Homecoming

I left Fukuoka today three weeks ago, and it has taken me this entire time to feel that Sydney could be home again.

When I left for Japan almost exactly a year ago, I did not expect for Japan to twist itself so deeply within my psyche.  Not just the people I managed to meet and befriend in Japan, but the lifestyle, the weird mix of convenience and tradition, the food, everything became an integral part of who I am.  Maybe it was because it was the first time I had ever lived by myself without the support of family, but for the first time in my life, I was one hundred percent independent.  And maybe this independence is what made living in Fukuoka so much more than living in Sydney.

I still think exchange was a two part experience for me, but I think that only added to my life overseas, and gave me an opportunity to try and feel and think about more things than if it had been one cohesive unit.

At the same time, with all the travelling that I managed to do during my time in Japan came a realisation that I did not just love Japan for just its pop culture or its fashion or whatever I had picked up over the years watching anime.  I loved Japan for its people and its culture, for its traditions, its legends, its beliefs, and its contradictions.  The kindness that its people showed to strangers, and its rejection of foreigners for fear of damaging their culture.  Their respect for their own ancestry and their customs that help them pay their respects to their heritage.  Their pursuit for innovation and technology while their society still relies on paperwork and cash as a foundation.  The way that everything was built for maximum efficiency, but the people working it could be the slowest workers in the world.

And with all my observations of Japanese culture came also observations and realisations of my own culture and ancestry.  Observations about the current state of mind in China, within the Chinese people.  Strengthened beliefs about why Hong Kong will never really see itself as part of China.  Realisations that Australian national pride comes in the form of telling everyone about how terrible Australia is and being proud of how terrifying Australia seems to everyone else in the world.

But in the end, any sort of self discovery about my own heritage was eclipsed by the love I found for the Japanese way of life, and way of thinking, and way of doing.  I felt nothing walking through Fukuoka airport, until the plane started to move, and the workers bowed and waved the plane off, and I realised that this was the end of my year in Japan.

I would like to say that I didn’t cry, but at least I didn’t breakdown.

And for now, I’ll just keep dreaming in Japanese, until I’ve worked enough and saved enough money for me to go home.

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On the Road to Japan, Pt. IV

Packing is such a chore.

How do I decide just how much I should bring of everything?  When do I decide that too much, is too much?  Where do I say stop to bringing little things that don’t really amount to much, until I’ve brought too many and it’s taken over half of my suitcase?  What do I bring, and what do I buy when I get there?

I mean, for camps and short term trips, it’s easy to pack for.  After all, it’s over in a week, and things aren’t essential when you can return to it in five days.  I used to laugh at how much my mum always wanted to pack when I left for these things, but now I wonder how my mum has packed for all those long extended family trips and known just how much we needed for each trip.

Especially since she had to pack for three people.  I’m only packing for one, and I’m struggling.

This just makes me realise how much I don’t ever want children or any sort of dependents.  Or they can pack their own things (nekminnit the kids pack an entire suitcase of candy and toys and there’s nothing practical whatsoever inside the case.  Worse, they bring toy guns and warfare toys and we all get detained at the airport).

And how do I pack away the things that are intangible? In-jokes and impromptu DnMs? Those Looks between friends? Meeting gazes across a crowded room and making faces at each other before bursting into laughter?  The warmth from a multitude of hugs?  I know I’ll meet new friends and these will happen anyway, but it’s not the same.

Having said that though, it will be great to be away from everyone familiar for a year.  People are going to change, relationships are going to change, I’m going to change, and all these changes will make something new and something fresh and it will all be very exciting to reacquaint myself with the familiar and be pleasantly (hopefully) surprised at how fresh everything has become.

And now I’m going to stop, because I’m starting to sound like a twelvie on tumblr philosophising on life.  Let’s see what I say when I look back on all this when I come back in a year’s time.

Three more days to go!

On the Road to Japan, Pt. III

I was expecting more at our pre-departure briefing a couple of days ago, to be honest.  I mean, even though I knew it was probably all filled with information that I knew or I could find out myself on documents they posted online, but really, they are sending students off for a year into an unknown land.  And being part of the Japan major, they’ve already sent off thirteen (I think) other sets of students off in similar meetings, and this is hardly the first year that they’ve run the program, sooooooo you would think they’d have more pertinent information or whatever.

But no.  The only thing we learnt, or got, was our airplane tickets.  The insurance stuff, they had covered in a previous meeting last year.  The things about the airplane things, they could’ve covered in five minutes, since the information is all typed up really neatly on a sheet.  The information about our actual major, all online in the subject folder thing on the uni system.

Ah well.  It’s obligatory, and it’s a chance for them to make sure they’ve said and covered everything, so that if we have any questions or mess up, they can be all like WE TOLD YOU SO and laugh in our faces.

It was also great to see and meet up with everyone that’s going on exchange with me, because it’s probably the last time I’ll see them before I either see them in Japan, or when we come back, or… never… XD

Anyways, I guess the meeting kinda made it a bit more real, because seeing the actual ticket makes it a bit more substantial in my head, and it’s kinda hitting me not really, but definitely, I’m feeling it more than this time last year.

