Monday, May 24, 2010

bring on the may flowers and their magical powers

there has been so much to do lately, that i feel like i have almost come full circle in the "having nothing to do vs. everything to do" chain of events.  when i arrived ten months ago i could barely ask where the bathroom was and had days and days of sitting in a staffroom full of idle time and strange, silent coworkers.  it is my pleasure to report that the tides are rolling in and have changed significantly here in naru.

i had the day off of work last monday due to working on sunday for a PTA meeting.  their PTA meetings here are not the coffee and danish sort of casual gathering that i picture them being back home (i have never actually been to one in the states, so i cant say with any authority).  of course i showed up in the wrong clothes again and of course i was the last to know that i would be introducing myself in front of everyone, in japanese of course, but besides that, it was a suit style occasion and there was a long itinerary involved.  loads of bowing and clapping and standing up and sitting back down and on and on.  i have no idea what was accomplished because i really didnt make that much of an effort to pay attention, but it didnt seem like that big of a deal to my coworkers around me who were sleeping either, so, eh.

okay, sorry i got off track, so monday last week, off of work, yes.  i had an eye infection last week and had successfully seen the eye doctor that comes in once a week to naru from nagasaki, so i was feeling confident about taking the next step in health care and going to a private practice and getting a full eye exam.  i had to of course go to my neighboring island to do this as we dont have any health services (for those of us who arent 80+ years old) outside of the biyoin (hospital).  so i took the ferry over and my trusty, rusty bike and sought out the eye clinic.  i knew where it was (sort of) because a japanese friend had pointed it out when i was on the island weeks ago.  after parking my bike i went in and gave my insurance card to one of the three receptionists behind the front desk and she said something to me that i thought was "sit down and it will be about an hour" but much to my surprise, even though the lobby was FULL of old people waiting to see the doctor my name was called after waiting about five minutes.  i was very lucky and everyone who helped me from the guy who did my eye tests to the doctor who had the final say spoke some english and were really helpful.  at one point when i was almost done a woman showed up next to me with purse in hand and asked me in english if she could help me.  i just kind of sat there not knowing what was going on and then she told me that she was the doctors wife and that she had come to help translate for the nurses.  seriously, she came from where ever she was and quit what ever she was doing just to help me for ten minutes!?  i am and continue to be amazed at the lengths strangers go to to help a gaijin girl out here.  bless their hearts.

after the doctor was finished and i had new contacts in hand and a new perscription for glasses i was feeling really brave and decided to go try for a new pair of glasses too.  they had given me a map of the glasses shop that they are partnered with (later to find out that the doctor and owner of the glasses shop are friends, of course) and without really trying to find it, i did.  i went in and the whole thing took less than 15 minutes.  i told them what i needed and picked out the pair that i wanted and they told me that it would be about two or three weeks and that they would just send them over to me when they were done, COD of course.  (have i mentioned how much i love COD, cause i do and it is soooo convienent.  you can pay COD for everything here from new computers to books.)  so that was that i off i went running a few other errands before catching the ferry back home.  a successful day for sure.

sooo, yesterday was a kind of rainy but warm day and i had nothing to do in the afternoon so i decided that i would hop the ferry and just go wander around fukue (neighboring island) for awhile.  as i was walking down the main arcade (that is what they call the big shopping streets in japan; arcades) without really thinking about it i passed by the glasses shop, only to look up at the same moment that the owner was peering out to see if i was who i was (i was walking on the other side of the street from the store front) and then he threw up his biggest japanese YES (think big O over your head, YMCA style letters) and waved.  i thought what the hell and so i ran across the street to see what the big O was all about.  i came in and he was excitedly telling me that my lenses had just arrived and that he could put the glasses together for me right now no problem (this is only 6 days later mind you, not even a week).  Great!  his wife insisted that i sit down and wait and she tried out her best english with me and we had some casual laughs, and before long the glasses were on my face and i was out the door.  really, seriously, the efficiency here is just overwhelming.  i cant say enough good things about how organized and well run everything is.  my 2-3 week glasses were done in less than a week.  yeeeeees.

