I went to the burger place today. The burger place that is 5 minutes ride from my house and directly opposite the 24 hour internet cafe I used a few times a week for the first month I was here. The burger place that my (and Ashley’s) students rave about constantly. The burger place that I didn’t even know existed until last week. For a while now I’ve considered my neighbourhood to be somewhat lacking in good food options. When I first got here it was far too hot to keep any of my clothes on, let alone cook, so I spent most of my time eating at establishments in the nearby vicinity. This more-or-less meant some ok ramen, some awful ramen or some sushi or deep-fried-you-name-it-because-I-don’t-know-what-it-is from the local supermarket. But then, I didn’t know about the burger place did I? Or the yakitori (meat kebabs, basically) place at the end of my road which is always full and apparently, rather amazing. Or indeed, the Korean-style grill house a couple of blocks over which I visited on Saturday night and ate my body weight in delicious marbled beef steak.
Now I could get annoyed about this. Why do I keep missing out on the things that are important to me, I could think to myself, and it would be true in my case; relationships torn apart, friendships put on hold, funerals, weddings and birthdays missed, finding burger and yakitori places too late. My own answer to this was just an argument to support the reason I’m out here – for a challenge – but a rather brilliant and inspiring article I read recently seemed to acknowledge the above question:
To reach your goals, you must move forward, which necessitates leaving some things behind. But the man who believes he can get whatever he desires without sacrifice tries to hold onto everything in an attempt to have it all. Instead of moving forward, he is stretched out horizontally and sitting on the fence.
You cannot do something huge or become great at something if you do not sacrifice something important to you in some other area of your life; in my case, time with my friends and family in the UK, a friend’s funeral, another friend’s wedding and a whole bunch of birthday celebrations. When I leave here, I do so because my life must continue to move forward rather than stagnate; this is the greater goal.
Anyway, believe it or not I didn’t come on here today to get all deep (how does it always happen?) but rather, to tell you a humorous little anecdote about what happened on the way back from the aforementioned burger place.
You know how sometimes your mind drifts to things that are funny, and you smile, or even burst out laughing to yourself like a crazy person? I think about funny things that have happened of course, but I often make up stuff that has never, and probably will never happen. Yes, life inside my head is a riot.
I was riding my granny bicycle back home and I began to remember when I was 14, and went on a trip to Germany with the church choir. The boys among us would walk around and talk very loudly in English, boasting about how we could say anything and no-one would no what the hell we were saying! Oh the freedom! The boyish mischief! Just think of all the bold and naughty things we could say! That was of course, until a German gentleman approached us with a grin and told us that actually, most of them understood at least 50% of what we were saying. Cue red cheeks and sheepish side-glances. I then started to imagine a situation where I was back in London and walking around the tourist areas stalking Japanese people and trying to hear what they were saying. I thought about how they probably do the same thing as we did when we were 14, and about how so few people speak Japanese in London so they could probably get away with much more. To cut a long story short I heard a bunch of girls taking the piss out of me and joined in (something that I like to do frequently to the kids in my school who think I can’t hear), at which point they all start going “HAZUKASHII!” which basically means “EMBARRASSING! WE’VE BEEN CAUGHT OUT!”
Back in real life, I found this hilarious. I started to grin like a mentalist, and then even had a little chuckle completely failing to realise that, at the same time, I was staring directly into the face of a 70 year old lady on a bike coming towards me from the other direction. Rather than pedal slightly faster and stare straight ahead like any sane person would do though, she creased up her entire face and shot me a grin twice as big, threw her head back and cackled joyously. Obviously, this only served to make me laugh even more, and the result was a picture; a young gaijin and an old lady bent over their granny bikes, riding past each other at a snail’s pace and pissing themselves laughing for no apparent reason whatsoever. Passers-by looked sincerely puzzled at this little display, some visibly quickening their step; doubtless wondering what was happening to their beloved neighbourhood.