The chance to learn

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I am on the train going back home after an evening of serving. It is 12:00 am. The restaurant that I work at will be closing soon and I will find myself in a new work environment- Universal Studios Japan.
I had training there last week and was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. From 10:00 AM in the morning to 6:00 PM at night, I was taught how to stand correctly and how to relax your face with smiling exercises.
Thinking about new work scares me. In the start of any new endeavor, I am always afraid of doing things incorrectly. When I first began at the Spanish restaurant, I was nervous and slightly dreaded the pressure of having to answer to my boss if I made a mistake. Confrontation is not my strong point, but the restaurant experience these past five months was the perfect balance and I am thankful I had the chance to work there.

Juggling the house work, studies, multiple jobs, exercise and play I sometimes I feel like I am in over my head. However, at the end of the day after an evening of waitressing, I smile as I walk home because I am so happy to have the chance to learn.

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What do I really want?

edit1I saw a T-Shirt online this morning saying: I don’t know what I want, but I want it so bad.

Many do not know ourselves well enough to know. With busy schedules and chores weighing us down everyday, it is hard to spend some thinking time asking the big questions to help ourselves figure it out.

One year ago as I was walking down the hill on the way to work, I confronted myself for the first time with the question, What is it that I really want? Do I want fame? Do I want to be a singer? Do I want a boyfriend? 

I tried to be as honest with myself as possible, and when I came down to it, I realized that what I had truly wanted in that moment was for my sister to become successful.

A few days passed by and I forgot about the secret wish that I had made that morning and to both of our surprises, she got an email from the head design coordinator from the band Mr.Children(one of the most famous groups in Japan) asking for her to design the CD cover for their next single. We were jumping around with excitement. What an incredible chance!

It was only later in the evening that I had remembered I had wished for my sister’s success later in the week. Was it just a coincidence? It could have been, but perhaps because I put in enough brain effort to figure out what I really wanted, the universe was willing to grant it to me.

Asking myself, What do I want? became a habit. No other wishes have come true yet, but there is no harm in discovering more about yourself through the question.

What do I want? Do I want fame? Do I want to travel all around the world? Do I want to write a novel? I asked myself again this morning. Do I want to go to university? Do I want a new laptop? Do I want to become a millionaire? Nope. There is only one thing I want now: to not have made any mistakes on the bills from my busy day at the restaurant yesterday evening. 

Theo O. threw away his art.

1545587_10151840901075778_903114813_nA couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being approached by Theo O. I had been in Singapore at the time, and was sitting lonely in a cafe’ on the weekend. I wanted friends, but didn’t feel like I could approach anyone. I was drawing my carrot cake as I was sitting in that cafe’ and looked up at the group of four young university students in front of me, wishing I could be a part of the laughter. I was waiting for the Synagogue on the corner to open. I was excited because I knew I would be able to have the chance to make friends. I would finally meet people.

With these thoughts floating around in my head, I finished the drawing and my eyes scanned the rest of the cafe’. Most people were staring into their cellphones, their studies and laptops. However, there was one person stood out from the group: a guy with dark shades that was scribbling notes into a book. I assumed he was a company worker finishing up extra things after his job. The man lifted his head from his work and faced my direction. He looked at me, and gave me a little hot-shot nod and grin. Automatically I decided that I would be friends with anyone in the shop but him.

I checked the clock on my Itouch. Time for Synagogue! I quickly packed up my art supplies and exited the shop. I walked a couple of minutes down the road to find the building still locked down. Why does it look like it’s closed? I looked though the metal gates and saw a woman in a police uniform and waved at her to come to me. She was a serious yet friendly lady, and I politely asked why everything was still shut up. She informed me that it was very much open, but to my disappointment, guests needed to show their passports to enter for security reasons. I didn’t think of that.

