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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Discovering Happiness

Visiting Japan has made me realize that the departure date was quickly approaching. George had often asked me what the chances of moving were. I replied, “Not yet, so maybe 50%”. The answer over the past few years has gradually changed from 50% to 99%. I am not scared to change. I will miss the freedom of living in the U.S.: freedom to be myself, freedom to do whatever I choose, freedom to be treated equally with men, freedom to have privacy, and freedom to speak out and be different. In Japan, being different means that you stick out like a nail. Those nails are quickly pounded back in.

During our recent visit, we made satisfactory progress towards our goal of moving to Japan. We found a place to open a business and announced to our friends that we will be moving in October. Yes, I was the one dragging my feet by making up a lot of excuses. The longer I stayed in Japan, the more questions I asked myself; would I be okay to live there for the rest of my life?

Where ever I would go, even to public offices, I would see young Japanese women working the front desks. They were not older women like me (by the way, I’m not considered old in the U.S., but I am in Japan). So, where do the experienced Japanese women go? Those young Japanese women have the same smile, very soft, natural looking and very kind. How can I do this? Trying to act that way creates more wrinkles on my face.

So, I asked one of the young ladies working at the bank, “Are you happy?” She was puzzled by my question. George quickly apologized for me, “I’m sorry, but my wife is taking a survey.” She thought for a moment and replied, “I think so.” I asked, “What do you mean you THINK so?” She said, “I am NOT unhappy, so I guess I’m happy.” Both George and I laughed out loud.

Okay, I discovered that is the attitude I should have. The currency conversion rate was 80.50 yen per $ 1.00, but actually only 75.00 yen ended up in my pocket. So, I said to the young lady, “I’m not happy about this! How do I change my unhappiness with your way of thinking?” She laughed. I guess I have to find my happiness by not being unhappy in Japan.

Erika

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