Monday, March 31, 2014

A Good March

          I've never liked the month of March. With no holidays, it was always exceptionally long and busy. March has never given me anything to celebrate or be thankful for... until this year.
          It is quite poetic that this is the time of year in Japan when people wait for the sign of hope - the sakura.  Blooming on cue of comfortable weather, the flower with over 200 species in Japan has come to symbolize, finally, the end of winter.
          Strangely enough, my experiences and emotions have been in-sync with the weather since arriving to Japan in last September. Fall was a beautiful breeze. Winter was cold and dreary. And now spring is bright and beautiful. This has taken me by surprise since I've never had an interest in spring while I worshipped the idea of winter from afar (Thailand). I guess that was a premature move on my part. I still am not all that into spring -insert clip from Bambi- but I can't help but interpret the blooming of sakura as a "Hey girl, your life is beautiful right now." Dammit.
          It really is though. To put it inaccurately softly, I was stressed out about my future in December and January. Rather than sleep, I worried every night about credits incompatibility between universities and about finding ways to sustain myself in Tokyo. On top of that, my sick high standards for academic performance just wouldn't let up despite hitting the roof with number of classes one can possibly take per semester. Yea, winter was dark.
          Now in March, I am doing an internship that is very meaningful to me and also have a part-time job. Yet though I am extremely busy working 7 days a week, I have somehow managed to be healthy physically and socially this month.  In fact, just this weekend I had the most random day of being continuously inspired by people, ranging from 6 months old to almost 90 years old. (So okay, I did take a day off this week.) I reunited with some long lost cousins and got to meet their family (toddlers) and friends for the first time. Absolutely nothing was planned in advance, and that was the great part about it. It was nice piecing together everyone's story, making up for the lost years, because to be honest my relatives and their company are such friendly and caring people. 
          That was the later half of the day. My day actually started at 9:30 a.m. at Ueno Park. Expecting nothing more than a guide or two to lead me, unnecessarily to admire sakura trees, I was instead met by the most wonderful group of young-hearted citizens who walked me through how Ueno came to be and the paralleling events in Japanese history. It was so personal: they each wrote and presented in turns their own informative speech... in English. 
          I am getting emotional now, just remembering it. It's not only the sign of their vitality, motivation to keep themselves sharp in their old age, and generosity to share their wisdom with us callow youths that inspires me, but how they treat each other with the same sincerity and compassion as they do to us guests. They never miss a beat in encouraging one another about the speeches they have worked so hard on. Age doesn't make you immune to self-esteem issues about speaking in public in a non-native language. They fully understand that and take it to heart. 
          The sakura was perhaps only 80% bloomed on that day, but it didn't even matter to me. There were more special things to appreciate and be grateful for that day. 

A Good March

My cousin Christina and her daughters.
Nami (left), Yuna (right)
My cousin Kenny on uncle duty.
Omikuji - I got good.

          I want to end here with a special mention about the guy pictured directly above. He is reaching 90 years old. Unbelievable. Even more so if you meet him. His speech moved me. When he spoke about the Tomb of Shogitai Warriors, he added that his great-grandfather is buried in there. I have also never known any human being with more beautiful cursive. To me, he exemplifies what it means to enrich your life and live it to the fullest. 

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