Sunday, December 26, 2004

my christmas:

all of my american friends left for christmas so i was alone. most of the japanese people i know weren't really doing anything to celebrate it. but mr. kobayashi (the translator I've mentioned on my blog) invited me to come to his wife's anglican church for their christmas eve ceremony. i'm not a religious person but i do have a spiritual life, so i was glad to go. it's a hard time of year to be a foreigner away from home and friends and family.

so i took the train on christmas eve after work into tokyo and met him in shinjuku, then took a train to the southeastern edge of the city which is hilly like san francisco to go to this really beautiful old anglican church. it looked so medieval. the ceremony was all in japanese. i understood some of it. all the carols were sung in japanese too. most of the lyrics were written in the first two alphabets of japanese, so i was able to sing along. whenever i came to a kanji, a symbol from the third alphabet which i haven't started learning yet, i would listen for the sound it made and then i'd know it during the next round, since you know, carols are repetetive. it was actually really nice. i was happy i was able to read the language fast enough to actually sing with them without a struggle. the last song was "come all ye faithful" which was my favorite christmas religious song when i was a kid. it made things really nice. they had flutists and harpists and a violinist playing the music as well as an organist, so it was all very beautiful. there was a lot of wonderful japanese food served afterwards. and a lot of japanese people wishing me merry christmas.

mr. kobayashi gave me a book called Man Walks Into A Room by Nicolle Krauss for a christmas present. he and his family took me as far as shibuya and saw me off on the right train home. I stopped off in shinjuku coming back, and walked through the seedy section with all the gaudy lights for a while, people watching, and then stopped at a starbucks and got a gingerbread latte to drink before getting back on the train. I hate starbucks but I love the taste of gingerbread, so I gave myself that little gift.

i took a different way home than usual and had to ask around in japanese which train would take me back to my hometown station. a nice japanese man helped me find the rapid train system which cost a little extra but was SO worth it, so fast, and we talked a little before the train came, because he realized i could do some basic japanese. the people are really friendly when they realize you can speak the language, otherwise they may act scared or ignore you if you try to talk to them. for example, in shinjuku, i was trying to ask people how to find ni-chome, the lit up seedy area, and i kept saying sumimasen to people, excuse me, and they'd look at me and look away and keep going. finally i said it to this one guy who looked at me and did the brisk look away, as if i were going to hit him up for money, and kept walking, and finally i shouted after him, "Ni Chome wa doko desu ka?" he stopped in his tracks and turned around looking very surprised and came back and apologized for ignoring me and gave me directions.

i started reading the book on the train, got home at midnight, and talked to my family over a really bad connection the next day. i spent most of christmas going back to bed, then grocery shopping at one point, and reading. i also talked to regina for a while. also talked to rick for a while, at his mother's place in massachusetts, where he was home for the holidays.

that was christmas in japan. it's actually not the worst christmas i've had. the phone connection with my family was horrible, which is weird because it never has been before when we talked, but other than that, not bad. i've had horribly depressing chrismases. this one was just quiet and meditative. today i started finishing a story i've been writing for the past month or two. so hopefully i'll finish that over the next few days.

new year's i'll be with my american friends in tokyo to party, so that should be fun. new year's day, i'm taking a train to nagoya to hang out with my friend tadashi for a few days there. it should be a nice way to end the winter vacation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas --er, Boxing Day-- CB! Glad you found a venue to celebrate!

1:28 PM  
Blogger Joufy said...

Merry Christmas! :)

2:39 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Hey Josh, long time no see. Give me an email.

Merry Christmas to you, too, Jessica!

9:14 PM  
Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

Happy Christmas, Mr. Zakbar! It's nice that you were at least able to celebrate the holiday in a quiet way. We all miss ya over here in the States.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Chris, I spent a Christmas in China once. It was a regular work day and I taught, among other things, a lecture class in British and American Culture and History. I read then the part of the Bible that Linus recites in the Charlie Brown Christmas special and taught them to sing "Silent Night" which they seemed to find simultaneously moving and deeply funny.

And then I walked back to my apartment feeling oddly out of sorts and distanced from everything around me. It wasn't my worst Christmas, either. But I felt as if I was viewing the world through the wrong end of a telescope, and everything seemed rather small and very far away.

Thinking of you.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Maureen, that's actually the perfect way to describe it. Looking through the telescope from the opposite end. I worked on Christmas Eve, and would have worked on Christmas day but Christmas day fell on a Saturday, so it was off no matter what. On Christmas Eve I taught the kids the story of Jesus's birth (which was weird for me, but the teachers wanted me to do it) and told them how my family celebrates Christmas. All week long they'd been learning Christmas songs. And the sannensei (9th grade) advanced English students had put together a carol group, and asked me to sing with them. So as everyone was getting ready to leave school on Christmas Eve, I and thirty 9th graders sang Christmas carols in English to the rest of the school. We were videotaped for some reason to be put on TV also. I was a bit irritated because I wanted to leave and go to Tokyo to meet Mr. Kobayashi, but the students had asked me personally to stay and sing, so I felt compelled. So I stayed, and missed my train and got to Tokyo a little late, but when the kids and I finished and they all surrounded me and said, Thank you Barzak sensei! and actually meant it, I couldn't be upset.

So it was coming home from Tokyo that night that everything felt very small and far away, and probably why I kept going back to bed the next morning.

Thanks for stopping by. Miss you.

1:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home