Opinion

Heartbroken

The sky is charcoal black today. My dear cousin, a loving husband and father of two little ones was taken prisoner (again), alongside 12 other innocent souls in Iran. His crime? Following a faith thats sole purpose is the unification of all people. Practicing equality, love and justice. Giving eternal love and service.

When asked on one occasion: “What is a Bahá’í?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied: “To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”

My heart is broken. As is his immediate family’s and friends’. The persecution of the Iranian Bahá’í community is a serious problem. In this recent article, it was likened unto the apartheid system. The world is a cruel cruel place. Today I feel deeply ashamed. Ashamed at myself for continuously having trivial “problems.” I recently cried to my mother for not having a travel companion. But it’s not fun by myself, I said. Then I moaned about my weight. I’m not as skinny as I used to be. Then my clothes: I want to shop in NZ. European clothes don’t fit and they’re too expensive. Of course she rationalised how ridiculous my concerns were. As mothers so perfectly do. But even so, at the time it didn’t register. I still felt upset. Now it has registered.

My “problems” are nothing, nil, non-existent. I am so immensely lucky. How dare I ever complain. I am so ashamed. I pray for my cousin and all who are bearing a heavier load than they can take. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í faith says: “Let your vision be world embracing…” To me this means detachment, of ourselves and of our problems or in my case, “problems” for there is always someone worse off than we, on earth. When we forget to look at the bigger picture, our perceptions are clouded.
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“When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!”
―Dr. Seuss, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

Relationship Update

Don’t call me the boy/girl who cried wolf but I just wanted to tell you that my boyfriend is going to nursery school!

On another note, just as I posted my Miss Independent post, The Cut published a wonderful piece called 25 Famous Women on Being Alone. You can check out the full article HERE or just read my favourites below:

(Illustrations by Mitsuie Yusaku)

People sometimes seem surprised when I say this, because I’m a pretty friendly person. This is one of the greatest misconceptions about introversion. We are not anti-social; we’re differently social. I can’t live without my family and close friends, but I also crave solitude. I feel incredibly lucky that my work as a writer affords me hours a day alone with my laptop. I also have a lot of other introvert characteristics, like thinking before I speak, disliking conflict, and concentrating easily … introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward. In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals — we are constantly exhorting people to ‘come out of their shells’ — but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go. (Susan Cain)
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I think alone time is good to know how to be alone with your own thoughts. I think it just helps you kind of be a better, more grounded person … and also I feel like it builds a sense of self confidence and a sureness that you know that you can venture out into experiences without the crutch of other people. Like, you’re not doing it because you feel lonely or isolated, but because it generates a new kind of experience. (Carrie Brownstein)
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Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. (Cheryl Strayed)
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I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel. (Audrey Hepburn)
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The precious part of my day is when I’m alone. When everybody goes home and (son) Sean’s asleep and I’m just watching the night lights out of my window or something. I like silence, you see. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s all right to be alone. (Yoko Ono)

A Gratitude List

…look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love. -Zooey Deschanel

I dedicate this list to you. I’m sorry for the whinging and the grumbles. I really am happy and grateful…it’s just so easy to be open with you.

1.Working limbs to walk, run, cycle and explore.
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2.Unexpected friends. Like Laura from Belgium who I met through blogging. who came and stayed with me in Japan and who just happens to be blogging about it NOW.

3.My auntie Pouneh – of course for having me here but also for her many entertaining stories, cycling advice and organic salads!
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4.Coffee. I mean come on. Ican’teven without it.
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5.Art. Art and creative people. Literature, music, Sundance! Thank you for making me feel all sorts of feels.

6.My mama, who keeps messaging me to be careful not to get a cold? And that I’m her little girl and very pretty. Oh my heart. My world. Thank you.
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7.Getting paid to travel. Okay so it’s not much (hint hint Savvy Tokyo) but it’s seriously a dream come true. I did it. I blogged for 730 days in a row, annoyed the hell out of you all and eventually landed myself a teeny tiny writing role. Have you read my latest work? You can HERE, HERE and HERE. Cheers and kampai to (fingers-crossed/touch-wood) many more.

Mom Was Right

Dear Ones:

I’ve realised my mom was right. I have been blogging too much, working too much, exploring too much, thinking too much, exercising too much and plain pushing myself to exhaustion. When she first said it, of course I disagreed with her. “You don’t understand, I’m FINE,” I said. And we all know what that “fine” means. But a simple comment by Yuka today on how I’d mistakingly written “orange” in place of “apple” in a previous post,  finally touched the right nerve.

Believe me, I’ve had the best of intentions. I’ve blogged everyday because I enjoy doing it but also because I believe it will one day, some way or another, make me a real writer. For the past two years, I have not stopped. Even now, on holiday! I am walking, thinking, over-thinking, exploring, photographing, blogging, and freelancing. Then I write a post about holiday blues. I am so silly.

I don’t want to be like this anymore.

