by Christopher Sasanuma
As Christmas of my bridge year approached, I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit at all. For the first time, I wasn’t going to be with my family on Christmas. I briefly fantasized that my family would surprise me with a Christmas visit, but I knew that wasn’t really going to happen: they were on the other side of the world, in Japan. During Christmas Eve festivities, I went with my host family to a relative’s house for a big gathering. I didn’t feel festive. I felt very stressed. My heart beat in a weird way. All the cordial greetings and the Spanish conversations didn’t satisfy me. I really wanted to go home.
On Christmas morning, instead of going to another large family gathering, I said that I wasn’t feeling well. I really wasn’t. But this wasn’t the flu or a cold or food poisoning. I felt so anxious, so alone. I stayed in my room for the entire day and my host family for some reason locked the house from the outside, so I couldn’t leave for a walk. I was stuck. It’s interesting to me, looking back, that in the time of most loneliness, I chose to stay by myself. I didn’t go with my host family. I rolled around in my bed, opened my computer and then shut it and took a nap, and paced around the house. At one point, I just felt like a mouse stuck in side a cage. I started crying. Why couldn’t I be with my real family? Why can’t I be with them, eating Sushi, playing with the dog, or opening presents? Leading up to the Christmas festivities in Cuenca, I tried to have a really positive mindset, suppressing what I really felt. And my real emotions just came out. It felt good. It felt so good. I was sad but I wasn’t faking what I really felt.
As dinner came around, I sluggishly walked down to the dinner table. At that point, I was just tired of crying. I was so happy to see my host family after they came back from the family gathering at around 6pm. They brought one box of pizza for the four of us, and my host mom served me slices of Hawaiian and another mixed pizza. I took a bite out of the first slice, and I was overcome with a sensation of gratitude. My heartbeat was feeling off, I was lonely for the whole day, and the seemingly normal pizza tasted like the best food I’d had in a while. Every piece of pineapple, every piece of ham, and every ingredient seemed like nuggets of joy to me. We savored every slice of the pizza, swallowing it with the yellow Ecuadorian “Cola.” The warm ambiance that I felt with having loving company around a box of pizza seemed to warm up my very cold and lonely day.
The moment I returned my mind back to Cuenca, Ecuador instead of Tokyo, Japan, it seemed like everything was improving. Yes, I was stuck; however, there was a lesson to be learned here. If I went to college, where I have two siblings in the same city, and would have been in an environment where I can go back to Japan for Christmas, I would have relied on external pleasures like fancy food or family members to take my mind off for the time being. However, this year, I was forced to lean towards myself. There wasn’t anyone else, literally. I was stuck in the house for Christmas. So I learned to be real with my emotions and listen to what I am really feeling inside of me. I accepted the raw emotions as it is. These are the moments when I appreciate that I came to Ecuador.