Friends Like Me

Each time I move to a new place, I meet and make friends who are more and more like me.

Maybe it's because I get better at seeking out and cultivating friendships with people who I think are interesting, kind, and have many common interests with me.

Or maybe with each friend I make, I'm the one who changes to be more like them than the best friend whom I left behind at my previous home.

Regardless, it's interesting to think that many people avoid relocating homes out of fear of losing friends or not making any new friends. My experience has been the opposite. I say this at the risk of offending my friends of past homes, but I hope they read this in good faith. When I moved to the Bay, I became friends with ambitious, compassionate people--. I was most close to friends who would pull all-nighties with me, accompany me to community rallies and protests, and talk with me for hours about our experiences as eager new teachers. When I moved to Hawaii, I made friends with people taking a break from the high stress of mainland U.S., adventure-seekers, and--best of all--my parents.

Now that I am abroad, I've made friends with one of the best friends I've ever had. It's a bold statement to make--am I publicly confessing my love for someone who I've only met 3 months ago? Perhaps. But I'm amazed at the fact that after having moved halfway across the globe, I've found someone who shares my taste in music (and not just a love for the music, but the same emotional, other-level connection to it), will talk politics with me (share my views and teach me about other perspectives), is also in the process of developing a positive, make-things-happen attitude after coming out of a draining yet ultimately life-hanging experience, watches all the same shows as me and knows what shows, movies, and books to suggest to me, aims to see the world, will talk with me on the phone for hours, appreciates a good cup of coffee, knows much about and is curious about Filipino culture (and is also one of the most 'down' White girls I know), is supportive of me in my interests that she doesn't share, and teaches me about interests that she has and I have no experience in.

Meeting her and making friends everywhere I go does much for me in making the big, scary world feel much smaller and cozier. The world has less barriers. The list of reasons NOT to e.g., move to a new place, try a new activity, talk to strangers, or have faith in an ultimately good outcome becomes shorter and shorter. I can do anything with the support of friends and an endless desire to make more and new friends.



This is my first time studying a foreign language. In high school and college, I took the easy route and "studied" Filipino as my foreign language. These classes were certainly valuable and not a complete waste of time--though I understand Tagalog almost as well as I understand English, it was helpful to study it closely to expand my vocabulary and get more comfortable with verb tenses.

Now that I'm studying a new language, I have a new appreciation for language and our ability to conceive and express incredibly specific ideas, needs, and desires. When I hear English or Tagalog, I don't think about syntax, sounds, letters, or syllables. My mind gobbles up strings and floods of words without even realizing it and starts processing the meaning behind these words straight away. Text is printed all around us on road signs, on book covers on the shelf, and on brand names and ingredients on food packages, and our brain just takes it all in without realizing that we are combining and making sense of symbols, words, and phrases.

At least, that's how it was for me until now. Now I have to actively decode strokes on a page and syllables spoken in seemingly indistinguishable combinations. Words and sounds are only slowly, slowly, slowly becoming linked directly to their meanings in my head rather than taking the long and tedious detour to its English translation before finally making any sense to me.

I often accidentally speak English to non-English speakers and use culture-specific pejoratives ("Oh! I see, I see, I see..." "Really?!" "Hmmm.. Okay." "Uhhhhh...." "Yeah!"). These sounds and phrases and their meanings are not inherent--they're learned. And yet they come as naturally out of me as my hair grows out of my head.

It's interesting landing in the middle of a largely homogenous country and not speaking the language. My vocabulary consists of only that which I need at the store, at work, on my commute, and so on. My realm of understanding is very specific. I easily forget words from my studies that I don't use every day (like hippopotamus, car accident, and fire), but other phrases in Japanese such as "I hope to work well with you in the future", "Please write your name on your paper", "Please look up, please listen", and "Order please (at the restaurant)" or "¥5000 bus card please" tumble out of my mouth without my having to give it a second thought.. Almost to the point where after the fact, I'm not sure if I spoke in Japanese or English. I guess this is how practical language acquisition feels.

Anyway. Language and human need/desire to express ourselves and connect with one another is fascinating.


"You are no longer approachable"

I took a strange personality test today. It involved choosing from a series of black and white photos; it had strange questions and answers like "Inside..." Choose one: 1) bird cage 2) frog 3) needle 4) anatomical torso. Strange, strange, strange. I thought it was BS even as I was taking it and didn't think that the result would strike any kind of chord with me... My results said:

"You are fiercely ambitious and a leader. You fear becoming stagnant and bored, therefore you are always moving and seeking adventure.

You fear being influenced by others. You want to be as independent as possible. You do not seek to please. Because of this, you are no longer seen as as friendly and approachable as you once were."

Eh... Creepy and kind of depressing. Weirder still, I was just thinking about all this last night. I was thinking about how I am more choosey about who I spend my time with nowadays and how I don't try make any effort to try to get people to like me. I'm busy doing my own thing--whoever cares to join me is welcome to tag along; otherwise, I'll see you later (or not). I try to maintain deep relationships with friends, but I'm mostly just trying indulge my (thus far) unquenchable thirst for adventure and do awesome things. I'm less concerned about other people around me; I'm less likely to put up with with people I don't want to invest my time and efforts in.

That's not to say that I act rude and inconsiderate... I hope I don't. I'm just saying--you take care of you and I'll take care of me. I got a long ways to go in this journey of life; I ain't wasting any time.

Is this change in attitude just a sign of growing up?


Around the World in 8 Months to a Year

I like to take my time getting ready in the morning. I try to wake up 3 hours before work, which is 2 hours before I leave for work. I try to get in some running, yoga, a good breakfast, and God knows what else before leaving for the daily grind.

