Please enjoy this blog entry from Final Straw’s Animation Intern, Heeyoung Park:
“What was it like in Japan?” People ask me this, but I can’t even begin. So many things have happened during the three weeks in Japan, but how to summarize it? My mind goes blank. But if I had to choose one word, then it would have to be “warmth”–the warmth that spread like ripples and is a memory that warms my heart to this day..
Patrick and Suhee are like older siblings that I never had. We are good friends now, but a few months back I didn’t even know that they existed. How did we meet? The global phenomenon called the internet! One search led to another, and there I was looking at the Final Straw website. It all happened in a flash. I didn’t know anything about farming, but I was attracted to what they were doing and their smiles told me we would get along. There was no guarantee of course, but I wanted to talk to them in person. It was two weeks after graduation, and I was lost in the world of confusion with no guidance. I decided to seek advice from one of the directors Suhee, and spent the night writing the email forgetting to sleep. The next morning came the reply: “Why don’t you join us in Japan?” My heart stopped for a second and started to pound faster and faster. I was already racing towards Japan at heart, but the reality was that I was nowhere near–I was in US. There was no use in calming down that day, but after giving it a thought, I decided to give it a shot. The trip was going to be three weeks long. I could meet them in a month.
The whole trip was going to be very simple. We were going to discuss about the film, and I was going to create the animation for it. I packed my scanner, lightbox, and other equipments I needed for the work and arrived in Takamatsu, Japan. It was late July: the heat grabbed me by the throat and the humidity didn’t help. Patrick and Suhee greeted me at the bus station, and we said our first hello. Shy and awkward at first, we warmed up to each other by complaining about the heat (we were all foreigners to this place), and I had a load of questions waiting for them to answer. “So what’s it like there?” Soon enough, we were there. An island called Megijima.
The life in Megijima is simple and peaceful: everyday is like everyday. Farmers and fishermen are hard at work, tourists and B&Bs line up the shore, and there are local stores that only those who explore the alleyways will find and buy the cheapest ice-cream. Stray cats yawn and nap, and sun goes up and down. You see the same scenery everyday, and when the first excitement is over, boredom takes over. Yet at the same time, the place offers a sense of stability and comfort that embraces you, and here is a place where you can relax and take in each moment one by one. The time passes by like the wheels of a bicycle, turning and turning..
People here are kind and warm at heart. We greet each other with a smile and hello, and if it’s someone we know, we start off with how do you do and share the stories of our everyday life. What happened yesterday? What happened today? Small things matter here. Some of them always offer us with something to eat or even gifts of personal value, and when we try to give something back, inevitably we return with something more–it’s a game that we never win. With the warmth comes trust. Everyone knows everyone. I can leave my computer and personal belongings without locking the door, and with only my slippers on, I am free to roam around like the locals do. I walk down the street, and as I turn around the corner, I find people who are my neighbors and friends.
The very first time when they saw me, they called me “New Face” and welcomed me with a smile. Despite the language barrier, they kept their hearts open and included me as a part of their life. I shared the everydays with the people around me, and it filled me with happiness small but true. The given time was too short to get to know them on a deeper level, but the relationships I had were meaningful because they were earnest and close to heart. If the day ever comes when I can visit Megijima again, then I want to find everyone and ask how they are doing. Already I can see their smiles on their face soft and warm and embracing, spreading onto my own.