Sunday, December 11, 2011

Skewered Views

Lunch today was a trio of skewers of salt flavored yakitori and a couple of onigiri (salted and grilled chicken thigh kebabs and rice balls respectively) washed down with some warmed sake that had been previously offered up on our kamidana and mitamaya here in the household. A warm belly with a little alcohol in it lends me to thinking, and thus writing. Often I'll tweek an ongoing fan-fiction project the wife and a friend are involved in with myself, but quite a few times it has led me to posting on this ol' blog.

There's no point in apologizing for a lack of updates. I've been extremely busy with the build up and consequential tasks of finals week here in the aviation electronics department where I attend classes. I've accomplished everything and performed to acceptable standards throughout my semester, and so I am now roughly 1/6th complete with my studies. A week of stressful studying and testing has resulted in a 3.0 GPA, which while more than sufficient to continue in my classes was less than I aspired to. Now that the first weekend of winter break is upon me, I have a few moments to eat my lunch and reflect upon some thoughts.

I made the commitment this week to study for and be ready to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 4 within a year. It's a Japanese government certified and administered test, similar to the ELPT that incoming foreign students have to pass if they aren't native English speakers. It's by far not the hardest level to take (the ranges are at 5 being the lowest and 1 being nearly native/native level), but it is a serious undertaking. I'll need to study a large portion of vocabulary, written and spoken grammar, and something close to 300 individual kanji. To that end, the wife and I will be ordering at least one set of the JLPT practice flash cards we found on a webpage that gives clear indications of what to study (and comes with very good reviews).

Today the wife is away at work, fixing the problems created by a largely non-secular group of shoppers on the run-up to what has been a largely secular holiday. The traditions and attitudes observed by the folks here in central Texas come from a good place originally, but lately the snotty holier-than-thou attitudes that have been exhibited and observed have begun to taint an already touchy subject for me. There seems to be a culture of expectant gift-giving here in the U.S. which translates (at times) down to "Gimme something because you should, but don't necessarily expect anything in return." Not everyone is guilty of this of course, but it seems to be more noticeable from year to year.

I like the Japanese take on New Year's and mid year times: giving presents has become a thing one does (especially when visiting a friend or their family), but is not openly expected. If one receives a gift, they are indebted, beholden in a tiny way to the gift giver. This results in a small, healthy cycle of politeness, gift exchanging and helpfulness. There's a social obligation to someone who shared their wealth with you, especially if you secretly needed that $300 your mother gave you while she was "stopping by on the holidays."

There's no need to expect that one would ever be given anything additional at this point in my life; after all, I have life, my own home (even if it's rented), a wife and pets, some useful widgets and a few toys of my own. So long as I have the basic needs of survival met, I really don't need anything else. I'm grateful when someone decides that they have something which they plan to give me, whether it is money or material goods. I'm indebted to them even if they intended nothing of the sort and expect nothing in return. Failing an ability to pay it back (such as monetary assistance from family members), I will pass it along as best I can, doing my level best to be helpful and contributory to society and its members.

Maybe that's what I'm failing to see from most folks, for whatever reason. Some of them must surely feel similarly, or else charity would have fallen flat in this past year of economic crisis. I hope that I'm only missing seeing the good, and not just seeing only what there really is to so many of the people I come across in my daily life....

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