Chico and its smiles
Looking out the window of a United Express airplane destined for Chico in the summer of 1998, I saw barren landscapes. I felt a little uneasy and wondered whether the plane would take me to the middle of nowhere.
I didn’t have any decisive reasons to choose Chico. It was more like picking a place from a world map. Just looking at a photo of Kendall Hall in the Chico State University catalog and talking with friendly international advisers on the phone, my mind was naturally heading toward Chico.
People might say I’m thoughtless to decide which university to go to without actually looking the college over beforehand. In fact, when I was about to leave from Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan, my mother said, “I can’t believe you’re staying somewhere you’ve never been. You must be either brave or think about nothing.”
Despite my reckless behavior, my decision was right. I’ve felt comfortable fitting into a tiny, mellow town like Chico. I love it when Chico people smile at me although I’m a stranger. This friendliness stands out in relief whenever I go back to Japan. Japanese people never smile at or say “hi” to strangers. If you do, they will give you a questioning look and think you’re weird. In daily life, Japanese don’t smile that much, probably because they tend to take everything seriously, which is one of the Japanese traits. In Japan I don’t get as many chances to smile at people as in Chico.
Many Japanese haven’t recognized how much smiling at people makes themselves feel happy. I believe that a smile is spiritual nourishment that can release stress or lead people to positive directions. I wish I could smile at strangers in Japan, too.
I am about to leave this lovely town, Chico, within a month. Although I was a city girl in Osaka, I will miss Chico a lot after moving to San Francisco. I will definitely come back here every once in a while.