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Lenore Amor Sanborn de Asis... I've been asked more than a few times what my ethnicity is...
My maiden name is Lenore De Asis, my husband's was Sanborn and when we were married, we follwed the Latin-American tradition of combining our names to Sanborn de Asis.
My husband is of fairly standard American stock: the name Sanborn comes from a small river in England (off of the Bourne River), but he's got Austrian, Scottish, Irish, Russian and lotsa other "whitey" European origins. The name "Ezekiel" came to his father in a dream and since his mother was convinced that she was going to have a girl, and it was 2:30am when his father asked if they could name a son "Ezekiel," she agreed. After 56 hours in labor, she wasn't really up to the task of naming their newly-born son (actually, she was unconscious), so his father went ahead, and gave him the name Ezekiel, since they had agreed upon it, after all (grin). The name "Ezekiel" is also popular in Latin America and comes from a Prophet- the guy who saw the wheel & whose book was liberally taken from in "Pulp Fiction." It's the book where God starts talking like a basketball player from the 'hood: "I am God, and if you don't believe me, you will feel my wrath- I will rain fire on the Earth and-yada-yada-yada". (^.^)
I was born in Sunrise
Hospital in Las Vegas as Lenore De Asis. I got "De Asis" from my paternal
grandfather from the Phillipeans, so the name probably originated in Italy,
Spain or Portugal. The name refers to San Francisco de Asisi
But we are both culturally US-American, being raised in the US by all-English-speaking families. Complicated, eh? I'll bet you didn't expect to get a whopper of a response like that-- but it could be worse... You could have asked me how many brothers & sisters I have!!! (^.^)
The way I heard it: My mother and father met in high school in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. My mother was an excellent flutist and my father wanted to learn how to play the flute (he already knew keyboards and several brass instruments). Both of their families were very musical. When my mother turned 18, they moved in together and were married sometime shortly thereafter.- only to be divorced not long after that (when I was 2).
From the age of 5, I lived in San Diego... kinda... Well- let's see. My mother lived in San Diego, California and my father lived in San Jose, California. I spent Kindergarten at Barnard Elementary School in Point Loma (San Diego) with my mother while she attended the University of California San Diego. I spent 1st grade in Sunnyvale, California with my father while he worked at the Second Floor in Los Gatos as head chef. 2nd grade was at Doyle Elementary School in University City (San Diego). 3rd grade was at Meyerholtz Elementary in San Jose, I spent the first semester of 4th grade at Ocean Beach Elementary and then moved to Mabel E. O'Farrell, School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in San Diego, known by some as "the FAME school," from which I graduated High School.
The summer after grade 10 (age 15), I went to Mesa Community College where I took Physics and Pre-Calculus. It was addicting, so I continued taking classes there for the next few years. There, I completed most of my university-level lower division math, Physics, Chemistry, and Political Science. Oh yeah, from the age of 2 I did dance (ballet, modern, jazz, tap, African, street, etc.) and acting from the age of 10. I did a few professional stage, TV, and motion picture projects, but that only lasted until I was about 20 years old. I started doing some choreography in High school which seemed very promising, but I never really pursued it with any real vigor. So basically, I was a fairly artsy science freak for a while. This was my mature period of life (from age 15-18 or so) and I haven't been that grown up in years (Thank God!).
I left from Guadalajara airport and went straight to Madrid, Spain for a month long intensive language program in Spain- the beginning of a program that would last a year in Barcelona. During that year, I studied Spanish Literature, Catalan Language, Latin American Literature, Translation, Composition, and I taught English at Kingsbrook Idiomas. I also had the best roommates in the world and some of the greatest friends a person could ask for.
During that year, I drove across and down Spain a few times, and up and down Portugal a few times. I stayed in England to visit family during Christmas. I also went to Cologne, Germany a few times to visit some very dear friends. I took a ferry to Mallorca and trains all over the place. I stayed in Manosque, Provence, France for about a month, I stayed with my good friend Simona in Reggio Emilia, Italy, as well as with Simone in Zurich, Switzerland. Then I kicked off the typical trek across Europe on my own- where I met tons of people and saw things that are too many to list. The easiest way to summarize it is that I went as far south as Northern Africa, as far west as Cap du Roca in Portugal, or England, (depending on what you consider the European continent) as far east as Istanbul, and as far north as Hamburg.
