It’s a pleasant, sunny Sunday. I was glad, as I woke up feeling quite stressed because of a dream I had last night. My mood instantaneously improved when I looked out from the balcony of my room. I knew I had to go out for a walk before my study session later. So, I decided to go to Shin-Ōkubo. I wanted to go to the pet shop where I got my goldfishes. They need some decorations for their home. And I would enjoy the warmth outside for at least one hour.
Shin-Ōkubo is famous for being Tokyo’s ‘Korean Town’ and is usually very crowded. However, today was unusually calm, making me able to walk freely along the road, without the fear of bumping into people. Young people love coming to this place, where they can enjoy Korean cuisine and shop popular Korean products, such as makeup and merchandise of their favourite Korean artists.
On my way back to the dorm, I walked through Toyama Park. I saw people of all ages enjoying themselves – kids playing around, a man laying down in the grass (I really want to do this too), elderly people relaxing and chatting with each other. The park is in the middle of a residential area, surrounded by numerous different trees. It felt like a safe space to leave work-related stuff behind. After all, Sundays are for family, for the people themselves. As I was almost exiting the park, two little kids and their father were in front of me. The small girl, aged around three or four years old, had to stop. She seemed to have something in her shoe. Her brother and father didn’t seem to notice, as they kept walking. I slowed down my pace until she started running towards them. The father turned around and kneeled, letting his daughter hug him. I don’t know why, but watching that moment made me feel tears in my eyes. Luckily, I was wearing my sunglasses. Otherwise, I’d feel very embarrassed if people nearby could see me. I felt so touched seeing the little girl so relieved, clinging onto him. Her father had a smile on his face that said that he’d always be there for her, no matter what.
Maybe that moment touched me because I miss being with my own family, a feeling that it’s usually buried to make things easier. It also reminded me of my father’s words. He’s always telling us that we don’t need to worry about anything, as long as he is here — 有老爸在 什么都不用怕。Indeed, he always refrained from talking about the troubles they were facing when we were young, especially when my parents were facing financial difficulties. Now that I think about it, he would even say ‘não há crise’ so positively (there’s no crisis — referring to the economic crisis that hit Portugal a few years ago) to the customers when they didn’t have enough change to pay, letting them go. Recently, he told us that back then he’d feel hurt whenever he would see me and my siblings because he wasn’t able to provide better meals for us. I remember vaguely about the time when we used to eat hotpot frequently. ‘It was such a poor dish!’, he would say, as it was easy and quick to prepare with a few ingredients. But I never associated such a meal with the hard times we went through. In fact, I didn’t even notice it at all. My siblings and I would just find it repetitive. Thus, I was quite shocked when he told me. It was such a revelation.
But, on the other side, it reminded me of the amount of pressure that they have on their shoulders, even today. They want the best for us, giving us the opportunities that they never had. They’re both working hard, while I’m studying in a country so far from home. Whenever I say thank you to them, they always reply back that I don’t have to say such a thing. We’re family, we must be there for each other. Then, they remind me to take care of myself, to be extra careful, and to eat well. They say that I tend to save too much. That’s one of the reasons I don’t send pictures of the meals I make for myself anymore. They used to say ‘oh you’re eating so poorly!’ every time I cooked.
Without realising , I got lost in my thoughts. I didn’t fight back that moment of vulnerability.
I allowed myself to feel, revisiting the past and imagining the future.