|THE CLANDESTINE (my real-person gallery)|
CHECK OUT THE W.I.P. video for Pirate England CLICK HERE
In Hawaii: Part 1
Some of you have watched me long enough to know that I use to live in Japan. I use to have short updates called “In Japan: Part #” and it even lasted for 4 years. Even though I personally think less people would be interested in hearing about my life in Hawaii, I think I shouldn’t stop writing just because I’ve left the city. So here’s to a new series, In Hawaii.
After years of striving in Japan, I finally came to a realization that being a prestigious artist in Tokyo was not what it took to make me happy. So I decided to let it all go. With a bit of regret and afterwards absolution, I finally got the courage to gesso a master piece into a blank slate once again. Years of learning Japanese, making friends and connections, and paving that path I thought I wanted to take, have now dissolved into the past. What was left was the product of all the toil, all the cuts and wrinkles on my hands, and the bittersweet memories that I will always treasure.
I left Japan on a cold February morning. It started snowing just the night before. It filled the streets with powdery ice that captured my foot prints as I trod along the road I passed hundreds of times on my way to school. But this time was the last time. I took in the scenery and the familiar buildings all looked down on me as if they were whispering their farewells with the icy breeze. It was so quiet except for the occasional thump of the fallen piled up snow on the balcony railings.
I dipped my hands in my warm pocket, almost missing the sting of the cold metal of my apartment key. I pushed it through the slot on the door saying to myself that this was me locking myself out forever.
It was really a melancholic moment as I said good bye to the past and what could have been my future. I asked a local to please take a picture of me in front of the apartment building which I use to call home. I thanked her and made my way to the bus stop with all the damp luggage dragging behind me. I sat down in the freezing cold and looked down on my phone to review the photograph. Even I could tell that the girl who looked back at me had had enough. Her smile was forced and her eyes tired.
It’s time to leave.
Next thing I knew I gave up my residential status and entered Hawaii as a tourist. I was just so happy to see a familiar face and to be speaking my native language again. Two months passed in a blink of an eye. I spent my days waking up to fluttering white curtains with small pink flowers. The window let in a tropical breeze which reminded me that winter was over. I was in a new place now.
Hawaii was supposed to be a vacation. I rented 2 months to stay in a girl’s dormitory next to a community college. It was affordable and my sister who was in college stayed in the same place. I’d wake up the same time as her and if she decided to be late of class for a couple of minutes then we’d have the chance to have breakfast together. But as soon as she left I was left with myself. Back to my thoughts. I sat on the breakfast table with two dirty dishes in front of me. I turned to look out the window with a cup of Kona coffee in my hands. I’d always look to the ocean which looked like a decent 15-minute walk away.
It reminded me all the time that beyond that blue horizon was the country and the life I left behind. When I try to tell my friends what it feels like to change directions I always compared it to a divorce jokingly. I thought Japan, personified, was the one. I invested so much time and so much love, only to say good bye in the end.
But smelling the warm air and tasting the pang of dark coffee often reminded me that it was the right thing to do. I slowly adjusted to the slow life. No more 6 am wake up calls, no more 30 minute make up routine, no more commute and no more responsibility. I went or stayed when I wanted to. I strolled around the island without a destination or purpose. I surrounded myself with nature after being in the concrete jungle for so long. I can even laugh at myself for being such a city girl screaming at all the sudden movements of the lizards and bugs that shared my path.
Even though I once again moved to another country, this being my 3rd nomadic impulse, it doesn’t really change my natural psychology. Yes, I grew wiser and gained more knowledge over time but my personality and pacifistic tendencies never change.
Soon I was convinced by my sister to stay. With nowhere to go and have nothing to do, hey, why not go back to college for fun? Without aiming for a degree I decided to enroll in Liberal Arts where I can keep making art and explore other styles and mediums. It relaxes me and reminds me that the skills that I have gained will always be with me no matter where I choose to go and no matter what I choose to do with them.
Although I am not an American, the 50th state is now where I call home. With a good mix of Japanese, Hawaiian and American influence, this was perfect. The top 3 languages spoken in Oahu being English, Japanese and Tagalog, I blend in incredibly well. I also find the come and go of the tourist to be refreshing. To be reminded that people come from diverse backgrounds and diverse mind sets.
Now, what is it like?
I guess you can say, no one really stays. A lot of people who live here treat it like a good long pause. Students in college come from all over the world. Maybe only a good 40% are actual Americans who were born and raised here. International students sometimes spend only 3 months to one semester before deciding to move on. Not a lot of people stay except for authentic locals, retirees, entrepreneurs and others in tourism. There’s a good load of military personnel since there are 4 military bases in Oahu, Hawaii.
One time, I was fiddling with google earth and saw that the red dot indicating my location was even bigger than the whole island. It surely puts things into perspective and somewhat freaked out the shit out of me. We are just like a speck in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. I can’t help but feel small and a little bit abandoned by all the major land masses.
I’ve befriended a couple of locals who have never left the island. I was really ignorant to think that they’d be so different from me. They too enjoy Netflix and Youtube. Here I was assuming that they’d be island folk who played the ukulele and surfed all day long. There’s so many misconceptions I had about Hawaii. Not surprising since all prior knowledge came from Lilo and Stitch.
Even though I can’t say I’ve immersed myself in Hawaiian culture, I surely adapted some habits and my preferences have been influenced. I still can’t swim, but a daily walk on the beach and an afternoon nap under a coconut tree have become habits. Compared to living in Japan, no one really wears fancy clothes. Just wear a wrinkly tank top, shorts or even just a bathing suit and you’re good to go. Don’t even bother combing your hair. At first I was really uncomfortable with how forward and open people around here are but soon I learned to enjoy talking to the people on the bus and people sprawled on the sand.
There was no such thing as “jougekankei” which I hated in Japan. It basically means “superiority”. You call teachers by their first names and joke around with instructors like they’re friends.
The servers don’t service you like submissive robots but like a host welcoming you in a chill house party. It made me realize that I put so much needless pressure and anxiety just because I was surrounded by similar people. Here people are so accepting and jolly. I almost feel bad for being scared of locals. One time I was in a food court and suddenly a group of dirty looking boys grabbed the seats next to me. I was so uncomfortable that I decided to pretend I’m a tourist so they wouldn’t talk to me. Since I haven’t tanned so much I most definitely still look like a foreigner. I guess they sensed that I was really freaked out by the close proximity that they decided to move to another table. The last guy who left said sorry and that’s when I felt bad about not being accommodating or understanding because I was judging them based on their looks.
I wrote to a friend in Hungary one time and he asked if people wear grass skirts and aloha shirts all the time. I laughed and explained that aloha shirts can be considered formal wear and that my teacher wears one every day. Grass skirts however, I’ve only seen performers wear them. Although, it is not uncommon to spot college students in bathing suits in class. Of course, they’d have something on top but I’ve done it once with a group of classmates where after school you go straight to the beach, hence the bathing suits under your school outfit.
Life turned out to be so different from before and neither one is right or wrong. I just like this one better. Now I have a house, a car, 3 dogs, 2 birds and cat. Looks like I’m not going anywhere else soon.
Still hoping to find that Nakama Rival I've always been dreaming of.
Someday I hope to change the world like Gintama.
2015: I've moved country once again with a fresh slate. Come what may.