Saturday, November 7, 2009

Change of Mind

I was talking to a friend from New York a few days ago and she said that my blog “sounds” sad lately. “Now why would that be” I thought to myself. After careful evaluation I realized that being on my own has finally caught up with me. Staying in internet cafes and having almost no interaction with people for the last week affected my outlook and mood.

More than anything, I am a peoples person. I love talking, listening, watching and being with people. Lack of interaction reflected in my everyday life and therefore the blog. Realizing this made me more appreciative of the moments when I meet new people and get a chance to talk to them and learn about/from them.

And so my story continues. Tokushima was a nice city and I thought it was quiet beautiful...until I got to Kochi.

I arrived to Kochi late at night after hitching a ride with a 20 year old Japanese boy and his 18 year old girlfriend. The young are usually less interested in other people therefore we didn’t talk much except a few times when I tried to start a conversation. Still it was very interesting to observe their interaction from the back seat. Public display of affection is taboo in Japan, therefore the kids didn’t hold hands, hug or kiss. For a moment I thought there was nothing between them. But their body language spoke a different story. Hiroshi leaned so much towards his girlfriend, he practically sat in her passenger seat. Riri took care unwrapping onigiri for him while he was driving. He looked at her every time he spoke and she responded by turning her body to face him.

Watching people can be a great learning experience; and for me, watching Japanese is a fascinating past-time. Their culture is very different from mine. Language, customs, traditions, religion, day-to-day interactions are very distinct. But when it comes down to the primitive, their body language is easy to read. Without knowing the language, it’s easy to know what a drunk person is saying while laughing at his buddies; what lovers are feeling while flirting with each other; what a child is communicating to his grandmother and what she’s feeling inside; what a “sarariman” is thinking while smoking a cigarette late at night outside his office; what a service girl is thinking while straining a smile behind a McDonald counter; what a teenager is seeking in a late night arcade full of smoke (in Japan rarely do they seek a person of opposite sex; usually it’s a gateway time from school, studies and family). Observing the young couple from the back seat, I was able to learn a bit about their story without speaking words. A story I will take away with me as yet another experience of this wonderful country.

But I got off the topic. Kochi. Oh Kochi. I felt like Matsuo Basho, making up a haiku dedicating to Kochi which contains nothing more than Kochi name and a whole lot of exclamations.

Kochi was situated on the southern coast of Shikoku Island and about half an hour away from the shore. The city was bright, clean, warm and sunny. Graceful tall palm trees adorned long alleys creating an illusion of lost oasis of paradise; narrow and windy brook ran throughout the city crafting stunning Japanese Gardens; smiling faces of residents shaped images of fun filled days during holiday fairs; tall blue mountains enveloped the city in their majestic beauty inspiring men to write poetry. I was in love.

Roaming the city back and forth, exploring every corner of its exquisite serenity, I felt immense pleasure. I would arrive to internet café late at night and leave early in the morning to continue my discovery. On the third day of my stay, I decided to go to Katsurahama, a famous beach half an hour away from the city.

On my way to the beach I met a German man with whom I ended up spending the rest of the day. Jorgan was a 39 year old orthopedist and neurologist. Overwhelmed by each others’ stories, we sat on the sandy beach and talked for hours about life, politics, alternative medicine, G-d, history, travels, family values, cultures and traditions. Breaking down stereotypes, we talked about Nazi Germany, Holocaust and our views of historical events. He taught me about his practice and ways to take care of myself and I inspired him to believe in G-d and Universe Light again.

We parted ways feeling enriched and inspired. It seemed Kochi couldn’t stop giving me wonderful souvenirs and I was eagerly accepting them.

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