It has been a whole month and a half since I came to Yokohama, and I am absolutely smitten.
One of the most significant outcomes of this first month was a realization of my own resilience, both professionally and personally. My first day in Japan was difficult; I had difficulty transitioning back into Japanese, it was absolutely pouring rain, and I felt entirely overwhelmed by all of the new environments, sounds, and sensations. Even though I have been to Japan before, the idea of staying for four months hit me like a ton of bricks on that first day. However, it was actually easy to reframe this thinking from a feeling of distress to excitement. I have gotten lost an endless number of times, but always managed to figure it out and reach my destination.
I have been making a concerted effort to be kinder to myself, which feels wonderful. Every time I misunderstand somebody or accidentally do something embarrassing, I am choosing to laugh at myself rather than get flustered. This has always been difficult for me – I want to be seen as competent and independent in all that I do, which is challenging when you have the vocabulary of a Japanese elementary school student.
One of the unusual things here is the amount of random dates that you get asked on if you are tall and stick out. Learning how to say no has been a pretty crucial skill, and it is something that I struggle with. This is difficult work (for me, at least), but hopefully it will be beneficial in the long term.
I have been trying to build more of a community around myself. In my first week, I went to a huge Korean barbecue dinner with other students from my dormitory. There was a big smear of spicy sauce on my forehead for half of it! It’s okay!
I’m trying to put myself out there every weekend; I have scheduled some sort of social outing every weekend, but I am also giving myself the evenings to exercise, recharge, and spend some quality time with myself. Since arriving, I have gone to a baseball game in Shibuya, took part in a matsuri, danced all night, and met some very lovely people. I have also been really lucky to reconnect with old friends here as well (hi Jeremy/Joel!). It feels like I have done more in the past several weeks here than in several months back home. It is a nice change to have weekends and evenings free to do what I would like, rather than studying late. This weekend, we are heading to Kamakura to view hydrangea blossoms and later to Tokyo for a festival. Work-life balance has never felt so good.
My work at CITYNET has been pretty amazing. On my first day, I was tasked with drafting the office’s annual report and creating videos to publicize recent workshops and initiatives from the organization. Being surrounded by such kind and hardworking people is incredibly motivating. My coworkers all have the best attitude when it comes to work and their purpose in life. For them, it seems like so much more than just drawing a paycheque and counting down the minutes until they can clock out. It gives me a lot of hope that I will also be able to pursue equally meaningful work in my life. It is great to contribute and support others, but I also recognize that I need tasks and a role that is intellectually engaging in order to truly feel fulfilled. So far, I have researched conflict and disaster risk reduction, health education in Nepal, and urban cooling initiatives to reduce the creation of heat islands in cities. At the end of the day, I no longer feel drained and depleted; I feel energized, and heading to the office is never daunting. The weeks seem to be flying by.
Since I have arrived, swimming and spending time with my family on the phone has helped keep me balanced and calm throughout the emotional moving process. Keeping these two factors constant has been really helpful; they help regulate my mood by staying active and it has helped maintain my social life in Canada while I am away. It has been nice to have a chance to reflect on what it is I want and what things are truly important to me.
Japan has the best coffee-flavoured jelly, fresh seaweed salads, and soy-based protein snacks. However, seedy rye bread continues to elude me – a mission for next weekend, I think.
Included for your listening pleasure: the sound of a Japanese fireworks display. Why “ooh” and “aah” quietly when you can yell/scream about how great they are instead?