My Sketching Pilgrimage

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It has been a while since I decided to make the pilgrimage up the mountain to the local temple. I’d have to say that living next to Hozanji has been one the biggest neglected treats that I am slowly learning to take advantage of.

After taking a few friends up on a mini tour to see the area yesterday evening, it reminded me of all the beauty Ikoma has to offer.

With some inspiration from the dinner guests yesterday, I decided that today I would spend a good chunk of time sitting and sketching something up there.

I wanted to pretend I was not in my area and forget about work and all of the things I make my brain think about these days.

Walking up the mountain is a workout in itself with steps leading all the way to Hozanji. Along the way you can find anything from hippie cafe’s to accessory shops, to my friends bar to tea houses. There are tons of hidden paths just waiting to be discovered.

I bowed at the gates to let the deities know I was going to be around for awhile. I entered and started to look around for something to draw. I couldn’t find anything that drew me in immediately, but I started a conversation with the old monk in the shop exchanging dirty ten yen coins for polished ones to offer to the gods. A question about the correct way to throw the coins into the box lead to a rant for an hour about the small differences between people who know how to pray and those who just go through the motions. In the middle of our conversation I got my sketchpad ready, and started to draw his post. I took breaks in between and he showed me pictures from him preforming the fire ceremony and images from when he first got purified to be a monk. Old, old photos of him struggling to stand under a waterfall in Kyoto, the strong current pushing him down to the rocks.

Making a long story short, I got a few history lessons while sketching in a temple in Ikoma, Japan. I finished off the day with frozen fingers, a relaxed mind, and delectable tea.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the temple, but also many I learned on the way home from the chill feline who has nothing better to do than lay around and love on visitors that stop by for a pat. Today really was a treat, in more ways than one.

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Keeping the kitchen sink clean

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I have been doing a lot of moving around Japan and have also been doing a lot of thinking. All of the people that have crossed my path, all of the same old ideas, fresh ideas, are going in circles in my head. I am trying to take in all of these things. I am trying to understand the confusion, the slight leaps of joy that my heart takes, the indifference that I feel when there should be emotion. I am wondering why certain things decided to play out in my life and I cannot be too sure if it will have a positive or negative effect on me. Some say that life is what you make out of it. A beautiful idea, but also a scary one for me considering the struggle I have to even keep the kitchen sink clean.

From a young age, I wished to be in control of my life. I would make lists and itineraries for myself to finish each day, and that would give me my sense of security. Making those lists and checking off the things I had to complete is what made my world comfortable and beautiful. Now I am skeptical to whether or not you can let beauty be forced rather then just let beauty be. Lists have their benefits, but for me they left me feeling passionless. They got me somewhere, but when I arrived I felt as if all my effort had been in vain. Nothing I did would ever be enough.

Recently, I have been reading things that have put my mind at ease. I am reading things that I enjoy, that I can understand through my own experiences. You may tell yourself that you are inadequate, but it’s okay. There is beauty in that. There is beauty all around, in the people, nature, and your own self.
It doesn’t have to be clawed out, but will shine through once the walls that the world made you build around yourself get torn down. For myself, I can only hope that something beautiful can someday come out of this wrenched soul. I can only hope.

In the meantime, I will hop on my bus back to Osaka and start my new job at the Bistro. I am looking forward to seeing what stories may come out of this experience.

Bubblegum Clouds

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I saw the bubble gum color clouds tonight mingling with the light blue sky in the evening. A blue that took me back to when I was younger. I played a black and white memory that I could not recall as well as I would have liked to.

They were gone- those clouds in a moment. I left the room only for a short while, and came back to wanting those bubble gum clouds and that light blue to wipe the blues away from my life, but they left.

They left the night asking, will we come back?

(Sept. 2014)

High Expectations of the Bus Driver

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I slept-in the following morning and took my time freshening up. It was my last day in Singapore and I had to check out of the hostel by noon. My bus wouldn’t leave until six in the evening, so I hoped that the staff would allow me to leave my luggage in the lobby while I went on my last adventure: Doing my laundry and getting lunch.
After eating my cereal in the morning, I brought my bag of clothes up to the roof for cleaning. There was a man already waiting for his load to finish and we started talking.
He reminded me of a nice, latino version of Lenny from the Power Puff Girls. He talked and talked, and seemed to have a real passion for voicing his opinions and experiences.
I mentioned to him that I would be going on a bus from Singapore to Thailand that would take me a full day. With that, he went on for about 20 minutes about how he knows people who died on those kinds of buses. “Just one little deer in the middle of the road would do it. Buses don’t stand a chance”. I was horrified. In Japanese we have a phrase for this called Kuuki Yomenai(空気読めない), which literally means, “Someone who can’t read the air”. He kept going on even though I obviously didn’t want to hear more about how likely I was to die on the trip.