Passport-less, I said thank you to the guard and started walking down the street. I was on the verge of tears when the thought passed through my head: Something good will happen. With that, I quickly regained my composure and wandered back to the cafe’ I was at. I stood outside of the coffee shop for about ten minutes wondering what I should do. Should I walk back home? The family I was staying with dropped me off, and I knew that their house was far. I could wait, but wait and do what?1492637_10151811158320778_1269779749_o

After standing there for a few minutes, I noticed the same hot-shot with the glasses going in and out of the cafe’. What was he doing? I didn’t think too much about it and went back to zoning out. As I was still staring into space, I get a tap on my shoulder and I find Theo O. in front of me introducing himself, asking how my day was going. He looked younger up close and guessed that he was around the same age as me. I was slightly hesitant to make conversation because of preconceived notions, but we got to talking. To my delight, I discovered that he was not doing company work at all, but was sketching. An artist!

We became friends, and I enjoyed meeting him in Singapore. He was my first friend there and I was ecstatic to have another person to talk to. A person that also loved art.

He flipped through his sketchbooks and I got to see his strange drawings and ideas on the paper. He told me that he wouldn’t think about what to draw, but just start and ideas would flow. I asked him how many sketchbooks he had.

Hundreds.

-What do you do with all of them?

After I finish one, I just throw it away.

I was in shock. All of this amazing art, just gone. What was the point? He told me that he could just re-draw everything if he wanted to. He didn’t see it as a waste, but the purpose of art being in the doing and not the keeping the final product.

Uh-huh… but still….

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Though we were only friends for a short time and didn’t keep in touch after Singapore, I appreciated his art and his friendship that day very much. That day changed the course of my trip and of my life. I fell in love with chance and serendipity.

Before we parted ways and left to go back home after Singapore, I was still confused about one thing. It bugged me and I decided to ask him:

-Why did you just come up to a random stranger and introduce yourself? You didn’t know me. 

A little grin formed on his lips he replied,

It just looked like you wanted to talk to me. 🙂

This Table is Reserved

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At about 10:00 AM on Christmas morning, I woke up to one of the Brazilian friends I had made from my hostel. He was tapping me on the head trying to usher me out of bed. “Johnna, Johnna! There’s a French guy waiting for you downstairs!”. Being half-asleep, I had never been more confused in my life at 10:00 in the morning. French guy? What French guy? He decided to drop the joke because my blank expression would not leave my face and said, “You know! His name is Wine!”. He wanted to start drinking in the morning. I felt bad because I was the one that suggested buying a bottle to share the previous evening to wish them Bon Voyage.

I crawled out of my bed and got downstairs to the breakfast area. He had already had a couple of glasses while the other two were just satisfied with buttered toast. He insisted that I start as well because I paid for half, so I agreed to take a sip. I was not feeling it that morning and it didn’t go further than that.

I smiled at his bright pink face and recalled a joke we had between us. Even though he is from Brazil, his ancestors are not, which explains the reason behind his Japanese face. They were surprised that I was actually born and raised in Japan even though I have an American Passport. On our last night together, we took a group picture and decided that the caption should be, “Guess the Japanese”.

After we bid each other farewell in the afternoon, I was itching to get some alone time and start a sketch. I had already been in Singapore a couple of days and I had not attempted a drawing. I remembered seeing a lot of stores with tiny figures and souvenirs in Chinatown from last year. I decided to head down that way to see what I could find.

I walked around the bustling area, accidentally bumping into tourists and poles. I choose a place based on a few things, one of them being comfort. Will I be sitting down? Is it in the shade?

Around 2:00 in the afternoon, I came across a shop with relatively cheap food and a lot of open chairs. I saw that one table was in good view of one of the souvenir stands. One thing that I ignored was the “reserved for credit card users” sign. I got a dirty look from the waitress and she told me to sit in the chair behind me. I got defensive and tried to explain to this woman that I wanted to be closer so I could sketch. She didn’t seem to understand, but in a huff let me sit down. I felt like I had stood up for myself, but after a minute or two it hit me that I had been a bit of a jerk to this woman who was just trying to do her job. I had been like anyone of these tourists who think they are above the rules. I got up and changed tables to the seat behind me. I called the waitress over to order and apologize.

