"The effect of mass migrations has been the creation of radically new types of human being: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves-because they are so defined by others-by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves. The migrant suspects reality: having experienced several ways of being, he understands their illusory nature. To see things plainly, you have to cross a frontier.”
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991
If you've read the short post, What is a "Flophouse"? then you know that our little Franco-American household has set up shop over the years in all kinds of places around the world like Seattle (USA), Suresnes, (France) and Tokyo (Japan).
Oh, those wandering ways of ours! Why? Why pack up every few years, leave friends and family, and all that is (or has become) familiar, for a distant shore halfway across the world? I could be disingenuous and give you the short answer - work - but that's not the whole story.
We go because we can. Because opportunities present themselves. When asked, "Would you like to go to...?" our answer has always been a resounding, "Yes!" As Susan Ossman points out in Moving Matters, having packed up and left everything once, twice, thrice the destination may be a mystery, but the feelings and the process are now very familiar.
|Kansai region (dark green) - Wikipedia Commons|
This is a city on the sea in the Kansai region, not too far from Kobe and Kyoto.
Japan is not a complete mystery to us - we lived in Tokyo years ago - but I know next to nothing about this region. All the traveling I did when I lived in that great city was out of the country across the water to Korea and China. (It was a little like living in the Paris area and traveling to London, Brussels or Munich but never Lyon, Marseilles or Bordeaux.) In short, there is more to France than Paris, and there is much more to Japan than just Tokyo.
I will not hide, however, my feelings which were (are?) mixed: the thrill to be going off on another adventure is tinged with anxiety. This is Asia where not only do I not know the language well, I can't even read it with any fluency. I am cancer-free but still under treatment and it will be wrench to lose my clinic and my beloved oncologist (both of which have managed to keep me alive these past few years). And this time around I will not be working, so making a life for myself will take effort on my part.
Against all that vague uncertainty is recognition that the universe is indeed benevolent and is offering a second chance. If I left Japan last time having missed a great deal, and with a sense of not having done much except work like a demon (and, alas, drink), then is this not an unexpected but most welcome opportunity to do better? Japan is simply one of the most extraordinary countries I've ever lived in and has a graciousness and quiet beauty the likes of which I have never found in either North America or Europe.
As for keeping myself occupied and content wherever I land, all that I have lived in the past few years (sobriety, cancer, and the transformation from technologist to wordsmith) give me every reason to be optimistic and to fully feel the lovely frisson that comes with rejoining the world of "the people who move around." I can stay sober, live with cancer, and write anywhere on this planet. So....
“Let us simmer over our incalculable cauldron, our enthralling confusion, our hotchpotch of impulses, our perpetual miracle - for the soul throws up wonders every second. Movement and change are the essence of our being; rigidity is death; conformity is death; let us say what comes into our heads, repeat ourselves, contradict ourselves, fling out the wildest nonsense, and follow the most fantastic fancies without caring what the world does or thinks or says. For nothing matters except life.”