During my morning piddle-paddling today, I played a mental game with myself: What would I do if I could do anything I wanted? Dream big... dream big... Hmm...

Then, I remembered last year's no-way-no-how Big Dream of the moment: to travel around the world non-stop for 8 months (to a year). 


I Was Here. I'll Go There, Too.

"I did, I've done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here.

I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone to happiness
Left this world a little better just because... I was here."

Another piece for the scrapbook.


Church Girl

As a kid, it’s hard to have control over your own attendance at church—you’re five years old and don’t want to go? Too bad, you gotta put on your lacey white socks, shiny dress shoes, and frilly dress. You’re a pre-teen and would much rather sleep for 12 hours on the weekend? Nope, you’re going to church. Besides mass, I went to CCD every week (the Catholic equivalent of Sunday school, which in my experience, is never on Sundays) from first grade through 10th grade, after which, I taught CCD to the little kids. I was an alter server well past the appropriate age to be an alter server, and was involved in establishing a youth group at my growing church in the suburbs. When I went to college, I joined the Eucharistic ministry at the local church and helped out the music ministry. After college, I changed churches to one that was majority Filipino. This church became my home. Although the parishioners all grew up together, they took me in like family. I showed up at church and hour and a half before mass to practice with the choir and stayed at least an hour after mass for hospitality (lunch and community bonding).

All of this, amidst an ever-evolving antagonism for the Church (with a capital C). When I got accepted into a very liberal school in the San Francisco Bay Area, my mentors at my church congratulated me, encouraged me, and were generally excited about my acceptance-- but they also warned me of the dangers of becoming “too” liberal. I solemnly accepted their words of wisdom and prayed to God that college wouldn’t corrupt my mind and soul. Seriously. That happened.

The church I found in Berkeley was indeed a liberal Catholic church. During the General Intercessions, the congregation would pray for such healings as equality of marriage and understanding and empathy towards gay men and women (our church even had an LGBTQ group) and freedom of choice for women, as well as protection for women from physical and sexual harm and harm from anti-abortion protestors. This church followed the same rituals and routines that I had grown up practicing, but showed me a loving and understanding God, rather than one who merely condemns and demands so much of His people.

This church had late-night, candle-lit masses. It was nearly impossible to see other parishioners in the darkness; you were forced to focus on only the speaker at the podium, the beautiful acoustic music (which consisted of one folk-singing, classical guitarist), and your own thoughts and prayers. The architecture and interior of the church itself had a rustic feel with its wooden pews and high vaulted ceiling, cement walls, and plain fixtures. I never get really close with the church as a whole, but I met some inspirational people and appreciated the services for what they were. It was at this church and at these services that I felt closer to God than ever before.

When I finished college and thus was no longer on the late-night/late-morning, college-student schedule, I started attending mass in Oakland. This church had a Filipino congregation. The church itself was beautiful and the homilies were usually interesting enough, but in all honestly, I was more focused on the music and the order of mass than in time with God. Church became somewhere to be and something to do on Sundays. I liked it, though. I got to spend my Sundays singing and eating down-home Filipino cooking for lunch with women who reminded me of my great aunts and little kids who ran around with each other as their moms followed them around the room with a plate of pancit, trying to get them eat lunch one “subo” at a time. Church members would bring out a few instruments and play music for the old folks to dance to. This church may not have provided me time for contemplation, but it gave me a new way to appreciate God’s blessings to me.

This church was much more conservative than my Berkeley church. In fact, quite a few homilies had me questioning the Church and its beliefs. It was my love for the community at this Oakland church that got me coming back week after week even if it meant having to squirm through sermons and prayer petitions that I did not agree with.

In Hawaii, I sporadically attended mass at different churches on the island. If my Oakland church was conservative, it was nothing compared to the church I sometimes attended with my parents, which was catered towards military personnel and their families. My favorite church in Hawaii was the one just down the street from my house. It was on a hilltop, was led by an African priest, and was run by Catholic immigrants from more countries than I can count. It had bay view windows, which were usually wide open to let the breeze pass through the church as it made its way to rustle the leaves of the palm trees just outside the veranda. The members greeted and treated newcomers like me with the warm and welcoming spirit of aloha. I never made a home for myself at any church in Hawaii, but it was nice finding such a place where I could make into my home if I stuck around long enough.

Now, I’m here in Japan and once again in search for a community or church that will give me the same (or a new) sense of belonging or closeness with God. I've attended two different churches here so far, one of which was a protestant Christian church with a resident Japanese-English interpreter for its wide (as in, five people) base of foreigners. The other church was a Japanese language-only Catholic church.

As much as I enjoy feeling like a leaf floating in the breeze in a new country, I also need some sort of anchor in my weekly routines. I need the support of a community. I need guidance, beliefs to agree with, beliefs to hold my own against, and beliefs to disagree with. I am building a meditation room in my apartment (“building” of course means I bought a yoga mat, a couple of floor pillows, and house plants and threw them all into my empty spare bedroom. I also hung my navy blue sarong with a print of gold elephants from Thailand on the wall in an attempt to pass the rectangle of cloth off as a piece of tapestry), but bridges to God and inner peace aren't built by one person all alone. I can’t grow in my faith in God alone any more than a student can learn math, science, and history without teachers and classmates.

My relationship with God and beliefs about who/what He is and what He does is far from any kind of finished product, but it'd be nice to have some company while I sort that all out. Sure, church communities aren't perfect and neither are the people that comprise them, but I don't indent to blindly follow any group of people and heir beliefs. I can't build, sculpt, hone, and rebuild, and polish my own faith by staying at home and thinking as hard as I possibly can. I can't be strong for myself all the time. I can't be unwavering in my faith by myself. I need a community for all its love and imperfections. I need a community.