so it was a good day of unexpected surprises.  i stopped at the grocery by the port on my way out and as i was baggin up my groceries i moved my basket so a woman could get in next to me and she said in perfect, plain english, "oh, thank you so much.  excuse me."  it always trips me out so much when people speak to me in english out of the blue.  i never expect it, but if they know english and are the least bit confident about it, they will find whatever reason they can to speak to you.  she was really nice and asked what country i was from and told me that she plays the saxophone and wants to come to america to visit new orleans, but was still concerned about the effects of katrina.  i told her all was clear to go there and that she should, it would blow your mind i said.  we said goodbye and see you later like we were friends who met often and that was that.  days here are always full of the unexpected. 

so when was the last time you were at the grocery and surprised to hear someone speak your native language?  when was the last time you felt like you had conquored a small part of life by simple making a successful visit to the doctor?  when was the last time that life surprised you with small bits of goodness?  i'd like to bet that the latter was not so long ago even if the former was...

be well where ever you are calling home my friends,

ps-leaving you with a few shots of spring flowers on the island.  there are sooo many flowers here, more than i have ever seen anywhere and as i said to some fellow teachers who came to visit this weekend, "these are the flowers you're picking up at the new seasons market for $10.99 a half dozen.  here they are, just growing in the ditch."  love it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

one grateful, golden week after another

i just want to start this post out by saying how very grateful i am to the universe and every piece of it and person in it and ounce of energy that has gotten me to my wonderful place on this island.  every day here is a gift that is larger than life and each day i just try to chip away at it's awesomeness.  breathing salty ocean air infused with the richest damp forest smell is a gift in and of itself.  i continue to find reasons why i love life and the hidden beauty that lies within its quiet places.  life here is surreal and it keeps me living in the moment.  right now is soo good.

and now i want to reflect on some very good moments in the recent past.  it was golden week here last week and it marks the second biggest holiday season of the year for folks in japan.  loads of people traveling all over this amazing country and everyone is genki genki genki!!!!  (happy)  i had the great privilege of traveling with some japanese and american teacher friends from the mainland and hanging with them on a road trip across our main island of kyushu.  we met up with many other people along the way from loads of different countries and doing loads of different things in japan.  so nice to touch base with the rest of the world and get a glimpse at what life is like in so many other places.

our main traveling was done in and around oita prefecture.  it is beautiful, green, mountainous land that is (of course) surrounded by the sea.  we stayed one night at a gorgeous mountainside campsite on the mainland with a bunch of college mates of one of my japanese friends with whom we were traveling.  it was fun to drop in on their reunion of sorts.  just like the ones back home, only maybe a few differences...  we did take time to tour the famous tunnel that was just down the way from us too.  a buddhist monk dug it by hand for 30 years to help folks traveling through the area to have a safe route for travel.  there is a road that flanks the tunnel which is quite famous as well and is dug into the side of the cliff.  like driving through a cave above ground.  fantastic fun.

after we hiked around down in the gorge here we came back up to camp for a great bbq and loads of classy fun with new friends!

after an evening of fun we packed back into the car for a three hour haul to the edge of the prefecture and unloaded our camping gear onto a little motor boat and hopped a 10 minute ferry to a very remote island for a music festival there.  this festival really blew my mind and gave me the warm feeling of being back home with my people there.  nothing like music to break the barriers of language and culture.  it was the most home that i have felt since i touched down in nippon over nine months ago.  i will let you enjoy the sights that i captured now.  pictures do speak a thousand words...

and so with some dancing, tunes jammed live, loads of laughing, tugging of ropes and intoxicating sparkling seas under my belt i take the world on again as the soul gaijin on this little island in the middle of nowhere and everywhere.

namaste friends