As of last Wednesday, Amos and I are officially living in Japan. We braved the Ward and Immigration Offices to get our Alien Registration Cards and change over my immigration status from Dependent to Dependent with permission to engage in commercial activity for up to 28 hours per week* and, in the process, learned that bureaucratic offices are just as mind-numbingly boring in Asia as they are in North America. They even managed to have the same bland cubicles and filing cabinets. Perhaps there is a conspiracy to have all government offices worldwide decorated in the same shade of faded khaki?
We also did the cell phone thing, and I am now the proud owner of an iPhone 4S. Well, hello, Siri. Fun fact: cell phone contracts are just as much of a rip off in Japan as they are in the US. Sign up fees, cancellation fees, just for the heck of it fees. But the map function, texting, facetime, and the camera made it oh so irresistible. I have rejoined the smart phone masses, and it feels good.
I've also, ever so slowly, been adjusting. Life in Japan is... good. In those small three dots between "is" and "good," there lies a lot of Big Feelings and Adjustment. I am, so far, enjoying my time here. Nagoya is a wonderfully livable city. For the most part, it's laid out as a logical grid, cut through with meandering alleys dotted with tiny resteraunts and shops stacked on top of one another. Small temples and shrines are tucked away between big, shiny office towers. They are cafes all over, coffee can be had from any street vending machine, and cruiser bikes roam the streets. There aren't many tourist attractions and the only other gaijin are fellow expats and immigrants. Which feels kind of nice and homey; like a industrious midwestern city, an Asian counterpart to Kansas City or a pre-collapse Detroit.
In reading another blog (Bridget of the The Illiterate Peanut), she said something that resonated deep within me, and I've though of many times since I landed here a week and a half ago:
I remember one of my sister's friends describing some tenet of Buddhist philosophy that required you to meet each apparent setback or bump in the road of life (even Lesotho-sized potholes) with a disciplined sense of curiosity. When facing potential catastrophe, you were to sit back and muse, "I am so curious about how this will all turn out." I have no idea if this is a legitimate element of Buddhism or not, but the idea has returned to me many times through the years as an ideal reaction to stressful changes. Either that or massive numbers of chocolate chip cookies washed down with red wine, the whole concoction shaken up on the dance floor...A disciplined sense of curiosity [though the red wine + chocolate chip cookies sound equally enticing]. This what I remember each time I feel a little (or a lot) lost. Japan is exciting, and my time here is a gift. But I left a community back home, one that I cared very much about. I had friends who knew me and had been by my side for years and years; my sister who manages to somehow be both a calming and strengthening touchstone; a job and work environment that, while not perfect, was challenging and fulfilling. I had purpose in Seattle. I was part of a community, and I contributed to a life that made me very happy.
I'm not saying I won't ever have that here. I will. But I am so CURIOUS on how, exactly, it will look. I don't have a job right now, I don't have children, I don't have a gig, or a project, or, really much of anything. I am so curious on how my life will fill up, what my days will look like, and which things are supposed to sink into me while I am here. Right now, I honestly don't know. I've never been so clueless in my life. I am trying to be Zen and accepting of my cluelessness. Some days are better than others.
I think my life is a lot like that river (not to get too hippy dippy on you). I firmly believe that it is, ofttimes, decidedly out of my control. The only thing I can really do is sit butt down and feet up and trust that I am on the right course. Today, I'm oh so curious on where this river of mine is taking me.
* Oh man, that's another post for another day. But, yes, I can work in Japan! Officially!