Afterthoughts

When a trip like this ends, I usually say “I can’t believe 3 months passed just like that”. This time it’s a bit different. I can believe it. I’ve been prepared for this moment from the very beginning. What I cannot believe, is the amount of knowledge and experience that I’ve gained throughout these 3 months. Sure, maybe I didn’t achieve much in the lab, but there is so much more than academic literacy that I’ve gained, and it’s hard to completely encompass it in words.

I took up this trip, a challenge that I didn’t even regard as difficult until I got here. I don’t know if that even counts if I underestimated it, but in the end, it still has its place on my resume.

I talked to people and put myself out of my comfort zone. When I look back on my trip to Hong Kong last year, I would describe it as hiding away in a shell. I only interacted with people that literally placed themselves right outside my door. I wouldn’t go out of my way to talk to someone. I still went on adventures around Hong Kong and I still had fun, but they were all by myself. This summer has been one with a lot of risks taken.

I endured through the pain, both physically and mentally. The pain of feeling like an outsider, with nobody that speaks my language and that understands me. The pain of having to go out to exercise when I could be having a great lazy day at home on my computer. Heck, I climbed Mt Fuji. But you know the cliche – no pain, no gain.

I learned that I judge wrong sometimes. The good friends that I made in Japan are the type of people I refused to open up to in Toronto because I was judging the city so harshly. It’s true that everyone will have some sort of first impression, but you can’t let that preoccupy your entire mind. Take a step back, keep an open mind, and you will find so many awesome things you never so before.

I found friendships that will last a lifetime. Sure, I knew I’d probably meet people here. But who’s to say whether those people will be just hi-bye friends, or party friends, or acquaintances, or what. The fact that I can be sure about these good quality friends – that’s really something special.

So, this marks the end of my 2013 trip to Osaka. My next destination – Hong Kong – is a place I’ve been to many times before, and it’s not special enough for me to keep another travel diary like this one. However, my habit of blogging everyday rekindled my passion for writing, and I’m going to continue the stories of my adventures on another blog. I won’t be writing everyday, so the best way to keep in touch is of course, subscribe! But no matter what, I hope you come along for ride as this silly flower tries not to die wherever she may be.

http://acuriousjasmine.wordpress.com/

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Day 88: An endless day

I want to say its been a crazy last two days, but then it doesn’t really seem right to me because I didn’t sleep over the past two days. So its been just a heck of a really long last day for me. Regardless of what you call it, the actuality is that I’ve been awake for like 40 hours straight (with a small nap in between) and my body is simply running on coffee and adrenaline. Oh, and the entire day has been hectic. Sounds a lot like my first day here if you ask me.

How exactly did I get to this point? Well. On Friday morning, I woke up bright and early to go to school one last time and say my goodbyes, then I went to the Suita city hall to get all these procedures done before I leave Japan. The whole city hall thing was ridiculous. First of all, I wish I never went to register my address to begin with. Since I’m only here for three months, it really doesn’t make a difference. You’d need a registered address for more serious things like phone contracts and bank accounts, but I barely used it. Then, they also force you to join their health insurance and pension plans, and you have to get out of the system when you leave. For me, it just means a huge hassle with things that I never needed in the first place. And then you know with these kinds of places, you take a ticket and wait in line… and after its finally your turn, they tell you that you were in the wrong line… I got redirected a few times because not many of them could communicate well in English, and it felt like a wild goose chase. It was a frustrating two hours. Honestly, I could’ve just ignored this step and left the country, but if I ever want to go back to Japan (with a visa), it might get me in trouble.

Anyway, I’m over that now. It’s all done and good. I went to Umeda to meet up with a friend for afternoon tea, and while I was waiting I just had to get one last look at the expensive foods they sell at the Hankyu department store. I wonder who ever buys these things..

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At this price, these better be the peaches that monkey king ate.

