Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank you.

I've been back in Tokyo a week and a half and it's a good, yet strange, mix of still being in backpacking, every thing's cool dude, mode. a mix of, bustle bustle, perfect make-up, perfectly pressed suit, ready go, mode. a mix of, staying with friends in unfamiliar neighborhoods and much like my first year teaching, wandering around a little lost and constantly discovering new things, day after day.

As today is *the* day to meditate on giving thanks, I've been wandering around, a bit lost or perhaps just directionless, forming a list of things to be thankful for. It turns out to be an immensely long list, in part because it's been an extremely lucky and good year.

To everyone who inspired me and encouraged me to travel to South America and try something different, challenging, scary. Yet again, after that experience, I feel I can handle anything and am a calmer, more independent, more flexible, more tolerant person for it. Thank you.

To everyone, here in Tokyo and in the Northwest, who took me back after my adventures.

To the friends and family who smile with open arms, say welcome back, you have a home here any time you're ready, we love you... but nonetheless accept that my life still leads me away. I love you, no matter how far away I am. Thank you for your love, acceptance, patience.

To the travelers I met who were really on the road to learn (about the place, the people, themselves). You were unfortunately the minority, but you always made my day and gave me food for thought. For us, the most important journey is within and taking the same picture as everyone else has little to do with that. You taught me to live my life less afraid, more open, less worried. Thank you.

To anyone who helped bring me to joyous conclusion of "fuck the paradigm." Age, relationships, status, jobs, stuff.... It's been a conclusion I've been working on a long time and many of you have been a part of that. Know the rules and expectations of where you are, what you're doing, but in the end, live by your own. For all of those heartfelt conversations: Thank you.

To not being in any debt and therefore able to chase the wind to South America, Italy, Japan... Not being tied to making monthly payments on anything has been incredibly freeing. Still, if I had the choice, I'd wish my mom back. It's a funny sort of being thankful.

To all those who I have reconnected with, proving that my extremely footloose life is still full of meaningful lasting relationships. It's good to see some of your history in the faces of your friends, lovers, coworkers. I'm glad to know that I am changed, having known you, and happy when you've found yourselves changed as well. I look forward to each of our paths crossing again. Thank you.

To Loopy. I will always love you and am so glad I had three weeks to know you and your little parrot heart. If only we could all chase those we love with such reckless abandon and lack of pride. If only seeking the things that bring us immense happiness (over-ripe papaya, a nap in someone's arms) could be that simple and we could all ask for it so simply (squaw!).

I cried my eyes out the day I heard that monkeys had raided the aviary looking for food one early morning and with no volunteers to protect you, you'd been killed. I'm sorry I wasn't there. Still, I'm glad I knew you and loved you for as much time as I had. You taught me so much about how, sometimes, love can be the simplest thing in the world. Thank you.

To Maggie and Sama, whose love was hard won and never to be taken for granted. The bruises and scratches were all worth that occasional friendly, "thank you, you're ok after all" lick at the end of the day or rub against the fence of your cage. You taught me that I am much stronger-- emotionally, physically, spiritually-- than I ever knew. You made me earn being good enough for you and the nights I woke up with nightmares or days my frustration brought me to tears were all worth it. Thank you. I miss you immensely.

(Pictures of the park)

And special special loves goes out to Dave and Katie and their new baby--any second now-- please don't name it "Gratitude" or "Turkey." I am at a constant lack of words to try and describe what you've meant in my life and how lucky I am to be so close to you. I'm so glad you finally get to meet your munchkin. Thank you. All my love.

To all of you who read my blog, keep in touch with letters, or drop me a line now and then. I never have as much time as I'd like to keep in touch but so often there is a beautiful sunset, a funny joke over beers, a ridiculous Tokyo scene, a small secret, that I wish I could share with you. I keep all of you with me. Thank you.

(Some of the prettiest pictures of the year)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, whatever this holiday means to you, may you find it.

the adventures (and job interviews) continue...

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm from Oregon

I'm from a state where the seasons could be described as colors: grey, green, bright yellow. The days of rain are plentiful but when the sun comes out, it's a gorgeous sight. I'm from a land where it rains more than half the year but no one bothers with umbrellas. I'm from a state where things are looking up when unemployment goes from 12% down to 11.5%. Welcome to Oregon.

So what does a state with out enough jobs and no sunshine? My friends bike everywhere. Or you take the bus, which is filled all sorts of normal people. You deal with soggy feet by drinking micro brew (well, or PBR).
You get part time work and devote the rest of the time to their favorite creative outlet. You cook, You can your own food, you learn to knit. You fix your own house, bike, clothes. You buy used or find it for free. You make what you need; you take care of what you have. You get by with out the glitz. You kind of learn to hibernate and slow down to a different pace of tea and beer and indoor projects, or rain gear and hot showers and coffee.

I've been gone for more than four years, now. On the road, on the run, on the move from one place, job, school, group of friends to the next. During those four years, I became more and more divorced from the feeling of being Oregonian and had more and more trouble answering that question of, "Where are you from?" After all, I've been gone for a long time and everything has changed since I left. Can you still be from some place, even if it just vaguely resembles how it once felt like home? Before this October and November, each trip back to the Northwest was straight from a rushed Tokyo pace of life down to Oregon speed and I always found the adjustment jarring. Don't people have more places to be? Why does no one put some effort into dressing up and/or going out? With all of Tokyo's lights and bustle and independence, coming back, car-less, bike-less, restless, never reconciled very well.

So, previously, I found myself still in love with my old friends but in love with the cities and space of the Northwest. This time has been different though. After living out of my 35L backpack and chasing semi-wild animals around in Bolivia, I not only have renewed respect, admiration, and love for my hard-core, we will bike through the cold rain, no bullshit, we can innovate around that, friends, but also, I'm moving at a different pace. I'm walking around, just to see somewhere, not to go somewhere. I'm alright being a few days behind schedule because hey, I can and I'm not ready to leave yet.

I don't know what my future will bring or if it will lead me back to the Northwest. The pull to return and settle is stronger than ever, but so is the smell of crazy adventures. But regardless of that, I'm convincingly and happily proud to say, "I'm from Oregon."