Saturday, January 4, 2014

Monterey, California

Monterey is a place that holds special memories for me, as I've been there quite a few times while growing up in California. The first time I visited Monterey with my family must've been almost ten years ago, an ancient time when my little brother was still way shorter than me, and a time when I was using one of our family's first digital point-and-shoot cameras. I still have the photos from that time tucked away, and they bring back the excitement of the trip, the salty smell of the ocean, the little rowboats near the dock that I snapped, the wrapped bag of saltwater taffy I carried in my lap on the drive home.

Like many other places I visited during the trip last month, it was comforting to see that Monterey hasn't changed.

Beautiful blue ocean stretching into the distance.
Shorebird preserve inside the aquarium.
Brilliant jellyfish.
Downtown Monterey, near the aquarium.
Santa on a segway! Oh, California :)
I love the buildings downtown, the atmosphere... so nostalgic.
Seaside plants.
Vines snaking up a fence near the ocean.
Dusk approaching.
Being back in Tokyo, it's places like these that I miss. To be honest, since moving to Japan in 2009, I've never really had a stark moment of realization that said I missed home or that I was terribly homesick (except maybe the first week, when I had wild lapses of "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"). I've always had one thing or another to focus my mind on, and never really felt like I was missing something. I have come to love Tokyo and Japan a great deal since coming here. But since this trip last month, I realized - maybe I haven't been missing the US so much, because I've strongly kept it as a part of me, deep inside. Perhaps they are only images, reflections of my past memories, my youth.. but they were real, they are real in me. They made me who I am, all these experiences and places and people. Even after living in Tokyo for several years, becoming familiar with this place and moving about with relative ease, I find that I still identify strongly with California. The more I am away, all the way here across the ocean, I start to lose touch with some parts - perhaps new slang, the latest music, new restaurants and shops, the changes and milestones happening in the lives of my friends and family... it's sad, but being physically apart, it's never the same as being there in person. And yet, I like to think that the spirit, the part of me that grew up in California, it's still there deep inside and glowing and ready for what comes next.