Without that move, I think my day would have turned out differently because that seat was reserved- for the nice people I would meet throughout the day.
Three Americans that were in their 40s sat down. They noticed I was doodling and apologized for sitting in my way. From there, we started a conversation that would end four hours later. We became friends and talked, joked, and laughed together. Max told me that he learned a joke from a local in New Orleans. “I bet I could tell you where you got your shoes. “ON YOUR FEET!” They told me that they enjoyed their Christmas because we were able to meet. I can say the same with no hesitation.

I was going to leave to prepare for my bus ride the following day, but I decided to stay and finish the watercolor. Shortly after, a group of Russians about the same age as the previous table sat down in front of me. Because of Christmas, the company workers get a half day off, and most decide to go and drink beer in the afternoon. By this time, it was about 6 PM and I feel honored that the Russians decided to spend their last hour and a half of corporate freedom talking to me.
They were a loud, boisterous group that laughed whenever I spoke. They had experience with Japanese people and explained how ridged they are in work. “They never break any rules. Rules are established by people, so people can break the rules”. We got a good laugh out of that. I thanked them with a copy of one of my sketches for the holidays.

My Christmas at the shop ended with talking to my final group of the day: Three French Gentlemen. They were around my age and we spent the rest of our time at the restaurant comparing False Friends from English and French. Even though I had promised myself that I would go prepare for the bus trip, I went dancing the rest of the evening at Clark Quay with my new French friends.

It was a great day, but the cherry on top of it all would have to be coming back home at three in the morning to a room of empty beds. Nobody else checked in that evening. I fell asleep while going over the events of the day and repeated to myself, “I don’t know how that happened, but I’m so glad it did”.


This was my fourth post in my series ST-Bound. Time flew quickly after spending time in Tokyo and now, Singapore was coming to an end. If you would like to read the previous posts the links are:

My Indian Friend, The Salary Man, and Mr. Lebanon

The feeling of arriving

I shall call this post Emily


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I don’t know where to start

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I have not been able to do any updates because I am currently traveling, but that will change today because I will be leaving Singapore. Yesterday was my last full day, and I spent my time from 2:00 in the afternoon until 10:00 in the evening sitting in the same chair. I was looking for a place to sketch, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better spot than the open restaurant in Chinatown, facing a random souvenir shop. Because of that table, I was able to make three American friends that I talked to for about four hours straight. They were kind enough to treat me to water while we were chatting(Yes, you have to pay for it). They left for dancing, but I wanted to go home and figure out my schedule for when I arrive in Thailand. Life would not have that though.

After sitting back down, I finished the colors on the painting. In the middle of it a group of Russians sat down on the same table. We had a lovely conversation over how the Japanese work too hard. I gave them a copy of one of my sketches for Christmas. I was so pleased to see that he really appreciated it. Vladimir is the one holding the drawing in the picture for me. First time to have someone else hand in one of these images.

After they left, I was sure that I would go back to the hostel and do my chores, but that never happened. The minute the Russians left, I got invited to join a table of young French gentleman. I ended up walking around Clark Quay with them, dancing at the random restaurants and having a great time. They said that they couldn’t dance, but they got up there eventually.

It is a very long story, and much better than the condensed one so I hope to be able to have the time today to write a good amount. So much has happened and I just don’t know where to start.

A Robin’s Love Song

Life would be beautiful if I could just be with you, said the little Robin to the Little Bird Blue.

We sing different songs, but could you listen to mine? Finding you is the melody of my life.

I trip over my notes, and I don’t whistle what I mean. Oh, look how complicated love seems.

May you give me a chance, have me not? Forgive this Little Robin’s song if it’s not what you want.

Who used my iPod?

I was on the train going to Kyoto this afternoon while thinking about my random businesses and jobs. My head was going on a long brain rant about money- thinking about how I could get more people interested and how we can pay our bills. I don’t enjoy thinking about it, but it always seeps into my thoughts.

With thinking about money, worry always seems to follow. I worried and wondered how I could make money or at least sustain myself while doing the things that I love. It is not an easy thing.

I came out of my trance and took my iPod out of my pocket and opened my notes. I am the only one who uses it, but the first thing that opened up was an entry that I had not written:

Always focus not on if it can bring money, but if it brings happiness.

I still don’t know who used my iTouch, but that was what I needed to read there on the train.