So, I have made a choice. The great Bahai leader, Abdu’l-Baha says:

“One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one’s thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force.”

In short, I am finally going to take that overdue holiday. I am going to enjoy my upcoming travels to their fullest and I am going to live in the moment. This means photographing less, blogging less, hopefully thinking less and overall, chilling the F out. I guess my only concern is losing followers but I know that my health comes first and that this way, contrary to my previous thinking, I can become a better writer. Something to do with quality over quantity, I guess.

In the words of Anne Lamott:  “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you”.

Again, thank you for being there.

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Holiday Blues

I have holiday blues. Yes, there’s such a thing. I Googled it.

WAH.

Seriously though, I feel so blue tonight. I am pinning it down to these:

Over-scheduling (see previous post)
You see, I only have 2 weeks left in Japan which is why I’ve been really pushing myself to see and do everything. Also, to keep my blog fresh and up to date. Because I truly enjoy it, it is my passion and of course to keep with my hot-shot writing dreams. However, amidst all the hustle and bustle and adventuring, I seem to have forgotten I’m not superhuman. I am exhausted. But here’s the problem. It’s not like I have anything else. I do a bit of free-lancing here and there but it’s not enough to occupy an entire day. And I know you all wish you didn’t have to work a 9-5 day and/or look after your needy significant other and/or rowdy children so that you could have even a spare moment to read a novel, go for a run, drink a coffee in silence, paint your nails etc but I swear, human wiring comes with the disease of always always wanting what we don’t have.

Holiday food
My general diet for the past year and half of Japan life has been a challenge. You can read about it here. Or in short, it’s been challenging learning to shop, cook and eat for one. I miss sitting around a table and eating with others. When I do eat with others here, it’s usually eating out. Which is exciting yes, and I feel should be done cos like when else am I gonna be in JAPAN to eat this authentic soba?! But at the same time, it’s not the healthiest. And even though I try to choose the healthiest menu items and exercise everyday (sometimes walking or cycling 10+ ks), it’s still not the same as eating and living on a normal schedule in the comfort of your own hometown. All this holiday food then, is starting to make me feel bad about my body image and myself.

Unrealistic expectations of myself
A quote I’ve mentioned several times here, “comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt. During holidays, we meet countless faces. In Japan, most are settled in good jobs with babies and husbands. My current life is much much different in comparison. Again, it seems instinctive of human wiring to compare. I keep forgetting that this won’t be my life forever and that I too am chasing my dream/working towards a good future. When I compare my very undetermined life with theirs, I feel sad.

Lack of sleep
A combination of the above.

I know I’m probably being too hard on myself but I, 1. needed to get this off of my chest and tell someone seeing as I’m all alone in this wah and 2. wanted you to know that it’s not all castle and croissants and that there is depth to the pretty pictures.

Last, am going on a money and food diet.

1…2…3… (a goal-starter countdown I’ve always done as a kid for which my father would always mock me)

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Too Much Perfection Is A Mistake

Sometimes the people who give contrary advice to your life’s calling aren’t always doing it in a menacing way. I just came off a Skype call with my mama where she spent a good 30 min advising me to blog less. She said, blogging should be done in moderation, that it shouldn’t take away from the now and that some things, some special things should be kept secret. To all of which, I concur.

Now, my mama, she’s my number one fan. She’s always wanted the very best for me so I know that she meant well. But, I like to think that my blog is different to the average travel bloggers (see here). This is because, I’m open about my financial problems, my weight problems, my homesickness, my singledom, my worries and my stresses as well as my joys and triumphs. Further, I write because it’s my passion. It’s what I love to do more than I love myself. To blog or to be continuously active on social-media with the sole intent of constructing some fake image, I couldn’t loathe more even if I wanted. But what I’m trying to do and I hope I have achieved thus far to some extent is to share my truth in order to inspire others. As I’ve said, time and time again, traveling solo isn’t easy, mingling with opposite cultures and living and breathing different climates doesn’t come with an instagram filter. It isn’t a piece of cake (or a bowl of ramen). It is what it is and I hope to share it. Too much perfection is a mistake.
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Time For An Apology

An apology and a thank you.

A big fat juicy thank you to my dear friend Yuka (first my older sister’s friend after doing a high-school exchange in rural New Zealand) for allowing me to stay.

I believe very few people can truly understand how happy I am to be here. Really, you may think me melodramatic or this an exaggeration, but I almost feel as if I’ve fled prison! My soul is rolling on the grass and my heart is breathing in mouthful after mouthful of fresh air.

