Saturday, December 24, 2016

Accepting the Emptiness

Saturday, December 24, 2016

This time last year was my first holiday season without family. Thankfully, Steven's brother came to visit, as well as friends, making Christmas and New Years in Chicago as lovely as ever. This year, it will be just us, and even without hosting and entertaining, I've been feeling extremely anxious these past few weeks. I was still new at the museum last year, so my work-load was considerably less. This year, I'm still getting back into a routine since Japan. Holidays, as cheerful and celebratory as they are, can definitely be stressful. Be it the holiday season or just plain old homesickness, I'm feeling more anxious than ever.

In looking for peace, I've been making a lot of changes to my routine. I started doing yoga weekly during lunch breaks with my coworkers. While I'm usually not a bath person, soaking in the hot springs in Japan taught me how relaxing it can be. So I've started taking baths a few times a week, with a candle, and some Netflix. I even downloaded a guided meditation app called Headspace that my dear friend Andi recommended a while back. Having a calming 10 minutes of meditation once I get home from work and city traffic has been the perfect reset. 

After all of these new routines and still feeling overwhelmed, I was still searching for some mental relief. I saw a book on our shelves, one my brother gave to Steven as a gift a few years back, called Going to Pieces without Falling Apart. It's a psychiatrist's take on incorporating Buddhism into your life and mentality. So far, it has been the most helpful. The first chapter is on the feeling of empty that we all get in our hearts. It teaches that instead of attempting to fill our emptiness, Buddhist's learn to accept the feeling of empty without judgment, and learn to live with it. By acknowledging feeling empty in certain aspects, and trying to come to terms on how it feels, rather than trying to fix it, it's already helped me process so much. It's a very new exercise for me to accept my feelings when I get emotional rather than trying to fix them, but each day is a little bit more practice of accepting my emptiness and happily living with it, as the Buddhists do.

Many of our closest friends have already gone to their families for the holiday. Thankfully, we have a French friend who invites all of the other nomads from other countries and other states over to her apartment for Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Eve with her last year, so by now it's a tradition. Having a little Chicago tradition makes it feel a little less lonely, a little less empty. 
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo

Wednesday, December 14, 2016









It's been over a week since we've been home. In between catching up on work, decorating the apartment for the holidays, and making it a priority to cuddle Mort on the couch, I still have so much to do. We've got all of our souvenirs out and ready to send to our family and friends. We've hung up our panels that we bought at a market, and we framed our 1920's Japanese wood block print from the printing workshop. We're also trying to take advantage of our favorite holiday things in Chicago like the Christkindlmarket! There is so much to do for the holidays, and not enough time.

While in Tokyo, we visited the Tsukiji Fish Market where it's primarily known for it's 3am tuna auction and incredibly fresh sushi from restaurants nearby. While we were interested in seeing the tuna auction, we weren't too interested in the effort. Typically, you have to stay at a hotel in the area the night before because you have to be at the market by 2am to wait in line, and the trains are not running that early. The auction starts at 3am and meanwhile, arriving by 2am does not guarantee you a spot. The inner market does not open until 10am, so you have to keep yourself busy between the time the auction ends and the market opens. If this sounds like your thing, go for it! For us, we opted to arrive early in the morning for some fish for breakfast.

There is an old barbershop that is now a little sandwich shop that opens early and sells breakfast to all of the market workers. Word is the favorite for the locals is the fried prawn sandwich, so we wanted to go. This place opens I believe around 5am, and closes as soon as they run out. The first time we attempted to go, we arrived probably around 9am and the shop was already closed. We made our way to Tsukiji fish market another day to attempt to eat here and arrived as early as 8am. We confirmed that it was the place, and that it was in fact still open! Steven took out his phone to look up how to ask for a fried prawn sandwich in Japanese. Within thirty seconds of us arriving at the shop, a worker pulled up on his scooter and ordered a dozen sandwiches. He ordered the last two fried prawn sandwiches. Moral of the story: if you go to Tsukiji fish market, maybe go to the tuna auction if that's your thing, and definitely go to this little sandwich stand early and eat a fried prawn sandwich for me.

Instead, we walked around the outer market area ate some street food there. Whenever we saw a line for food, we stood in it and ordered what everyone else was ordering. We tried a baked corn on a stick, kind of like a croquette, as well as an egg omelet on a stick. We even tried some eel, an onion cake, and a dumpling. It was a delicious feast of a day. Word is that the market is going to be moved to outside of Tokyo, making it not so easy to visit as a tourist. It was supposed to move while we were there, but they delayed it. So be sure to check it's location before you visit!
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