One month later…

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It’s been a month since we arrived in Tokyo. And in the last 30 days, we have experienced two typhoons, an earthquake, many tears, more laughs, several visits to Ikea, and far too many meals at fast food restaurants.

It has been challenging, to say the least. But now we are settled into our apartment. Jumping head first into work and school, we have not had much time to explore Tokyo, but we are looking forward to more lazy Sundays and free weekends to be tourists in this city we now call home.

In reflecting on the last month, here are some observations:

  1. Tokyo is safe. Not that things don’t happen, but they typically don’t. So I’ve heard. But we live on the ground floor apartment of a building that you typically need a key or a code to get into. Even the patio area is locked. But. I, and my “urban” inner-city dwelling self is not used to this. But one thing I can appreciate is that I can be completely jet lagged, rushing, forget my keys in my door and they, along with my apartment, are where and how I left them. That shit would not happen in Philly. They woulda took the toilet paper off the roll. But I get enough sleep now so it’s not likely to happen again.
  2. The Japanese are polite. Like, reeeeeaaaaallly polite. Like, so polite you can be a xenophobic society but your cultural upbringing keeps you from, say…I don’t know, allow your civilians or police force to down every person that doesn’t look like you in the streets and call it justice or a second amendment right. I’m just saying. I was talking with one of my students about it and she was laughing in my office. She agreed that her culture is so polite that they are passive aggressive if they have a conflict with someone. She told me a story about how someone in her family was so angry at her downstairs neighbor that she spent countless hours to contact the landlord, ward offices, and eventually got the tenant not only evicted but deported back to Korea. That’s dedication to the silent promise you made to them that they will never cross you again. When she told me that, I made a note to bring welcome gifts to my neighbors this weekend. Just in case.
  3. Moving to Tokyo is not the same as traveling to Tokyo. I have yet to eat sushi here. Or drink sake. Or see Tokyo tower. Or watch a movie in Japanese. Or see traditional dancers in the middle of a square. Or visit a temple or the shrine of some famous Japanese sensei. I landed in Tokyo on August 17th and went to work August 18th. And I’ve been working and sleeping ever since. But things are stabilizing now with our schedules and I look forward to taking weekends and exploring this city and country like a true tourist soon. But it’s funny that we’ve managed to find restaurants that serve all the food we would have eaten in America without really trying. Go figure.
  4. Every restaurant we have eaten at almost always has 90s R&B music playing. Which I am here for, but the boy is completely embarrassed by. Not exactly the music itself, but his mother who grew up in that era and insists on singning every song WITH the choreography if needed for emphasis. I love it. And don’t let them play Hip Hop! OOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!
  5. I actually like it here. Not that I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do. One concern I had was that they would have this unnerving fascination with us and it hasn’t been a huge issue. I know that others have had very different experiences here, but I haven’t really had a concern walking down the street or going some place and getting touched. When we visited China, it was a constant barrage of stares, pointing, touching, photos, and exclamations of “Africa! Africa!” (seriously) But here, there has been none of that (or very discreet attempts). It could be possibly the aforementioned politeness. However, I have had a few staring contests on the train with really old people, tho. I always win.

We’ve enjoyed our time here and looking forward to it getting better. Hopefully more adventures will happen as we settle more into school and work.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

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It’s been raining almost constantly for the last 5 days here in Tokyo. Which puts me in a very somber mood.

It’s as if Mother Nature is conveying what we’ve been feeling the last few weeks here. This move has been far from easy and we’ve been struggling finding our way both in this city and with each other.

I’ve been feeling guilty and really bad because I’ve basically forced this kid to move to a country where he knows no one or the language and he now has to attend this school that is so traditional, that he’s being asked to conform and not be who he is – which is this very animated, energetic, child who rarely buttons his pants after a restroom visit and has wild hair that defies gravity whenever he moves. He feels out of place, not only in his classroom but in his uniform (his words, not mine).

This week, we were featured on mater mea about the transition moving to Tokyo and my reasons for doing so. Although all my reasons ring true, I constantly doubt myself and my motivation for removing from all he has ever known to a place where I truly believe he can thrive and be happy. Social media makes it seem fun and easy, but we have had some significant challenges. And we both are stressing. And in our own ways of handing it, we’ve struggled to depend on one another for support.

I just want to protect and shield him from all that he’s carrying, but it’s challenging with a child so independent, that he prefers to handle his stress himself, sometimes. And that breaks my heart. Because I can see the worry in his eyes. Wondering if he will ever truly have a life here, or will he just be exhausting in the shadow of his gypsy mother’s dreams.

It could be possible that we both completely romanticised this transition and what it would mean to move almost 10,000 miles away from all we have ever known. Possibly. But despite the challenges and frustrations, I am happy. I am finally in a job where I feel useful. I feel like I’m doing work that means something and in that I have to believe that this struggle is worth it. That all the tears and frustration will mean more in the end because I gave my son a better life and exposed him to all that I never imagined as a kid.

I have to believe that I’m not completely fucking up my kid to chase some fantasy dream of a life.

I know it’s more than that. I know it’s bigger than that. But in my quiet moments, especially with this rain, I question every decision I’ve made up to this point.

Reflections

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 It has been a busy and emotional week for me. We jumped right into school and work after traveling for 18 hours, and have had very little time to sit and just be present; not thinking about the next move, the next moment, or the ever-growing to do list.

But this weekend, we had a few moments to just sit and enjoy ourselves with new acquaintances met through our schools. We spent Saturday evening with a family at the Futakotamagawa Fireworks Festival and had a really great time. Just sitting back, watching the children play, and enjoying the show I was able to take a pause and just be in that moment. Before then, I found it really difficult to do so.

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