Tori in Spain: Me, a homebody?

November 1, 2016

Since coming abroad, I have realized how much of a homebody I actually am.

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Enjoying dinner with my host mom in Madrid!

Anyone reading that sentence is likely to be shocked, since I am not a homebody in the traditional sense of the word. I am always out exploring, adventuring, and traveling. Homebodies, by definition, prefer to stay at home and are perceived as unadventurous.

Let me explain.

I used to say that I am most comfortable in a room where no one knows me, and that I almost always prefer new places and faces to old ones. My favorite friend used to always be my most recent acquaintance. I have come to realize that this was because I deeply desired a clean slate in order to be able to recreate myself and prove myself and enter into relationships with no past mistakes or hardships. I also had a tendency to idolize the consumption of experiences, and thought the more I experienced the more whole or fulfilled I would be.

I was so comfortable and confident in rooms where no one knew me because I could be the center of attention and hide simultaneously. I would hide behind my mask of perfection and accomplishment and goodness, and no one would have any grounds not to believe me. Ha. Had ‘em right where I wanted ‘em. I could be whoever I wanted.

As relationships go on, they get harder. My image of perfection is slowly replaced with a more accurate picture that includes my weaknesses, brokenness, and sin. I mess up. My selfishness shows through my silly façade of perfection, and my pride becomes evident despite my angelic image.

I used to hate this. Like reaaaaaally hate it. I felt like after people saw me for who I truly am, they would only see the bad parts of me for the rest of eternity.

Before leaving for Spain, I feared that my decision to go abroad stemmed from this continual desire for a clean slate in order to appear like I had it all together. If not that, then from a belief that the more I experienced the more whole I would be as a person. Abroad seemed to be the perfect setting to indulge both these weaknesses, and yet, it has taught me much.

I am coming to grips with the fact that I am a broken human with a deep need for a Savior, and the only good in me is due to Christ’s redeeming work on my heart. I have not earned or deserved any of the titles, accomplishments, or positions I possess. If this is true, then comparison is truly laughable, as is portrayal of oneself as “good” or “better” than anyone else. No amount of experience will heal my brokenness, I cannot save myself. Quantities of experience are irrelevant unless they are done with an intention to love deeply and glorify the Lord.

Instead of going out and continually desiring to meet new people and consume all the experiences I can in a new place, I now prefer to connect to a few people deeply. I believe that every person desires to be fully known and fully loved; despite their flaws and imperfections. I used to try to preserve too many relationships, and thus, I was not able to give to anyone, nor was I able to truly know and be known. People rarely saw beyond the mask I hid behind because my calendar was always full and I was afraid of my own pride and brokenness.

I have now come to fully embrace my homebodiness. Madrid is wonderful, but I long to return to my family and community in Virginia and North Carolina, and just sit with the people I love.

Today, I am spending Halloween at the home of some family friends in Barcelona and savoring family life here.

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I am more than content to teach this family how to carve pumpkins, listen to their stories, learn about their traditions, and allow them to know me in all of my faults and brokenness. I think slowing down is the most important part of life, and let me tell you, Spaniards know how to do it. There are about 324892369 things that “every tourist needs to do” in Barcelona that I will leave here without experiencing, but that’s okay. I will leave with a few important relationships strengthened, and a feeling of rejuvenation from time spent in a loving home. This is what I have been given this weekend, and what I get to look forward to returning to in the United States.

Life is most beautiful when we take off our masks, empty our calendars, and sit with the few we love the most in the places we love the most.

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A beautiful, slow morning in Barcelona.

 

 

 


Naomi at Akita Week 9: 漢字漢字漢字

October 31, 2016

This past week has been pretty slow. People are getting sick and wearing masks to avoid the sickness spreading. It’s getting super cold. I ended up facetiming my mom who was sleeping in my room. I asked her why she was in my room and she told me the AC works better there…I almost jumped out of my chair when I heard that. She’s still using the AC while I’m over here freezing my butt off!

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I went for a walk after my classes since I had some free time. A couple of my friends told me that there was a dam about a 20-30 minute walk away so I decided to go find it. I listened to music the entire walk. Only about 5 cars passed me. I ended up finding the dam but didn’t take pictures, as it was already getting dark. There was a small green frog chilling on the fence blocking the dam.

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You know how Patrik always gives me coffee in those cup noodle containers? Well, I went to AEON (the mall) this past week and ended up buying some paper cups from DAISO (100 yen store, basically the dollar store). I also bought my own mug since I get coffee from him that often. I went to his room about 5 times this past week just for coffee. While we waited for the coffee to brew, we showed each other music that we recommend. Me with my hip hop music and him with his metal core music. It’s funny how close we are but how different we are, especially when it comes to music taste.

