Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Traveling to a foreign country and moving to a foreign country are two very different experiences. When traveling, your senses are open to the smells, tastes and sights in a voracious way. You want to uncover new details at every turn. What a disappointment it would be if one day of your vacation were the same as the next! I particularly like to gauge the newness of a place by the differences in the foliage. Even driving to San Francisco from Los Angeles, freshly planted palm trees are replaced by oaks and redwoods that suggest a more seasoned presence to the land. The damp smell of the redwoods subtly linger with you your entire trip.
I noticed lately that I have not approached Okinawa with that wide-eyed wonder. Stressors have been blocking my senses. (Well that, and two weeks of avian flu.) My priorities have been 1. where and how to buy food, 2. how to set up my jewelry studio and keep business running smoothly, 3. make friends, 4. recreate my old life....just, well...here. My guard is up more than I would like as I try to get my bearings. I think this is probably a natural reaction to being surrounded by people with whom it's nearly impossible to communicate. Language is really a barrier. I think that's why they say that blind people are separated from "things" but deaf people are separated from "people". Hand gestures only go so far, and in my recent experience, they don't go very far at all.
For almost two months, I have been mingling in silence with the Japanese. I could say "thank you" and make sure to pepper my interactions with lots of bowing to show respect. Then, this week, miraculously enough and thanks to my classes, I am actually starting to understand the language! I can understand what the lady on the loudspeaker at the grocery store says. I can catch bits of conversations of people walking by. I have so far to go, but with each new lesson, I feel the tension release. I'm coming off my guard bit by bit. As the stress dissipates, my senses are coming back to life, and I am getting more out of the experience each day.