After I had been living in Japan for a while, I started to notice a recurring condition that was affecting my sleep on a nearly nightly basis. It's a little hard to explain, but I will do my best.
Dreams are rarely considered hallucinations because the conscious part of our minds is turned off while the images and very real feelings course through our still-active brains. But sometimes our consciousness comes partially awake during the dreaming cycle and is unable to overcome the images of our dreams. The intense experience of moving to a the land of my dreams and adapting to the unique activities of my job affected my sleep enough to awaken the observational part of my consciousness during my dreaming cycles.
I explained this to a friend as such:
"When your dreams become reality, your reality also becomes your dreams."
The truth is, upon further thought, my bedroom has never quite felt comfortable to me since I moved in. Despite being a pretty Western-style apartment as far as Japanese apartments go, my bedroom has always had a bit of a foreign atmosphere to it. Perhaps it is the futon on which I sleep or the lack of familiar images on the walls (my landlord won't let me open any holes for hanging pictures), but I didn't pay much attention to this as I thought that it would become more familiar as time passes.
The scariest time happened recently after returning from my month-long travel across the country. When my consciousness awoke, I was able to recognize that I was in a bedroom, but my vivid dreams made me think it was someone else's bedroom entirely. This really hurts the relaxation of sleep when you feel like you are sleeping somewhere you shouldn't be.
And then the solution came to me, not two days after my sushi incident. It literally came to me, arriving in my mailbox both virtually and physically. My parents (acting independently but through a seemingly divine happenstance) sent me pictures from my childhood that arrived on the same day. The picture from my mother was in my inbox when I logged on in the morning and an envelope containing two full-sized pictures from my father (indirectly from my grandmother) was sitting in my mailbox when I got home later that day.
Sitting on my living room floor (because I don't have a sofa yet) and looking at the photos, I realized what I had been missing since I arrived. When I packed and shipped my belongings, not a single picture was among the items I sent. I had thought about it briefly at the time but decided that I didn't want to risk handicapping myself with a bridge back to my "old life," as a friend of mine similarly described when lamenting about going to college close to home. Now I see how foolish that thinking was and how important these old pictures are to me.
Without hesitating, I ran out and bought a couple frames for the pictures. One now sits at the head of my bed and the other greets me every time I walk into my living room.
As much as I want to explore this opportunity to change, I must not push myself too hard. It is easy to get lost and forget where you come from when in a foreign land. With these pictures now in place (and perhaps more to follow), I have set up reminders of how I came to be who I am today.
Now when the phantoms of my reality invade my dreams and wake me up thinking I am lying in the middle of a tourist route at some ancient temple in Kyoto, I can roll over and be reminded by the picture of my siblings and I as infants that I am exactly where I ought to be.
And this is where I ought to be, because a work visa speaks louder than prejudiced whispers.