Only the Epps would celebrate the promise of new adventures in the Middle East with a fancy lunch at a Japanese restaurant. But after our session with a taxation specialist, I was feeling mighty overwhelmed and mostly in need of a stiff drink. When our accountant recommended "Nami," a high-quality Japanese restaurant, we were in.
As we entered the room, greeted by kimono-clad servers, my heart sighed and I reflected on my near-forgotten love. Japan. I was amazed by the authenticity of the restaurant. Only Japanese chefs. And mostly Japanese servers. There were booths on the side for privacy, and a tatami room in the back. I half-anticipated a lively "Irashaimase!" but no, we were in Toronto after all.
In the end, no stiff drinks were served. But the delicious green tea we delicately held in our hands brought us both back to many chilly days sitting in poorly heated Japanese teachers' rooms. There we would sit, muscles tight, huddling over our steaming mugs of tea, inhaling the warmth they brought, all while silently cursing the lack of central heating and the Japanese spirit of "gaman" that upheld the belief that freezing your buns off in the winter somehow produces character.
The food today showed me that we have been wise in our decision to stop frequenting the Japanese restaurants of St. Catharines. The sushi was fresh, melting in our mouths. Not the gummy, sometimes slimy portions we have gotten used to here. We both ate food we had not eaten since leaving Japan. Salted yakitori with sections of green onion, pickled vegetables, and zaru soba. And there were new surprises too, particularly a delicious grilled cod marinated in Saikyo miso for three days.
Friends, there is NOTHING like thoughtfully prepared Japanese food.
As we ate, we remembered. And we talked about things we missed about the culture. Like how they would savour their meals, loudly exclaiming "Oishii!" with every new bite, as if it were the most delicious morsel they had ever tasted. And how they held their mugs, as if each handmade piece deserved respect and admiration. I miss the reverence and respect of the Japanese culture. There was a sense of spiritual connection in the day-to-day mundaneness that is lacking in North American culture. The simple rituals of green tea and "Itadakimasu." I miss these things.
Qatar, in its expat-edness, will not offer the same experiences as our lovely Japan. And that is something I remind myself of regularly, to prepare myself for this unique journey. But you can be sure that we Epps will dive in, eyes wide open, looking to suck out all the adventure this new opportunity provides. I can't wait for the new routines, favourite haunts, and friendly people we're going to call our own.
Picture Kaiya, with her rainbow hat on, shouting out her favourite cowgirl word, "Yeeeeeehawwwwwwww!!"