Friday, October 8, 2010

I once had this idea for a blog where I would write about the people who have truly influenced my life. The best friends, the ex-boyfriends, the random strangers I’ve encountered and who would have no idea I as much as exist, the familial relationships that have shaped me for better or worse, and so on. Basically, I would create little profiles for each and spill my heart as to how each of these people affected my life. Probably accompanied by a moody, artificially-aged photo to convey the sense of exaggerated nostalgia. Anyway, it’s not the most practical idea, as I live in a hyper-connected country of only four million people and I’m likely to run into most of these people on Cuba Street when walking home on a Saturday night clutching a bag of Burger King (an unfortunate encounter I had last week). Also, it seems a little narcissistic to blog on what has shaped MEMEME, or to expect that anyone would be remotely interested. Probably more suited to a diary or journal exercise. Anyway, this is my round-a-bout way of explaining that two of my favourite people have recently started writing blogs. And this is an opportunity to explain how wonderful and talented these two people are, even if not in the original format of The Great Imagined Blog. 

            Sadly for me, both of these people live in another hemisphere. The Northern one, that is (this is not a post about how I tragically lost two of my best friends to the blogsphere). Anyway, Scarlett and Amy now live in Japan and Sweden respectively. It should be pointed out that Amy actually has always been in the Northern Hemisphere and that the time we lived in the same hemisphere was when I too lived in the far north, so I have not ‘lost’ her.  But, technicalities aside, they both now live in countries in which they are not citizens and have taken to writing blogs about their experiences.

If this was a blog about the way Scarlett has impacted my life, I would probably talk about how she has introduced me to the joys of firey red hair, wonderful cheese and cracker combinations, an ever-open and fantastic wardrobe and book shelf, and, most importantly, a friendship built on trust, humour and five-years of wonderful memories. But this is about Scarlett's blog, so enough slightly self-absorbed reminiscing. Scarlett moved to Japan as part of the JET program at the beginning of August, having completed her double-degree in Law and English Literature. Scarlett is one of the smartest people I have ever met. She has a way with words that I can only envy. She also loves to read more than anyone I know. When I last talked to her on Skype, she tried to express how much she was missing easy access to English books by sheepishly holding up the textbooks she had stolen from the school where she teaches English. One was a Junior-Journal-style illustrated guide to soccer. Once, I walked in on Scarlett multi-tasking, by reading a book and blow-drying her hair. It looked so awkward. Anyway, she really loves words. Yet, despite this intellectual prowess, she somehow has no concept of geography. None at all. To return to talk of hemispheres, she did not know Japan was in the Northern until practically departure date. She continues to be amazed at her proximity to Russia. It's not some farce; she really cannot comprehend space and land and distance. So when it was decided she was to write a blog while in Japan, no questions asked, the first name that popped to my head was 'So This Is Where Japan Is'. And so it was born. All of her writing is beautiful, smart and incredibly witty, but this is my favourite post so far.

Amy is also an incredibly beautiful writer (both in that her writing is beautiful and she is a babe who writes). Our friendship is quite different to that of Scarlett and I. While I have known Scarlett since the first day of first year, I only got to know and live with Amy for a short time. I first met Amy in a class at Uppsala University on Post-Colonial Literature. My first impression was not good. Amy, through no fault of her own, freakishly reminded me of an ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. Maybe because in my warped mind the two 'ex's cancelled each other out and this equated to something horrible, or maybe because I am innately irrational and pathetic, but in any case it had me disliking this girl. Luckily, this childish aversion eased, and Amy became one of my dearest exchange-friends. Many ciders and cigarettes were shared while discussing life, books, music and our greatest shared love -- Sweden.

            Amy moved back to Boston in June, while I moved on to Stockholm. Amy returned for Christmas 2009 and left just before I returned to New Zealand in early January. So besotted with Sweden, Amy recently returned yet again. However, this time it’s for a two-year Masters course at Uppsala University and with a not-so-secret plan to never leave. Take that, Migrationsverket. So serious her plans to stay, she’s started a blog about being an outsider living in Sweden. Ex-pats thrive on deconstructing the ‘Swedish mystique’; the innate quirks of Swedes that include (but by no means are limited to) flopping dishcloths over the kitchen faucet (sorry to every person I have subsequently lived with – I can’t stop now), a love of cheese on hard crackers the size of a wheels, mass-watching of 1970s Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve, strange celebrations that include Fettisdagen (literally ‘Fat Tuesday’ where everyone gorges on semlor buns) and Kanelbullens dag (like the former, but with cinnamon buns), and on and on. Basically, Amy will never be short of material. 

What struck me about these two blogs, other than a standard of writing that puts the majority of New Zealand journalism to shame, is the number of similarities between Sweden and Japan. While there are plenty of glaring differences, deriving primarily from the fact that Japan is an ultra-conservative country of 127 million while Sweden is a sparsely-populated social libertarian’s heaven; the hyper-polite, bike-riding, recycling, shoe-removing, diligent Japanese reminds me of the Swedes. Maybe the similarities don’t go far beyond this and it’s just that Western ex-pats in Western countries are inevitably drawn to the trivial quirks, in the absence of massive disparities in wealth, living conditions, gender-equality (and on and on), and it so happens that, like any two Western countries, Japan and Sweden simply shares some similarities. When I’ve visited Scarlett in Japan and had some time to over-analyse it, I’ll let you know.

'So this is where Japan is', and 'Flytande; An American in Sweden' Also, I enjoyed the irony of blogging about Japan/a Scandinavian country in the context of 'trawling'. Sorry to any misled whale activists that have ended up here.

No comments:

Post a Comment