so here i am...sitting on my third-story balcony in the dark, sipping ice water and trying to catch a breeze. it has been unseasonably "cool" (only 81 degrees at 10:00 tonight) and "dry" since i returned to japan, a seriously wonderful thing, because i probably won't have enough money for an air conditioner for at least another month. it's far beyond miserable trying to escape your own sweaty carcass for hours on end. when you can get no relief in your home, it feels like torture. i know roxie understands--when we lived together in tacoma's Sauna of the Sun, the heat literally brought her to tears.
right now i can hear crickets (the cicadas only rev their engines in the daytime), light traffic, my fridge humming, an occasional train going by a few blocks away, and the quiet click of a bicycle down below. that is one of the best things about my apartment: it's quiet. i can't hear my next-door neighbor AT ALL unless she is on balcony hanging laundry, but i don't have to hear phone conversations, blenders, stereos, or babies crying. that's because there is a concrete wall between us. in japan, good walls make good neighbors! reinforced concrete construction, you have my vote!
so i've been back for four days, and there have already been some highs and lows. keep in mind: this is the first time in my life i've moved to a city i'd only been to once before. the only person i know a teeny bit is out of town, and here i am...plunked down in a new place with no idea where anything is or what to expect. i'm already a sensitive person, but put me in a totally new situation, and sensitivity blows up like peeps in the microwave.
yesterday was the low point. for one thing i was already lethargic, but i was feeling so lonely and discouraged, you could have crumpled me with one wrong look. the people at the nearest grocery store didn't seem friendly, the fruit looked crappy and was way overpriced (even for japan), and i felt trapped. i didn't know what lies in any direction from my house, so where could i go? finally, as the evening began to cool down a little, i memorized part of a city map and made myself ride my bicycle to the main train station. just going down the road made me feel better, and i discovered a lot along the way; a post office, the brightest, cleanest drug store i've ever seen, a shopping arcade, the city gym...oh, and a piece of my sanity. i chatted with a nice old lady in a fabric store and then rode back feeling like a new person. i cheerfully bought some beer and edamame at the drug store, i made myself some mexican food, and i fell asleep perfectly content (but a little bit hot).
i know new situations require patience and faith that a Turning Point will come. i think yesterday was a turning point. i got over feeling like a cowardly lion and actually figured some stuff out. today was even better. today i decided to find the mall i saw when passing on a train, so i drove there without incident (ooh, passed an onsen. note to self: visit onsen) and went inside.
! ! whoaaaaa...
i have clearly been in the countryside for too long, friend. a two-floor carpeted mall unfolded before me. i just took it all in. the attached super market was SO much nicer than the one near my house and it had several key things that indicated, "lauren, you have arrived." some of those things were: tortillas, boursin cheese, marshmallows, salsa. these are the things it's hard to find at regular stores in japan, so you know a really well-stocked grocery when you can find them. plus it had the stuff i'm used to at normal prices.
next i ventured into chococro (a chocolate croissant chain). um WOW. i had to have a 2nd one.
just when i thought it couldn't get any better, i came around the corner to a starbucks. now, starbucks isn't my cup of tea (har har) when i'm home. there are so many good, independent coffee shops, but in japan, starbucks is a guaranteed good cup of whatever. and it feels like home. in a place that's not quite home yet, that's even more precious.