For two out of the last three years my friend Laura has been living, studying, and working in Kyoto, Japan. Laura and I became friends in college and we both spent most of our time studying religion – well, not most of our time. While I took a broader approach to religion in general, spending more time with Islam than Eastern philosophies, Laura focussed in on the language and religions of Japan – during her breaks from singing in the choir and playing ultimate frisbee.
During the fall of 2002, we both left to study abroad: me on Semester at Sea, her with the Stanford in Kyoto Program. As it turned out, my first port of call beyond our point of departure was Kobe, Japan. Laura and I were able to meet up and spend the day touring around Kyoto, visiting the beautiful temples, sampling green tea ice cream (better than I expected), and sharing some sake by the river as the sun set and locals played soccer and shot off fireworks. It was a great day! And I definitely hope to make it back at some point.
Since then, Laura came back to the US to finish out her college requirements and has recently completed yet another year in lovely Kyoto as a Fulbright Scholar. After a short visit home, Laura is now teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren and having adventures that make the world traveler in me very jealous.
Recently, Laura has been asked to be the “token foreigner” at the Christmas parties of English teaching schools for kids. Despite her wonderful photographic talent – which can be found on her website and in the archived sites (1,2) – she has asked me to look around at the many images of Christmas that appear throughout this season and send her some that illustrate how we do Christmas here in the US.
So, tonight on my way home I periodically hopped out of my car and into the cold air of Central New York to capture various decorated homes – no artificial snow here! Of course, I am more than happy to do it. At least the lake-effect snow was taking a break for a little while!
If you are interested in a thoughtful, entertaining, and unique take on life in Japan I encourage you to check out Laura’s blog. Sure, it’s a shameless plug for a friend’s site, but in all honesty it continues to be one of the sites I visit a few times a day for the adventures, the insights, and the stories that come from half a world away.