Being able to finally get my visa also helps.  I’ve heard the photo turns out really ugly.  Hopefully it’s not too bad, but I’m not expecting much… especially since photos for these official things never turn up nice anyway so ah well! Whatever! Once I get it next week, I’ll know!

On the Road to Japan, Pt II

There’s now officially twenty-one days until my departure for the Land of the Rising Sun.  I thought I would find out when I left a lot later, but somehow or other they told me early.  So here we are.

Twenty-one days to go.

And on hearing that, EVERYONE ups their compulsion to ask me the same questions:

‘Are you excited?’ (No.  And then they tell me they’re excited for me.  Why, thank you.  Please continue to be excited for me, because then I’ll start feeling somewhat excited too).

‘Have you packed yet?’ (No.  And I doubt I will be until right before I leave for the airport.  Three weeks is so far awayyyyyy.)

‘Are you ready?’ (Probably not.  But I’m not sure what I need to be ready for anyway, so I’m going to say yes.)

Although I have started moving things I want to bring into the lounge room so that I don’t forget to pack it later, because it’s okay for me to spread my belongings all around the house, since it’ll be gone in three weeks anyway.  And I have started making lists of what I want to bring.  People who just came back from the exchange all tell me, ‘Don’t bring too much!’ But what is too much? I’m packing for a year… where is the line between too little, and too much?

I suspect buying a $5 fleece blanket throw thing is probably considered ‘too much’.  But it’s comfortable.  And it’s red.  I can suffer how to bring it back once I get to it, this time next year.

Anyway, not much is still yet happening.  I feel like I’ve just been waiting it out, these last few weeks, because I don’t really know what to do to prepare except quietly catch up with friends and buy essential things like cameras and laptops (because tech is obviously the most essential thing to my life hahaha).  I’m not feeling any sort of excitement yet, because it still hasn’t really sunk in that I’m leaving in three weeks.  And I have no schedule to follow. There are no classes to fill up my days, work is sporadic, and there are no events to plan, no meetings to go to.

This freedom is what I imagine retirement to be like.  Nothing to do, just waiting my days out.  Except the journey at the end of the waiting is different.

The only things that I have been planning are the holidays and trips that I plan to go on, which shows exactly where my priorities are, when I don’t even know what the academic calendar looks like.

Ah well.  The pre-departure briefing is in a week, and I hope that gives me more of a framework to base my excitement on.  If not… I’ll just keep lazing around living the phetlyf until I realise there’s only ten hours till my flight and my suitcases are still empty.

On the Road to Japan, Pt. I

Apparently, I’m to live by myself.

I’m to live by myself, in a 16 square metre room, with my own bathroom, my own fridge, my own landline, but to cook, or to watch T.V., I will need to socialise with other people on my floor because that’s communal.  (I really hope my eventual floormates know how to clean after themselves, because I really don’t want to cook in a dirty kitchen… and I hate cooking already dirty dishes aren’t going to help increase my motivation at all.)

Despite knowing where I’m living, and knowing how much rent I’m paying, I’m yet to know when I get there.  Of course, I know that the time frame for my departure to the Land of the Rising Sun is sometime in late March or super early April, but the exact date? I’ll find out early-mid March.  Which gives me maybe two weeks between knowing when I leave, and actually leaving.

Only two weeks?  Some people, like my mama, might think, outraged.  Only two weeks to prepare for a year away??! Two weeks to apply for things and get everything ready??!!? That’s not even enough time to prepare for a one-day party, let alone a year!!!!!111!!one!

I used to think that too.  But now that I’m in this position, just waiting for things to happen… I think… not knowing is okay.  I feel like knowing the exact dates for when I leave will make it seem final.  I’ll have to finally finish cleaning my room.  I’ll have to make sure I finish all my snacks in my room.  I’ll have to start saying ‘See you in a year!’ to people I don’t see for years anyway.  But, at the moment, without an actual date, my imminent departure is just floating around in the air, as an eventual someday-it-will-happen rather than a final goodbye-dear-friends-miss-me-a-bit-see-you-in-a-year.

But since I can’t really just sit here and do nothing for the weeks leading up to it until I find out when I leave and start swearing at how much I need to do and how much I haven’t done… what can I actually do?

For one thing, I’ve started studying.  Just so I can say more than just すみません (excuse me) and 日本語を分かりません (I don’t understand Japanese) to people.  I’ve exchanged some $$ for ¥¥.  And I’ll go and open a magical no-transaction-fee, usable-in-fifty-million-countries bank account, just so I can avoid opening up a Japanese bank account and trying to understand what the heck they’re saying about terms and conditions when I don’t even really understand half of what the terms and conditions are when I open an account in Australia.  Where they speak English.

In any case, things are happening, and time is passing, and eventually I’ll know the date for flying to Japan and I’ll start panicking at how little I’ve actually cleaned my room, but for now, I’ll just slowly work my way through the days and enjoy all the little moments that life has to offer.

Like 20 degree weather in the middle of an Australian summer.

New Years~!

