Saturday, April 27, 2013
It's been almost a month since I returned from Japan. The blog's been posting at a delayed rate with some backlogged posts while I recover. But at least I've had nearly a month to think about this post, to figure out what exactly it is that I learned. Nearly a month to blow my nose in public (because in Japan it's rude).
While my weekend trips to random spots in Japan testify to the beauty of the country, and the potential to explore and enjoy that beauty, my work life was difficult. I was put into a nearly impossible situation, and in hindsight I know I made mistakes but I still cannot see what the correct path was. So, what I learned turns out to be a lesson in self-preservation: damage control and learning to care less.
The other lesson was about how lovely it is to be part of an official program, like study abroad in Turkey where everyone needs friends and travel companions. And how lucky I was at my internship in Scotland to randomly find a travel companion. Traveling by yourself is pleasant, but when you do it every weekend, things start to get lonely. It's much like living in a new city. Everyone already has their established social circles, and no one really wants to shell out hundreds of dollars each weekend to see someplace they've already seen before or would rather see in the summer (and not chilly winter). Gratitude.
You'll note that these two reflections have little to do with Japan itself, but these were my main issues. When I was able to separate myself from work, Japan was brilliant! It wasn't outrageously expensive, the food was good, the locals were nice, it was safe, and the country was full of beautiful sights. It's hard to go very wrong with that kind of foundation!
I could pontificate a bit on the whole yes-you-can-live-in-a-country-where-you-don't-speak-the-language lesson, but that would be more for strangers' benefits than my own. Not speaking the language is an occasional hurdle that is typically easy to overcome with a bit of extra effort. Of course, knowing the language would have made pretty much everything easier, but what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, amirite?!
Also, this 12 week internship stuff, it works when you're in a relationship, too. Heck, if you're going to do 12 weeks of weekend trips solo, it might be best if you're in a relationship. But once again, this reflection is old hat. I run about proselytizing this faith to the skeptical/interwebs.
My favorite parts of these 12 weeks in Japan were probably Kobe and my trip to Yudanaka Onsen. Smaller cities/towns, sake breweries, nearby onsen, and lacking a real agenda are key to being my favorite Japanese city. Those two trips, and little oddities like ordering ramen from a ticket machine or running into bamboo groves here and thereabouts. Just lovely.