Liou's quiet little life...or is it?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I have been in my appartment in Amsterdam for one week now, and it is a strange feeling. On one side, I know the city and its streets well, on the other side a lot of people I knew are gone and many other circumstances are different. So it feels familiar and anonymous at the same time. Some of my best friends are now in different countries, such as the U.S. or Mexico. I associated them with this city, so returning and not being able to meet them, feels like a little void.

And then again, I need to start my life again. I got my old appartment back, which is definitely a big advantage in Amsterdam. The lack of living space is so urgent here, people will settle with the most cramped spaces or ludicrous prices. Apart from this though, I will need to to make a living to pay for my appartment, and make some money aside (I would like to go to China sometime within this year). And I have no idea what job I want... I will talk to my professor soon, and go to some presentation of PhD soon, so that might give me some insight. But the problem is probably whether to opt for a full-time job with long-period carreer opportunities, or get the necessary money with temporary assignments. Essentially, I am still a bit anxious of the prospect of committing myself to a task for a long period.

I think it will be important to get on with activities, to create some stable reference points where I can meet new people, alongside reestablishing old friendships.

Before returning to the Netherlands, I did quite a bit, including visiting my grandmother's family in the south, or more correctly the west of Honshu (Japan main island), in a prefecture called Tottori. My grandparents moved up after the war to Toyama, which is a little north of Tokyo and on the other coast. Originally however they are from Tottori though. I met there with a nephew and niece of my grandmother (cousins of my father, if you can follow me). The coolest thing is that my grandmother's nephew lives in the house where she grew and it's really old, 200 years or more. I made some b&w pics, but still got to develop them and see how they turn out. Meanwhile you can see an old film poster, which probably dates from before the second war. The inside of this closet door is filled with newspapers who are 100 years old.

Tottori is famous for its dunes, although they form a very narrow strip between forest and regular beaches. But since this is one of the only spots to have dunes in the whole it has become a famous tourist attraction, even with camels to ride! I am here with the grandson of my relative, who was to afraid to climb alone with his sister. It didn't seem like he enjoyed the ride a lot, as he was trying to get off halfway. The camel assistant asked me something about someone being half-Japanese; I thought he meant me, but he actually meant my companion, as he thought that I was his father (!).

After the stay in Tottori I went up to Fukui, which is actually half-way to Tokyo. But my remote cousin invited me to go there and visit some of his family. It was really nice, because apart from I didn't know anyone, but even if his family had no relationship to me, they were very friendly. This was a nice change from work, where my colleagues would be polite, but would difficultly go into more casual conversation. I guess anywhere in the world there is a difference between how family and colleagues behave, but the contrast in Japan seemed striking to me.

After this I got back to Tottori by car again, to fly back to Tokyo, quite a detour! I spend the last week in Japan with my uncle and aunt, and had a goodybe dinner with my colleagues somewhere in Tokyo. It was hard to realize that I would leave this country suddenly, and I really didn't until I got on the final airplane.

The shock I was expecting only lasted for the first 10 minutes. And it actually only consisted of the amazement of how many cultures were mixed in Paris. Living in such a homogenous country as Japan, you get used to seeing few foreigners. But I got used to it really quickly. When I got to my father's place, everything was familiar, although it felt a little surrealistic. But that was also due to the lack of sleep in the airplane, I guess.

I am not sure how often I will update this blog, as I am back in the Netherlands and life has returned to normal. I guess it will be a good place to announce important changes as new jobs and plans...