Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Life is too short to be comfortable
I cannot believe a month has past since I last posted a blog. Where has the time gone?
During my days of preparation for this trip, it was always hard for me to swallow the idea that I was going to be gone for five months. It seemed like such a long time. Now I am here, three months in, less than two months left. Woah. Time has gone by so quickly.
I have certainly gone through several stages since my arrival here in Japan. I don't think I can assign labels to them, but I have felt myself transition into new phases, receiving new perspectives. This has been such a ride.
Ups and downs, huge boulders, open pathways, rain and thunder, clear skies and bright sun, tears, laughter; Imperfect, but so real, so worth it.
Living in Japan has been really hard at times, but it has never stopped being rewarding. There are things I really dislike about the culture and there are things I really love. I have wrestled with the following question: how can I stay true to who I know I am whilst absorbing the aspects of a country so rich in culture, so different in thought?
I think I came to Japan as a book that had already been written (in pen) and I was willing to share all it had inside, but I didn't leave any blank pages or have white out for any possible changes. My host mom woke me up to this idea one day. She had confronted me when I tried to make a phone call to my mom late at night and told her I'd go outside to do so. She explained to me (in a rather harsh tone) that this was 'weird' and not appropriate behavior in Japan. This seems like a little thing, but it led to a revelation. It allowed me to see that I had been attempting to bring my life (my way of doing things back home, how I had come to define "life" from my 19 years) to Japan. I wanted to be me, and all that comes with that, to Japan and learn how to live my life just in a different setting (does this make sense?). SO, this was a wake up call and a half. Since awakening to this reality, changes have been made and I have been learning more than I anticipated. It has been a more difficult path to walk, but I know I will come away from my time here much more aware of Japan, its people, its ideas, customs, sounds, smells than I would have otherwise. Some of the changes: no more headphones on my way to the train station every morning - its my time to listen and to observe; my host family and I are mainly speaking Japanese at home now (big change, but I'm learning so much); choosing the rice ball over the bagel, the Japanese tea house over Starbucks; spending more time with Japanese friends I made at school - they are wonderful and so insightful.
It would be so easy for me to live like I do in the U.S. There would be enough western style foods, movies, hotels, shops, and streets to keep me busy and entertained until it's time to leave here, but NO. I am here, in Tokyo, Japan, to experience the things unique to Tokyo, Japan. I always say "life is too short to be comfortable" and now I'm really trying to live up to that saying, because man, do I believe it!
Anywho, a quick update on the past couple weeks. Two weekends ago, I spent the weekend at a ryokan (Japanese inn) in Hakone, Japan with my host mom Kayo, baba (grandma), Hinako (lil sister), and Takuto (lil brother). It was beautiful - volcanoes everywhere, Lake Ashi, Mt. Fuji in the background, and onsens (hot springs). It was so relaxing. Kayo and I have been on a few trips together now and every time we go, we learn more about each other and we get closer. We have shared a lot with each other. She and I have become very good friends. I'm so grateful.
I have been working for Greenpeace three times a week since I started there. Right now I am working on two assignments. For the next month they are hosting a public t-shirt exebition, displaying t-shirts from Greenpeace offices all over the world from years back to present time. They have a website to go along with this event and that's where I come in. I am working on the descriptions of the different campaigns that go along with each t-shirt. Check it out when you have time: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gpjphoto/sets/72157619186149933/. My other assignment is working on the Greenpeace Japan English website. The website is going to be updated and we're going to put a video made my Greenpeace International about the whaling court case on the front page of the site. I wrote something to go along with the video to encourage those who visit the site, to take a stand, be a voice, and also to simply inform them of the case. It hasn't been updated yet, but either way, this is the GP Japan website: http://www.greenpeace.or.jp/index_en_html. I am always very busy when I go in the office, but I enjoy every second of it. I am so lucky to be working with such an organization. I have gotten really close with the people in the office. They're so lovely and so passionate. I have learned a lot about the mindset of the Japanese people whilst working with this court case, as well as the culture generally. It has been so interesting. There is so much more to say. I should designate a single blog entry just for a Greenpeace update. Greenpeace is my favorite part of this whole experience. Not just because of the friendships I've made, or the information I have learned about this whaling case and working for an NGO, but because I now have a platform to use my voice, to be heard by people that have the power to make change on a large scale. Greenpeace is my favorite part because, to me, what they stand for is what I believe we should all stand for - environmental sustainability, animal rights, human rights, peace, justice. The state of our planet is declining quickly and there's no time to question our responsibility. We each have to do our part.
I announce with a smile that over time, I have whited out some of the ink on my pages, I have added many new sentences, and I have highlighted those parts of the text that keep me grounded and remind me of who I am (Christ, my family, my friends, the heart that pumps passion and the strong desire to be used for much needed change, and the heart that pumps love, love for the people, the animals, God's creation).
Old ideas modified or tossed, new ideas added, roots growing deeper and stronger.
Seven weeks left of transitions to experience, tears to cry, sites to see, whales to save, love to give, pictures to take, culture to learn, and friends to laugh with.
Time to go to bed now. Early Japanese test in the morning!
Sayonara for now!