Thursday, 27 October 2016

From "Sometimes" to "Always"

I've delayed writing this blog post.

I want to blame my affinity for procrastination, but I think the postponement is actually because writing this final post is the tombstone to my life in Japan. For a long time, I've mulled over what I should write about. I'm sure most people are expecting to hear me say things like "Japan was so crazy and weird!" and "everything was so kawaii (cute)!" but life in Tokyo was like what I expect living in any other big city would be like: crowded, internationalized, and energized. So rather than perpetuate urban legends about Japan, what I really want to rave about are the more mundane things like how amazing it was to be surrounded by convenience stores, praise how delicious all the food was, and talk about how personal space did not exist on trains during rush hour. Everybody expects travel to be this great big, life altering experience and while those moments do exist and are supposed to be the things you remember the most, it's actually the minute details, the trivial things that you don't even think about that affected me the most.

When I think about my life abroad, I do reflect on the times when I was able to see historical sites such as Kinkakuji and the A-Bomb Dome, but mostly I think about the morning commute or slurping up ramen after a day at work.
The A-Bomb Dome

Ide Shoten Ramen in Wakayama!

There are little triggers in my everyday life now that will set me off reminiscing: When I get stuck in traffic or have to feed the parking meter obscene amounts of money, I think about how all these annoyances could be avoided if transportation in Portland were similar to that of Tokyo. When I order fast food and open my bag, I'm startled for a few seconds by how large the portions are because a small size here is equivalent to the large size in Japan (however, I must confess with some shame that I adapted back to American sizes pretty quickly because I love to eat).

A size large in Japan is equivalent to a size small in the U.S. at Shake Shack

I wish I could go back and live abroad again. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoms are cherished because of their fleeting nature: no matter how long you want those blossoms to last, they will always wilt away. Sometimes before you even have a chance to fully appreciate their beauty. In the same way, although my time in Japan was too short, that timeline didn't detract from its beauty but instead made me value my experiences even more.

Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Reflecting on my yearning, I can't help but recall one of my favorite quotes: "Sometimes, I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living" (Jonathan Safran Foer). Now that I've had an amuse-bouche of what international life is like, that "sometimes" has turned into "always". Traveling and having international experiences can be scary and uncomfortable, but it's that discomfort that makes it so amazing. I want to always feel awkward and dissatisfied because I know these emotions will act as my impetus to continue striving for adventure.

A bittersweet taste lingers in my mouth and I feel restless for the future. I wanted to be on a plane heading off to a new, distant land yesterday. I'm already planning a list of places I want to visit (and yes, a return to Japan is definitely near the top of that list). But until I can start a brand new adventure, I'll just have to be satisfied with the time I did have in Japan and continue reveling in the small beautiful, fleeting moments I had.