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
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
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
Because I’m a person who believes creativity and spontaneous adventure to be life-giving, it was very eye-opening for me to discover productivity and a certain solace in the schedule I set out for myself during the past few weeks. I had been living half-healthy for a long time, drifting always between exhausting illness and the ability to function. A routine was nearly out of the question, especially one that took me away from the house for long periods of time.
Then I discovered that I was suffering from low iron and a variety of other minor, but (thankfully!) definable and treatable, maladies. With treatment and time, I was able to follow a routine again, and I realized for maybe the first time in my life the value of repetitive action, of predictability, and of time away from the house. Continue reading
It has been a very, very long time since I have felt rested in any sense of the word. Perhaps as a consequence, all the writing I have done in the past five months or so has been forced (at worst) and usually uninspired.
I wrote the final exam of my undergraduate degree just under a month ago, and it has taken that long to rediscover my “normal” self (if there is such a thing as my normal self). Some time away from the city — see the picture above — and some time spent with my rather carefree brother helped to fight my fatigue. During the last couple of days I have experienced actual excitement and a sense of purpose with regards to my creative writing. How extraordinary! I had nearly forgotten what a difference inspiration can make. Continue reading
Tomorrow I will write the final exam of my undergraduate degree.
Ahem, yes. Tomorrow I will write the final exam of my undergraduate degree!
If you’ve been following my blog for a little over a year, you might remember my post, Time and Too Many Monsters: Why I am Leaving Formal Education, in which I professed my reasons for dropping nearly all of my classes in the early spring of 2016. For a short synopsis, my decision had both to do with persistent mental health issues and a stagnant, frustratingly dreary existence that went along with university life. Continue reading