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So here we are back in Canada.
I've taken a bit of a sabbatical from Hunkabutta
this past week as it's been a very hectic
move and I needed a bit of time to recharge.
The mechanics of our international move--flights,
shipping, visas, and so on--came off flawlessly
thanks to Karen's excellent organization
skills. All of our books and CDs and other
personal items were shipped back by sea mail
several days before we left. We maxed out
our carry-on luggage, even to the point of
using a household scale for accuracy, and
were able to bring home on the flight over
200 kg of stuff. Gary, my father-in-law,
had to meet us at the airport with a trailer
attached to his car to take all of our stuff
to his place.
The day after we arrived Gary and his girlfriend
Jean left for a six-week trip to Spain and
Morocco, so now we have their house and car
to ourselves. This immediate privacy and
mobility has sure made the transition between
countries a lot smoother.
Karen and I have been spending all of our
time dealing with banking and mortgages issues,
shopping for paint and flooring, and scouring
Ikea for affordable furniture to fill our
empty house. As a matter of fact, while shopping
for wood floors in the horrible industrial
strip malls of Richmond we narrowly missed
being made into hood hamburger while having
lunch at Subway Sandwiches.
I was sitting across from Jack and Karen
at a table by the front window. We were eating
our sandwiches, I had a turkey melt while
Karen and Jack were sharing a Subway Club,
when all of a sudden we heard the KAAAA-KRUNCH!!
of cascading glass. A car had driven right
through the entrance way windows and stopped
with its bumper not even a foot behind Jack's
chair. Jack started screaming from fright;
Karen jumped up and started shouting "Get
to the back of the store! Get to the back
of the store!" because she thought the
car might drive in yet further; I grabbed
Jack and ran to the back because I thought
that this was the beginning of a gangland
hit because just before the car drove through
the window a tough-looking gangsta guy had
come in and placed an order. As it turned
out, it was just some middle-aged man who
somehow got his pant legs caught in the peddles
while trying to park and ended up about six
feet past the end of the parking spot.
Nobody seemed especially fazed except for
us. Karen was crying but the rest of the
people just sort of turned around and starting
ordering sandwiches again. The manager said
we could order some new subs on the house
since there was glass all over our old ones.
The guy who was driving the car eventually
came in and asked if Jack and Karen were
okay, and then he just sat down with a glass
of water and ignored everyone, half in shock
and half embarrassed.
Anyway, not too long after that I decided
that I'm just going to install my own wood
floors--rough and rugged, face-nailed pine
planks. It's going to be rustic, but I figure
that at least it'll have a bit of character.
I don't really feel too inclined to spend
any more time in Richmond shopping around,
that's for sure.
We'll be running similar errands all
long, and then we take possession of
new place on October 2nd. I'll try
Note to all my old friends back in Ontario:
Boz (Andrew), Cindy, Todd, and I were able
to get together for a good old-fashioned,
high-school-like beer and pizza fest at Boz's
company-rented downtown condo while he was
here on business.
It's true what they say: there are no friends
like old friends. I hope that I get to see
more of you guys now that I'm living on this
side of the Pacific.
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This is the last time that I'll be posting
from Japan. We leave tomorrow afternoon.
It's pretty sad, I know, kind of like the
end of an era.
Japan has been good to us. Karen and I got
married here; had Jack here; saved money
for our house in Canada; and started a home-based
editing business that's going to support
us when we move back. It's been the only
home that we've known as a family.
That said, it's definitely time to leave,
for me at least. Things have been stagnant,
both socially and mentally, for a while now.
Because we have a toddler, and Karen is big
and pregnant, it's difficult to get out and
enjoy all of the things that a big city has
to offer. On top of that, we've kind of found
our comfort zone in terms of integrating
with the culture. We know enough to get things
done on a daily basis, but we don't seem
to have the energy or inclination anymore
to forge ahead into new territory. We just
take the path of least resistance, and that's
not an especially exciting way to be.
