Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode you will hear about a moment of adversity called Left to Fend for Myself, a moment of an encounter called Love and Songs, and a moment of a perspective called The Wonders of Perspective III.
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Hello and welcome to Episode #40 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Left to Fend for Myself, Love and Songs, and The Wonders of Perspectives III.
A moment of adversity: Left to Fend For Myself
I looked at the map of train lines. Everything was in Japanese, and I did not understand anything. I couldn’t remember my friend’s train stop, a Japanese name. I forgot to ask her again, and she was quick to get rid of me when she and her friends dumped me off at the train station. I decided to jump on a train and take a guess. I got off and out onto the streets. It didn’t look familiar, so I went back to the train station.
By pointing, I asked a station worker if I could use the phone behind the counter. I gestured that I wanted to use the phone with my hand to my ear. He shook his head to say no and, with his finger directed me to go outside to use a payphone. I went out and could not find one. I went back in and gestured that he could call for me since he wouldn’t let me use the phone. I showed him my friend Fiona’s phone number. He shook his head to say no again. I pointed to the phone. He refused once more. I could not use the phone, and he would not call for me. I was most frustrated that he didn’t speak English and that with all my hand gestures, he knew what I wanted but refused any service. I felt pangs in my chest and tightness in my head; I wanted to cry. It was already 10 p.m. and very dark outside. I was lost and could not communicate with anyone willing to help.
I went back outside. I saw a taxi and decided to use a taxi even though my friend had previously told me taxis in the area were expensive. I gave the taxi driver a small sheet of paper showing my friend’s address. It was in English, and the taxi driver did not understand English. He shook his head several times and said, “No.” I gestured to ask to use his cell phone. He shook his head to say no again. I gave him the number to call for me, and he refused to call.
Train station workers and the taxi driver all refused to help me. The pangs in my chest pounded the hollowed-out me, and the strain in my head tightened. I couldn’t find anyone willing to help me. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. Feeling helpless was a most horrible feeling. I couldn’t find a payphone, and no one was willing to let me use their phone or help me call my friend. What was I going to do? It was dark out, I was clueless about where I was, and I could not understand one bit of Japanese.
Before this second day of my three-day trip, I was excited to meet Fiona, my supposed friend who invited me to visit her in Osaka, Japan. She promised a fun-filled time full of activities and said she welcomed my presence because she didn’t enjoy socializing with her co-workers.
As we agreed, I was to meet her at a mall upon arrival. She gave clear directions on how to get there, and I arrived with no problem. Soon she got off from work and met up with me. I enjoyed an authentic Japanese dinner of noodles with her while we chatted up a storm to catch up with each other.
The time together seemed like when I last saw her only a year ago when she visited me in Taiwan. Back in the USA, where we met, I had told her I would be going abroad to work. She also decided to do the same, but she went to Japan while I went to Taiwan. Since she had never gone to Taiwan, she invited herself to visit me as Japan was not far away.
I took a few days off from work to show her around Taiwan and went to places she was interested in, such as the hot springs, the night market, temples, and Taipei 101. We had a good time, and I thought I did an excellent job as a tour guide even though I had only been in Taiwan a year. I enjoyed our time together, and she agreed. So, she invited me to visit her in Japan.
My visit with Fiona in Japan was only for three days. I anticipated an extended fun weekend, but it turned out to be not merely unpleasant but horrible. I never imagined she could be so thoughtless and inconsiderate.
She had previously told me that she didn’t like spending time with co-workers, but she said we would go when they called. She had once told me that I did not need to worry about not knowing Japanese because many people spoke English there. She also told me she had plenty of room in her apartment and that I didn’t need to stay at a hotel.
Since I am a planner, I had asked her some things before arrival. The three things she told me did not appear valid when I arrived. She had a thin sleeping bag for me to sleep on her tile floor. It was cold and uncomfortable on the floor. I was so cold I couldn’t sleep well. I wish I did make hotel reservations, but I rationalized that it was only two nights to bear.
On the second day, it was Saturday, and she took me to a place where they made tea. It was my first sightseeing place in Japan. The tour was pleasant, and Fiona was okay with me. Then she got a call from co-workers inviting us to dinner. I thought we would not go since she said she did not care to do so, but we went to dinner at a burger joint with her co-workers. I was not impressed. I didn’t go all the way to Japan to eat another American meal. But I could understand why people do that. It is familiar and comfortable. The food was nothing special, and there was no substance to what little conversation that occurred.