After all that, I tearfully left my friends and returned to Irvine. It took me a while to get into the US-American swing of things again. After a bit of discussion, I decided to apply for the JET Program in Japan with Ezekiel (The Z of ZNL). SO here I am now, in Aomori, Japan- teaching English again. This past winter we went to Korea to visit Peter Moon. We had a blast and owe a great deal of thanks to Peter Moon, his family and Meena, who showed us around and maybe saved our lives.
Well, we met in our Freshman year of college at UCI. I thought he was a nerd. No, it wasn't love at first sight. Actually, my roommate had every single class with him, they were both engineering majors. Eventually, his roommate (Reed), started going out with my roommate, Carrine. Everyone thinks we got together at that point out of loneliness. But that's not how it happened. We were friends and we saw each other around campus, but that was about it. We both went abroad for our junior years. I went to Mexico and Spain, while he went to Japan. When we came back to Irvine, we started hanging out a lot more. He soon became one of my closest friends. Although almost all of my close friends tried to get us to go out with each other, we fought it tooth and nail. He says it was because he knew I was "The One," but I still don't know if that's just a line or not. I fought it because he was such a close friend. You know how girls are about that sort of thing.... So anyway- we finally started going out in our 4th year of college. And that was the beginning of ZNL!
Gosh! There have been so many books written on the subject by people so much more qualified than myself... I feel a little strange pretending to be able to tell in this small space, my small experience. But I guess that's all I can really tell. As far as work goes, I work at Aomori Nishi Senior High School as an Assistant Language Teacher. It's a very different experience for me because I'm used to teaching my own classes. At first, it was hard for me to figure out how to work this other teacher into *my* teaching plan! Talk about missing the point of team teaching! But I've been really trying to do some serious ego deflation and learn the whole Japanese teamwork thing. The greatest advice I can give to anyone about Japan is to go with the flow instead of trying to swim upstream and doing it the way *you* know works. Chances are that it won't work here. They say that the nail that sticks out will get hammered down in Japan... and it will- or else it will simply be removed.
Most of my previous experience has been with hot-blooded Latin cultures- so it was strange to come to this opposite end of the spectrum. As with anywhere, it is possible to find a place for yourself here. The trickiest part is knowing when to blend and when to be the gaijin (foreigner). It is an art that I haven't yet been able to master. I don't know if I ever will. I often wonder what it's like for those white or brown or black or purple (?) faces that were born and raised in Japan. I can't imagine what it must be like to be considered a constant gai-jin (outsider) when you are really very much a nai-jin (insider)... so to speak.
When we returned from Seoul, Korea, I got a new appreciation for Japan and for Aomori. I used to complain about the boring-ness of Japanese food... of the lack of flavor. Now I recognize more of the elegant simplicity and enigmatic subtleties of Japan and of things Japanese. It is at once delicate and strong. Oh dear- I'm starting to sound like a member of the Carnation Club. You know, so many people who have been to or are in Japan have this love affair with it. It seems strange because as much as they may try, they will never fit nor fully understand. One second we seem so different (east versus west) and the next we seem so alike. It might suddenly seem so easy to understand everything. I don't know anymore. I don't know if Japanese people themselves truly understand themselves or the society they live in. Maybe we, as outsiders can understand it better. I have no idea. . I am simply thankful for the beauty of the falling snow and of my toasty kotatsu to keep me warm. I'm also thankful for my western electric blanket and for the restaurant that serves steak donburi (the perfect mix of east and west)... It's delicious! I'm also glad that I can drink the delicious water from the tap (faucet) in Aomori- It's supposed to be the most delicious in Japan! Living in Aomori-shi seems to be the best of both worlds. It offers the conveniences of a larger city, but it is still a small city: no smog, no pollution, no nasty gropers on the trains.. and no anonymity- but it's not inaka.
There are so many things I could say. Perhaps I'll continue to add to this as I have time...
