Wannabe Essayist Gone Dry

For those who have read any of whatever rambles I wrote before I come to Japan, I guess you’d agree that, mediocre as the ramblings might have been, they were less mediocre than the content of this blog. Here I’m not talking about the experiences documented on the blog, but rather the quality of the documentation.

Here’s a list of  things I think helped in impairing my composition skills:


I love it. But here’s the dilemma; just as Faust made a deal with the devil by exchanging his soul to unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures, I had to make a deal with Japan and give away my English skills I have accumulated through the years in exchange of having an almost-normal life in Japan.

The level of English literacy in Japan is one of the lowest in the world.  Even though when I came here my knowledge of Japanese didn’t exceed a couple of words I caught from Kill Bill, using sign language was (and still is) a lot more useful than any attempt to use English.

Those of you who have been keeping in touch via phone calls and/or Skype have commented on how impaired my diction has become. Some have indicated that I, after *only 3* months in Japan, already sounded like a llama more than my Egyptian self. I used to laugh but now, I realize it is actually very true. Not only on a verbal level do I now suck, I find that I have a very hard time conjuring up sentences that contain any vocabulary I have learnt after middle school (ok, apart from “conjure up”)…


It’s been a really long while since I started a book and finished it. Throughout my time here, and because of how easy it is to use amazon.com and other online shopping services, I have bought more than 12 books I had been looking for to no avail in Egypt. Any attempt to read any of the books has failed miserably. I partly “blame” it on the fact that most of  those books are really heavy stuff *eyes David Foster Wallace’s complete collection on desk*, but partly because I simply haven’t been reading any long, intense, literally works since I came here.

Revolutions, Tsunamis, etc…

For someone who hasn’t written or read real stuff for + 6 months, jotting down everyday thoughts and feelings becomes a very challenging task, a task I intentionally spent hours and hours procrastinating on.

But when a Revolution breaks out, when everything changes in the blink of an eye, when those “everyday thoughts and feelings” turn into something you’ve never experienced before, procrastination is not an option anymore – and complete brain blackout becomes inevitable. Same applies to the March 11 tragedy Japan has lived and is still struggling to recover from. Things are so immensely huge. My already impaired English stands in my way as I try to write down how I am going through this and that.


I’m kinda new at this one. I have had a Twitter account for more than two years, but didn’t start “tweeting” until #Jan25 became a Trend (ie until the Egyptian Revolution). After things got slightly back to normal in Egypt, I became a Twitter junkie yet again, following real news from real people who know Japan for real, rather than reporters parachuted by CNN telling me that the world will end in hours because of radioactive clouds. When you spend that much time thinking in the realm of 140 characters, your already shrunken composition skills shrink further into absolute nothingness…

Too  Much is Going On…

This is an email I wrote to a friend of mine, only a couple of months after I made it to the Land of Rising Fun,

When mom or dad or my friends ask me how Japan is going, I have a hard time conjuring up an answer.

It’s because too much is going on. How some people expect it is possible to break it down into bullet points on a blog or articulate it through my Japanese phone to their Nokias and Blackberries is beyond me. Cheesy as it may sound, it is still all true: you won’t know it unless you try it… Just like love?
I have spent nights in  public parks, soup shelters, and small Japanese houses which belong to families I had never met before. I have spent days in mountains with snow monkeys, in spas with garra rufas, on islands with map-eating deers, by 4 million year old lakes with 8 people who had no knowledge of any English whatsoever, on trains so fast I wish I could have a second round (or more money). I have witnessed murder trials, prisons where you have a quasi graduation after you do your time and coming of age ceremonies of beautiful 20 year old girls.  I have met A-Bomb survivors with hidden agendas and eloquent homeless people with chihuahuas. I have a part time job, I go to school five days a week and have a workload of 15 credits.
Then I check my email while having Japanese Soba for breakfast and find people asking me “so, how is Japan?”
Erm… Betsallem 3aleko.

Writing Suff People Want

I have managed to publish a few essays about my experience in Japan throughout my year here. However, none of those essays have had the depth or the range that would impress me, or that would do Japan justice. Why? Because of all the reasons I listed above.

Also, I was particularly assigned to write about how I experienced the revolution here (erm, alone? guilty? scared shitless?) ~ three times, and to write about the Earthquake, Tsunami and near nuclear disaster in Japan more than I care to count.  With every article I felt very redundant, fake, and generally lame.

Not exactly the kind of motivation I’d be seeking.


Going back home will not be an easy, all-smooth process. But I will have the summer to recover, and throughout that summer I will have a chance to go to inevitable existential solo-brainstorming sessions, restoring all of the rhetoric skills I have lost over the past year.  I’m almost sure that in the few weeks following my return home I will read and write more than I did this year altogether.

Key is to keep in mind that the Japan fairy tale is over, and that if I want another one, somewhere, after my presumed graduation, those suspended manuscripts had better be complete…

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicki
    May 25, 2011 @ 02:17:18

    Dear Dina,

    I don’t think any of your blogs are mediocre. I rediscovered my blog from a few years ago and it is awful to read it – I just seemed to moan. Your blogs always have interest, are enlightening and are written very well. You have a lovely style.

    Your English is still brilliant and your essays are better than you think. I think it is the impact of these things rather than how you describe it which is more important.

    Keep smiling and if you ever want a conversation in English, then let me know 🙂


  2. business casual
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 13:05:49

    Very shortly this site will be famous among all
    blog viewers, due to it’s good articles


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May 2011
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