From Texas to Takamori

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Just a short and sweet update on what’s been going on in my life here in Japan. This weekend, I went to not one, but two local festivals, and while both were rather humble affairs, they were so fun and enjoyable. On Saturday, my two smaller schools had their annual bunkasai, or “Cultural Festival”, and I got to see my junior high and elementary school students perform skits, dances, and sing songs. On Sunday, Takamori (the town I teach in), had it’s harvest foods festival (pictured above), and I got to sample some delicious local foods- I even ran into some of my students from my other schools. I loved seeing the community come out and celebrate together, and while I felt a little awkward at first, it was so nice to be out in the festive atmosphere. Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on my weekend a bit, I’m comforted by the reminder that no matter where we live, what country or what culture, people really are quite similar.

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We might not all speak the same language, eat the same foods, or have the same mannerisms and customs, but we all find joy and purpose in being together. I saw families- parents and children, husbands and wives, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles- cluster together and share food and laughter, and it occurred to me that I’ve watched this scene countless times before. I’ve lived in a handful places around the US (Texas, Kentucky, Vermont, Colorado), and whether it’s a small town or a big city, people always find ways reach out to one another and connect. We thrive on community, so we invent ways and reasons to get out of our homes and get together; we go to farmers’ markets, seasonal fests, music and cultural festivals, state fairs, Washington’s Birthday Celebration (a near-month-long event held every February in my hometown), Wilmore Old-Fashioned Christmas (held annually on the first Saturday in December), and so many others. We go with family and friends to make memories and eat yummy foods; we buy crafts, play carnival games, take pictures, watch performances, and we celebrate. It’s not an “American” thing or “Japanese” thing, it’s a “people” thing. We all want opportunities to get together and just have fun.

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I’ve been to more than my fair share of events like this, but this was the first time I found myself at such an event completely on my own. In the past, I have attended these kinds of things with family members and friends, or co-workers and what-not, and this was the first time I was alone, but the funny thing is, I didn’t really feel alone. I felt really lucky. Lucky because I never thought I could end up doing the things I’ve done, and travelling to the places I’ve been. I’m just a girl from a dusty, border town in south Texas, and until only just recently, I never thought any of this could be possible. I spent a good few weeks feeling sad, lonely, and incredibly homesick, but this weekend was a good reminder of why I wanted to come out here in the first place: to explore and experience, and the more I do that, I more I realize that it’s easy to find warmth and community, once go looking for it.

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