Adventures Across Borders

MRO_Yamuna_River_Delhi_2005Living in various countries for my entire life, my childhood was not a typical one. I do not regret a thing, my life has been packed with remarkable and fascinating adventures around the world. I’m grateful for the chance to have traveled from country to country, bouncing from continent to continent.

I’ve spent a fifth of my life in my home country of Japan and the rest abroad, including Taiwan, China, India, the Fiji Islands, and the United States. I am currently residing in Lebanon where I graduated from the American University of Beirut. Moving around the globe has not only introduced me to countless cultures and people, but also made me aware of various social issues, such as homelessness, inequality, racism, discrimination, and poverty.

Such encounters made me perceive reality the way that Sai Baba did. He is one of the famous and influential leaders in India. He is known for helping bring unity and harmony amongst communities. His teachings say that there is only one God, but is called by different names. He taught people to follow their own religion and to seek the truth.

One of his famous quotes is, “What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past.”

This specific quote reminds me of my personal experience in Kolkata, India. During four years of my childhood, I was exposed to poverty first hand, and witnessed children living on the street. This scene still strikes a chord in my heart. “Oh, my God!”, I distinctly remember uttering that phrase despite it being fourteen years ago. I still remember it as if it was yesterday.

Back in 2000, a teenage boy came up to my father and I.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Japan,” my father politely replied.

“So, you are a Samurai! Because you are in Kolkata, you are wearing normal clothes like us. When you go back to Japan, you will wear your real clothes with Samurai swords,” he said, mocking my culture.

I am a human being and I do have emotions. Honestly, I got so angry at this boy… I wanted to beat him up so bad (no worries, I didn’t!). However, my father had another feeling: empathy. He wished the boy knew the reality of modern Japan and how different it is his perception of it.

Going back to Sai Baba’s point about living in the present, I was touched and honored to be in the presence of people who merely did that. I saw children laughing and playing on the street as if they were enjoying their lives to the maximum level. They never knew a luxurious life. As they grow up, however, they will be aware of how their lifestyle would not dramatically change unless they had the drive to change it; they would live in poor conditions until they create a better, brighter pathway.

Now that I look back, I consider the incident in India as the most enlightening experience ever! I believe that it can change one’s life and perception of the world. I wish people who do not appreciate life, could visit that boy in Kolkata before doing so. I have no doubt that they will be inspired by the people there, who are working hard regardless of the difficult conditions they are faced with.

I learned a lot throughout my travels, but the thing I will always cherish is that incident in India. I will never forget that boy. He is one of the many pillars that shaped the person I am today.

Chiaki Jackie Otsuka is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.