Monday, January 17, 2005

Tokyo Turbocharge Part 1 - Summer 98
What happens to a human being when he is without the life-support of his culture? Who does he become? Can you distill the fundamental essence of a person by stripping away the layers of perception and understanding in which he grew up? These are big questions, and there's no theoretical solution. So when I was 23 and reckless with myself, I went to Japan to submit to practical answers.

The summer of 1998 was good by English standards. The bright days elongated into an endless dazzle, the sun beaming its warm rays across the abundant green hills of the South East. On university campus us final years revelled in our completed degrees, drinking beers, flinging frisbees and shooting supersoakers under the infinite blue of our late-setting North Atlantic sky.

I felt like a shooting star that summer, blazing across the face of my culture, holding a searing passion and stunning success. And looking into Nicola's eyes, something had lifted deep inside my psyche, as if the landscape of my soul had been illuminated by a new light. Moving to London with Super Discount on my play list, it seemed that nothing could stop me. I was throbbing with cultural integration, with circles of friends expanding in number, size and intimacy, and job offers landing on my doorstep at the rate of one a week.

It was during those hot hectic weeks packed with tube riding and Bengy's breakfasts, sitting behind my desk in an open-plan office off Oxford Street, that I got the phone call from the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme. I never wanted to be an English teacher. I was ambitious to be the Engineer I'd always been training and studying to become. But my curious mind had been teased by 12 perspective bending months in Toulouse a year earlier and I was itching to see beyond Europe's confine, yearning to stretch myself to the limit of the cultural frontier. Given the choice I had between adjusting to the North of England or adjusting to Japan, I took the easy option.

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