I wasn’t prepared for this

Three weeks ago. G-chat.
Me: So I have question.
Bill: Yup.
Me: If my company, say, was offering to send me to Tokyo for three months, and let’s say hypothetically, I had two hours to decide, um, I would be stupid to turn it down, right?
Bill: Right.
Me: I mean, it’s only three months, right?
Bill: It’s Tokyo.
Me: Right.

Three weeks ago, I was innocently sitting at my desk at work, marvelling over Google Calendars.

“Stephanie, stop playing with Google Calendars.” Phillip, my boss, had snuck up behind me.
“But it’s awesome.”
“You have a minute to talk?”
“Yes, of course.” Pause. Double take. Squinty eyes of suspicion. “Wait, good talk or bad talk?”
“Good talk. For you.”

My heart sinks. Please do not offer me something I cannot turn down. My heart is set on a nice long vacation in August and the start of several hundred projects that are long past their due. We go to his office, he closes the door. Dammit. “I just got off the phone with Simon.” Goddammit! “There is a project in Tokyo that would be about three months.” Oh. “Thing is, they need to know today…in about two hours.”

And thus began the head-spinning whirlwind that was the last three weeks.

So I wasn’t really prepared for my arrival. I mean, I was Prepared, I just wasn’t prepared. I was a list-making, task-blasting, fist-pumping machine. I even high-fived myself one day after completing 5 errands with two bus rides in under 90 minutes including an international money transfer and visit to the doctor. But “Are you getting excited?” was regularly met with answers like “For Dinner? Yes, let’s eat!” and needing constant reminders from friends that this all ended with Being In Tokyo. And to me, Being In Tokyo meant that I would finally sleep and that my to do list, for better or worse, would be complete.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself a little teary riding the monorail into the city from Haneda Aiport. Teary because the sky was so blue and the buildings were so perfect and the trees were so green. And a little teary a few hours later when I stumbled on a loaf of pumperknickle bread and tubs of organic, local yogurt at an all-natural grocery in Omote-sando. Teary because everyone is smiling and painfully polite and no one, not once, bumped into me walking down the street. Yes, it may sound hormonal or from lack of sleep, but I promise you it’s much bigger than that.

When we emerged from the market, the buildings were bathed in golden orange light against the stark, deep purple of dark storm clouds that had passed. I promptly began kicking myself for leaving my camera back at the apartment with my luggage. But I resolved that it was not the time for photos and there would be plenty of time for photos. It was time to just absorb the colors and the light and the summer air.

Two blocks later, as we were crossing the street at a busy intersection, I noticed the huge crowd ahead looking up in the sky with great big smiles and camera phones in the air, gasping and cooing. I turned around to find the widest, most vibrant, eight-color double rainbow I have ever seen. And for once, I was really glad I didn’t have my camera. I never would have been able to capture that feeling. That all roads — good and bad — have led here.

Walking home from the subway station, through the quiet streets of my new neighborhood, I came upon a beautiful treehouse-like cafe, with a warm yellow glow, stuffed with people and a live band. I have no idea what they were singing, but they were all singing. And laughing and hugging and hollering.

I wasn’t looking for a sign when I came to Tokyo, but I think I just got one.

My new grocery store.

15 Responses to “I wasn’t prepared for this”

  1. hannah says:

    i don’t know if i can take three months of posts like this. i mean, don’t get me wrong, i’m willing to try. it might kill me, but i’ll keep up.

  2. leah says:

    you know what I want to say. I’ve already said it all.

    I love you, lady.

  3. leah says:

    PS – this is the Stephanie equivalent of the Leah post I made the other day and I think I’m about to lose it in the most awesome way possible.

  4. E says:

    Oh my goodness. What a wonderful blog entry. It sent chills all over me. I’m so excited for you – It is my dream to live in Tokyo. I lived there when I was little, little and cannot wait to get back. :D

  5. Meera says:

    Okay, now I am fully expecting girls in kimonos carrying cell phones, AND rainbows, AND singing treehouse cafes. I’m just saying.

  6. charlotte says:

    all roads.
    every single road leads there.

  7. jodi says:

    oh, yes. this is most excellent.
    enjoy every second of it!

  8. Rach says:


    I’m excited for your adventures =)

  9. BF says:

    you know i am so excited for you, and i. love. this. post.

  10. julia says:

    damn. this is so perfect, steph. and i know exactly how you feel. it seems way less exciting, but this is the same feeling i had when i moved to mpls (though that was heavily planned for months.)

  11. claire says:

    you are going to have the best time! i can’t wait to see.

  12. rachel says:

    This just made my heart all warm. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for your adventure (and the photos that will follow)!

  13. lisa says:

    I am so thrilled for you.
    and the rest of us with the posts to come.

  14. Brian says:

    You have got me walking the streets of Japan already and I still have 3 months and 10 days to go, how on earth did you manage with such short notice?

  15. Brian says:

    Oh my gosh, only one month to go and I have not finished doing my itinerary yet or got that new camera I promised I would take.
    Hope you had a great time. I’m going to Kyoto not Tokyo it’s not so hectic.

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