Yup, another chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. Today is all about aliens. When I came back from Europe, I just felt that everyone is so alien. I first landed in Vienna, Austria. It’s not that you find all strange people in Austria, it was only that I wasn’t used to seeing so many foreigners like me anymore. Okay, you might say, but you did come back home during vacations, didn’t you? Yes, I did. But it was always for a very short time. What do you think it happens when you go over the short period of time? Your brains enter into the panic zone.
So here we are again with a new chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. This time, we are going to talk about the gomi adventures, also known as how to manage the trash. This might seem totally weird, but I never thought as much about trash as when I started living in Japan and moving from house to house in Tokyo. Tokyo is divided in “ku,” wards. Each ward has different rules on how to deal with trash. Some are easier than others, but as a general rule, it’s way more complicated than just their EU counterparts.
Before going to Japan, the only thing I had to worry about was separating the trash into different types, and go out from home and put the trash into their bins. And that happened whenever I wanted. Furniture would be taken care of by the city council. So, you only needed to put it next to the bins. End of the story.
Well… not in Japan.
Do you know the book Alice in Wonderland? I bet you do! I borrowed the title and changed it a bit to start this new section: Pepi in Wonderland. But why? After thinking for a long time, I’ve decided to get a little bit more personal on this blog. In this section, I intend to explain about my eight years living in Japan and the experience of returning to Europe. Here you’ll find cultural shocks running amok. When I went to Japan, I had to adapt to a foreign culture. But when I came back to Europe I had to re-do all the efforts. [SPOILERS: I haven’t adapted back, and I doubt very much that I will ever do it… nor I want to.]
Think about this section as an opportunity to take a look at Japanese culture from the perspective of someone who has lived immersed in it, loved it and cried like a baby when she decided to go back to the Old Europe. It might also feel like a joke at times because some situations might make you laugh (though they did not make me laugh at all at the time.) I might also use some pictures that I took centuries ago, so you’ll be able to admire the crappy pics I used to take… If I can find any because most of the pictures I took are the landscapes but to find me into the pictures is hard… Selfies!? Where were you back in 2004!?
When I first read the book of Ruth Benedict, the Chrysanthemum and the Sword, I was in a deeply falling in love with it. I already had a crush on Japan… But, when did all started for me? To tell you the truth, I cannot really remember when all of it started. After asking to my mom, if she could remember when I started to talk or show signs about “wanting to go to Japan” or “liking Japan”, she startled me. I wasn’t prepared for her answer. “Since you were a baby”. It turns out that I chose things with oriental motives since I was able to point things out. When asked “which one you like?” I ended up pointing at anything which had asian patterns. In fact, one of my first tissues ever had weird asian dolls as a pattern! And one of my favorite barriguitas (a famous plastic doll in Spain) was the Japanese one!
Back in the 80s, you could not really find many “cute” stuff “made in Japan” in Spain. In fact, everything was sort of “messed up”. My handkerchief with asian doll patterns is a mix of Chinese and Japanese. But, in spite of that, the country that I loved was Japan. I am, in fact, unable to put a date on me starting to say “I want to learn Japanese” and “I want to go to Japan”. So, just think it was at the beginning of the 80s, when I started to crawl around. And, when I started to read… Oh my! I think I discovered a whole new world!
In 2010 I wrote a post for the TV3 blog (the blog for the Catalans abroad, of the Catalan National TV station). This post was a confirmation about ‘me’ crossing the “no-return point”, a point that if you cross it, you cannot make a roll back. The article was called “the no-return point“, and it has proven to be a “prediction” for my own future. I was unaware, at that time, but what I wrote would echo into my head when returning to Europe again and again. I was aware, since the moment in which I took the plane that I would find some issues when being, again, in Europe. But I did not imagine that the shock would be that hard. I will blog more about this, and the identity issues that are related to it, but for the moment, I will translate that prophetical post that I wrote, back in 2010.
I spent a total of 8 years living in Tokyo, and when I wrote this article it was only 6 years that I was there, and I had noticed that I had crossed the no-return point. These are words of “wisdom”. At that time I had no idea that, two years afterwards, I would encounter the shock of the decade while returning back to Europe. I did not return directly to Spain. My best friend, invited me to spend a month at her house, in Vienna (Austria), and since I knew that returning directly to Spain would be like a nuclear bomb for me and my family, I accepted her invitation. And yes, my first shock was in Vienna. “Back in Europe, 8 years after”. Even after writing the post that you are about to read, and kwowing what I knew, I was not sufficiently prepared for it. However, I must say that, if I had not been aware of this, I would have ended up with a huge depression myself. These words of wisdom, this awareness helped me a lot while experiencing “home” as an alien. There is nothing harder as to feel a true foreigner at home. And there is nothing as helpful as awareness and art (at least for me) in order to find your identity, not attached to a land, but attached to your real self.