Hirakata Memories

I can remember it now. The year is 2000. Y2K uneventfully came and went and I just finished my second Japanese winter.  Spring was in the air and I was headed back to Osaka. After nine months of the Japanese countryside, I was ready to be another gaijin in the second-largest city in Japan. I was headed to the heart of Kansai where I had been dying to get back to after spending nine monthe the prior year. And to make it even better, I was moving in with a relative of mine in a huge house (by Japanese standards) with a great view overlooking the city of Hirakata. My task: spread the good news of the gospel to all who would listen. This was not the easiest task to accomplish in Japan. But we tried. And we had fun in the process.

I remember the call instructing me to return to Hirakata like it was the other day. But it was ten years ago. Wow. Where has the decade gone? If you would have asked me back then what my life would look like in ten years, I would have included a lot more of Japan in my response. Yet, here I am. I still remember Japanese and it has been a part of me since I resided there. But I don’t speak it as often as I used to, unfortunately. I haven’t returned to Japan to visit or live, as I was convinced I was going to do ten years ago. And I can’t say my Japanese is better than it was ten years ago. But otherwise, my life is not too different than what I would have expected or wanted. My goal now is to maintain the language skills that I have until I can find a way to get back to Japan or make it more a part of my life. I wanted to then and I would still like to now. The question is how.

Life Without Power

The New York City area had a spectacular wind and rain storm come through on Saturday. Gusts in some places were up to 70 mph. Hundreds of thousands of homes lost power. Unfortunately, we were one of them. Saturday night with no power was fine, we lit some candles and the kids had a good time. By Sunday, though, we were ready to have the power back, as you might expect. Our lives were so disrupted. We had to find a way to save the contents of our refrigerator and freezer, we couldn’t go about our daily tasks and we had to save our cell phones from overuse because we had no way to charge them if they died. On Monday morning when we still didn’t have power, the situation sucked. Getting up and off to work was a pain and the day’s plans had to be redrawn. It’s amazing how much each one of us depends on the power grid for what we do each day – from myself to my one-year-old daughter – we’re all so dependent. Life without power is an entirely different life from what we know.

After staying in Manhattan with friends, we finally returned home last night with high hopes of having power. We were thrilled as we pulled up to our house and saw most of our lights on. On any other day I would have been rebuked for wasting electricity. But yesterday, we were just glad to have our power back. Thanks, ConEd, for finally restoring our lives.

My Sister

My younger sister was in town the past week to visit us and the City. I haven’t lived near my siblings since 1997 and, other than occasional visits, do not spend that much time with them. It was fun to have her stay at our home and have our daughters spend time with their auntie. With my sister, there is never a dull moment. I don’t know that I know someone who celebrates every little thing as much as she does. Every holiday, occasion or moment is a time to party and enjoy life. After having her spend six days in New York seeing how my wife and I live it was apparent that our lives are very different. Our lives are filled with long workdays while hers (it seems) are filled with vacation after vacation intertwined among days working at the salon. But she’s my sister and she’s fun to be with. We may never live close to each other, but we will, I hope, always remain close.

Appearances Matter

I moved out of my house and out on my own when I was eighteen years old. The job I had at the time caused me to start work early in the morning, meaning that I was able to leave work by mid-afternoon. After returning home, I would usually change and head out to explore the new city I was in, grab some food or run the errands life requires. After a while I realized that if I went out wearing a shirt and a tie I received so much more respect than if I wore my standard t-shirt and jeans. And so that was what I started doing many days. I would dress up for no particular reason other than to appear a little more educated, important and older than I was. It worked like a charm, and I had better overall customer service experiences in stores, restaurants and practically everywhere I went. Years later, I still put on a shirt and tie most days and head out the door. It’s second nature to me now and I sometimes forget that not everyone I know darns such garb except for special occasions. When called a serious family man with a serious job by my childhood friends the other day, I couldn’t help but smile, for some days, I feel anything but. But this goes to show that appearances matter.