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My Web Site -- Japan

Asian Flora I by June Schnitzer

Back to the Beginning · About Me · Resume
2001 Aug - Dec
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11 Mar
Went to Sakibaru today. I had to get there early. In 1st period, I was groggy, sniffly. I'm not a morning person. My brain is very fuzzy in the morning. It's just a country school and the kids are innocent. So innocent. The elementary class went off brilliantly. The kids had so much fun -- and we were just playing simple games. If only I could go to country schools like that every day... The time is passing quickly. Soon I'll be leaving here. Leaving this beautiful place. I know I must, I know I will.

I stood in front of the school, waiting for the bus to take me from the country to the city, from fresh air to dingy air, from quiet to noisy. The sea was behind me, blue and beautiful. The skies were clear today, the sun finally showing its face after so many days of clouds and rain. I faced the sea and breathed it in, filling my lungs with ocean air before I returned to the city. Then the bus came. I got on and said hello to that very strange bus driver who always smiles and waves at me from his rear view mirror, who is strangely mute, and who always buys me two cans of hot coffee from the vending machines halfway through our trip back to Naze. It's all very mundane to me now. The thrill is gone. Even the most bizarre things about living here have ceased to make a strong impact on me, either negatively or positively. I have become totally accustomed to life here. Inside the bus there was a huge, brilliant red butterfly. It was slamming its body against the bus windows in a frantic effort to escape. I opened my window and let it out. It disappeared in an instant amid the surrounding lush forests, wild and beautiful. I thought about how Japan is such a safe country that anyone can go out into the forest and not be afraid, whereas in the US, you have to watch yourself. But I have only wandered into the wilderness alone a handful of times since I have been here. When I do, I am always aware of the Japanese presence around me, just around the corner, just down the mountain. It pervades everything and makes even the wildest places seem tame and under control. Even the sea. It is safe here, but that is because everything is so thoroughly known and controlled. As striking as the natural beauty is here, I have rarely had more than a sort of aesthetic appreciation for it. It has rarely moved me, the way the vast jungles of Costa Rica moved me, the way the groves of giant redwood trees in California moved me. Here, as everyone is controlled, so are the sea and stars and land seemingly controlled. It is difficult to be moved in such a throughly known, controlled environment. "Japanese wilderness" is an oxymoron.

An old woman got on the bus and sat next to me. We chatted for a bit and she said, "You like to learn new languages and see new places. It's interesting." "Yes, it is," I replied. And it was like she was affirming this for me, as if she were saying, "This is what you like and this is why." Very simple, really. All this time I've been worried about what I'll do next, and at that moment it came to me. I just need to do something interesting.