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Papua Japan Alaska

I always try too hard to make clever post titles, so I didn’t bother this time.  I also have an increasing tendency to write very long, deep posts every month or two rather than writing more frequent posts every few days.  It’s frustrating to not write for so long, but it’s also frustrating to write something that seems extraneous or forced.  I wrote two very short articles for the Saroma-Palmer Sister City Newsletter yesterday, very quickly because they were already weeks past the date I had promised them by.  They read like 5th grade book reports.  I’m not ashamed of them, but not as proud of them as I am of the writing on other parts of this blog.  I guess in the end, I mainly write for myself, and if I ever choose to become a writer as a profession, I’ll have to learn how to do it for others.  For example, last years post about my Papua New Guinea experience was written over several days, with a lot of editing and careful thought, but also with a lot of inspiration.  I browsed back to it on my iPhone on the way to Papua New Guinea a few weeks ago and was impressed with what I had written.  It took me back to that first experience and made me newly excited for the next.  Hopefully I can keep doing that.

I just talked to my uncle Andy on the phone.  I sent him a postcard from Papua New Guinea with a picture of a fire eater on it.  There’s a guy crunching down on a burning stick like it’s a loaf of french bread.  I’ll miss seeing Andy when I return to Fairbanks next month for Chris and Hosanna’s wedding.  He’ll be cycling around southern France with his wife.  It made me nostalgic once again for travelling.  Keep in mind that I’ve been back from a two week trip to Papua New Guinea for all of a week, and I am living in Japan.  You’d think I’d had enough travelling.  But it’s addicting.  I think as one extends the lifestyle that you find while travelling, creating loose and distant yet numerous relationships, being itinerant becomes a kind of permanence.  It almost becomes kind of a cycle.  With no material or social anchors, (house, wife, kids, mortgage, land, real job) it becomes very easy to jump at chances when they come.  But constantly moving around pursuing those opportunities doesn’t allow those kinds of anchors to get set.  So it perpetuates.  I feel a little bit fluxed sometimes, because I don’t see my current lifestyle leading anywhere that people expect lives to lead.  I can’t see more than a few months down the road, so I don’t plan further than that.  Now, concerning long-terms things like an IRA, I suppose I could use some work.  But for now, I don’t feel the need to reach out into the future and grab at things.  The future will come to me.  I actually surprised myself in an messaging exchange the other day with my friend Jacob, who is likewise postponing adulthood, but in a much more adult way, as a graduate student in Middle Eastern Security Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland. His blog, “The One Seventh Report” is linked to at the right.

9:03 PM me: I am delaying my entry into the workforce

  but I am paying off debt, sort of

  but I am not gaining any valuable skills

  well I guess japanese

  but damn sometimes I laugh at how cush I have it here

 Jacob: I was going to say, you’re delaying your entry into the workforce by… working?

  getting paid?

9:04 PM me: hahahahahaha

  it’s funny that you have to correct that

  I don’t particularly see it that way

  I often don’t feel like an adult

  or even a real person

I surprised myself with that.  Jacob had to remind me that I have a job.  He had to remind me that I am making money, like any other productive member of society.  I suppose he might see me similarly to the way I see him – someone who is pursuing a productive course in life that can be respected and admired.  Maybe I don’t always see things that way.

