Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Celebrating our gifts

Well, we drank the eggnog and lived to tell about it. It was a little thin for eggnog, but it was sweet and eggy. I applaud Joe for his effort to brew it up on Christmas Eve, which we celebrated as Christmas this year. Christmas Eve was a holiday off work to celebrate the emperor's birthday, while Christmas itself was just another regular ole working day.

So we slept in on the 24th and then attacked the presents under our miniature tree, and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around reading our new books and playing with our new toys.

Around dinner time, we decided to splurge on a pizza. Of course, our Japanese still isn't up to snuff enough to order delivery over the phone yet, so we figured if pizza can't come to us, we must go to it. So we hopped on our bicycles and peddled a chilly two miles to Domino's.

Lucky for us, flags were flying out front announcing it was 20 Percent Off Pizza Day. Whoopee! Unlucky for us, after an exchange with the cashier involving a lot of gesturing and mangled English and Japanese, we finally understood that pizzas could only be ordered for take-out that day. We ordered a deluxe pie anyway and forked over the 2400 Yen (about 24 bucks). Yes, a large deluxe pizza is regularly $30! After racking our brains to think of a nearby warm place where we could hide away to chow down, we came up with nothin'. So Joe wrapped his scarf around the pizza box, stuck it in his bike basket and we raced home, ignoring the brisk night air that whisked away our warmth.

When we got it home and opened it up, all the toppings were piled on one side of the box. A little rearranging and it was fit for consumption. 'Twas delicious. And surprisingly enough, it was still hot. This was the fourth pizza we've had since arriving here and it was the best.

I know this doesn't seem like a big deal to everyone else, but after being in Japan for nearly five months I have a whole new appreciation for pizza. I cannot wait for the day I can actually order a pizza for delivery.

Once our bellies were full of cheesy pepperoni goodness, we washed down some of Joe's eggnog and I made some rice krispie treats with the rice krispies and marshmallows that Mom and Dad so generously mailed me a few weeks ago. Yummy!

All in all, we had a very good holiday. Joe and I enjoyed the day relaxing and giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Sometimes I'm still in awe that we're actually here in Japan. Sometimes it is still a little surreal.

I'm still happy we're here, even though the holiday was a little difficult. It wasn't the same being away from family this year, or skipping church for that matter. It's been hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Christmas doesn't have that ever-present spirit here that it does back home. And it's strange seeing the decorations in store fronts and just knowing it truly is all commercial here. Yeah, it's commercial back home, too... but there's also a sense of the approaching celebration of a joyous occasion. That part's missing in Japan.

Still, I somehow managed to enjoy the exchanging of gifts, imagine that! ;) My favorite present this year was Cary Tennis's new book "Since You Asked." I am a devoted fan of Cary Tennis, who's written an advice column for Salon.com since 2001. Mostly I love his writing because he has a tendency to go off on literary tangents with a poetic, philosophical bent. He's more likely to explore questions that have a more universal application to our lives. He tends to move past the practical and consider moral and ethical angles, stuff of the heart, the human condition. And then, sometimes he just rambles in some odd, mind-bending way.

This book is a collection of what he considers to be his best columns. He asked readers to nominate their favorite columns. To my delight, he included the column I nominated, right there on page 174. Yea! What a gift!

So, as my gift to you, I'll reprint a short excerpt of his fine advice here. When I worked at the newspaper, I taped this gem to my cubicle wall.

"Stay one step ahead of the law. Don't ever get too clean. Disguise yourself when you visit the drugstore for a prescription. Live like a happy, contented spouse, and wait for your moment ... be mad but not out of control ... be contrary but not reflexive ... write incomprehensible verses deep in the night while everyone else is sleeping ... Take long walks by the river before they arise ... resist assimilation ... pass notes to strangers in the park ... remain obdurately convinced of the rightness of your most controversial beliefs ... occasionally be inconsolable ... refuse to name your sources ... stay silent under torture ... beware of existence fatigue ... do not believe anyone who calls himself a spokesman ... question yourself mercilessly about your recent whereabouts ... organize yourself for maximum speed .. refuse to use the cruise control ... neither fear nor trust your neighbors ... have a suitcase always packed ... keep your passport handy ... learn a little Arabic ... do not discuss John Ashcroft with anyone. Learn to operate the crystal radio set, and locate the finest cheeses."

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