When I arrived in Japan almost two months ago, I expected some big changes. Having grown up in Ontario, Canada, I was used to crappy public transportation, large houses (not to mention big backyards), and toilets in the same room as the shower.
Everything is different in Japan.
I knew this would be the case. Like I said, I expected some big changes. I knew the public transportation here would be amazing (I’m not kidding — I get frustrated and confused now when my train’s a minute late); I knew everything would be crammed, from my apartment to the sidewalk to the places at which I eat and shop; and I knew, because I had visited Japan before, that my toilet would most likely not be in the same room as my shower.
But there have been some differences that I didn’t know about or expect. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on and on about the vending machines and convenience stores (which are endless and always actually convenient). These three differences were more subtle. They took longer for me to notice. And, most importantly, I think they speak to the deeper differences between Japan and America as a whole. Continue reading
Looking in my bathroom mirror recently, I can’t help but feel surprised by the person I see. The expression on her face is always a bit alarming, balanced somewhere between total exhaustion and relief at being home finally at 8:30 pm. The hair on her head doesn’t have any opinion: it’s pulled straight back into a ponytail, braid, or a variety of other methods that help her pretend it doesn’t exist during the day.
And those eyes… I try to not even think of those eyes, let alone look into them. They’re tired, always. They remind me of how much older I’m starting to look, how much older I’m starting to feel.
Surprisingly, despite the rush of this new life in Japan, despite the stress, the busyness, and the millions of tiny frustrations and disappointments, I am getting along just fine. Continue reading
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I — nor for that matter anyone else — will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
— Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Finding a new home: the bus ride from Nagoya to Tokyo
For a long time I have underestimated the comfort and necessity of a home base. I’ve always idolized the notion of living life with no ties, of jumping from place to place, of being unattached to material possessions. I was discussing identity with my boyfriend recently, talking about how places, things — even people — slide away so easily and abruptly. And here we are, continuing on, somehow still ourselves.
So I don’t need a home base for definition or security. I’ve realized that more and more throughout my travels from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Krabi, Nagoya, and now to Tokyo. What I do need a home base for is comfort at the end of the day. Continue reading
To you they may seem trivial, but to me, “sweet treats”, or baked goods in this case, have been my saviour over the last two weeks. Japan is full of little bakeries strewn in the most unlikely places, and it’s one of my greatest guilty pleasures to shuffle through the sliding doors of one of these shops and take my pick of doughnuts, tarts, and fruit breads (melon and lemon are my favourite).
I know it’s dangerous for someone with a sweet tooth to depend on pastries for comfort, but, seeing as I’m only two weeks into a new and energy-consuming job, I’ll take what I can get.
Eating at these bakeries is like enjoying a slice of home. Besides these little pastry shops, Japan doesn’t pay much attention to bread, so this is indeed a treat.
Here’s to comfort food in unfamiliar settings! Continue reading
About a year and a half ago I visited Japan for the first time. It was an out-of-this-world experience (I’m not kidding, at times I felt I had landed on an alien planet), and I vowed to return. I loved the food, the architecture, the language, the outstanding customer service, and, above all, the deeply-rooted tradition.
Here’s me in a yukata (summer kimono) at the Tanabata Festival in Nagoya, 2016
When I vowed to come back to Japan, I knew the easiest way to stay here for an extended period of time would be to work. Of course, the most available employment opportunity was teaching English. I signed up for a TESL certification course, and, in the mean time, completed my undergraduate degree. I soon got a job, did the necessary paperwork, and booked my flights. Continue reading
Here’s me in Thailand. I am sweaty, fatigued, and my thighs are smeared with mud. My boyfriend and I had been exploring for a while on and around Railay Beach (near Krabi) when we decided to take a “trail” which supposedly led to a lagoon. The path, which started steep, soon became a climb. I ditched my flipflops. Before long, my muscles were aching, the trail became a sheer drop-off, and I realized I wouldn’t be making it to the lagoon.
This was one challenge I couldn’t complete, and for good reason. (Who wants to traverse the possibly deadly side of a ravine far from any medical help, anyway?) But this wasn’t the only challenge that my travels have faced me with. Continue reading
The title of this post was going to be something to do with goodbyes — how rotten they feel, how draining they are — because goodbyes have filled my life over the last four days. I’ve always viewed goodbyes as an integral part of living and as something for which to be thankful (goodbyes don’t hurt unless you really love someone, after all), but the amount of farewells I’ve had to say recently has left me more than overwhelmed. Who knew I loved so many people! Who knew it would be so difficult to leave my old life behind… Continue reading
Issue 6 of Western University’s interdisciplinary journal, The Word Hoard, was published online last night! It features my story on doctors, definition, compartmentalization, human connection, sickness, and love. I wrote “A Slant Cut” under the theme of “Hangover” and in response to Devon Balwit’s three poems. Please enjoy!
Here is The Word Hoard‘s home page, with Issue 6 featured below.
Here is my story (you can download the PDF).
And here is my page of published works, in case you want to read more of my fiction, poetry, or experimental writing.
Goodbye 2017, and good riddance!
Don’t get me wrong, this year had some pretty nice highlights. I traveled to Hawaii, received my TESL certification, got a job in Japan, and graduated from university. The end of the year, however, was challenging in the extreme. November and December brought the death of my grandmother, an absurd amount of preparations for my travels in the new year, surgery, and a nasty cold that erased any chance of New Years celebrations.
After all of this, in addition to a schedule that gets me up at five in the morning, I am more than ready to get back to normal. Continue reading