(Written January 10, 1997)
Well. I'm writing this on March 20th, 1998. It has been approximately a year and a half since I came to Japan and it looks like I'll be here for another year and a half. After that, I'm leaving. As one might expect, I've come to quite a few conclusions about Japan in my time here and many have changed from what they had been. I'm certain that many of these ideas will continue to change even long after I have left Japan. It is not easy to summarize the thoughts that I've had regarding Japan in the 1 1/2 years that I've been here, so let me just give you a rough idea...
One of the major pivotal points of my time in Japan was the summer I spent in Kyoto doing a home-stay and studying Japanese. This was quite a departure from my life in Aomori... to say the least. I would say that Kyoto is the essence of Japan- with all of the good, and all of the ... not-so-good. The difference in Kyoto is that all of this is magnified to about 2000X that of what it is up here in Aomori. Kyoto is admired by all for its traditions, beauty and cultural treasures. Everyone knows about Kyoto. But what does Kyoto know about the rest of Japan? Not much. People in Kyoto seemed to have the most compartmentalized, stereotypical image of non-Kyoto places and the people from those places that it was a little difficult to stomach. But the most striking and difficult of all of the differences I found in Kyoto was that the majority of the people there did not have a very good sense of humor. They did not often laugh with each other and rarely told any jokes at all. Bummer. Of course, I was only in Kyoto for a summer. I welcome any response from people who think differently. But just to make sure that I do get this point across, Kyoto is not all bad. It was breath-takingly beautiful (though filled with trash and horribly polluted) in its gardens, temples, shrines, and palaces. People were as helpful as they could be and often extremely kind. Like I said- it has all of the bad, but also all of the good... times 2000... remember? (^.^)
Why won't we stay here? Well, as long as we stay in Japan, we will be essentially outsiders in one way or another. It might even be something as simple as an old man or woman staring once in a while. But as we look towards our future and start thinking about making a family, we realize that acceptance is very important for children... Especially in a society and culture that stresses it so heavily. That lack of acceptance is not something that I want to deal with most of my life, and it certainly isn't something that I want to inflict on my children. I think that after 3 years, we will still have a lot to learn about Japan, but I also think that we will be able to take a rather large chunk of Japan with us in our hearts when we leave. Also, I believe that the main reason for our leaving is not that we have any really strong reasons for leaving, but rather, that we don't really have any reasons for staying...
Y'know, one can never tell what the next entry will be like when they begin to write. It is now September 2000 and I can safely say that things are different. Two months after my last entry, I was married to Ezekiel in Aomori. Our families came to visit. There are plenty of photos of the wedding on our site. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience. I hope I didn't come off as sounding too negative in that last section. Speaking from the an "after-the-fact" position, I can say that I truly enjoyed living in Aomori and in Japan, but I still agree that it is probably not easy to raise an "outsider" child in Japan.
Speaking of which, our son, Peter was born in April, 2000. Peter was made in Japan, but born in the USA.So far, I love being a parent. It has been absolutely wonderful and I'm realizing many things I never knew before. So, everything sounds peachy-- why is this called a rough landing? Well, 1998 was good & 2000 has been great, but 1999, and our "re-entry" into the US was challenging.
Basically, we left the only home we'd ever really known, the home we built together as newlyweds as well as our jobs, our friends and our car (horrors!) in exchange for a load of uncertainty. When we landed in California, we immediately took off to attend my step-brother's wedding on the east coast, then did a frantic tour of California to catch-up with family. Meanwhile we got a very unexpected piece of news- namely that I was... expecting! No jobs, no house (and no car), at least we had family. What a blessing!
We decided to go along with the belated honeymoon to Europe that we had planned, realizing that it may be the last time in a *long* time to go on a vacation alone overseas. Europe was wonderful, but when we returned to the US, we still didn't have jobs or an apartment, I was wearing thin and our pocketbooks were a few thousand dollars lighter. It took a us a few months to get things sorted out, but one-by-one the pieces fell into place.
Ezekiel got a job at Palm, Inc. in February 2000, the baby was born in April, We got an apartment in May and the baby & I finally moved into the apartment in Campbell, CA with Ezekiel in June. Once I got my DSL line installed, I could resume web development & got my business license to open my own web design company.