As my Greek friend Makis pointed out the
other day: Japan changes everyone who comes
to live here. People change in different
ways, according to their inclination and
potential, but they all seem to grow and
evolve. This is as much a result of living
in the expat community as it is from living
amongst the Japanese. Living here, you're
not expected to conform to Japanese ways
because you're a foreigner, and because you're
not surrounded by people from your own culture
you feel no pressure to conform to your own
cultural norms either. In this sense, life
in Japan is very liberating, and you can
choose any path in life that you like. More
importantly, you become aware of many paths
that you didn't even know were open to you.
We're excited about the new life that we're
going to make for ourselves in Roberts Creek,
B.C. There's going to be a lot of growth
and change, especially in the first few years.
As I've been doing these past few years in
Japan, I'm going to try to document these
events, to capture a small bit of my life,
for your enjoyment and of course for my own.
I hope that you'll find something of interest
So, I just want to say thank you for
this site and accompanying me on part
my adventure in Japan.
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Tonight we walked around the neigbourhood
and said goodbye to some of the local shop
keepers. Karen got all misty eyed at Mr.
Takahashi's fruit store. Then we went to
Tsujita's family restaurant and had dinner
and said goodbye to the staff. Karen was
disappointed that I didn't bring my camera
to document what was probably going to be
our last meal at our main local eatery.
It's kind of sad to say goodbye to everyone,
but really when I think about it, I only
ever got to know these people in the most
superficial of ways. This was mostly due
to the language barrier--I was never able
to pull off any more than the most basic
small talk. Being unable to communicate properly
has been a constant source of frustration,
but now that our stay here is almost over
I see what it has cost me in terms of the
shallowness of my personal relationships.
It was also really frustrating to not be
able to say goodbye properly. I mean, I wanted
to say things like, "Thanks for all
of your help over these past few years. It's
been great getting to know you, and I only
wish I could stay longer. Minami Senju has
been a wonderful place to live. I'll try
to come by for a visit some time in the future
if I can. So, take care of yourself and tell
your wife I said goodbye."
Instead what I really ended up saying was
something like, "Hi. You. Mr. Takahashi.
Tuesday I go home to my country. Yes. Yes.
So sad. Okay. Thank you very much for delicious
fruit always. So sad. Okay. Bye. Bye."
It's just not the same.
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Our departure date is fast approaching. I
had always figured that in my last month
in Tokyo I would be furiously writing commentary
and observations on Hunkabutta, and that
I would be taking pictures every day like
a maniac, but now that it's come down to
it, I find that I don't really feel inclined
to do much of that at all.
I'm sad to leave Japan, and I know that there
are going to be a lot of things that I'll
miss, but now that we've made the commitment
to go, I just can't wait to get it over with
and on to the next stage in my life. Do you
know what I mean? It kind of feels like the
last two weeks of the school year at university:
not really motivated to do anything and just
constantly aware of the impending 'endingness'
of it all.
Just because I know that everyone will be
curious, those guys in the pictures getting
searched by the police are most likely Africans,
probably Nigerians. There are a lot of Nigerians
here. I think it's because they can get easy
visas due to the fact that Japan buys a lot
of oil from Nigeria. There also seems to
be a lot of Iranians here for the same reason.
In the lower-end fashion districts, such
as Shibuya and Ikebukuro, you'll often see
these kind of African guys loitering all
day long on busy street corners. They're
usually really well dressed in crazily hip
outfits. Most people's first assumption is
that they're selling drugs or counterfeit
long-distance calling cards (which the Iranian
gangs do), but what they really seem to be
doing is just acting as roving models and
promoters for nearby hip-hop/African-American
clothing stores. Sometimes they hand out
fliers for the stores. In general, they're
just sort of hanging out, showing off the
fashion in its proper context, as it were.
I don't know what the guys in the pictures
were accused of. I just stumbled on the scene
towards the end of it all. The guy getting
searched was pretty goofy and nonchalant
about it all, but his buddy who had been
driving the car worked himself up into a
rage and was yelling at the cops, pounding
his hand against the car, and at one point
was angrily lurching at the head detective
and being restrained by the uniformed officers.
In the end, they all got back into the car,
a cop got in the passenger seat, and then
they drove off together into the Tokyo twilight.