Wednesday, December 9, 2009

mmm, back to writing. possibly the only thing that connects me to the places i've lived. everything else i leave behind, the friends, the language, the society. okay, that sounds a bit dramatic, obviously i still talk to some of the people i've built relationships with along the way. i can still bust out a little pidgin or japanese on occasion. and i can't act like i haven't absorbed the parts of the societies that i have lived in as part of my own personality; the laid-back island life or ordered and isolated politeness of japan. oh, and of course the outdoorsy childhood i had that makes me more comfortable with sleeping in a field than in a hotel. okay, so maybe writing isnt the only thing that connects me, but its the only time i feel like i'm the same person no matter what chair i'm sitting in. whatever it is that i see outside of my window, when the self-analysis kicks in and i make my feeble attempts at arranging my life in some orderly fashion, i'm brought back to the core of who i am. both the good and bad about myself, all of the things that make me me are laid bare. i think that's what writing does to a person, because if you're not being honest, it not only feels superficial to yourself, it soon becomes apparent to others that you are holding something back or giving a bit too much *wink to james frey*.

so here i am, sitting in a generic chair looking out of an ordinary window, back at my computer after a bit of an absence. but my location and purpose here are a bit less ordinary. i see tropical plants pretty similar to what i have seen in the past, hear the same squawking birds. but the language floating up from the street is new to me, the phonetics so bizarre to my untutored ears. i had forgotten how difficult the first few months in a new country are, when you can't even return greetings, or give pleasantries like please and thank you. and the friendliness of the people actually makes it a bit more difficult. if the general populace keeps to themselves, there aren't many people greeting you on the street, testing your linguistic abilities. but here where your foreign-ness is a curiosity in the neighborhood, people are constantly questioning your nationality, reason for being here, if you are having "fun" here (a question i was never asked in japan in 2 years), but i'm at the point where i cant differentiate one question from the next, or if i am supposed to give a response at all. yet again i am reduced to a smile accompanied by a polite nod, or a wave with a quizzical look. being a somewhat seclusionary (yes, totally made up word, but it fits) person myself, this more involved behavior may take some getting used to. especially because of the nature of my work here. the balance of public and private life must be hammered out to the acceptance of both the neighbors, myself, and most importantly the people i'm working with. right now the lack of language ability may play in my favor, just being the ignorant yet well meaning foreigner. but soon the novelty of that will wear off, and i had better be able to converse a bit for sanity's sake, as well as getting along well with those i come into contact with on a daily basis. and then there is the small matter of my studying korean as well. sigh, well, if i can get out of this boasting some conversational skills in 4 languages, it will sound quite impressive. as long as there are no native speakers present, cause then i wont sound impressive so much as speaking on a 6 year olds level. :)

so my first week here has been basically learning the transportation system. a complex ballet of leaping from bus to subway to cab to motorcycle to get to the places i need to go. and boy are there a lot of places. this job requires a pretty decent knowledge of very local places, from administration buildings to where to get the cheapest vegetables. and i have been very fortunate the the person training me has been so patient. and although i appreciate to no end the amount of work she is putting in, i know i wont really get the hang of it until i start making my own ridiculous mistakes. i know at some point i am going to end up on the wrong side of town with little idea of how i got there, and even worse, how to get back. but seeing the openness of the people here, i know that i'll be able to laugh it off and get the assistance i need. my dad always jokes that i was born under a lucky star, because i have always been able to find help along the way, whether it be with a life-altering issue, or just how to get to the nearest bus station. maybe the reason i have been able to step outside the box a bit more than others is not because of an independence in my own personality, but because of my awareness that there is rarely a time when there wont be someone, somewhere that can help me over whatever obstacle i am facing. well, okay, maybe its a little of both. but those working together have led me to some of the most amazing, inspiring people on this planet. and i am thankful every day for them. in fact, im thinking its time to remind them how wonderful they are. so i'll sign off for now, and go write a couple of overdue emails of thanks. till next time...

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."

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