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Day 86: Presenting myself

Packing, pictures, goodbyes… that’s all I can use to describe the past while. And through all the different emotions I’ve experienced, the number one feeling on my mind has been stress. Worried that my luggage will be overweight. Not sure if I’m going to get to the airport on time. Thinking about how the day will play out, but with so many unknowns to consider. The list goes on. On top of all that, my sore throat and headache is getting worse. Apparently Japanese over-the-counter medicine isn’t like Hong Kong medicine, because that stuff takes care of your cold almost instantly. But of course, I have one thing on my mind to keep my spirits up – I’m going to Hong Kong!

Okay, I lied – two things. The other is that I finished my presentation for my lab on Thursday! I talked about my school experience, things that I learned, and of course an outline of all the travel I did over the past 3 months, and I’d say it’s one of the better presentations that I’ve ever given. I’m still quite a nervous speaker, and I don’t really have that presence that captures the audience, but with this presentation I felt very calm.. in fact, I was pretty happy to be talking about things that I like. My professor even commended on my speaking skills and asked me if I took any courses on giving presentations, and that’s when I learned that Japanese schools don’t often assign oral presentations. Of course for us Canadians, we’ve been doing book reports and class presentations ever since elementary school, and my Japanese friends found that quite surprising.

I’d say I’ve come a long way since my first book report in elementary, but one of the other things that really helped me was just talking to strangers. When you’re young, your parents always tell you not to talk to strangers, and I think that’s one of the things that made me shy to begin with. It’s a seed of thought that’s implanted in your head, whether you’re conscious of it or not. But during this trip, every single person I met here was a stranger to begin with, and now I even have some very heartfelt friends out of these strangers! And the best thing about talking to people you don’t know well is that you always have to stay alert to what they’re saying and be thinking about a relevant, witty reply. I’ve learned that this is a key to giving a good presentation – stay lively. Practice your presentation, of course, but make sure it’s different every time you present it. Make the audience feel like you are actually engaging them, rather than just a TV speaking out to them.

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This goodie bag was from my labmates. The little crocodile there is our school mascot. Apparently our school is located on the site of some crazy huge crocodile skeleton that archaeologists found…

My party was really fun. I’m going to miss all these awesome people when I leave!

Day 85: No time to talk

I know it’s quite unlike me to skip two days in a row. This week has been busy. With hard deadlines approaching and so much I still want to do in Japan, I just haven’t found time to update the story of my life here. To top it all off, I’m starting to fall a bit under the weather. The weather has been great these past few days – fluctuating around 24 degrees – so it’s nice and cool, but maybe almost a bit too nice. All of a sudden, I’m finding myself with cold symptoms! My nose has actually been running on and off throughout these 3 months of being here, and it’s probably just due to the intense air conditioning inside every building, but this time I’m also getting a sore throat and a bit of a headache. Oh great… an actual cold right before I leave!

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If only you could feel this picture. I remember walking out late at night and it literally felt like Vancouver. Breezy, and not even humid. Why can’t Osaka be like this for the entire summer?!

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Day 82: I’m not such a horrible cook after all

What a busy last weekend of this trip! I got to experience a cooking class here in Japan, not unlike the home economics classes we used to have in high school… Except that there was one teacher for just 3 or 4 people, so they didn’t even need a station with a huge mirror at the top. Still, the whole thing was a bit nostalgic for me.

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Can you believe that there’s a cooking studio at the top floor of a big brand name department store in the middle of downtown Osaka?

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Day 80: Kohien

Yesterday happened to be the last day of a very popular summer event for the Japanese – a high school baseball tournament known as Summer Kohien. I was surprised when I heard that high school baseball is a very popular watching sport for Japanese people. You’d think that university leagues (like NCAA in America) are more famous, but actually nobody watches university baseball here. It’s either the professional leagues (both the Nippon league and MLB), or high school baseball. So anyway, I’ve been watching my labmates as they spent the past few days over work and baseball. They told me that the games are not just exciting, but moving; literally, they almost cried watching the pour of emotions and hard work these kids put into baseball. Okay… that happened to me cheering for my own team at the Stanley Cup Final, which I think is easily understandable. But these guys, they’re not even cheering for any team in particular. They just like to watch the sport, and the high tier of battle that these high school students bring – and with that mindset, they can be moved to tears. Maybe those sports mangas aren’t exaggerating as much as you might think.

