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A Hillbilly Tourist in the Merciless Metropolis

By: Angelina Esparza

Date Posted: 2000-07-07

I was completely mortified. The hustle and bustle of the CD shop left me oblivious to the idiotic way my jacket was misbuttoned. The strange looks from all the tall and polished Japanese people around me made me want to shrivel up and remain in a hermit shell for the rest of the night. Though my reaction had a lot to do with my crooked attire, it was also magnified by my initial state-of-mind.

From the moment I arrived to Tokyo I was determined to bridle my "islander" manner and transform myself into an intimidating city girl. This naive and unhealthy personal goal left me the ideal target of Murphy's Law. Every time I approached a Tokyo store clerk with calculated grace, I'd stumble. When I had to ask a local for directions, I'd get tangled in my words. There is no doubt about it- I was intimidated and frustrated with the inferiority of my background. This awful pride of not wanting to look vulnerable resulted in a display of foolishness. I became exactly what I tried not to be: a hillbilly tourist in the merciless metropolis.

In hopes of experiencing a better Tokyo, I reflected on the things that made Okinawa superior and enviable to other regions, and used that knowledge to secure the true elite-ness of my identity.

As I meditated on my homeland, I recollected it's fearsome ocean and endless skies. In the midst of my adventure in Tokyo, my heart silently longed to escape to the serene seawall, near my home in Kadena. There, you can watch American scuba divers bobbing in the waters and Japanese couples wrapped together in the ocean wind. I wallowed deeper and deeper into my desire for tropical habitation, where time moves slowly and worries are shattered by the crashing waves.

It's funny how people often use the figurative example of an island to explain the concept of isolation and imprisonment, when most islanders actually pity the landlocked people of the world who never experience the sensation of freedom in an ocean breeze. The media often expounds on the glamour of city lights and the glory of sky scrapers and important people. But I remember being emotionally touched by the old architecture of the Ryukyu houses, and the sweet life of farming many elders continue to live. I never take for granted the family vacations I spend at local resorts and sparsely furnished camp grounds. I love the long drives up to the northern end of the island where you can watch the waters change colors in accordance with depth and time of day.

I love the kind responses of local citizens when greeting them on the empty dirt routes around the vegetable farms and sugar cane fields. In short, I'm guilty of envying the picture perfect city life as portrayed in the media, but I've always known something they don't- Okinawa has an unparalleled glory because of the absence of crowds and abundance of nature.

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