13 April, 2008

Here and There

Here is Vancouver, a place described by many as "the most liveable city in North America", or something close. If so, I know I don't want to live in a city. Especially a big city.

To me, fresh from a small city on the Island of Shikoku, it is frenetic, polluted, full of large cars whizzing people to urgent business, somewhere. People seem to be going back and forth and around with little sense of purpose, except the urgency that it happen quickly, and little patience when it doesn't. Whatever it is. It is the rare person who seems to have the patience to listen to the end of one question without interjection.

I've witnessed two almost-fights on the buses. Everyone seems exasperated. Last Friday one woman muttered to the bus driver that she wanted the next stop, rather than ring the bell. When he missed the stop, since he didn't hear her, she started to loudly berate him and all "frickin'" bus drivers for their "frickin" attitudes. Now this bus driver was very polite and it was clearly her fault because she couldn't interrupt her non-stop conversation with her friend to make sure he heard her. At most she would have had to walk one extra block to where she was going. Jeesh.

I am left feeling that these people are very inflexible. They would never have made it living overseas where daily life is full of opportunities for frustration as well as learning. I have noticed I am a lot calmer than many around me. Is it the experience of making my way alone in another country or simply that I am job-free for the first time in years? It's too soon to know.

With all this fast moving, fast talking, comes noise. The cars roar, the buses vibrate and screech, the skytrain screams along the tracks. It lurches to every stop. I feel I am at sea or standing on a constantly shifting ocean of sand. It's hard to stop the movement. When I stand still or rest, I still fancy I feel the lurch of waves or the spin of the earth. I am off balance here, a swimmer without direction. Every way seems the right way or the wrong way, yet no way is either truly right or wrong.

I realize I am as far away from home as I will ever be. Even among family I float on the surface, looking for the same quiet connection I found sitting with Mustache on my lap stroking her fur as she purred and stretched her paw up to my face. Or the smell of my rosemary as I brushed by it each night I returned home, running my hand up the stem so the smell would be released and follow me into the house.

I am not home, and being homeless feels wrong. Without my kitchen I am a lesser cook. Without the fresh greens and sweet vegetables of Japan my taste buds seem to have beome sulky; cooking for people who really don't like creative food has dulled my inspiration. I miss the obligatory but soothing "oishii" after every good bite.

But next week I head to the country and a slower pace. I head to the sea air and pines and hope that the reality will be as calming as the rememberance. And I look forward to the time and place where I can find a new home, and a garden, start to grow fresh food and a new life.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora e hoa VJ,
Kia kaha (Remain Strong).
I know when I returned to the states after 15 years away I felt similiarly disoriented, especially in LA. I felt like the values and importance people were placing upon things and stuff and titles were so very mixed up. What is the rush? Then I realized I always felt somewhat an outsider even when I lived there and that my place is else where, as is yours. You will find HOME again VJ, you already know where to look. Soon you will be there.
Keep remembering that rosemary, I can almost smell it myself! Kia ora VJ.
Rangimarie (Peace to you)
Ka kite ano,

Cha-chan said...

Hooray, you are back!

I am touched by your words about "home." I hope you find a wonderful new home and if you could transport food over the Internet, I could offer you many "oishii" comments in return, no doubt! I recently wanted to do a delicate kombu broth soup for a dinner party, but had to go with cilantro carrot instead because no one would appreciate the subtle flavors:-) To the guests' credit however, they loved my Moosewood "Sushi Rice Salad" and even ate the seaweed on top like good gaijin!

My sweetie and I were discussing the concept of home just yesterday. We will be moving to the US in the fall, which for him, is a foreign country. He has never lived there. After 30 years as a diplomat, he longs for "home." I told him that I think for him, the most important aspect of "home" is to have a house he likes living in, located in a quiet place away from people and noise, where he can find sanctuary. And also, it's important for us to know that we will not have to move in 2-4 years. We can put down roots. We will be more inclined to make friends and get established in activities. I hope you can do the same!

Catofstripes said...

Good luck with your search for a new haven of peace.

