Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just a few hours ago, I came back from ten days in the land of the rising sun. I must say, initially, i felt great hesitance of travelling in a 'developed country' after my recent experiences in Spain but my addiction won over and i found myself on a plane heading for Narita Airport, Tokyo. I must make a confession that for the past year i have lost the particular fire, as it may be, to travel, explore, and to see what crazy ass things i could do in my wheelchair. I felt old.
I found myself thinking, 'this is too much effort', 'Japan is small, and even if they had access the Japanese are quite reserved and would not help me', 'Can't find a hotel that's accessible, must be a sign that i shouldn't go.' All of these are completely and absolutely absurd. I realised I went to Costa Rica not being completely sure i could dress myself independently, and have since visited over 20 countries. This trip has blown air and poured gasoline on that dying ember of passion i have for exploring the world. I have truly realised the power of the mind for the first time, while it may not get you up the flight of stairs, it will make you take the back, bumpy, dirt road which leads you to somewhere so much better. I feel like i have fallen in love again, which I must say is such a lovely feeling.
Japan itself is fascinating, disturbing, voyeuristic and ever so polite. I currently attend Soka University of America which is a Japanese Buddhist, albiet non-secular, based university which has strong ties to Japan. As such, we have a sister school of Soka University of Japan, which as an informal tradition the graduating seniors travel to Japan for SUJ's graduation ceremony. To be honest I really did not travel to Tokyo to attend SUJ's graduation but rather as an excuse to visit Japan. With this being said, travelling to Tokyo within any other capacity would not be nearly as powerful as my experience these past 10 days. This is mainly attributed to my meetings with donors to my university. When one imagines a donor to a university with one of the largest endowments per student as Soka has, one imagines an extremely affluent alumnae working within law offices or the corporate world. But not Soka, these donors put aside a meagre 100 yen (1 dollar) a week to donate to the university, the majority of these donors are lower-middle class people who believe so much in Soka education and the students at the university that they save pennies to support our education. As one can imagine, this was an incredibly humbling experience. We met on tatami mats wherein our gracious hosts cooked us an incredible array of delicious Japanese dishes, gave us gift after gift, and thanked us over an over again for taking the time to visit them. And all they wanted in return was for us to tel them little pieces of our life at the university. While the majority of the donors are have meager income, there are affluent donors who despite their wealth show the same humility. I was fortunate enough to meet with the Fujisakes who took me and a fellow classmate of mine to dinner. We ate blowfish, eel, sushi, sashimi, drank the best sake and ate the most delectable fish atop one of Tokyo's best hotels. We had birds eye view of the neon lit Tokyo 58 floors below us, lit and sparkling like some constellation on meth. Mr Fujisake spoke of his humble beginnings and his deepest desire to now, that he has worked hard for years, to donate his wealth to the education of youth. That both he and his wife felt the greatest honour in our visit, he promised a lifetime contribution to SUA as he had now seen the result of his donation. My education at this university, while always being conscious of the generous scholarship from the university, has always been quite selfish. The education was for me, the school as there to be utilised by me, and what i got out of the school was to be mine.
i realised through the meetings with the donors, that my education was for the betterment of society. these strangers were funneling money into my education because they felt me capable of masking a huge difference in the world. While seemingly simplistic and shallow, this was a powerful revelation for me and has thus renewed my passion for learning in the last few months of my undergraduate.
The next post will involve the amazing and exciting adventures within Tokyo, all which were certainly disability friendly and mostly legal :)

4 Comments:

Blogger Emma Smith said...

mostly legal? buh. come on megan! git back in the illegal, rebel boundary pushing saddle!

8:47 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

I found your blog while researching accessibility in Nepal. I am mobility-impaired and will be volunteering there this fall. I would love to get more practical info about traveling in Nepal. Could you write a post or possibly shoot me an email? Thanks!
Vanessa

3:28 PM  
Blogger jackie said...

Hey Megan,

So wise for such a young woman. Looks like Soka has the best idea to have it's students meet those that make their education and future world shakers possible. You go girl and change this f****ed up human originated mess to be a place that all humanity can live in with dignity.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Kay L. Davies said...

A friend and fellow blogger introduced me to your blog a few months back, and I was disappointed to think you had dropped off the blogging map a year ago. I'm so glad you've returned.
Your travels are an inspiration to me in my own recent attempts at blogging. I'm only trying to tell other Baby Boomers not to stop traveling because of aches, chronic pain, fatigue, and assorted inconvenient digestive difficulties. Ha.
I also loved reading about your university and its patrons ...a far cry from the Old Boys' Club of yesteryear.
Thanks for being there, and for educating us.

2:31 PM  

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