Well, this post is turning into a musing on things other than Papua New Guinea, so I’ll have to post that in the next update.  As it stands, the trip to Alaska is fast coming.  May 1st will be my last day of work until May 20th.  During that time, I plan to drive to Sapporo, stay there one night with Yoshie, take an overnight ferry from Otaru to Niigata, stay in Niigata one night, meeting friends and colleagues from last year, then take the bullet train to Narita Airport in Tokyo, and try to catch a standby flight to Minneapolis on May 5th.  I’ll hang out with Nate, maybe run to Omaha, and definitely see the new Star Trek movie on May 8th, perhaps the best stroke of luck ever that I am there for that.  The evening of the 8th I have a first class one way award ticket on Alaska Airlines to Anchorage.  The 9th there will be a potluck in Palmer at the Sister City Church where I will give an update on Saroma and my job there to the Sister City Committee and related people.  Sunday is Mothers’ Day and I will relax with my mother.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be serious workdays.  Meeting with principals of all of the sister city schools, the mayor, the superintendent, the school board, visiting high school Japanese classes, Saroma-Palmer exchange student meetings, and presenting to students at Pioneer Peak about Saroma.  I might even wear a tie.  Thursday the 14th I will drive to Fairbanks with Mom and Monte and hang.  Chris Green and Hosanna Tolman will be married on Saturday, May 16th.  I’ll technically be a groomsman, although a poorly groomed man.  On the 17th, I will drive my trusty Subaru back down the Parks to Palmer, finally returning it home after it decided to spend the winter in Fairbanks after blowing its timing belt last August on the way to Chena Hot Springs.  4:15 AM on the 18th I will hop on a 747 heading for Taipei, then onto Tokyo, and back to Saroma, in bed by 10 PM the next night, ready for work on May 20th.  All this has worked out pretty well, and together, with ferries, trains and them infernal flying machines, is a measly $1,300.  I’m looking forward to it, especially the opportunity to reconnect and strengthen some of the sister school relationships.  I sometimes don’t feel particularly qualified to act as a representative of Palmer, since I have absolutely no idea what is going on there.  It’s like I’m one of those exiled Iraqis who fed the US bad intelligence prior to the war – they hadn’t lived in their own country for 20 years.  I haven’t lived in Palmer for seven years now.  While I’ve been back semi-frequently, a few times a year at least, I can’t keep up with all of the changes of people and landscape and life.  I need to go home and conduct research on my hometown from abroad.

One last thing to tie it all together.  I’ve been to many countries, but I’ve only been to a few twice.  Those are the United States (hey, I came back, didn’t I?), France, Italy, Japan, and Papua New Guinea.  Russia technically counts as well, but as it was only Vladivostok for a total of 9 or 10 days, I won’t count it.  France and Italy also don’t fit the mold because they were breeze-through countries that I never developed a lasting connection to.   That leaves the US, Japan, and PNG.  I’d honestly say that Alaska, Hokkaido, and the Waria Valley are the three places on this planet that I feel the most connected to.  I happened to collect several kilograms of rocks from the bed of the Waria River at Pema a few weeks ago.  Green conglomerates, smooth white balls of quartz, gnarled, purple metamorphics.  I like them.  I’m thinking that this summer, I’m going to pave a small doorstep to the ALT house here in Saroma, and ring it with rocks from this area of Hokkaido that I’ve found along the Okhotsk Sea and in the mountains, rocks from Papua New Guinea that I’ve found in the Waria River, and rocks that I intend to find in Palmer, in the Matanuska and Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains.  A tangible synthesis of my favorite pieces of the planet.

4 replies on “Papua Japan Alaska”

You have a way with words; a way of writing the truth – something that has not quite been on my mind but was in there somewhere. You’re an adult only if you want to be … me, I’ll never be!! DANG I miss PNG!!

Sean –
I am writing this confident that my darling husband will never read it. Not that I am writing anything mean, but because he will undoubtedly interpret it the wrong way. Your comments about being an adult struck a funny chord in me as I am thinking in a similar yet polar opposite way. In my “younger days” I imagined my life, the steps I would take, the paths it would leave me on. I can honestly say that none of it even remotely resembles the life I lead now. I should state that I in no way regret getting married, living in Palmer or having a job that I never set out to have. However, when you say, “I often don’t feel like an adult or even a real person” I feel very much the same. I think how strange it is that I am doing all of those “adult things” you’re expected to do but yet I still feel as though I’m pretending and one day something else will begin. I often wonder when and if that feeling will fade.
I apologize for musing these things aloud to you in a response to your blog, but I’ve been pondering this lately and it was funny that you wrote on the same topic.
In any case, I am proud/envious/intrigues by the path you’re following right now and am certain it will lead you to a place you’ll love. I can’t see you having it any other way.
p.s. I think you should wear the tie.

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