How was Japan?

How was Japan?

That is the question. Each time I meet an old friend for the first time again.

How was Japan?

It’s a loaded question, fraught with twenty-seven months of life experience whittled down to a three word question.

I feel inadequate to the task of answering the question. I knew it would be asked. It is the easiest, most accessible question.

Not so easy to answer.

Perhaps it’s my fault that I haven’t been able to formulate a concise answer to the question. I’ve been taught to carve the gist of a story to one sentence, a business pitch to one sentence, a thesis to one sentence.

I should be able to do it. I’ll try.

How was Japan?

Oh, well… you know…. It was an experience.

Nope.

How was Japan?

It was the most incredible thing that ever happened to me! Blah, blah, blah.

Nope.

How was Japan?

It sucked beyond measure anything I’ve ever known. The worst decision ever made.

Nope.

What is in an experience that makes it so life-changing?

I guess that it changes your life.

Well if that isn’t a cheap shot. I’m not very good at this.

Ahem…

How was Japan?

Japan was

incredible
boring
exciting
transformative
bland
colorful
humdrum
normal
exotic

Japan was

home
travel
short
tall
wide
skinny
fat

Japan was and is so much to me I could exhaust all the adjectives in the English dictionary and some outside of it before I could explain it all.

I wish I could. I really do.

As the postmodernists put it: Ask a better question. Get a better answer.

So think about when you meet that long lost friend again after an extended absence. Think about question. How was ___________? is a great start but it is only the tip of the carving, the raw block of wood before it becomes something.

So ask How was _________?. But be prepared to have a nebulous answer. And please, ask some follow-up questions.

You never know where it could lead.

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About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Japan, Reflection, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How was Japan?

  1. Mabel Kwong says:

    “How was….” is indeed an ambiguous question. I think most of us try to give a positive answer so that the person we’re talking to/catching up with feels compelled to continue the conversation with us. Give a bit of a downer of an answer, there might be uncomfortable pauses and it can get awkward. Usually I like to answer “How was….” (whether if it refers to someplace I’ve been or some event I attended) along the lines of, “Not too bad. Did a lot of stuff” or “It was interesting.” General answers to keep the conversation neutral, then I’ll just pick one of the memorable parts of the trip/event and chat about that. I don’t feel compelled to tell the whole story or everything I experienced…I feel a number of my stories are better off expressed in words 🙂

    • You’re so right. I think part of what I’m trying to express is my lack of ability to truly understand the experience. I try to give a positive answer yet try to remain neutral as you say. But some days it can be difficult. I’ve discovered that spending time with people is the best way to flutter through the experience. But at the same time, I find my self saying, In Japan…. I imagine it will get old quickly. Parts of me aren’t sure I even want to talk about it anymore for fear that I will become annoying. I don’t know, but I do know I’ll keep stumbling through it. Thanks for your comment; it’s always appreciated. Love hearing your thoughts.

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