Finally, we finished up. Fiona’s friends discussed going karaoke singing, and then dancing. I asked my friend how much it would cost. To my surprise, it cost a lot more than I expected, so I said that I did not have enough money or did not exchange enough money to go. Fiona quickly told me I could go home to her place. I asked how I would get back to her home. She didn’t seem to care.
Luckily her co-workers were much nicer and offered to show me to a train station. They were new to Japan and didn’t know their way around very well. They roamed the streets, helping me find a train station. It took a while, but they did eventually find a station, and I was grateful they tried to help, and my friend Fiona was just annoyed with me. It was only my second day in Japan, and I didn’t understand why she was so annoyed with me. I didn’t know my way around, and she told me she didn’t care for her co-workers. I didn’t understand her behavior.
The evening turned into a nightmare. First, Fiona didn’t care that I didn’t have enough Japanese Yen to go karaoke singing with her and her friends. Worse, she didn’t care if I could find my way to a train station or not. Her co-workers, who were strangers to me, cared more about finding a train station than she did. Next, I didn’t know which line or stop to get off the train. After asking one station worker and another for help, I started to panic as no one would help me. Then I got the nerve to ask a taxi driver for help, and I couldn’t get help from him either. Crushed that no one in the train station would help me, I went out in the streets wandering around.
I finally found a phone booth. I called my friend Fiona. Is she my friend? I thought she was, but now I felt like she was a cold stranger without a heart. She was heartless like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz. I told Fiona where I was. She calmly said that I was going in the wrong direction at the wrong station. I asked for the Japanese name of her train stop. I got it and quickly got off the phone. She didn’t seem to care that I was lost and certainly didn’t care if I was okay.
I finally found my way back to Fiona’s apartment. To my great surprise, she was already home and blow-drying her wet hair at 11 p.m. She did not ask or say anything about me getting lost or how long it took me to return home. We had finished dinner at 7 p.m. Her friends roamed around, helping me look for the train station. That brought us to 8 p.m. Then I didn’t know how to get back to Fiona’s place. No one would help me call or let me call Fiona to ask for directions. By the time I got back to her place, it was 11 p.m. And not a word from Fiona about my time of arrival. Did she not have a heart? Was she human? She knew I didn’t learn Japanese and had told me it wouldn’t be a problem, but it turned out to be a big problem. She knew I had never been to Japan before, and she expected me to figure my way around after one day?
I was hurt. Why was Fiona behaving like that? When she visited me, I took time off from work and took her everywhere. Fiona never got lost, as I was always by her side. She never had communication or language issues in Taiwan because I was always by her side. I am not complaining about how much I did for her, but how could she treat me like that?
I reminded her that I was leaving the next day and went to sleep with a few words. Though my flight wouldn’t be until nightfall, I was ready to leave as soon as I awoke.
On day three, I woke up, packed up, and was on my way. Fiona said she would walk me to the train station. I said I knew my way now, so it was not necessary. She again said she’d take me, and again I said I learned how to get there, so I didn’t need help. She insisted. I didn’t want to argue with her. I pulled my suitcase out to go. She followed. We walked in silence for about ten minutes. When we got there, she showed me the train station map on the wall and which station to get off from to the airport. I said thanks and farewell. Full of hurt and disgust, I didn’t want her presence and suggested I was okay and she should leave.
Left to fend for myself, I had to face the challenge. The only person I knew in Japan was Fiona, and she was of little help. Fiona’s way of being gave me the opportunity to practice and learn survival skills in a foreign country where I didn’t know the language and didn’t know my way around. I truly got a taste of being in a foreign land to me.
Before, I had traveled to many other countries in the safety of tour groups or with a pre-planned schedule of activities and researched logistics. This time, I had mistakenly believed Fiona when she said she insisted that she plan a fun-filled agenda like I had done for her in Taiwan. As it turned out, it didn’t seem like she planned anything, including spending time with me.
Perhaps she was so distraught with her boyfriend, who was in Australia. I heard her on the phone at 3 a.m. on day two of my visit. It was a lengthy call that woke me up and kept me awake. She tried to be quiet about it, but we were in a one-room studio apartment. I don’t know what they talked about, but she didn’t sound happy. Tried as I might, I couldn’t fall back to sleep but awoke tired and sleepy. The alarm went off. Though I was tired, I was eager to leave.
