Off Schedule

I sometimes think that I have an internal clock. Although I caught the bus at 8 am every day, I had never woken up to an alarm in Japan. I had set the alarm for the first few days I was there, since I was still unsure whether my internal clock had reset for the 14-hour time difference. I stopped using it, however, since I had never slept long enough for it to go off. Everyday I woke up at 6:20, lay in bed for 10 minutes or so, and then I got up and got ready to face another day. This particular day I woke up as usual, glanced at the clock in the dark, and then got up and got ready. I was just about to leave for the bus when I glanced at my watch- it was only 6:40! I had awakened at 5:20 instead of 6:20 and not realized what time it was in the dark. I only had two clocks in the house: the alarm by my bed, as well as my wristwatch. Somehow, my internal clock was an hour off that day.

My clock was not the only thing that was off. On this particular day, the unthinkable happened- the bus was three minutes late pulling out from campus. In the month that I had lived in Japan, it had never left earlier or later than precisely 8:00. At 7:55, I asked Lu, the Chinese guy standing in line next to me, “Where is the bus?” It showed up soon after that, but was a few minutes late pulling out. Something was amiss in Japan!

Hitoshi had given me an idea of how to get histone H4 purified. He said that cells which contain the gene for the protein actually grew slower than other cells. If I was getting a mix of cells that contained it and cells that did not, the solution might be to stage a race. I took 20 different colonies from my Petri plates that I had grown overnight and inoculated them into 20 different tubes. I let them grow most of the day and decided to choose the slowest growing ones to mix into my larger culture flasks.

For lunch, I returned to one of my favorite dishes so far- the gingered beef over rice with an egg on top. I did try a new soup and drink, however. I had a creamy soup with croutons and squash, along with an unidentifiable vegetable as well as one of the strangest drinks that I had found so far. It was white, like Calpis water, and tasted slightly like coconut, but it had tiny squares of gelatin suspended in it. The day before, I had chunky lemonade with plants in it, now these gelatin squares!

Soon after lunch, it was time for Kanji Table. Once again it started off with someone giving a fairly lengthy speech. This one was much better, however, since it was about Taiwanese food. A girl from Taiwan gave a PowerPoint presentation with lots of pictures of food, so I paid close attention. It all looked very good. Then, Yoshinaka-san had me read about April, the season when new employees start work in their companies in Japan. I told him that there was no such season in the U.S., that employees started jobs at all different times of the year. I then wrote kanji for a while and headed back to the lab.

It was time to see who had lost, and therefore won, my little race between bacteria. Out of the 20 tubes, all but one had grown rapidly. I chose this one, streaked it out onto a Petri plate, and used the rest to start a large culture. It was also time to combine the two H2 histones and have them form a complex. I mixed equal amounts of them in a bag made of a semi-permeable membrane and placed them in a high salt buffer to “dialyze” overnight. By morning, the buffer would have exchanged through the membrane but the protein complexes would remain inside the bag. This was my first step in building a chromosome from scratch!

I was determined not to eat my Wednesday meal within a 10-minute time frame again, so I left the lab at 6 pm, 30 minutes earlier than usual. I traveled to Mikuni Station and went to a Chinese Restaurant which was located underneath, next to McDonalds. This was my first sit-down restaurant where people actually waited on me, and it had only taken me a month to get there! I order Peking Duck (with gyoza, of course). It was delicious and the meal came to less than 1000 yen.

At church, along with the usual Japanese songs, we sang a song in English that was actually written by someone whose parents I know very well. It’s a small world sometimes! Fiona was sharing the message at the church service. She was usually the one who translated for me, but this time she spoke in Japanese and a Japanese brother named Shohei translated instead. As usual, people hung around and talked after the service. I ended up catching a train home around 10 pm.

I got home at 11 and wanted to try out a new trick that I had learned that day. Anna had told me that there was usually a button on your remote control to turn off Japanese dubbing for the shows that are normally in English. I had brought in my remote that day so she could show me what buttons to press. “Without a Trace” was on T.V., with the characters speaking Japanese, as usual. I pressed a few buttons and, sure enough, they started speaking English. It was the first time I had heard English coming out of my T.V. set! However, since I was by that time too tired to actually watch the show, I turned it off and went to bed.

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