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I forgot to mention but last week, Patrik was showing me some Japanese music he listens to and he ended up playing a song by a band named FAKY. I started freaking out because my friend, Diane, the girl I recently visited in Tokyo, used to be in that band. She ended up leaving it because she wanted to do something else I showed him one of their music videos and pointed out Diane and he started freaking out. We both started singing along to the music video and wow, it was such a surreal moment. If you want to check out one of their songs just type in “Better Without You FAKY” and you’ll see Diane with her long red hair.


There was a Halloween party at the Student Hall Thursday night. Isabella and I decided to stop by because my friend was performing. We thought we were going to be late so we ran all the way to Student Hall but ended up being early. We watched the costume competition and two guys dressed up as Cup Noodles won! Patrik was there as well with his skeleton face paint. Jay ended up performing and blew us all away. It was Isabella’s first time hearing him sing and “wow” was all that came out of her mouth.


Most of us went out Friday night for a Halloween party and ended up pulling an all-nighter since we were unable to get back on campus till the next morning as we had to wait for the trains to start running again. We slept all of Saturday and woke up around 4pm! Since we practically wasted the day, we decided to all cook dinner. Isabella and I went to AEON first to get the ingredients. She bought spaghetti and Carbonara sauce. I decided to make Goya Chanpuru, an Okinawan dish, since my mom sent me Spam in that care package she sent me last week. I bought tofu, eggs, and goya. Isabella already had salt and soy sauce so I was set. I had to call my mom before I started cooking to make sure I was doing everything correctly. She also sent me jushi, Okinawa style rice seasoning with vegetables and meat, so I had to make sure I was using the rice cooker correctly.


We had so much food. I made rice and Goya Chanpuru, Isabella made her spaghetti, and Annabelle and Kevin made chicken with some sweet chili sauce. Patrik was the only one that actually enjoyed the Goya Chanpuru; everyone else thought it was too bitter, which didn’t surprise me. Tristan actually said that we should all eat a mouthful of just Goya. I didn’t do it because I didn’t count, as I enjoy the bitterness. So, Tristan, Isabella, Annabelle, and Patrik all took about 5 pieces of Goya and stuffed it in their mouths. It was great. Annabelle made the weirdest face and immediately ate chicken afterwards to get rid of the taste. This makes Goya Chanpuru sound bad…I promise it’s actually delicious.

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This upcoming week, we have to give a 3-4 minute speech in Japanese class. We can’t have any notes or anything so we basically have to memorize our speech in just Japanese. I’m actually pretty nervous. For this speech, we had to decide to talk about either something that surprised us, saddened us, or excited us about Japan. I wrote about the vending machines in Japan and how the abundance of them surprised me.


I’m not kidding when I say you will find at least three vending machines on every street corner in Japan. It’s unbelievable really. They have vending machines with hot foods, like hot dogs and cup noodles. They’re everywhere. Back home in Okinawa, right outside of our apartment, there are seven vending machines lined up outside, side to side. Even outside of convenience stores, they have vending machines lined up outside, despite the drinks they have right inside the store.

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I appreciate it though because these vending machines sell iced black coffee. It’s a struggle for me when I go back home to the states because the only way to get iced black coffee is if you go to Starbucks or to some other chain store. It’s not as easy, common, and cheap as Japan.

img_0927In addition to the speech I have to memorize, I also have a 漢字 (kanji) midterm to study for and its just line after line after line. I’m even studying for it right now. I’ve been doing well in the class so I’m not too worried about it but this is an exam on ALL of the 漢字we’ve learned so far this semester…wish me luck!


Naomi at Akita Week 8: UNI-eed to read this

October 27, 2016

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Who has the bluest hair? Patrik and Isabella have a competition going on and Isabella is winning as of now. I don’t know why but in this picture, Patrik’s hair actually looks pretty blue compared to Isabella’s but in real life, Isabella’s is much darker. They have both dyed their hair twice in Akita. They both brought dye from back home…dedication, huh? Every time they see each other, the blue hair is mentioned at some point. You can hear Patrik’s heart break a little each time someone tells him Isabella’s hair is bluer. Lots of people on campus think they’re a couple too. It’s a great time.

