The reason for this is because my life has taken a 90 degree turn, and I am now living in Japan.
When I decided to move, it wasn’t so much that I desperately wanted to be in Japan, it was more that it was time for me to leave Philadelphia. My feelings about that have changed, but that’s because I’ve been in Japan for about six weeks now. My feelings about a lot of things have changed.
However, my feelings about Philadelphia haven’t changed. (It was a wonderful place for me for a long time, but I was getting the sense that it was time to move on. I’ll get to the wonderfulness of my time in Philadelphia in another entry.)
The contrast between Japan and Philadelphia was exactly what I’ve been craving.
Firstly, Japan is quiet. Even with a train stacked body-to-body with people during rush hour (rush hour in Japan is no joke, by the way), it is dead silent.
Unlike Philadelphia, train rides in Japan are sans the kid playing a game on his phone with the volume turned up, the couple arguing in the corner, and the three people talking loudly on their cellphones while sitting directly underneath the “this is a quiet car” sign. And, I only wished that the cacophony in Philadelphia ended with the train rides. Construction, mini-bikes, barking dogs, ancient heating/cooling systems grinding along, and people just generally being loud is the wallpaper in Philadelphia. I don’t miss it.
Japan moves. While it’s crowded in Japan (much more so than Philadelphia), it’s an orderly crowd. Things may move slowly here, but they keep moving. People line up for the escalator without pushing, shoving, cursing, and jockeying for the best position. Bureaucracy may keep things at a snail pace around here, but it’s a pace.
So much gets stalled in Philadelphia because something happened. Maybe it was a fight, maybe it was an accident, maybe it’s emergency construction on a crumbling bridge, but stuff in Philadelphia stops dead when something happens. That something was usually caused by someone who got impatient and made a bad judgment call. In Philadelphia, you never know when that’s going to happen.
Japan has civility. For example, I observed four junior high boys share two seats on the train by simply trading when they were halfway through their journey. There was no pushing, shoving, or name calling, it was simply, “you sit for a while, and then we’ll sit for a while.”
I’m not even going to bother offering the Philadelphian contrast to this. I think you know.
Japan has organization. I’ve heard of other foreigners coming to Japan and being irritated at the inconvenience of constantly dotting I’s and crossing T’s, but you know what? That organization is there to save your ass, as it did mine after I lost my train pass.
When I bought my train pass, I had to type my name and birth date into the machine before it would issue me a pass. That felt outrageously tedious and silly. This only matters because I now live in a civil society. When my train pass went missing, someone picked it up and returned it to the lost and found (instead of using it to go on a train riding spree until all of the credit was used up, which would obviously happen in the US). And, of course, when I went to the lost and found (while scoffing at the idea that someone would pick it up and take it to the lost and found), they ran my pass through the machine, looked at my ID, and said, “Yep, this is your lost train pass. Here you go.”
I’m sure you already know that there is nothing in Philadelphia that’s designed to save your ass.
So yes, while the grit of balls-out Philly has its charm, I’m ready for less. I’m ready to not feel like I’m taking my life into my hands every time I get on I-95. Heck, I’m ready to not feel like I’m taking my life into my hands while standing in line at the ATM. I’m not referring to muggers here. I’m talking about that no-nonsense native Philadelphian granny who thinks I just cut the line in front of her. Actually, she doesn’t care if I really did or not, but she’s going to give me the business, anyway, because it’s Philadelphia, and that’s what people do.
Like I said, Philadelphia was wonderful in many ways. I’ve been missing a lot of those things, lately, but that’s a natural part of transition. Obviously, I will have to redesign the website, but that will come in time. On top of moving countries, I have also moved jobs. Changes will come in time.