Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Half Baked Ideas for Sale

Yesterday's post about three years was vague.  Vague might as well be my middle name.  It is so hard for me to just lay it all out, say it like it is. 

Here's the deal:

Three years ago, an earthquake hit Japan, followed by a devastating tsunami.  In some ways, I think I'm weird for liking Japan, for remembering this date.  It makes me feel like I'm trying to ingratiate myself into Japanese culture.  (Don't get me wrong - I am) As though I am putting undue emphasis on one event in the long history of Japan. 

That day burns bright in my memory because literally minutes after learning of the tsunami and watching the horrifying footage, I walked down the halls of my lab and ran into a colleague who asked, "Hey, have you met our visiting research, Toshi?  He just arrived from Sendai."  I gasped in shock. 

When I think about what I knew about Japan then and what I know now, the difference feels vast.  I'd already fallen in love with the Japanese soccer team; I'd already decided that I wanted to be forever friends with Tamada-san.  But regarding language, culture, even geography, I knew very little. 

Since that moment of meeting Toshi, I've learned so much more.  I've been to Sendai and explored its roads.  I've met hundreds of different people, at church, at Tohoku University and even on the streets.  I've watched them.  I've eaten their food and shopped in their stores.  I've attempted conversation in their language and tried to learn history and culture.  Japan feels diverse to me and complicated and so much more than a tsunami.  But that memory continues to burn bright because it marks a point when I realized that I cared about a people and a land thousands of miles away from me. 

When I think about my own personal journey since then, both with Japanese culture and with my doctorate work, the times feels much longer than three years.  And then I think about the people of Japan, for the victims who are recovering and wonder if their lives since then have felt long or short.  Japan is a good place for healing.  I felt that with my personal struggles while I lived in Japan and I always wondered if it was because I felt that everyone was healing in their own way and because of the tsunami, I just knew of a public healing that was taking place. 

In any case, for these many jumbled thoughts about life and Japan and the desire to honor something of a country I continue to care about, I wrote a vague blog post trying to express some of these ideas without the substance behind these ideas lest I appear condescending or trite.

But it all reminds me of a book I recently read called Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe.  In it, a kid comes to realize that life is so vast and full of good and bad.  If you were to count up all of the memories, even from just a year's time, you would have a lifetime of memories.  If you were to live for a long time, then, there would be so many experiences that you'd have an eternity.  I guess these past three years feel like that.  I've had so many good GOOD experiences in the past three years.  I've had many sad experiences too.  But overall, it's been a full life and a rich life.  It's been a lifetime.  I wonder what this next year will bring. 

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