… was what I found in my Inbox at work this morning. It was a Wednesday – The Top of the Hill – looking at the fun slide down to the weekend.
Lunchtime: I go home and prepare a big salad. It’s delicious! (Been awhile since I made one this big. I used to always make salads with my dinners until about 4/5 months ago. Once winter started, I avoided touching cold water at all costs – washing veggies for a salad got sidelined for boiling hot nabe!) While putting away the veggies I wasn’t going to use in the fridge, I spotted some sweets Jennie gave me, took a nibble, and returned to work with some clothes that I didn’t mind getting a lil bit dirty.
On the short bike ride back to the office a sensation took over me. Since I was studying Japanese pretty much all morning at work and listening to some Japanese conversations online while eating my big salad I was still thinking about bridging this Foreign Language gap. For a good minute or so, I convinced myself that I was “home” (see Lesson 1) and I completely allowed myself to be 100% immersed in my experience of “home.” For that minute, I felt as if everything I was passing by on my bike was stuff that I passed by on my bike thousands of times for years and years since childhood. As if these houses were as familiar to me as the ones I grew up with. As if everyone I saw was a neighbor I’ve known since I could remember. You know, the kind of neighbor that always comments on how much you’ve grown, how lucky you are to have such a great mom, complains to your mom when you and your friends make too much noise and leave trash on the street… you know what I’m talking about. Basically I tried to think of Takashima as Honokai Hale.
Almost instantaneously my surroundings and attitude changed. It felt like a flashback almost… back to the Leeward side of Oahu. And there I was, going to wash my work car, carrying some clothes in a small red Adidas shoe bag, riding my bike back from a nice lunch break at my apartment, feeling like I’m cruising down Pa’akai street towards Don’s house.***
In this moment I truly felt at home…
Fionna and I wait for a good time to ask Okimoto sensei where the car washing equipment is. “Oh yes, that’s right! We have to do that! Let’s go!” Okimoto sensei says. We head to the 2nd floor to get the keys to our cars. Onishi san hooks it up and as always has some nice small-talk with us. Omori san asks me to bring up that sign that’s been sitting in the back of my van forever. Where it came from and who put it there… who knows?
Cruising through my work place I passed by one of my favorite go-to spots for those good ol’ ‘I’m gonna stay here and look like I’m doing something but really I’m not’ times. And I saw a guy doing the EXACT same thing! Dude was burning time the exact same way I do in the same place! There’s probably a whole gang of us in this building who do the same thing.
Ran into Furukawa sensei in the parking lot. She’s about our age, one of the younger people in the office. Told here what we were up to. Looked like she had a hard time deciding whether to come with us or go back to the office. She ended up going back to the office but I think if we… well if I (Fionna was asking her to come) had tried a bit harder to convince her she would’ve come. This was one of those situations where I’d usually say something like: “C’mon, you know you want to,” or “Don’t you wanna hang out with us?!” If I had just thrown in a little friendly small talk I’m sure she would’ve came. BUT, I didn’t know how to say these things in Japanese.
Having some small talk about the weather with Obachan
Okimoto sensei spraying the car while we’re still in them in a playful manner.
Hearing voices coming out of the window from the second floor meeting room. I thought I heard Hirase sensei”s voice but Okimoto sensei thought otherwise.
Although many parts of this story may seem unnecessary let me assure you that it is not! If you read the title of this lesson and expected to read about a car wash… you should take some English lessons ;p
This car wash just so happened to coincide with a great step in my development overseas. Furthermore the symbolic connection is so obvious it’s almost scary. Today was a cleansing day leading to a fresh start. What new direction did I take? The answer is simple: I jumped ship.
For majority of the time since I got here, I’ve been paddling through this Japanese landscape in my own little canoe (code speak for comfort-zone). I’ve been surrounding myself with English, English speakers, expectations I had while living in The United States of America, a western sense-of-humor and a lot of fantasy. Like my sistafromanothamotha Nikki said, “You can either act like Japan is a Year-Long Fantasy Land and do whatever you want just cause you can, or you can act like it means something.” In other words I could stay within my bubble and treat everything outside it – the country of Japan and its’ X million people – like it just so happens to be there. If and when I do make contact with this outside world I can make little attempt to understand the lifestyle and people, take advantage of my foreign status, and basically act like a spoiled kid in a chocolate factory.
On the other hand, I can take a dive off my canoe. Take a step outside my bubble. Make room for another idea of home. Stop observing start experiencing. [Hey this is starting to sound like a motivational poster brainstorming session. Auuuuright!] Being here is a special gift, don’t throw it away without seeing what’s inside. When in Rome…eat raw eggs, fish, deer and beef. [I’m on a roll!] In short, I feel like if you are here, act like it. I meet a lot of people who come to Japan without ever leaving America.
In conclusion, I took a great big step in my Japanese development. Things that seemed foreign suddenly became familiar. I took language differences out of the equation and realized that people over here and people over there do the same things. Reminds me of a quote from my favorite anime Samurai Champloo: “Everywhere you go the sky is the sky, and people are people.”
I’m sure I speak for many of us living abroad when I say that it can be difficult to leave your comfort zone and take a step towards the unknown. At the same time it’s one of the biggest rushes you’ll ever feel. It’s literally an emotional roller coaster ride. Highs and lows, twists and turns, loop-d-loops and all. Enjoy the ride!