Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Typhoon Story

I had planned out my next few weeks (after leaving Charlotte) perfectly and was ready to hit the road when I accidently came across a peculiar profile on couchsurfing (the site that made it possible for me to make this trip!). It was a profile of a 70 years old American man and his 55 years old Japanese wife. Something stirred in me when I saw their profile. I knew I had to adjust all my plans so I could see Scott and Masako. There was no way I was missing a chance to meet them. I wrote them an email asking them to allow me to stay with them and learn about their story. And they accepted my request.

On the way to Scott and Masako’s I was picked up by two truck drivers. Never in a million years had I thought I’d hitch a ride with truckers but these guys had very honest eyes and I instantly felt safe with them. Climbing into the truck and situating myself behind them I felt at ease knowing they would do me no harm. They had several deliveries to make before dropping me off but we had great fun along the way. We watched movies (Heathbreak Kid and Marley & Me), laughed at our silliness, took pictures and enjoyed each others company. The guys were super cool and I felt sad leaving them. I knew the feeling was mutual; they had hard time saying good bye and driving away.

I was standing in front of a small bus station. The bus which was supposed to take me to Scott and Masako’s village was arriving any moment. I saw it nearing the corner and soon was situated quite comfortably on the back seat. I had about half an hour drive and decided to dedicate it to writing in the blog. But before long I completely forgot about the laptop in my hands.

The road was narrow and led a steep path up the mountain. The higher we climbed, the wider the view emerged. Soon we were on top of the mountain. I gasped in awe. Hundreds feet below, outstretched in mighty power, laid a deep blue sea. It stretched far beyond the horizon and sparkled magically in the sun. Taking a second look below the cliff I noticed a few white specks. It was a tiny village with a couple dozen houses, several fish boats and a beautiful beach. Little did I know, this was exactly where the bus was heading.

Scott and Masako live in Kamo Aosa, a village where Masako grew up. It is located on a small peninsula which protrudes into the Japanese Sea. There a barely 200 people in the village. Everyone knows everyone. They’ve all lived there for decades. The average age of residents are above 60.

Not so long in the past, Scott and Masako lived in California, owned millions of dollars and had a beautiful house. Scott sold his own-designed jewelry in his store, played on Broadway and in movies, and expanded his amazing entrepreneurial skills. Masako, who moved to US in her early twenties to study in college, worked in a high-end boutique and traveled throughout Europe to handle many rich clients. They lived a beautiful life abundant with delicious food, great wine, amazing vacations and lots of money. One day, in a swift swing of fate, all their fortune was gone. Knowing that mourning their losses wouldn’t do them any good, they contemplated about the next chapter of their life. Not having any money to continue living in US they’ve tried to live in Panama. But quickly learned that it wasn’t the right place for them. And then Masako remembered the village where she grew up. Her father, who still lived in the village, owned several properties. So Scott asked Masako if he were to die tomorrow, where she would want to live, her answer made them pack their belongings one last time and move to Japan.

This is not a gloried life of rich people who rest on the beach and sip on pina-coladas all day while masseuse rubs their shoulders and gardeners trim the bushes. It’s an extremely remote village with very few people. It takes at least half hour to get to the nearest provisions store. The winters are chilly and lonely. The summers are warm and lonely. But Scott and Masako are very content with their lives. They have done many things in their lives and have experienced lots of luck and fortune. Now they tend to their garden, swim in the sea, explore nearby caves, watch movies, read books, listen to music, fish in the sea, host couchsurfers, cook super delicious food and fully enjoy each other company. During the winter months, they go away to their favorite place in Europe: France. Due to their budget constraints, they also couchsurf but they have learned to be humble about it and realize that it’s the people and not fancy hotels that make their experiences in foreign countries unforgettable.

I came to Scott and Masako in the afternoon and the next day we were caught in the middle of a very strong typhoon. News showed devastated regions where flooding was very dangerous. There were a few deaths. We had several warnings to take precautions against strong winds, flooding and high waves (Their house is 50 feet away from the sea). But we didn’t notice the wind or the rain. The typhoon passed by completely unnoticed by us. For the next two days we talked non-stop. Scott and Masako had a lot to share. Many wonderful stories.

Their own life story was mesmerizing. Their travels and passion for food was intriguing. But most importantly, they had a lot of wisdom to share. Wisdom about life. Every subject we touched upon, they had a story to tell and I had a lesson to learn. In the end, Masako said something that turned out to be an “eye-opening, heaven’s parting, angel singing, light bulb flashing” event. I have found out the reason why I ended up in the village and met them, why I left U.S. and went on this trip, why I am on the road of self-discovery.

I am not speaking it out loud yet. There are still pieces of the puzzle that are missing. My journey has many more discoveries to make.

But I will never forget Scott and Masako. Their tiny village. Their words of wisdom. Their hearty laughter. Their honest eyes. Their incredible hospitality. Their delicious dinners. And their true story.

Scott and Masako's garden

View outside the window