Osaka’s “rainy season” hasn’t been rainy for maybe 2 or 3 weeks now, but I think it’s starting up again. It was perfectly sunny when I walked out this morning, then out of nowhere the rain just starts pouring down in the middle of the day. I never saw it coming. Luckily, I got home between the storms, but the rain doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. I have to be prepared for a rainy weekend!

I don’t like rain when I go out, but I do like thunderstorms – especially in Asia. They seem to be a lot more intense, and they happen more frequently as well (compared to Vancouver). I can literally spend an entire stormy night watching the lightning flash, then counting down for the thunder soon to ensue. That’s how I spent this Friday night 🙂

Sadly, that’s all I have to say about a boring past two days. Except for maybe that I watched this clip, and I liked it so much that I went on to watch the movie Pitch Perfect.

(I liked that too. Their songs are amazing!).

Day 78: Growth

Every time I walk to Esaka Station, I pass this patch of grass that has been growing every since I arrived. When I first saw it, the patch was still a large pool of water. You couldn’t even see the seedlings! Then, one day, all of a sudden I noticed that the grass was starting to sprout. That’s when I started taking pictures of it occasionally when I walked by.

20130707_114448Just like with kids… one day, you suddenly realize they’re no longer children anymore. The growth always seems to jump from one stage to the next.  (This was from early July, by the way).

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Day 77: Easily accessible

I can’t believe it took me almost 3 months to realize this, but the crosswalks near my house have Braille engraved on the post to help visually-impaired people find their way. Following this discovery, tried to look up what it meant; I couldn’t find the meaning of these actual words, but I did find another wonderful blog about life in Japan. This one post in particular is about all the accessibility support that you can find all around the country, and after reading through it, I realized it’s all true – I just never really noticed it.

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Waiting at the intersection for my light to turn, and all of a sudden I notice this. (You can see the engravings much more clearly if you click and zoom in).

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Day 76: Early afterthoughts

These days, it seems like I always open with some sort of depressing comment about how I’m leaving soon. Honestly, I’m not that sad about leaving Osaka… it’s just the change that’s hard to deal with. There’s a part of me that’s had enough of this city. Don’t get me wrong, Osaka is great. It’s fun, it’s happening, and there’s everything that you need within a 10 minute walk of wherever you live. At the same time, it’s an ugly city. Houses are mostly old and run down. When you get to the city center, you’ll quickly realize that its really dirty. About two weeks ago, I saw a huge rat run across the street at Doutonbori (and I know, rats are actually quite common in congested areas, but that thing was definitely the biggest rat I’ve ever seen in my life). Compared to other cities, Osaka is also quite an early sleeper. Stores mostly close between 8 – 9 PM. Public transportation shuts down at midnight. For a city where vehicles aren’t all that common, that means we never get a really fun party night unless you’re prepared to get home at 6 AM.

Just a month ago, I said I’m seriously considering moving to Osaka for good. It’s really because of all the good friends I’ve made here, and those fun times we’ve had together. I’d love to come back and visit, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to live here. I’m ready to head to Hong Kong.

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Day 75: Koreatown, Osaka, Japan

The two week countdown is officially ticking. That’s all I can think about these days… not really the act of leaving, but everything leading up to that day. Packing (just thinking about packing is frustrating enough… I have no idea where to start!), finishing up with school, saying goodbyes, etc. Of course, there’s also lots to look forward to in Hong Kong, but I’ve never been good with departures.

Like any normal Sunday, I set out to our 12 PM church service. I used to like the 3 PM one more, but when I want to actually go do something else on Sunday after church, 12 PM works a lot better. Anyway, one of the places I haven’t been to yet is Koreatown, so I decided to pay it a visit before I’m gone from this city. Koreatown is at Tsuruhashi Station, which is out of the way from downtown Osaka, but certainly not far. From Namba Station, its less than 10 minutes on the subway. Getting to the station is no problem, but finding the actual ‘Koreatown district’ is a bit hard. Like most shopping districts in Japan, Koreatown is just another block of alleyways lined with stores – it just so happens that these ones all sell Korean food and products.

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I know this doesn’t look distinctly Korean at all, but the streets literally just look like this.

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