Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Much Simpler Question

Having officially moved to Tokyo since June last year (gosh, we again have entered the days when we catch our hand still signing “’07” on paper or saying “last year” when what we really mean is “the year before” ...), over the past few days I finally begin to feel like I have “settled in.”

Not surprising, given that I was away all throughout the month of August and September and, upon returning, fell immediately into the post-Generals syndrome of wondering about where life is going to take me next while physically wandering around Tokyo – this mega mega mega metropolitan city whose magnitude by its sheer population size and the density of subway/train lines still continue to daunt me.

But at last, I’ve settled in.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly has given me this feeling of “settling in.” Perhaps it’s the fact that at last I walked into a church service where I not only see people of multiple cultures, languages, and skin colors but, more importantly, people who are eager to meet others and accept those of different backgrounds, languages, and worship styles.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally got this urge to check myself into the library for a good few hours without feeling suffocated – quite excited, rather – in between the narrow book stacks.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally figured out the exact position to stand on a particular platform in order to make my quickest exit at the next station, the short-cut to Shimokitazawa or Shibuya, the best smoke-free cafes in the area, and the particular vegetable shop that has “time service” (= sales) during rush hours.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally found scandal-free English training service agencies that could offer me a highly professional staff team, decent amount of part-time teaching work without depriving me of the entitled wages/privileges given my credentials/experiences, and freedom from worrying about becoming one of the exploited members of the NOVA union.

A friend asked me a frequently-brought-up question tonight: “May-yi, don’t you ever feel home sick?”

“Well, first of all, you have to figure out where your home is before you could feel home sick, right?”

“Ok, so say that one day you get kidnapped by the aliens, and they finally grant you a wish to go home for a while. Now, where would that place be?” my friend pressed on.

“Well … I guess it’d have to be where my family/loved one is.”

“So, at this stage, that would have to be Taiwan, correct?”

I nodded. However, I made an addendum – “But note that it’s not the ‘place’ where I want to return to, but the people … So at the end of the day, I guess it’d be the people that define home?”

Having said that, I immediately thought of another related question – But would there ever be a day when somebody who too would say that he/she wants to go to whichever unknown earth corner/city that I’m living in, b/c I’m that family/loved one being missed?

So is it about the place, or is it about the people?

Another friend sent me this YouTube file on the new year’s eve countdown fireworks at the Taipei 101 building. Looking at the clip and hearing the little kids/their families making all sorts of exclamatory remarks in the background, my heart somehow grew a bit cloudy.

“Now, why am I looking at this clip again?” I asked myself. Out of all the fireworks clip taken all over the major cities in the world on new year’s eve, why am I looking at this particular one (besides the fact that it was sent by a friend in the first place) and in the meanwhile expecting myself to have some sense of pride, joy, or nostalgia?

What if I felt nothing (besides the fact the fireworks indeed are splendid)? Would that be a horrible thing?

At the end of the day – to me – how is Taipei 101 building any different from the Empire State building or the Seattle Space Needle or the Tokyo Tower or the Sydney Opera House? And why should I embrace any special kind of feeling towards it?

Esp. when the neon lights on the top of the building read – “Love (in a actually heart shape) Taiwan”?

I also wonder if on any skyscraper or landmark building in the world I’d see similar neon lights flashing with messages like “Love USA,” “Love Japan,” or “Love Australia”?

“Love Taipei” maybe … “Love Taiwan”?

I now see why each time when I go to Taiwan, I, in the meanwhile, have this uncanny feeling of being farer and farer away from it …

At least for now, I feel settled. And it has taken quite some time to get here, and before it slips away again, I’m just going to enjoy it as much as I can.

On a side note – I AM getting less and less tolerant of those black, humongous crows in Japan which, though deserving thanks for constantly producing *the* most recognizable sound of Japan which brings much nostalgia to all foreigners at times, now poke into my trash bags left outside on the open corridor in the evening and would not give in until they’ve torn them apart in order to get that last peel of orange or the half-rotten strawberry from the bag. So, between the crows outside and the possible visit of roaches inside, where should I leave my trash tonight? Indoor, or out?

Thank goodness this is a much easier question to figure out than trying to decide where I should feel homesick for.

梅ちゃん at 12:27:00 AM



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