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Where am I?

Monday, October 06, 2008 / Posted by Zackary /

What is it like living in a foreign country?

This is a bad day:

You are sad passing people you can't talk to and signs you can't read. What are they thinking about and what are those signs for? You wish daily life made sense. You stop in a convenient store to buy the new Boss Zero Café Latte in a white can not knowing it is badly flavored water. You are starving but the restaurants offer nothing you want. You wonder why you have done this to yourself.

Everything made sense back home and you could read and talk to people. There was Mexican food so delicious you forgot your troubles in a moment. Things were simply easier back home and you miss that. Leaving your wonderful friends and family behind was madness. How did you get to this place Twelve hours in the Future where the trains stop running every night at Midnight? Can't you go back in time and wake up in your old apartment that was huge, close to a gorgeous lake and where you weren't alone?

Getting out of bed takes too much energy and when you finally do evening is upon you. Putting on some Miles Davis and enjoying a long cold shower you pretend there is something different outside your door. Crawling in bed too late you hope to remember less tomorrow.

This is a good day:

Walking down the street you wonder what people are thinking just as you did back home. Many of the signs are in English and the ones you can't read don't bother you. Kanji is complicated but there is a beauty to the symbols. You pass a vending and pick up a Real Gold energy drink and feel human again. You don't need to talk to anyone but you enjoy seeing the pretty girls in perfect make up, stylish clothes and five inch heels.

The clean and new 7:26 train arrives at 7:26 and you make your transfer to the well cared for 7:58 bus at 7:58 as you do each working day. Before work you stop at the same 7-11 and the young Japanese girl that ties her brown hair back tightly rings up your snacks. She doesn't put them in a bag because she knows you don't need one.

At school you joke around with the cleaning lady for wearing a pink shirt, pink belt and pink socks. You put the wrong item in one of the twelve recycling containers and she laughs. She only knows a few English words but you both enjoy your routine. During your lessons the children don't understand much English but they are delighted to have a foreigner in their mist.

During the school lunch you have delicious noodles and laugh at the thick stale white bread as you cover it with strawberry jam to redeem it.

In the evening you meet a Japanese friend at a station you are familiar with. He chooses a place you never would have noticed on your own. Once inside he asks if it is okay for him to order for you. Smiling you say yes and enjoy watching him talk with the pretty Japanese girl with long brown hair who takes your order. When the food arrives you don't know what it is but everything is delicious. Your friend mentions you use chopsticks so easily and you feel great. During dinner you focus on your friend so you can understand his English. There is an intimacy to talking in Japan as you have to focus on the other person and make sure you are clear yourself. He asks about America and you ask about Japan and you both learn something. You agree in a manly way that girls are confusing in any language.

In the elevator on the way home you have a brief chat with a nice student from the UK.

Before going to sleep you curse the time that you start work, just as you did back home. At least in the morning there is a snickers and coffee to comfort you just like there was back home.

* * * * * *

Actually, in the morning most days I drink green tea and take black tea with me in my Starbucks cup. My breakfast is whatever my stomach can handle so early in the morning.

Those are two days on their opposite ends. Most days there is the usual mix of good and bad. When I get home I cook dinner, do laundry and all the usual things. Some days life in Nagoya isn't much different than it was in Chicago. Okay, it is always different but I have been here long enough that it feels like home.

I miss my friends and family back home a great deal but most people enjoy email so I am able to stay in touch. Please keep the email coming, I love it! And download Skype or Yahoo Messenger so we can talk for free. Free is a wonderful thing and it is only a download away.

My new dream is to become a professional photographer so I have a lot of work to do. Being in Japan is a great opportunity to get unique pictures. When I have holidays I will be devoting my time to traveling to places for good pictures. This dream has given me a new focus which feels fantastic.

Despite the bad times I am still happier and more focused then I have been for years. The support from my friends in Japan and back in America (including my family) has been amazing and I am grateful beyond words. A kind word can carry you through the day and I think everyone for their words and compassion. Life is often hard but with people you love giving you love it is often beautiful.

Take care,




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