New Flophouse Address:

You will find all the posts, comments, and reading lists (old and some new ones I just published) here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Return to Our Wandering Ways

"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
The next destination for the Flophouse is Osaka, Japan

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.”  
Virginia Woolf


Blaze said...

Does this mean you have given up on the plan for chickens in the garden?

The IRS will love you. You will likely maintain a home and bank account in France while living in Japan. You will likely send funds to your daughter attending university in Canada. You will likely visits your parents and other daughter in Seattle.

You must surely be an international tax cheater. You must be investigated for money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other crimes and misconduct. What other reason could there possibly be for all this globe trotting?

Seriously, congratulations. Will the Flophouse move too or will you have anew blog?

allou said...

How good that you look forward to the move. I hope the Flophouse adjusts well to the change ;) I myself am so happy to stay put in my Scandinavian country refuge.I had enough of huge cities growing up in one. My childhood dream was a country home and I am so happy that I have lived the dream for decades. Being in Europe means interesting cities in easy reach - and a long weekend or a week of new input and centuries of culture is enough for me. The internet can take me anywhere. Good luck and take good care of your wonderful self!

Christophe said...

I am so glad we got to meet in Versailles while you were still there. While I'd love to visit Japan someday, I don't foresee it anytime soon. I have more chances to go to Bangalore, India, where part of my team is located.
Do you know how long the assignment will be?
What were the odds, so soon after buying your house.
I admire you for doing that, especially not knowing the language.
I don't have any doubts you'll be able to network there and keep yourself busy. Congratulations on the new opportunities.
I am sure your daughters will love to go visit you there.

Best wishes!

Crashman said...

I love your blog. Good travels to your new spot. Hope it goes well. I, on the other hand, am stuck in the U.S. After working at the Mercedes plant in Germany and living in Bopser for three years, I was transferred to the MB plant in Vance, Alabama. Friendly people, but very different place. Looking forward to hearing about Japan.


Anonymous said...

Make sure to hit the town of Kinosaki and visit the hot springs there. 7 Public ones. About three hours from either Shin-Osaka station, or the main Osaka station to Kinosaki Onsen station. And wait until you taste the crab. I am so jealous.

Inaka Nezumi said...

Welcome back to Japan!

How long do you expect to be here?

It'll be great to have another, and vastly more articulate, voice to help with putting pressure on local expat groups to get them to stand up and fight back. If you're up for it, of course. ;)

John Lawrence said...

Welcome to Japan, Victoria. I've lived here myself for over 26 years and used to live in Osaka before moving up to Yokohama in 1999.
It's a great, vibrant city (as is nearby Kobe) and I'm sure things will work out for you.
Japanese can be daunting at first to learn, but, with practice, I'm sure it will become second nature to you.
頑張って下さい!(Ganbatte kudasai! - Give it your best!)

- john

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze, Are we happy we didn't get the chickens? You bet! What a nightmare that would have been.

I am a bit worried about the banking situation there. I recall that we ended up with citibank last night. I hope that's still possible.

The Flophouse will stay as is. It's portable - a state of mind and not attached to an actual real-life location. I was also asked via email if I was going to change the name. Nope. It's the Flophouse forever (or at least until I cast off this mortal coil):-)

@allou, Thank you! When I was a youngster in Seattle I thought that was the big city (and when I went to see my relatives in Eastern Washington/Idaho) it really was - we were from the Big City). And then I moved to Paris and later Tokyo and fell in love with really big cities. Versailles was the perfect compromise - far enough out to have a house and garden but only 20 min to the center of Paris by train.

@Christophe, Oh go to Bangalore! It is amazing. And ask your team to take you around. I will be traveling around the region from Osaka and we could always meet in Bangalore. :-)

The contract is for 3 years. What we know is that it could be less or more depending on my spouse's French company.

@Crash, I'm very glad you like the Flophouse and thank you for saying so. Sounds like you loved Germany. I've visited and really liked it but never had a chance to live there.

@anonymous, Yes, the hot springs. Last time that was one of the things we completely missed. It was always that we had so much work and not enough time and then one day there we were packing up to go back to France. We were idiots...

@Nezumi-san, Looks like around 3 years but could be more (or less). Last time we were called back before the end of the contract (I got a promotion and a job at HQ in Paris).

@John, Your Ganbatte kudasai!brought back a lot of good memories. I had a professor at Temple U in Tokyo who used to say that to us. And suprise! I could make out the hiragana you left in your comment - barely. :-) And as for the kanji, I know nothing. I have work to do. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

But could I ask a small service of you? In a month or so we will be over there looking for an apartment in Osaka. Is there any neighborhood that you would recommend in the city?

Anonymous said...

All the best, and look forward to many interesting posts on Japan, in addition to ongoing FATCA and other news.

Best, Andrew

Pat L said...

All the best, sorry to have you leave France (and its mess) I look forward to many interesting posts on Japan, don't forget to keep us informed on FATCA and other news.

Shirl and Rowan said...

Hi, Victoria. I am so glad we got to meet you when you were in France. What are your plans for your cute house - rent it out? How exciting to go to a place with such history. Just saw Lost in Translation the other night. Thought it was really interesting. And our first stop on our round-the-world trip was Tokyo, which we dearly loved. And where we were lost for a little while because all is so different. But my biggest memories of Tokyo are how the millions of people move around each other gracefully and how helpful they were. When we were rushing for a train to Narita up a million steps with heavy backpacks, two Japanese people just lifted my bag up the several flights of stairs for me. Sweet. So will it be Flophouse, Osaka edition??? Best from the cool and colorful fall of Western Massachusetts.

Julia Gandrud (aka JuliaLikesFrogs) said...

Oh, yay! I LOVED living in Osaka - the food was fantastic, the people very friendly, and it did not have as much of what I perceived to be a tight and artificial register as what I noticed in Tokyo. I met a lot of strong girls there - I was in high school.

I hope you enjoy it. Have some okonamyaki for me!

Catherine said...

WOW, what exciting news! Congrats, and best of luck with the move and transition. You've shared such beautiful descriptions from France, and now as reads we'll get to enjoy Japan. All selfishness aside, I hope this is a very good move for you, and a wonderful adventure.


Donna said...

Victoria, how marvelous! Congratulations! I look forward to your posts from Japan, and would be very interested to hear your thoughts about living in a country that isn't "home", the native land, for any family members. When will you make the move? Best of luck!

John Lawrence said...

Hi Victoria - it's John again...the one who lives in Yokohama. Things got quite hectic at work over the fall and I couldn't hit your blog since I was there in September. Apologies.
I see you've settled into Osaka quite well. Obviously, Osaka is a wildly dynamic place. I would recommend, if you do not know already, Namba, Umeda, Kyobashi, Nihombashi and the bayside areas.
And, if you get a chance, do shoot off to Kobe. I lived there for years and it is such a charming town. I miss it dearly. I lived in Mikage (not much to see there), just a short hop down to the city center in Sannomiya. Flower Road, Tor Road and all the streets in between will keep you busy for a while.
Good luck and 頑張って下さい!