It's been about ten days since I've left my home in Hawaii and I can surely tell you that I've already enough experiences for a good read. In a nutshell, I talked politics with the lead singer of a well-known Filipino rock band, I've shared views on the photography and videography industry with an acclaimed Filipino photojournalist, and I met a man who rebuilt his life from nothing, and in a country he doesn't belong. But, the experience that's impacted me the most was finding friendship in a young, bright photographer and filmmaker from Quezon City.
If these experiences aren't prime examples of how the enrichment of travel is all too valuable to ignore, I really don't know what is. Hate to say it again folks (actually, I don't hate it), but... stay hungry, stay foolish.
Oh, here's one story I didn't mention above. It was such a magical experience that I just had to get it on paper. I'll get to the rest eventually, but this one's first.
To Heal a Stranger
I spent one full day in Tokyo before my trip to Manila, and I was so quickly reminded of the order of things here. This city, in many ways, puts many other cities to shame. Small cities (like my own) struggle with a single little railway year after painful year, while Tokyo and the rest of Japan have an infinitely complex rail system that shuttles everyone with surgical precision and musical perfection. I've ridden it dozens of time, and it's still mind-blowing. It was on one of these trains that I met an old woman who learned a little about me with just wave of her hand.
Toyama-san asked to sit near me on the train, and upon looking up, I saw that she really deserved whichever seat she wanted. She looked to be in her eighties and had a few more bags than she really should be carrying. I practically jumped up when she motioned to the narrow space beside me, and I surprised her by offering a larger part of the prize than she expected. Just as soon as she took her seat, she looked right up at me and pointed to the slightly less narrow space beside her. I politely refused by placing my hips between my open palms and saying, in Japanese, that I was too big. She motioned her insistence, but I knew I couldn't fit. At the next stop, a salary-man seated next to her stood up and left the train. Now with the open space, she wouldn't take no for an answer, and I smiled as I sat next to her.
This is where things get a little bit confusing as I don't remember how we started communicating. My Japanese is about worthless, and her english was, well, non-existent. There were a few smiles and small nods between us, but not much else. Despite the clear language barrier, I found a way to summon my high school teachings and tell her my name, where I was from, and that I was going to do the Shikoku pilgrimage. Her surprised and joyful look was quickly followed with, "o-henro?!" I nodded and smiled, and Toyama-san looked downward, smiled, and just seemed pleased. About a minute later, Toyama-san angled herself towards me and stretched her right arm near my back and her left arm near my left knee. With a whole bunch of commuters still on the train, I admit that I felt a bit uncomfortable. Toyama-san waved her hands over me and in a motion that appeared to be as if she was mystically reading something about me. I looked across the train car to see if anyone was watching, and of course, there was a middle-aged woman looking right at us. In Japan, it's not normal for people to stare at others beyond a split second, so this was definitely a mini-event for that woman. As soon as I caught her looking, she let out a large smile and nodded her head in a way that made me feel like, at that moment, I was very lucky.
Another minute went by and Toyama-san pulled her hands away from me, and while still seated, she began kicking her lower legs back and forth. She pointed at her legs, then pointed at mine. By this time, I knew she was doing reiki and I told her (again, in my horrible Japanese) that my left knee hurts at times. She quickly nodded and I somehow gathered that she said she knew. As I was about to thank her for the reiki, she moved both of her hands toward my knee and continued her healing. She repeatedly followed the contour of my shin and foot, and obviously was trying to draw the "bad" away from my knee, and down and out of my foot. By this time, I just wanted to completely confirm that it was reiki, so I very politely asked. She was surprised that I knew, and quickly followed (in English) with "very powerful." I nodded and said, "I know." After another minute or so, she stopped the reiki and pulled a small pouch from a large red backpack. From the pouch, she removed a single sticker from a sheet of them, and placed one on my knee. She looked pleased with what she did, and quickly put the pouch back in her bag. The sheet of stickers; she handed them to me.
By the next minute, Toyama-san pointed to he nose, mentioned her name, and stood up as the train slowed. As the doors opened to Katsutadai Station, Toyama said bowed and waved with every other step towards the open doors. I returned each gesture as she walked out, and then one final bow and one last wave through the train car's large window.
I'm fairly certain I will never see her again, but it's quite alright. I believe she left happy and she knows I did as well. We exchanged little words, but gained a life-long memory. As I continued on the train to my hotel, I quietly embraced the happiness of that moment. Really, the day could not have ended any better.