Before beginning my apology, I’d like to say that no one forced me to sign up for the JET programme. As continuously reiterated to participants, each JET experience is different. This is because, as expected, the lifestyle and mannerisms of each student, school, Japanese teacher(s), contracting organisation and geographical location will differ – in both good and bad ways. Without getting into specifics, my experience happened to be extremely unpleasant (put politely). However, as you may have seen from my previous posts, I tried my best to make the most of it – my life. I made many friends of all ages and partook in various activities every-single-day. Again, no one forced me to stay, I could have left at any moment. However, I felt a strong responsibility to my students, colleagues and myself to see things through to the end. Even through the difficulties and even through the heartache. And though I made some unforgettable memories with my dear students and friends, I still finished my contract with a heart full of sadness. Sadness at mistreatment, of lack of apology and of prejudice. I felt disheartened because I felt I had so much to give. For goodness sakes, I was an ENGLISH major. English was my passion. English is my passion. Still, I was underutilised and unappreciated. I remember thinking to myself that if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience, it’s to never ever be unproductive.

As for my apology, again, I would like to first thank Yuka. For in the mere three days that I have lived in Osaka, I have felt more good energy and positive vibes than I had for a year and four months. I had so many back-to-back negative experiences that I’d convinced myself I hated Japan. I couldn’t understand how others were having a pleasant time here. Weren’t they being stared at everywhere they weren’t? Wasn’t the doctor refusing to treat them because he or she didn’t speak English? Weren’t they turned away every time they went to class? Weren’t they frowned upon for wearing a singlet, riding a bike, having their hair out?

Osaka is a wonderful city. I mean, I have only experienced a small part of it but what I have seen emits great spirits. People are always out and about. They have blonde, purple and blue hair. They sport tattoos and piercings alongside formal and traditional attire. Mothers ride their bicycles in floral dresses as their loose hair dances out back and their front seated toddler watches in amusement. Business men carry stylish briefcases and smell like heaven and young girls are so damn fashionable they put me to shame.

I would like to apologise because I based my perception on a small minority of Japan. Even though I knew it couldn’t all be like this, I still couldn’t really believe it. Osaka or city-life, whatever it is, has changed my awareness. I am so glad I could/can experience this side of Japan. I’ve decided I could easily live in this city, forever.
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The Age Of Pokemon Go

My mother snaps and Yasu’s mother plays Pokemon Go. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

A picture diary starting with my breakfast for the day, then our drive to the ocean (during which Yasu’s mother played Pokemon Go) then what we did at the ocean (draw) and later our dinner together (which I cooked) and last, a screenshot of the goodnight snap from my mom.imageimageimage[8]image[2]image[1]image[3]image[4]image[5]image[6]image[7]image[9]image[10]image[1]
Smoothie recipe HERE
Curry recipe HERE

Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

Until right now, only my immediate family has known this. Because I live super rural with no cafes, restaurants or humans around, I usually have nothing to do in the week-day evenings. As in, really nothing. When it isn’t raining I can go for a bike ride but after the sun sets about 7pm it becomes too dangerous to stay outside (bears).

Also, using my computer isn’t  much fun. This is because I’ve been on the damn thing and on my ass all day long. Don’t get me wrong, I do teach (sometimes) but it’s usually 2-3 classes which are only about 45 minutes long. Leaving me a good 6 hours of Facebook time. Joking, I mean research. Educational stuff. As for Japanese TV, I don’t understand it much. Also, it’s really weird (to me).

So back to the thing you don’t know and my parents do, for the past 7 or so months, I have been going to bed at 8.30 and waking up at 5. This has been my mechanism to stop myself from getting even more homesick during the lonely and quiet nights. As for the mornings, I always go for an hour or two walk or bike ride which is where I take these naturey photographs.

So, there you have it. From one direction, it is definitely a somewhat lonely life (though sometimes I do get invited to stuff) but from the other, a direction I’ve chosen to peep from, I am living the life. I mean, when else can I have a Persian-style breakfast for dinner at 5pm and wake up at 5am, blending a green-smoothie on super loud? Totes not when future hubby or future babas come around. Am I right? Or am I insane?
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An Open Letter To The Mimasaka Board Of Education

To whom it may concern

I am writing this letter to let you know that I will be retiring from my position as Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on July 22nd.

Please know that I have had the most negative experience here. The Mimasaka Board of Education has continuously surprised me with their unprofessionalism.

I have not recieved or been notified of important information. I was never invited to the ALT orientation or the ALT camp (both of where I would have had the opportunity to make foreign friends in my position and/or receive answers to my countless questions). When information has been given to me, it has been given to me late. For example, the forms for relocation were given to me well past their due date. My emails and phone-calls have gone unanswered. And time after time my supervisors have approached me with requests for large amounts of surprise payments due on the same day.

It is unfortunate that I will be leaving Mimasaka with a heart full of sadness. I have given all of my spirit and energy to my students and in return I have been faced with repetitive negligence.

As a guest in your country, you have made me feel incredibly unwelcome.

However; I am smarter than to judge the entire Japanese community by a small minority’s actions. As a full-blooded Iranian, I know the effects of such ignorance first-hand. I will not be a part of that blindness. For many people of your community have shown me more love and respect than some individuals of my home country and/or race ever have. If it were not for their kindness, I too would have broken my contract like my predecessor.

My wish today on Tanabata is that my successor will not have to go through the same unfair treatment and excruciating pain that I have.

Anisa Kazemi  
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