Monday, April 6, 2009

Japan, continued, and more thoughts on reintegration

The rest of my trip went fairly uneventfully.

Went back to Tokyo, back to the Khaosan Annex Hostel across the bridge from the Asakusa Metro station.

I walked an awful lot across the bridge, in one direction, determined in the face of crisp morning fresh-after-a-rain air that once I crossed the bridge I would enter the train station and determine smoothly where I would be going, unhesitatingly descending the stairs to the tracks, in the right place for the right train, for once. Need I say there were problems? For all the organization in Japan, the Tokyo Metro is a confusing ball of yarn. It presents a neat and intricate puzzle for those of us who had come fresh from China and had been soothed by the plethora of signage in Western languages and the overwhelming politeness of the Japanese people. It was like the wink and nudge of an inside joke, as if to say, haha you foreigners! We have tried our utmost to extend our hospitality to those of you who are not from here, but there is certain inalienable information integral to Japan which just cannot be easily extricated and delivered (smug smile). Add that to the fact that somehow, amidst a seemingly large percentage of the population who do speak English, almost none of the people working at the side of the turnstiles did. This made for an unusually exciting and anxious feeling as I neared the train station, feeling my heart beat a little faster as I anticipated the future kerflummoxing of my plans for the day. I'll spare the details and avoid going into the hows and the whys of how this smart, well-traveled and experienced young girl was confused by such a thing. Just take my word for it, and enjoy the experience.

I mean, it wasn't like I was always totally lost. I always found my way, and reveled in the vindication when I finally arrived. This is what traveling is all about! Addressing the vast unknown and emerging victorious!

On the way to the hostel, again walking over that bridge, I invariably felt exhausted. My feet felt as if they would fall off. My boots were wonderful, but even they complained after the long days spent wandering around Tokyo.
-Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can take an elevator to the 45th floor and see Mount Fuji (maybe, on a good day)!
-Omotesando, Shibuya, and Harajuku! (Shopping galore, and $7 cups of coffee!)
-Nikko (oh boy was that a glorious exercise in train travel and transfers!)
-Kamakura (beautiful)

I'll put some pictures up when I get around to it.

I met my cousin and her husband.



They live in Shibuya, and we walked around the neighborhood a bit, took pictures and went shopping. I picked up some totally cute fashion finds, for low low prices, believe it or not. Japan does not HAVE to be expensive! They took me out to the most delicious tonkatsu lunch I have EVER had, hands down.



I went on day trips out to Nikko and Kamakura- both of which were really cool and totally worth leaving the hectic city of Tokyo for. Except I got totally lost on the trains to Nikko and got there after all the temples were closed... It was ok though- really nice to walk around in the twilight after all the tourists had gone home.

Kamakura reminded me of Kyoto, only with the ocean. Lots of walking and beautiful temples and scenery. I love that stuff. Very philosophical, although no philosopher's path per se.

I was constantly wishing and hoping and sending warm thoughts out to the cherry trees, but blossom-time did not fully explode while I was there. A couple of trees must have heard me though, because I saw some tree in bloom, lone harbingers of the clouds of pink and white that must be so beautiful right about now...

It was ok though, because I arrived home bang on time for the wisteria above the walkway to my door to be in full blast. And they smell so good!

Now I've been home for a couple of weeks- and I'm having a really hard time adjusting.
All this in spite of the beautiful surroundings of where I live- not just the wisteria overhead but the azaleas, the beautiful sunlight, the smell of the beach in the warm spring air- all of which reminds me that I happen to be LUCKY enough to LIVE in one of the most beautiful places on earth- and STILL I feel like someone's got hot coals under my feet, like I need to get up and go, pack that backpack and leave, book a ticket, collect my belongings and don't look back.

It's culture shock, some people say.

I think I didn't give myself enough downtime before starting the job search and all- it's been overwhelming. I just want to pack my backpack and leave town! I keep looking up flight info for various places. But it's no use running. So, I'm in the midst of comparing job offers and interviewing, and going out with old friends and trying to get to sleep before 3am! night owl by nature- it'll take starting work to get me back on schedule. I hope. Discipline at bed time has never been a strong suite.

Need I say that it took me a while to even get back into the spirit of things enough to continue writing here? Something happened, and for a brief moment there, I was drawn into a deep world of traveler angst, and I swirled around in a pool of dismay.

My simple daily schedule of wake-up-and-go-somewhere-really-cool-in-some-far-off-corner-of-the-world is gone, to be replaced by a room filled with tons of stuff to be organized, trashed or neatly put away, and there this looming prospect of having to start a long-awaited and promising career. Such expectations are bound to be intimidating.

I log onto facebook at hourly intervals and chat at midnight with my friends who are in different time zones. I chat at noon with people who are staying up too late. I wish I could be always living on the edge, at the boundary, somewhere in-between the here-and-now. I still think it's possible. But maybe that's why I'm in this limbo, this hazy foggy half-world where I'm never quite awake.

I take it that the fact of being inspired to write is a good sign.

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