I asked my mom to send me my heat techs (clothes from Uniqlo meant to keep you warm) that I left at home so she ended up sending an actual care package full of American and Okinawan snacks. I shared some with my friends. Well, mostly American friends and they were all excited and nostalgic with the taste of fruit rollups. There’s a picture of Tristan putting the fruit rollup tattoo onto his tongue! I don’t know why my mom sent me a package of fruit rollups because I never ate them growing up as a kid…she probably sent it because of the Halloween packaging. She also sent me a huge 240-piece bag of assorted chocolates – Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Twix. Too much candy.

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Over the weekend, our school set up another bus trip for us to the Oga Peninsula. We headed to the GAO Aquarium first. We could see the ocean and it was absolutely beautiful. I missed hearing the waves crash. Anyways, the aquarium also had some animals, in addition to all the fish, frogs, jellyfish, and eels. It was Patrik’s first time seeing a polar bear and penguins! There were seals awkwardly floating in the water. They looked like grandpas; it was so kawaii (cute in Japanese). There was also an exhibit with the fish that eat at your dead skin cells. The fish were in this container that had holes where you could stick you finger in so I did it and it felt…funny? The fish were nibbling away on my fingers. I bet if I stuck my foot in the container I would’ve never stopped laughing because of how ticklish it can feel. We also saw a vending machine that sold solely food and it was weird, as the food included hot dogs and takoyaki. Japan really gets invested in their vending machines. You can’t go 100 meters without seeing at least 3 vending machines. That’s not an exaggeration.

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Really quick, there was a room with tanks on the side of different types of fish. In the middle, there was a big cage with two turtles in it. Isabella and I didn’t pay attention to what was in the cage because nothing was moving so we just went straight to the tanks. However, right as we were leaving the room we noticed the turtles inside the cage. It wasn’t moving at all. It was completely still. We both started staring at the turtle wondering if it was a toy. As we were staring, Isabella asked, “Is it real?” and RIGHT after she asked that question, the turtle blinked. Needless to say, we both freaked out and yelled a bit.

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After the aquarium, we headed to Nyudozaki Cape, the northernmost cape on the Oga Peninsula, for lunch. All the food was too expensive for us college students, so we ended up just exploring the lighthouse and the ocean near the restaurants. Thankfully we stopped at a grocery store before the aquarium so we weren’t that hungry. The picture of the menu shows a picture of a bowl of rice topped with uni (sea urchin). I took a picture to send to my mom since she loves uni so much. I’m not a picky eater; I eat everything, but the only thing I cannot eat is uni. My mom plans on visiting me at the end of November and I’m sure she’s going to want to go to this cape solely to eat that bowl of uni. Delicious.

I tried taking a picture of Annabelle, Isabella, Tristan, and Patrik jumping but they could never get it together. Someone was always still on the ground. Tristan didn’t jump in one of the pictures. I ended up giving up and going to the coast. We found some stairs, stairs as in a bunch of rocks lined up, which led down to the ocean. There were a bunch of hermit crabs crawling in the water and a couple of small fish swimming around. We jumped from rock to rock to get deeper into the ocean. It wasn’t too cold, the wind felt nice against our faces, and the sound of the waves was relaxing. I can’t tell you how much I missed the ocean.

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After the cape, we went to the Namahage Museum and Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum. There’s a story titled the Legend of Namahage: The 999 Steps. The Han emperor brought five demonic ogres with him to Japan that constantly stole crops and young maidens from the villages. The villagers decided to trick the oni (ogres) with a proposal. The villagers commanded the oni to build one thousand steps to the Goshado Shrine in a single night, if they could then the maidens would be offered to them, if not then they would have to flee the village. The oni made it to 999 steps before a villager mimicked the crowing of a rooster, making the oni believe it was the morning. They ended up running away in panic. We actually watched a short performance on the banter between the Namahage (oni) and the household head. Although we didn’t understand much of what was said, we found the Namahage to be hilarious with their sluggish/deep yelling. After the show, we walked around the Namahage Museum filled with costumes and demonic masks. We even saw a man carving the masks by hand!

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The last place we visited was Mountain Kampuzan. There was a rotating observation deck at the peak of the mountain but we had to pay 540 yen. No one ended up going on it because the view was already beautiful enough. There was some performance going down below and you could hear someone banging away at the drums. It was a nice way to end our day trip. Once we got back on campus, everyone was too tired to do anything, despite it being a Saturday night. I pushed myself to finally do my load of laundry that I’ve held off for the past week. Isabella ended up cooking pasta for us so I didn’t have to worry about making my own dinner. She was worried the garlic red sauce tasted like seafood but it tasted just fine. We ended up watching Friends afterwards and called it a night.

 

 

 


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