Lucy said...

This post is touched with great sadness, VJ. But there is the hope of readjusting away from the crowds.

I wish you luck. Was missing your lovely posts and am glad to know you've arrived 'home' safely.

Martin J Frid said...

Good luck with the "reverse culture shock". It hit me hard as well when I moved back to Sweden after 5 years in Tokyo... Now I'm in Japan again, as you know, so in my case, I suppose "home is where the heart is".

Hoping you will keep your spirits up, and share your great passion for good food with all of us here at VJ.

Ginger said...

oh...i feel for you j. culture shock is not fun, i know. i hope that the calm comes and you adjustment is smooth and easy.

just close your eyes and breathe when it gets tough...spread the peace where you go and maybe those around you will unwind a little just by your influence.

...not that you need the advice or anything...

Ruahines said...

Tena Koe VJ,
Hope you are now enjoying the much nicer ambiance of the country side, sea air, and that oh so unforgettable scent of the pines.
Tara made your recipe for Dahl-ling last night and it was wonderful, almost all with ingredients I had bought that morning at the markets. Kia ora VJ!
Kia kaha,

vegetablej said...

Robb:(and all my well-wishing commenters. Thank you so much!)

Thanks for your warm encouragement. Actually it's been awhile since I wrote that and now I'm feeling better. Just a few things made the difference-- losing the malaise from sleep deprivation, cooking myself a few good meals after I found a wonderful ethnic store around the corner, spending a few hours at a wonderful Indian festival here in Vancouver, and today spending two hours weeding and planting with my sister in her garden. Yay! I feel healthy and optimistic again even though I'm still here in Vancouver. And the best thing of all, a miracle really, spring snow. Last week I woke up to snow in April, which is a very rare occurance here and took an early morning walk and some pictures along a quieter street in the neighborhood.

And don't let me forget avocados; I found some good organic ones. Yum! :)

vegetablej said...


Thank you. I'm so happy to hear you will be moving "home" and establishing a haven for your future. May you find the best(quiet!) place where you two can grow in happiness and health.

And yes, thanks for the virtual "oishiis". Almost as good as the real thing, maybe better because they came at exactly the right time! :)

vegetablej said...


Thanks so much! Yes, a haven of peace, just what I want and I've already adopted your description. :)

vegetablej said...


Thank you for pointing out what I was feeling without exactly knowing it. After you commented about sadness I was able to face it and now feel better. It's always the things that are lurking under the surface that are the worst. Once they come out, it makes room for the sun. Or spring snow. And the restoration of beautiful days.

Warm thanks! :)

vegetablej said...


Thanks. Yes, I guess it hit me harder because I also had to leave my cat behind, and I do miss her, and have no way of knowing if she is being taken care of or not.

However, as you can see from my first comment I am bouncing back. And I do indeed still have every bit of that passion for good food and will soon be posting some recipes to prove it. Stay tuned! :)

vegetablej said...


I always need tender and good advice and I thank you very much for yours!

I will remember to breathe and try to relax when all around are "twistering". Now if I only had some red shoes and a small dog I could click my heels and wish myself home.

But well, as martin commented, home is where the heart is, and I guess, if your heart is open and appreciative, that could be just about anywhere. :)

vegetablej said...


Glad to hear the Dahl-ing was cooked and enjoyed! Yesterday I visited not only an Indian festival where, if you can believe it, people were serving free food, but I found a small Indian grocery which was a treasure trove of spices. I actually got fresh curry leaves! For me, that's close to heaven.

So, hopefully, some more good curry recipes coming soon. :)

And thanks always for your encouraging and warm greetings !

DJEB said...

Welcome home... Now you can see why I am out in the countryside. Tokyo was bigger than Toronto, but my time in Toronto was pretty miserable. I'm in Toronto on a job and am looking forward to getting back home.

vegetablej said...

Thanks for the welcome home, DJEB. It's my first!

I'm becoming more accustomed to Vancouver's smile, but still am happy I'm moving on down soon.

May your future breaths be full of calm, pure air and Happy Earth Day!