At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Monday, October 4, 2010

nostalgie du passé (culture shock)

The birthday parties are over with and I'm in a post-birthday bluesy kind of funk.   I blew out all of my candles and made my wish, so why am I feeling a bit overwhelmed and bummed as of late?

Is it because I am now officially a year older?  Is it because I still feel like I am adrift in my life, trying to figure out how to live the life I've always wanted to while currently enjoying the life I lead?  Maybe it is just the ol' culture shock creeping around.  I'm not quite certain.   Some moments I am not happy at all and others I am very grateful and excited about things.  One day I'll be in the worst mood and the next I am elated.  I have no clue how my moods can shift so rapidly.  All I can think is that something is bothering me, but I am not certain if it has to do with not feeling as if I can express myself honestly or artistically right now, or if it is coming from a pressure that I've placed on myself for this experience, or if it is indeed culture shock, or a potential combo of all of these.  Sometimes I feel like it may be the lack of people I know here.   I think it may be the loneliness factor actually. 

The happiest spoon.

What I am experiencing now is not what I have felt in the past when smacking my head directly into the metaphorical wall of another culture.  When I lived in Germany, I was deep in it and that was one of the hardest, most confusing times of my life.  The only things that helped me were my friends in Germany (both German and foreign) and my friends and family back home who wrote letters and called often.  Every day was a struggle though.  I became so nostalgic for the past, for my family and for my life in the US that I had known up to that point.   It was a strange thing to confront everything I had known up to that point as just a perspective in the world given to me through the lens of my culture.   Here though, I can sometimes sense a bit of the confusion, but it is like a deja vu that isn't happening quite properly.  It's faint and subtle.  The only thing that makes me feel like I may be experiencing it is a sense of disconnection from others, a faint sense of loneliness (which I've dealt with before when living in NYC) and sometimes I feel a bit too sensitive about things, especially when overwhelmed by my inability to communicate properly when I want to say something.

 Some days I wish I were not on this island but instead somewhere that would enable me to visit a larger city with more cultural and fun activities to see.  Someplace I could easily escape to when I needed to do so.  But then I'd probably feel the same things there that I do now.  I'm on an paradise island where most people want to come to escape from their stressful lives.  There is so much beauty here.  Some days I'm overwhelmed by it and other days I feel immune to it

I know that I need to enjoy my life here now no matter what because it will soon be a part of the past as well.  I have to come to terms with the fact that I am here for a year on this remote island by embracing what I have here -- my life, the experiences here, the beauty of the island itself.  I know this.  Whenever I complain, even to myself, I feel guilty for not appreciating things.  The grass is always greener I suppose, but am I really that insatiably unsatisfied?  Am I that much of a product of my culture that nothing that I have makes me happy and I always want something more, something newer, something different?  I was hoping my time in Japan would help me understand this component of the belief systems of my own culture that I have been in conflict with (a bit of a metaphysical crisis actually).  I have more to say on this, but will save it for another post.

   Ok, so maybe the problem is that I have not yet met any Japanese/Okinawan friends due to my language inabilities.  That may well be the case.  I am making efforts to try to alleviate that, though I am sometimes very frustrated with my level of Japanese.  While it is progressing,  it is a slow progression (I can understand things more and more, but I lack vocabulary to piece together sentences immediately -- I can often remember the words after the fact though).  I am coming along with the kana (I'm able to read signs in both now -- though I have a harder time with katakana as I'm still working on solidifying it in my brain)  and I do aim for at least 10-20 kanji a week.

Maybe, it is indeed just me slacking in good sense of humor department.  I noticed that I haven't been laughing as much lately.  So, let me tell a funny story to satisfy your need for schadenfreude. Saturday night I went out to a nomikai (drinking/eating party) with teachers from one of my schools.  They were all very nice and friendly and I was happy when I left.  But then when I got home I noticed that I had mascara smeared all over eyelids.  My eyes looked somewhere between a very thick, runny version of Margot Tennenbaum's and a less extreme version of the eye paint on Alice Cooper.

That's a nice impression to leave these people with of me.    They seem like people I'd like to hang out with at least occasionally.  And I have to see them at work.  So, why do I have to make such an ass of myself by not double checking in a mirror before I leave my apartment?  Of course that wouldn't have happened if the weather here was less humid and hot. It is still summer here and I always feel like I'm melting.   Maybe I'm being too hard on myself though.  Maybe it wasn't that bad.  Maybe no one noticed this faux pas (I doubt it).  Maybe it happened at the end of the evening (probably not).  Maybe they will forget (I doubt that too, but I'm hopeful).

Well, if anything, it is a good reason as to why I should be laughing at everything and especially at myself.

Hey, when life hands you shikwashas...

enjoy the sweet and the sour! 

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