I suppose Fiona was not in a good place with her boyfriend, and it caused her to forget about taking me around or that she had invited me to visit. Whatever the reason, I can at least say that she certainly gave me a memorable trip.
Memorable things could be good or bad. In this case, it was notable because it was a horrible and hurtful experience. Be that as it may, I got to experience what it is like to be in a foreign country without help or the safety of loved ones or a tour group. Good or bad experiences, we can always learn something from them. They are the spices of life that keep us free from boredom!
A moment of an encounter: Love and Songs
I was only seventeen and in love for the first time. My boyfriend carried a boombox, and he had a few cassettes that he played over and over. He had a few songs that he played repeatedly. I never thought much about them except that they sounded good, or was it really because I was in love and I loved anything he loved? I don't know; love is blind. Though I only recently parted with the cassettes because of moving abroad, I can now listen to them online. Though the joy of the love between us is inscribed in the past, it is remembered every so often and even today. Of course, every time I hear two particular songs, I will think of him and reminisce with fond memories. However, it wasn't until some years ago; I stopped to listen to the lyrics carefully. Was I a clueless innocent girl who didn't even recognize the love he had for me?
The song was "Never Knew Love Like This Before" by Stephanie Mills. As the lyrics go, "I never knew love like this before, now I'm lonely never more since you came into my life. You are my lovelight this I know, and I'll never let you go; you're all a part of me. Once I was lost, and you turned my world around." Wow, I thought. Did he love me like this, and I never knew? You see, he was a guy that rarely expressed his feelings with words, let alone say those three words that every girl loves to hear. He would flirt with me and be seductive, but he wouldn't use words to express any love for me. Because of that, I could never be 100% sure how he felt. Even after ten years of an on-again-off-again rollercoaster ride of a relationship, I was never sure. One time as we parted, he gave me one of his treasured cassettes and said he wanted me to listen to it. I didn't ask for it.
Sometime after that ten-year on-again-off-again relationship, I did see him a couple more times. One time, I invited him to look at my business, where we had a presentation for guests. Afterward, as we were walking to the parking lot, he said, "Do you still have the letters I sent to you?" You see, we had a long-distance relationship for over a year before we met. By the time he asked this, it had been more than 20 years since we wrote to each other. He said, "I kept all your letters." I was shocked to hear this. I even said, "I thought you didn't care." He said, "When you love, you keep things." Wow, this was the closest to saying I love you from him! I can only guess that the song he wanted me to listen to was his way of saying, this is how I feel about you, but then again, I can't be sure. He was too subtle for me!
And then there was a second song entitled "I'll be There" by Michael Jackson. Now this song, I also did not pay close attention to the lyrics until many years later. I could say it was directed to me from him as he was verbally clear about a particular part of our relationship, which is expressed in the words of this song: "I reach out my hand to you. I'll have faith in all you do. Just call my name, and I'll be there. I'll be there to comfort you. I'm so glad I found you. I'll be your strength. Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter. Whenever you need me, I'll be there. Just call my name, and I'll be there." Words like these he did say to me many times, and I felt that he was there to share all my joys and struggles.
What I missed most after I got married was having him to talk to, and what I missed most after I got a divorce was having him to talk to. What I miss most when I am in pain or facing challenges is having him speak to me. He remains a part of my past, but it was a beautiful past. And of course, the next time I hear "Never Knew Love Like This Before" and "I'll Be There," I'll think of him. Though it is a past, I am glad I had this love, a beautiful chapter in my life.
A moment of a perspective: The Wonders of Perspective III
1. When faced with adversity, always see the blessings in disguise.
2. When faced with adversity, always know you have a choice.
3. When faced with adversity, always know there is another way to see things.
Key Takeaways: Though I was left to fend for myself, I got the experience of truly being in a foreign place where I couldn't speak the language and did not know my way around.
Though two songs remind me of my first boyfriend from long ago, they are pleasant memories of my greatest love.
Though we will all have adversity, it's important to remember we have choices, blessings in disguise, and other perspectives to consider.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Walking Blind, A Magnetic Encounter, and The Fortune Teller.
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