There’s No Place Like Home?

Photo by Starsprinkles

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star,
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.”

– Dorothy

Last night, somewhere over the rainbow, on 14th street in Chelsea, Manhattan…

Dude Sitting in the back of a Christmas Tree Truck: You dropped something.

Me: (stopped walking to look behind me, surprised) Really?

Dude: Yeah, my heart.

Me: Ha. That’s pretty funny.

Dude: Can you pick it up for me and come over here and give it back?

Can I just start off this post by saying that I love being back in New York? I love New York for the random, unpredictable conversations you have with total strangers. Can you imagine that above pick-up line used in Japan? Or any pick-up line at all? I love that I can once again have random conversations with strangers and feel confident in my ability to understand and be understood.

I love being anonymous again. I love being able to walk down the street and have not a single, solitary person give me a second glance. There are no stares, no questions. I blend in again. I’m a nobody and completely ordinary and unremarkable and by God, it feels so good.

I guess I never fully understood how much living in homogenous culture had a negative effect on me. But now that I’m in this unabashedly loud, upfront, agressive city pusling with diversity, I realize how emotionally draining it is to live a society where my outsider status is on prominent display like a Scarlet Letter.

But it’s been a very surreal transition back to the “Real World”. It’s felt a little like the World as I knew it was sucked into a tornado and dropped on it’s head is some alternate Universe. I feel so far removed from Tokyoland that sometimes it’s hard to believe that it even exists.

Right now I’m sitting at a Starbucks, listening to two Japanese girls discuss their shopping spree in Macy’s and if it weren’t for the fact that I can understand their conversation, I could easily convince myself that the whole nightmare that was Japan, never happened.

But then there’s the added fact that for better or worse, Japan has permanently scarred me. I now feel uncomfortable wearing shoes in doors, and continuelly walk into on coming traffic because I look in the wrong direction when crossing the street. I even catch myself refering to all non-asians as ‘foreigners’ and feel unsafe riding the subway alone at night.

I’ve also become a bit of a dirt-o-phobe. I’m now hyper aware of layers of grime that coat the subway walls and the darkened blogs of bubble gum that cover the sidewalks. I’m repulsed by the subway seats sticky from soda spills and the street corners that smell like rotting tacos and urine.

And I can’t eat. Everything tastes like it’s been soaked in butter and salt. And what’s with the obsession with cheese? Cheese is as much as much of an added seasoning staple in the States, as pepper and salt! It’s put on everything! Salads, potatoes, eggs, bread…After living an almost vegan existence in Japan for so many months, I’ve found that eating cheese just makes me feel sick.

Returning home is a funny experience…because the ‘home’ you think you’re returning to is never just as you left it; your experiences have forever altered your perception of it.

I don’t think we’re in Tokyo anymore, Toto, but it certainly doesn’t feel like New York either.

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Comments ( 7 )

  1. Tokyo Cowgirl

    "I could easily convince myself that the whole nightmare that was Japan, never happened."

    Good God, you sound like me.

    I leave this Thursday and I'm (surprisingly) really sad about it. Can you believe it? All of my bitching and I'm actually going to miss this place.

    My apartment is a really nice converted cardboard box in the West Village. If you're up for it, we should meet up for some Japanese food - Not having really great food to eat everyday is going to be the worst thing I will have to adjust to. I have already told my boyfriend that I might as well should just stop eating, nothing in America will come close to the food I eat morning, noon, and night in Tokyo.

  2. Reannon

    Yeah, endings are tough. Even if you hate the place you're leaving. Maybe even especially if you hate the place you're leaving, because then there's always the regret of not liking it more.

    About the food, at least there are no shortage of Asian restaurants here so I'm sure you won't starve.
    Although Americanized Japanese food sucks.

    I wouldn't mind meeting up...if I'm around. Everything is really up in the air right now. I might be going to California on Sat. Not sure if I can get a flight out...and then I might be back here in Jan. Or not. I haven't made a decision yet! Ugh.

    But good luck in NY. It's cold here! And it snowed and there was sleet this morning..Bring a warm coat!

  3. Sarah

    Oh man, I had such reverse culture shock when I moved back to the states!! I agree w/you on the food aspect..everything seemed so heavy and gross, and the portion sizes all seemed so outrageous!

    I come from a small pretty nondiverse town in New England and what really distubed me was going out in public and not running into any Asian people. I mean not one. When I went through the school system there were maybe only 2 Asian kids in my grade from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

    I also found myself really annoyed that I could understand everyone's conversations around me. Sometimes it was nice in Japan to be out in public and not have a clue what people were blabbing about.

    I also couldn't get over how loud everyone seemed to be when they were out in public. People would talk to eachother in normal "American" voices, but it seemed like they were screaming to me.

    Then I moved to Georgia about a month after coming home from Japan and that was just a disaster b/c Georgia is nothing like Mass and the farthest thing in the world from Japan.

    Congratgualtions on your new job!! I hope you like it better than your old one! Enjoy your brief visit back to N.Y.!!

  4. Reannon

    Sarah,

    I totally agree with you on the loud talking thing! And also on the 'everyone speaking English' thing but for different reasons. I don't mind that I can understand people...but I hate that everyone around me can understand me!

    I'll be walking with a friend and trying to have a serious convo about something personal and because it's New York, there are always at least 10 people within earshot...and they're prob not even listening and don't even care...but it's a strange feeling to know that they if they wanted to, they could eavesdrop and understand everything I'm saying.
    I hadn't realized I felt that way ntil you mentioned it.

    It's also weird how no one really cares about hearing about my life in Japan...other than to know that "I'm doing okay". I guess if you've never been there, you just don't have any frame of reference. They can't even begin to imagine what it's like, so there's just no interest.

    I guess it would be the same for me if a friend of mine returned from somewhere like, Greenland, let's say. I've never been there and know very little about it. I wouldn't know what questions to ask.

    What's it like living in Georgia? Why did you move there? Why was it a disaster and what made it so different from Japan?

  5. Sarah

    Hey Reannon,

    I moved to Georgia because my boyfriend was attending grad school in Athens. After being apart for one year when I lived in Japan, we decided our relationship wouldn't last if we spent another year apart, so that's how I ended up in Athens, GA.
    Athens is a pretty cool place to live(when it's not football season) but I am NOT a fan of the rest of GA (no offense to anyone reading this who's from/loves GA).
    I don't really want to get into the reasons why because I have really strong opinions and I feel like I could potentially offend people, but Georgia and I are simply not a good mix.
    If you want to know why I really dislike it and the differences that I found between Georgia and Japan you can email me at sfreddie29@gmail.com.
    Anyhoo, enjoy your time in N.Y.C.!!
    Also, I'm applying to grad school in Hawaii, is it really as expensive to live there as everyone says??

  6. Reannon

    Hi Sarah...

    Yeah, I can understand how you'd be hesitant to say why you don't like Georgia, (you still live there right?)...Sometimes I find it so hard to write what I honestly feel about my life, because I worry so much about accidentally offending someone.

    Anyways, Hawaii is really expensive! Similar in price to Japan. Are you going to UH? What program?

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