Ever since I was a little girl I have glamourised new places, not really “things” because they didn’t stay new for very long and I had to share which I didn’t find fun at all. There was always something very private about discovering new corners knowing only I could see them in the way I was. I created stories for people and things with less to go on than stereotypical movie quips (South Africa was nothing like Sarafina when I moved there but in my head it was but in a happy way, like The Sound of Music in Brown Skin (in my head)). Beginnings give me hope that what I have had is not the best I will ever experience and fascinate me more than endings. This can be a problem when you are trying to be a writer because your stories need to end at some point or in some way. So how do you give endings to things when you are enamoured with starting new ones? Haven’t the foggiest but I need to figure it out soon because beginnings don’t really help me if that’s all they remain.
For as long as I can remember I have been in LOVE with Japan, not enough to learn the language (I have a concrete tongue that cant grasp the tones that my ears can) but I have wanted to “go” there and even declared that once I saw Japan I could die because there would simply be nothing else to live for… I may have been 13 or 23. I can’t remember. I planned on moving there to teach English after graduating but my graduating took longer than planned and by then I was a ‘responsible adult’ and that was nothing more than a longing of a little girl that didn’t exist anymore. Or so I thought.
A little before my 28th birthday, however, I took the plunge. Work was frustrating and draining me, I felt unaccomplished and miserable in my personal life and couldn’t appreciate the good I had because I felt I was swirling in miseries. The good moments seemed so few and far between that they became a punishment of their own. So, I convinced a friend of mine (from university) to go with me to a country neither of us could communicate in for an adventure that only we could share and since it wasn’t going to be cheap, we should do it in winter. Now… as the headline above says. I am an African… I had never crossed an ocean before and I get goosebumps at temperatures below 24 degrees centigrade and here I was saying we should frolic in below freezing weather because I needed a beginning (and my loon of a friend was cheering me on!). I needed something that said that what I had wasn’t the best I was ever going to have but I also wanted to know if Japan could still be the escape I had romanticised in my naïveté. I needed a whisper saying there was more to life than my daily toll.
Plus I needed to learn to give myself permission to give birth to schemes that defied my own personal logic. Responsible girls didn’t do such things and I was very responsible.
Again, as an African, I do not have the luxury of ‘getting up and leaving’ when the mood strikes me, it starts with the visa requirements and then the cost of the plane tickets (Oh my word! They should sooooo put better seats on planes for what they charge for long hauls), plus the whole not knowing anyone or the language made the whole thing rather daunting. But mostly I had to look at my own finances. A few of my previous posts point to me being somewhat of a people pleaser, so selfish trips that gave me no ‘direct benefit’ definitely are not the norm. My father was a civil servant and my mother was a teacher, they are retired now and have a very productive farm that keeps their greys at bay and when I told my father, he did not understand why I would spend my hard earned money on a trip ‘with no purpose’ when there were more responsible things to do with it and he was right. There is always something I could do that would benefit the family more than it would help me but that obligation was adding to me need for some kind of ‘fresh air’. But my Dad is awesome and didn’t try to stop me, and my mum quietly said I should do what I could because eventually I would not be able to, not in a miserable way but I am still young and there is nothing stopping me was more her line of thought.
Those two weeks in Japan were the best two weeks. Ever. On divulging my crazy plan to another friend, she gave me details of some of her friends and they were gracious enough to spend some time with me (and helped my friend and I birth that atrocious snowman in the picture above). I will be forever grateful to everyone who helped me out with that trip and I have tried to hold on to the memories of it because I want them to remain safe, inside me and pure, not tainted by life. That trip to Japan is my personal Patronus Charm, it defeats my personal dementers. It also helped me answer a very important question. Could I still move away if I wanted to? If I decided I wanted to live in Japan, could I settle there? Or atleast stay there long enough to study something while deciding. The answer was an un-resounding ‘YES’. I once had a Chinese maths teacher who felt I must have been Chinese in a past life and I can safely say she was wrong. Its more likely I was Japanese (oooh, or maybe I was a Chinese spy in Japan…that’s an interesting premise for a story… and African-Japanese spy on the Chinese mainland with a time warp element… ooooh! I like! See? Beginnings).
I cant ignore that after that trip, my savings were not the same but I do not regret it. Not the getting lost and wandering for hours looking for a sight we just could not see, or accidentally wandering into a ‘naughty’ store or heaving our baggage in the piddling rain not knowing where our apartment was because I read the map wrong (my friend did not know what she was signing up for when she agreed to go with me). Those experiences showed me that as restrained and sensible as I am, my imagination needs fuel and perhaps I don’t need to fly to the other side of the globe (but that’s immense fun) but when you know that doing something allows you to be the best version of you there is, why not dive in?.
If you don’t feed who YOU are, YOU will starve, you will wither away. I sat on trains in Tokyo watching people around me and gave them stories and imagined histories, saw a hot fella with a guitar on a platform in Kyoto and cursed my luck for being on the wrong platform (everyone knows that all musicians have stories and I was after stories, you pervs!), I watched families in museums in Osaka and wondered which kid was the favourite or what was the last argument between the parents about. I walked always looking up to take in as much as possible, its probably the tallest I have walked in a while. I ate way more than I should have of ‘cheap’ food that tasted divine. My relationship with God is not very solid at the moment but I felt at peace at the temples (except this one time, another guy took a picture with a ginormous camera so I thought it was allowed and whipped mine out, only to be finger stabbed but a very stern guard/policeman in a very smart white coat) and in those streets in general. I don’t know how much of that trip I will share, because it didn’t last very long and my friend is extremely private and may not approve me blabbing about our odd happenings but I am making a few of my own personal discoveries offline and I guess I should share them here. The fella in my life gives me odd looks when I mention the joy you get from being immersed somewhere new and he thinks I romanticise adventure; if you said there was free accommodation somewhere and all I needed to do was ‘be there’, you’d hear me knocking, he is a ‘purpose traveller’ my fella. I probably do romanticise it and I hope the next time I am planning a Japanese escape I lug him along and will refrain from reading maps as that served with incredibly negative results.
I hope you take the time to feed your inner cogs because if you don’t grease them, you cant do or be you.