When I titled this post, I couldn’t help but think about that song that goes ” Oooooooo, we’re half way there. Ooo, Ooo ( and then I’m not sure what is said after that)” Anyways, this exact day is the half way mark of my journey in Japan. I thought I’d dedicate this post to a little bit of reflection of my time so far here.
As many of you know or probably concluded from previous post, my first few months in Japan were quite rough. I didn’t like much of anything here. For me, leaving home was a bittersweet moment. While I was curious about where Japan would take me, I wasn’t excited about being way from home for an entire year. I make it sound like I was forced to come to Japan but I wasn’t. I am fully aware that it was all my decision. Again, my curiosity brought me here and a part of me believed it was God’s doing as well. Well, that thought quickly jumped out the window when I encountered several setbacks. Some things did not go the way I expected them to go. I won’t go into detail but point is I wasn’t happy. I sent several messages home claiming I as about to throw in the towel. I didn’t believe living like I was worth it. Thanks to the constant encouragement from my friends and family I stayed and now, I’m quite happy I did.
I realized that it was indeed God who brought me here. I came expecting to impact folks and all that goodness–things I did on my previous trips abroad– but God showed me that this trip was for ME. I needed some personal growth and it took putting me in the most uncomfortable and challenging environment for that to happen. I’ve had to lean on God through some of the toughest moments. There were moments I wasn’t so confident about God’s plan for me and it took a lot of prayer and trusting for me to believe. I look back at Leah on July 2012 and I can say that I’m a different person- spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Now, I’m more spiritually connected to God more than I’ve ever been before. Because of it, I feel a lot stronger and confident. Aside from my spiritual growth I’ve learned a few other valuable things here.
This is the one that has impacted me most. When I came, my town immediately showered me with kindness. People didn’t know a thing about me, yet they welcomed me with open arms. People went out of their way and I mean extremely out of their way for a complete stranger. This is something that does not happen in the United States. For all of that, I was truly grateful and took none of it lightly. In my unhappiness, I realized just how important my family, friends, and boyfriend were to me. I realized how much meaning they held in my life and how I much I depended on them for support ( I had an idea of this but being here amplified it). I reflected on the last moments I shared with them before I departed and found it was really tough for me to find much because I took those moments lightly. I’m a thinker. My mind never shuts off. I can’t even chill without thinking or planning something. For this reason, I’ve never learned how to live in the moment. When you don’t live in the moment, you miss the things unfolding right in front of your eyes which means that you aren’t fully appreciating that moment. I still haven’t mastered this but I put it in to practice when I returned for Thanksgivings. I just took it all in and when I did I was able to appreciate the moments I shared with my family and friends. That was by far my BEST thanksgiving.
Almost every Japanese person I’ve met has shown me nothing but kindness (a few other JETs toos). I’m not sure if it was something about me that made them want to shower me with love or if it’s just the thing to do. I honestly believe it’s the latter. I remember the first week in Kazuno we ate at a restaurant for lunch. I had trouble finding something I liked/could eat on the menu. The owner of the restaurant told me to ask for anything I wanted on my pasta and he’ll make it. He made an awesome meal and then extended an invitation for me to visit anytime. He said I could order anything I wanted ( even if it wasn’t on the menu) from his restaurant. I’ve yet to return but it’s on my list. But point is, he didn’t know much about me ( just read about me in the newspaper) yet he still treated me like we’d been friends for years. I’ll share another story with you. I just got home from work and my neighbor, whom I never met or spoke to ( dont know Japanese), rushes towards me with two big bags of cucumbers grown from her garden. In my head I thought ‘What! people just don’t do this at home!’. Til this day, I still receive random gifts from her family and of course I send gifts in return. I haven’t experienced a moment where someone was rude to me. Yall know folks at home can just have a nasty attitude for no reason. People at home have no problem mistreating you in a heart beat. Oh, and don’t let you be a stranger to them because it’s worse for you. Of course this isn’t everyone but I know every American reading this could probably talk about at least one rude experience they had in just this week. Beside on the roads, I can’t say I’ve had a rude experience with a Japanese person. I’m always met with a smile and a bow. I know folks can’t be that happy but they don’t allow their personal feelings to affect the harmonious atmosphere. Experiencing this gave me a little more faith in humanity. We are indeed cable of living together peacefully.
Folks respect people here simple as that. Regardless of your rank EVERYONE respects you. Of course others get more respect (special treatment) than others because of their position. But even then, those high positioned individuals are humble enough to bow to the lower ranked person out of respect. This taught me that regardless of anyone’s ‘rank I should show appreciation and respect for the person because at the end of the day we are all human. Back home many people get caught up in their degrees,positions, the money they make etc and lose all respect for those not on their level. I aint gone lie, I’ve been guilty of doing this a few times. Mentally I’d say ”umm I can’t hang with this girl because she does not know how to speak properly ( caught up in my Davidson mode).’ But now, I’ve learned that I need to honor and respect everyone from the homeless man on the corner to the President of the United States.
I grew up on this so this isn’t really new to me. I just noticed that people in Japan are a lot more considerate of others than back home. I remember going to school after the first snow fall. The school placed a pillow and a blanket in my chair because they knew Houston is practicially a desert and doesn’t have much snow haha. People will ask a lot of personal questions about your health and experience out of genuine concern. At first, I was quite annoyed because we just don’t do that. We normally label those people as flat out nosy folks. I had to learn that they weren’t trying to butt in my business they just really cared to know. But, I still have my moments were switch back to my US mode and mentally say, ‘my business and my business so stop nagging me about it.’
These are just a few things I noted from my experience here. I can honestly say I’m grateful to be here and I don’t regret my decision (this doesn’t mean I don’t have my rough days) I’ve met some incredible people here and many families have opened up their homes and hearts to me. I will definitely miss that. These families and handful of foreign friends I’ve made here have definitely made my experience worthwhile ( still are making it). That being said, I move forward into the second half of my experience full of optimism and excitement for all the happy moments I’ll share with my friends and new families. 🙂