Sunday, August 24, 2008

raving & ranting with raya

As I stood at the ticket counter of the station waving goodbye to Raya, I realised how she became the symbol of my 1 year here in Tokyo. She was the first friend I made at the guest house in Yoyogi. That was after a stressful September last year moving around in various friends' places as I was still quite unsure if Tokyo was where I wanted to live. I was about to start my job in October and I still had not secured a better accommodation. So in the meantime, the guesthouse in Yoyogi was the best option available.

She had welcomed me with open arms exclaiming how relieved she was that I was the first grrl to live on that floor, especially since all her previous housemates were guys. She was this tall lanky Bulgarian with a short bob, whom I (had to) look up to like a big sister. For all I know, she could even be younger!

Our rooms were tiny, roughly 6m square, furnished with bare essentials. Just as the previous month, I was living out of my suitcase, only using whatever that was necessary to survive from one day to another as my first salary were to come in the month after. We would catch up after work whenever we could to unwind and share about each other's day. Occassionally we cooked for each other as well.

A few weeks after that I got to know Philip, a fellow Malaysian who told me about Watanabe-san's house. I practically fell in love with the room as soon as I stepped into it. I knew I had to move out of the cramped guest house. I told him I would move out as soon as my contract was up in Yoyogi. It was difficult for me to break the news to Raya. She was sad to see me go, and I could see she tried to persuade me to stay longer. And I tried to persuade her to move in with me to the new place.

We only met a couple of times after I moved out, but we still kept in touch through Skype & sms'. Right after work last Friday she gave me a call and asked if we could meet up. I was still upset over what had happened at work and so was relieved to get a call from her. Then she explained that this was her last weekend in Japan and she would like to meet up before she left. Shocked at that sudden news, I told her I would definitely make time for her, and so this weekend was spent with Raya.

As we caught up on past happenings, it was apparent our struggles were similar - language, culture, food, the people. She seemed really depressed at how difficult it was to continue living here after 3 years despite her efforts to learn all she could. I told her, she's a survivor for going through all that. She would have many stories to tell her family & friends when she returned home. She would come out stronger and more confident that she was able to experience so much on her own. Her perspective would be much different compared to her peers and this would give her an edge when she returned to Bulgaria.

It's been almost a year now. I met Raya when I first started my job in Tokyo. I remember raving about how I could work flexi-hours from home. Now she's leaving and I'm ranting about how my boss has turned into a slave driver. Indeed, one year has flown by so fast and so much has happened. Some people stay the same, while some show their true colours in a way I didn't expect. But we're both survivors and our experiences here is something no one can take away from us.

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