“Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally un-related. In order to be ‘synchronistic’, the events must be related to one another temporally, and the chance that they would occur together by random chance must be very small.” – Wikipedia
“Meaning is where you put it.” – Marlen
So last night I went to dinner with Denise. Before meeting her I sat on the corner of Karasuma Shijo and pondered a) why can’t I stop sweating? and b) will we be able to find something to talk about after all this time?
Silly me, a) I sweat therefore I am, and b) it’s Denise!
Needless to say, we had a wonderful dinner and Denise’s energy and creativity always inspire me. Moreover, it makes me happy, no, actually, it moves me when I find friends in calm, healthy places. But here’s the amazing part of the story, for truly, isn’t life a maze? And we never know who will be walking the same labyrinth…
Quick note – I’ve been sure that I would meet friends and students randomly (?) throughout this trip. First Miho found me just weeks before my travel, and then I was fairly certain I saw one of my old students in Hankyu Umeda, though I wasn’t certain enough to initiate conversation; I made eye contact telling myself that if he had been the student I was thinking of, surely he would have said something or recognized me…
Back to Denise…Nearing Sanjo Dori, for we had decided to take a walk down a particular back alley thoroughfare after dinner, we approached a Tully’s coffee shop. As we strolled past an array of Kyoto architecture, chattering about how much we enjoy the city, Kyoto gave me a present: Tomo and Steve. At first, I saw Tomo’s face and felt that echo of familiarity, but I kept walking. And my head kept turning. “I’m not going to let this opportunity pass,” I thought.
I pointed my finger at his face and slowly drifted towards where he was sitting.
“Don’t I know you?” I asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, I know you!” I exclaimed as I made a path straight towards him.
Synchronicity…it’s a beautiful thing. Tomo and I had been friends while I was living in Japan but hadn’t seen each other in years. Even more amazing is that weeks after I had left Washington, DC to move to Osaka, he had left Osaka to move to Washington, DC. And even more amazing than that is the crazy fact that he had actually befriended one of my old friends from DC! We both knew Bill Sewicki!
Sitting with Tomo was his friend Steve, a teacher at a prestigious, local university. Of course a conversation ensued about my research during which time the following happened:
1) Tomo noted that the first person he had come out to was his English teacher. When asked why not a Japanese acquaintance, he explained that it was “too close to home”. He felt safer talking to someone with some cultural and ostensibly some linguistic distance.
2) Steve told the story of how during one of his courses a female student had come out to the class, adamantly announcing that she was tired of all this talk of marriage – she had no intention of ever getting married because she was gay. We discussed the significance of Steve’s identity in the classroom, the presence of topics in the English classroom that are likely never discussed in Japanese language classrooms, and the connections between language and culture.
All of this is beautiful, don’t you think? Both Steve and Tomo spoke to my hypotheses about English language and Japanese sexualities and had Denise not taken me to a specific restaurant on a specific street, we might never had strolled by Tully’s and might never have had such a research-affirming conversation.
By the way, Denise had given me three choices for dinner – three restaurants all in the same area. Had we chosen to go to a different restaurant that night, I wonder what would have happened…