Two weeks in and my biggest take-away thus far is that homesickness is inevitable. Manageable, but inevitable. Did I expect anything less? Fuck no. I love my family and I love my cats and being away from them for any extended period of time sucks warm dicks. I’m also pretty fond of beds that have some semblance of lumbar support, which is why I have come to the conclusion that the inventor of the futon should be exhumed and pissed on.
It seems I’m far more vulnerable to homesickness in the morning; it could be waking up in an empty apartment, the prospect of a long day ahead of me, or a night of sleeping on what is basically a thin fucking duvet on a plank of wood. Thankfully, that uncertain feeling in the pit of my stomach tends to dissipate pretty quickly, partly thanks to the idyllic walk through Nakajima park. The park’s mostly empty at 7am aside from a few people heading for work, or early morning joggers, so it’s always incredibly still and indescribably serene. My favourite though, is when I manage to catch those stereotypical, elderly Asian women doing Tai Chi in their tracksuits and visors. I didn’t think that shit was real, but it IS.
Right now it’s just a matter of getting used to the cycle. Monday was overwhelming, but any first day of work is – I don’t speak the same language as these kids or 90% of the teachers, so as someone who thrives on conversation, that’s been difficult to get used to. Over the course of my first week I started to find my footing, discovering ways to more effectively communicate when words wouldn’t do. You end up flapping your arms a lot, making inane gestures with your hands that mean absolutely fuck all, but you get there and you find the things that work.
I don’t want to overstate the role that this plays in my appreciation of Japan, BUT the taco flavoured Doritos that they sell here are a near constant reminder that I made the right decision. I mean, they’re reaaaaaaaally fucking good. My search for the elusive Wasabi & Soy Sauce Doritos continues, though – at this point I think they’re just a figment of my imagination, and never actually existed. I ain’t giving up though. The Doritos almost make up for the lack of good cheese, and good bread, and good butter, and good sandwich meats, and pies, and goo- right, I’ll stop – different cultures, different foods, yadda yadda. Never have I been more disappointed than I was with the cheese toastie I attempted to make last night. It was heartbreaking. Plus, the absence of HP sauce just compounded my misery. I ate it anyway, because I’m a fucking adult and I paid for that shit.
I’ve still not completely regained my appetite since I’ve been here. It’s gotten better this past week, but it means I’ve not had much opportunity to sample a lot of the food on offer. The school lunches have been the closest I’ve gotten, and for the most part they’re pretty good; good sized portions, usually served with rice, milk is ubiquitous, some kind of meat or fish as a side, oh and mussels. Fucking mussels in EVERYTHING. Yesterday I had a curry with mussels. Thursday I had miso soup with mussels. Wednesday I had something (the name eludes me) with mussels. I mean, I was aware that Sapporo was known for its sea food, but I was expecting a little more variety than “here’s your (insert food name) with mussels and a side of mussels.” Still, the school lunches here are leagues ahead of England’s. Jamie Oliver, step your game up, son.
It’s still all quite surreal still, but I feel I’m acclimating well; I don’t speak on the train, I bow, I rarely eat/drink in public (that’s a lie, I always drink on the train platform. Sorry, Japan), my chopstick game is complimented regularly by the kids and I plan on buying a briefcase, so I guess you could say that I’m well on my way to becoming Japanese. Okay, you couldn’t say that at all, but I am figuring out the minutiae of Japanese life and doing my best to adhere to the plethora of cultural rules over here.
So far, I’d say this big ol’ step in my life has been a successful one. It’s Golden Week next week, so I’ll have a bit more time to explore, take in my surroundings, and have some legitimate updates on things I’ve done/seen with some accompanying shit. Until then though, this is just a quick one to tell you that I’m still very much alive and enjoying myself in Sapporo.
One last complaint though…why the fuck do Japanese traffic lights take SO long to change?! I’m not about that. Waiting 5 minutes just to cross a road, because the day I decide to jaywalk is the day a cop collars me and stares disappointedly my way.