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Here We Go

December 10, 2009

I’ve been wondering of late, about differences.

I expected to feel different in Japan, and to its culture, to the big city culture (although pedestrian rage and an impatient nature tell me I’m fitting in quite nicely). I knew all those childhood memories; references to brands or stupid ads shown years and years ago would fall short in a group where nobody knows what I’m talking about. These moments unrealised by us, when we are part of a bigger culture, suddenly jar against another, and then we can see how anchored in our national identities we all are. Whether we want to or not. We can use it for inside jokes, or as a way to relate (“No way? You watched Biker Mice from Mars growing up too?!”) but the unfortunate flipside to this  barrier is that it keeps others out. I can’t relate to fond memories of mochi making – something that happens about the new year, or watching Doraemon; any number of little things that could make up a Japanese person’s life. All lost on me.

What I didn’t expect, was to feel different amongst the circle of exchange students. Which, looking back, was naive. Even if we downsize to European exchange students, there’s still so much difference I’m admittedly overwhelmed by it. Of course an optimist would look at this and see a world of opportunity. Unluckily I am not one of them. For all the simplistic joys I take out of life, at the heart of it is an awfully cynical pessimist. So I see us like puzzle pieces from different boxes; for all they seem to fit together, misaligned.

Told you. Definately a pessimist.

I’m thinking it is the approaching festivities that bring this on. Christmas. I don’t buy so much into the religion of it, and it happens to be one of those commercialised holidays I geniunely enjoy, presents aside. Now I have to comprimise; logistically its impossible to have the ‘usual’ Christmas. And outside of my little bubble world, it never occured to me that even amongst Europe or America, Christmas is celebrated differently. Case in point: Germans celebrate on Christmas Eve. The idea is so inherently wrong to me, because my winter wonderland memories are embedded in that tradition of releasing general mayhem on the 25th instead. There’s other little things, but putting them into words, I still can’t quite express the oddness; the slight, irking alienation.

I guess these train of thought is a precusor to a lighter one, about things that unite us. I might say missing home, but most folks seem to be dealing rather well. Very well, even. Here’s hoping the coping’s infectious.

“Here We Go” is a reference to a Jon Brion song. Nostalgia has revived an obsession with his music – he wrote the soundtracks to two of my favourite films, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and I Heart Huckabees.

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