Last week was a hard one. It started off with an email from one of my old Japanese professors, half of the Japanese team at the university where I first started learning the language. The email said that the other professor (a healthy and active woman barely past 60) had passed away suddenly after suffering a massive stroke. Being so far away can make announcements like these harder to deal with as I had no choice but to continue on with my work day and nobody to turn to immediately (although U was a gem when I called him on my lunch hour and he listened and made comforting noises as I rambled on about the professor).
Maybe it is flu season and everybody feeling a bit under the weather, but my daily commute was even more stressful than normal. Having your toes stepped on over two dozen times within an hour train ride or having to dodge a newspaper coming close to giving you paper cuts on your forehead as the salaryman standing in front of me blithely ignored everybody around him and spread out his paper, are absolutely no where near losing a remarkable and inspiring teacher and woman, it certainly didn't help my mood and left me with less than positive feelings toward much of the human race, or at least those members of it that commute on trains in Tokyo.
But then on Friday, after a particularly bad morning commute, I arrived at work and dragged out a smile for my good morning to the always grinning janitor. She handed me a small and very intricate origami box filled with candies. It was a small gesture, but one that completely changed my mood and my day. The weekend continued on in the same way. My advisor invited a group of people, including myself, a visiting British museum studies professor, and a group of Japanese museum professionals that she has been working with, to spend part of the long weekend at his apartment in a hot springs town. Good umeshu and local beer, even better fresh local fish, and even even better company did wonders for me and reminded me again of just how lucky I have been in the professors and teachers I have had over the years. All I can do is to continue to challenge myself and use what they taught me and hope that by doing so I will be able to begin thanking them for what they have given me and, in some small way, contribute to their legacy.