persons life.

If you have been thinking about it, here are some links to help you make your decision to join the registry. I’m making it a mission to get on it, be it here in Japan or back in Canada. Help me eat my words by asking me about it in a few months time.