After all of the graphic stories, he was kind enough to point out Little India to me from the roof. It seemed close so I decided to walk around in that area to find a Indian restaurant.

I finished preparing the schedule for the bus, and left in search for food. Red umbrella in hand, I walked in the direction that my laundry friend pointed me in. The roads were confusing, and getting lost was inevitable. I did make it to an Indian-like shop, but got stuck there because of the heavy rain. I hoped it would let up, but with it being monsoon season it didn’t happen. I don’t know where my sense of direction went, but I walked in circles while the rain poured down on me.

I arrived back to my warm hostel completely soaked. I still had a couple of hours before my bus would leave. Enough time to dry myself and bid farewell to all of my friends. With some last hugs and kisses to my hostel-mates, I packed and set off to the bus stop.

Boarding was chaotic, and it looked like I would be the passenger that was a tourist. A couple of friendly Singapore natives introduced themselves to me. I was pleased that I would have a couple of friends while traveling, and had no idea at the time how much I would appreciate them later on.

I built up an image of my bus driver in my head as this slightly overweight, smiley Singaporean male with a face that said, “I will get you to your destination safely!”. However, when my bus driver made his entrance, I was disappointed. He was a hunched over, short man with a scowl and spoke in loud Malay. No English except, “NO TOILET ON BUS!”.

Online you could choose your seat, and I went with seat 1#. When I got on the bus, I realized that I was the only one with a clear view of the driver. He was a speed demon, and as the sun went down, so did any of my safety expectations.

An hour and a half into the trip we crossed the Malaysian border. I had the thought, “He may not look like how I had pictured, and he may be driving really fast in the dark, but I bet he takes his job really seriously.” The moment that thought went through my head, I see his hand reach into his pocket and pull out his cellphone. The man started to text and drive. My mouth dropped to the floor. I had read one too many articles about accidents in cars from texting and driving and this man was in charge of the twenty lives sitting in the back.

It was a very stressful night as I watched him pull out his mobile multiple times to text. He moved on to hands-free calling as well. I was relived that at least he had the sense to do that.
Though out the night, my paranoid mind started planning my funeral music and the chances of me not arriving in Thailand seemed high.

Around midnight, a loud siren sounded off in the back of the bus and red lights came into view. On my left, three ambulances shot by me. I winced. “Please don’t let it be a bus. Don’t let anyone be hurt, but just don’t let it be a bus”.
I saw the car reck and felt a little sick. It was a van. I would be riding one the next day after reaching Thailand.

On of the notes that I jotted down in the middle of the night was: “I just want to pass out and wake up when we get there”. I had no grit for this trip at all.

After another ambulance whizzed by, and 278 more kilometers to go before we reached Kuala Lumpur, I actually started to get a little drowsy. I decided to do my best to take a nap. I closed my eyes for five minutes and I started to smell something funny. What was that smell? I know that smell, but what would that smell be doing on this bus? Oh, of course. The bus driver.
I open my eyes to him smoking a cigarette in the middle of the night. By this time, I wasn’t even surprised. I just wanted to get to Thailand.

The two Singapore gentlemen were lucky to be sitting way in the back out of view of anything I was seeing. We got off a couple of times, and thanks to their carefree attitudes, I had a tolerable trip. If It had not been for them, I do not think I would have made it out of Singapore sane.

We did a lot of talking, and they bought me a meal at the food court in Malaysia for dinner. They were high school buddies and had known each other for about ten years. When they passed money to the clerks at the food court, they told me that as a tradition in Malaysia, you have to pass and receive things with your right hand. It is seen as rude if done with your left.

The three of us got back on the bus, along with a new bus driver with a bright red T-shrit with the words, “Safty-First” printed brightly on the back. I prayed that this one would be better than the last guy.
He was very similar to the last guy. Except he didn’t talk on the phone hands-free.

After the longest 14 hours I have ever lived through, we arrived in Thailand. My new Singaporean bodyguards were going to Krabi and I was going to Phuket, this would be the last time to see them. I gave them a couple of my cards with my name scribbled on the back, but I forgot to ask for their names. Not getting their contact information is one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

I had one more leg of the journey and was the most physically exhausting. It would be another long day in front of me, but it was morning and everyone was alive and well. I was hopeful that I could get to Phuket in one piece and looked forward to what the rest of the afternoon would hold. I thought that since the sun was up, the driver would be able to see the road better, increasing my chances of not dying before reaching my destination.


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