There will always be something that changes.
Bits and Pieces
I suppose it’s hard to know what to expect in new places. Most people have at least a cursory knowledge of some place before they go.
Before I went to Japan for the first time, I knew some Japanese, had seen some anime, and had talked with Japanese people. I had enough to not be blind. Plus, Japan is a country full of people like any other place. Just don’t be a jerk and things usually work out. Regardless, I set myself up to be in a defensive mode, preparing myself for the unknown.
But the longer you stay, the more the place becomes normal. The more you expect to remain similar. The more everything fits into a pattern. People inform you of the exceptions. That relatives will be coming to visit for a few days. That the niece will be playing here only until the end of March. That there is a renovation happening to the house. But most of the time, everything just flows.
What becomes harder to expect is the effects of those tiny events. The fact that the niece not being around daily makes the grandmother feel harder pangs of loneliness. Or the renovation causes everyone to watch less TV and go to bed earlier because everything has been awkwardly placed in the meantime. Or that being forced into a different room in the house while the relatives visits causes increased productivity.
Events happen. Things change. Expectations go out the window.
Time and place do not change in large movements. We have the temptation to see the world as a collection of stories rather than a jumble of noise. And yet, this is a delusion. Or, more accurately, a fabrication. Life’s meaning is assembled, like a tower of different color Lego bricks. They could have been anything, but instead they were formed into this shape. Likely, in time, those same bricks will form a new shape.
Even though all of this meaning is created, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. The idea of a holiday, that there is one day every time the Earth revolves around the sun, is nonsense. Or on a smaller scale, that time should be divided into weekdays and weekends, or even work-time and play-time. This is all made up.
Still, it is important.
It allows us to see the world in new ways. To frame our experiences and help us remember them. And what are experiences if they’re forgotten?
These little distinct bits and pieces are what cement this experience in our minds. The tar that holds everything together.
I’m only here for 3 months. At this point, almost a third of the time has passed. And in that chunk, I’ve seen so much become familiar and so much change. Those changes will soon become familiar too. What was my daily life will become just a story I tell myself, to remind myself of past events.