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Sydney NYE | ABC News

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

To those who have already crossed into the New Year, I hope you have a great 2015~! To those who are yet to celebrate the New Year, I hope you have a great 2015 anyway~!

Although, having said that, I’m not going to remember that it’s 2015 for at least another two weeks or so, and keep writing 2014 for dates and things.  Because the new year may be important, but let’s be real… dates and things are man-made markers for the world, and so not part of the natural world, which means forgetting what year it is or what day it is is totally excusable and okay, right? XD

Not that I forgot that it was New Year’s Eve yesterday.  The amount of people coming out to the city as I was leaving the city in the early evening after work, the amount of people already packed into any sort of standing area at Circular Quay as my train zoomed past the station, the amount of illegal fireworks going off in my neighbourhood the minute 9:00 pm hit to wayyyy past midnight.

And the official Sydney fireworks.  I watch it almost every year, and the fireworks they set off never ceases to amaze me.  Even through a T.V. screen, because I’ve never bothered actually going out to see them.  One day, I’ll make it.  Maybe. (2020 New Year resolution?)

Now, it’s 2:00 pm, and the New Year has well and truly begun.  I wish everybody who do New Years resolutions actual resolve to stick by them, and I pray that everyone will be able to have a 2015 that surpasses 2014 <3

Proud to be Australian

It’s been nearly 48 hours since the Sydney siege was resolved when the police stormed into Lindt cafe in Martin place.  There have been many many news stories and extensive coverage by local and international news networks during the entire situation, and so I won’t go into any detail about that.  But the aftermath… the aftermath has been so supportive, so understated.  It is so surprising, but it is amazing.

Australia | EUI

Isolated Australia | EUI

First of all, no one in Australia actually expects anything to happen in Australia.  Despite being a developed nation and an important global influence, we are so isolated from everyone else in the world as a country that no one ever takes any terror threats seriously.  After 9/11, there were many threats of bombings and other terrorist activities, but the only increase in security were the removal of bins from major train stations (which were re-installed a few years ago), and increased surveillance and customs screenings at the airports.  During the War on Terror, everyone followed the news and grieved when another Australian soldier was killed in combat, but the war was so far away that it wasn’t really a significant impact in society, apart from an increase in tension against the Muslim communities in Sydney.  During all the outbreaks of diseases, of which the Ebola epidemic being the most recent, people fear, but again, we are so far away from everything that the disease probably died out before it even reached Australia.

With this apathy for all the significant world events, to have a hostage situation happen in the heart of Sydney, and to have it potentially linked to the ISIS groups in the Middle East?

Totally unexpected.  Totally unthinkable.  Totally unbelievable.

Although it turned out to be the actions of one person, and a known person to the police with a record of past racial hatred and sex crime offences, the fact that it happened, and that two lives were lost in the process, has sent Sydney and Australia into shock.  Many people are still avoiding the Sydney CBD.  Hundreds of thousands of flowers have been placed near the cafe.

And people are reflecting.  Reflecting on how Australia may not be so safe after all.  Reflecting on the importance of valuing your life, and valuing all the people around you and the relationships that you hold with them.  Reflecting on how to support others around you, those who may have been more affected by the tragedy than you.

The results of these reflections?

Solidarity in the Australian community.  I often cringe at how Australians pride themselves at being ‘mates’ and how we’re all in this together because ‘mateship’, but in these times, it becomes the bond that brings the community together.  Many people have expressed similar sentiments, about how terror only works when it instills fear, and how it will never work in Australia because people become unified through mateship to become strong, and to repel and fight back against these fears and terrors and their instigators.

The first sign of solidarity happened during the siege with the rise of the hashtag #illridewithyou.  Although many people were hating on the Muslim community and blaming them for the siege, many more were supporting them and showing them love and support.  Some comments have expressed incredulity about how Australians were naive and stupid for not caring about the hostages, and instead supporting members of a community that were feeling at risk, but as outsiders, they don’t understand how racial hatreds run in Australian society.  Riots have happened before between racial groups.  Slurs and threats are chucked at people during times of risk.  It happens. The fact that so many people were willing to support and protect Muslims who feel scared at being who they are through no fault of their own has shown clearly for the first time, the ‘Aussie spirit’ of mateship and comradeship.

Martin Place Memorial | Daily Telegraph

Martin Place Memorial | Daily Telegraph

The impromptu public memorials at Martin Place and at other sites around Australia, one being the Melbourne Lindt cafe, shows this solidarity too.  You may not know who put down the bouquet next to yours, you may not know the people standing around you, but everyone is thinking the same thing, feeling the same things.  The responses on social media have been the same.  People are going about their daily business and people aren’t allowing this to affect their lives, but sentiments that have been expressed have largely been positive, supportive and understanding.

Australia’s great and all, but I generally don’t have much of a positive opinion on Australia (probably because I live here and I see all the dirty shady things that happen).  However, although it ended in tragedy, the siege has brought Australia together in a way that I have never remember experiencing.

For the first time, I am proud to be Australian.

Other articles
More on #illridewithyou
The victims of the siege
A response to the siege by the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia Inc.
Response by the Police Commissioner on the storming of the cafe