12 April 2014 § Leave a comment
One of the key differences so far between my life in England and my life in Japan: my work now requires most of my energy. Day trips and adventuring are not as frequent as a result. When I have time to do whatever I want, that ends up being staying in in my pajamas. I admire the other teachers from abroad here who take full advantage of their time off by exploring the UK and other parts of Europe. A part of me, though I hate to admit it, was more motivated to see Japan on the basis of it being Japan (England, you’re still cool though! Don’t take it personally!).
More than anything, I’ve been trying to take advantage of being in London, of being in a big city. A trip to Royal Albert Hall to see Pixar in Concert, seeing Canadian band Walk off the Earth in Shepherd’s Bush, a poetry event at the Southbank Centre to listen to five poet laureates, film screenings in Soho, improv comedy at the Comedy Club, overpriced ramen, a long walk around Kew Gardens.
Along with enjoying London, I’ve been trying to figure out what I actually want to be when I grow up. After having spent four years studying English literature at University, I find myself leaning towards specializing in maths, particularly where students with weak numeracy skills are concerned. This has come as somewhat of a surprise to me.
Nonetheless, I want to continue exercising my writing skills. I’ve written a couple of film reviews for The Film Circle Reviews (for Under the Skin and the new Robocop). Poetry has been sparse, however. I’m hoping the two week break I’m enjoying now will bring me some inspiration that isn’t solely related to teaching/education.
Every now and again I am reminded that I’m not from around here, especially when I hear words I’m not familiar with, or words being used in a way with which I’m not familiar. Hard graft. Todger. Yorkshire “pudding”. It was fun when we were in Canada, having it the other way around. Tom tried on some clothes at a store. Upon coming out of the changing rooms, a store clerk asked, “How’d you make out with those?” Tom: “Sorry? That’s not what I do with my clothes…”
11 March 2014 § Leave a comment
I pulled an all-nighter last night for the first time since sometime in 4th or 5th year. As the hours flew by, I was feeling mostly scared. Doubtful. AS IF I’m actually going to Japan for 14 months. My life has been fairly consistent, never much drastic change. To be perfectly honest, there is a part of me that wants to turn around and go home and be SAFE and not take a RISK. But I know it will be fine. Everything in my life suggests that it’s what I ought to do. For the sake of affirming my independence (albeit in a sort of extreme way), for the sake of breaking bad habits that I’d continue if I don’t leave, for the sake of maybe giving myself time to figure myself out…
We are around 3 hours over the ocean now. Still 9 hours to go. Watched “127 Hours”, starring James Franco. It was good. Not spectacular, but I enjoyed it Considering how long our flight is, they don’t offer much selection for viewing, unless I want to pay. Listened to some of my friends’ recordings earlier… They’re wonderful. JC chose a short story by Vonnegut. Phil read “Sunflower Sutra”, though I only just started listening to it as we were about to land in San Francisco. (“Frisco hilly tincan sitdown evening vision”). EA read “What Teachers Make” and another poem and that Bahz Luhrmann “Wear Sunscreen”…
It still isn’t real. At this point, it feels like it will never be. I’ll get back to St. Catharines next year and it will all have felt like a dream. I’m afraid that I’ll want to stay longer, ha,I’m afraid that I won’t. I feel like I’ll feel guilty if I don’t stay longer than just a year, like, what’s wrong with me?! Everyone else stays!! I know I’ll make new friends in Japan, but the ones I already have no are so dear to me…
I feel like I can’t think directly about it. “But tell it slant”. It’s too much to think about. I know that so many other people have done this before me, and even for longer amounts of time. But this is me. Homesick when I’m down the stret. And now I’m a quarter of the way around the world…
Now around 3h 30m left on the flight. Can’t see Ontario on the map display on my little monitor thing. Overall, the flight has been swell!..
1h 20 m left. I am quite tired, probably from just being on here so long. We are getting more food now. I just want to sleep the rest of the time, but it’s probably a good thing to try to stay awake and alert from here on out. Gonna be an alien soon!! A minority! More white than Japanese! Oh boy!
Currently 10 PM in Osaka. I have already made 1 new friend. I am lying in new sheets. My fridge is decorated with photos. I ate some food from a convenience store. I paid my rent. I have a shower. I called home. Don’t have Internet yet. It’s warm out during the day. I have no heater. I am all alone.
15 February 2014 § 1 Comment
Whenever I hear “We are Young” by Fun I think of a particular night in Osaka, a year and a half ago, when I had gone to see Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” on my own. It was sometime on the weekend and it must’ve been in the midst of rainy season. The movie had finished, and I loved it. I wandered out of the theatre, texting my boyfriend to say that it was over. He was on his way to meet me. As I left the comfort of inside, I found a dry spot to sit down to wait.
I sat, captivated by pouring rain, lit up by the glow of the little, blue-white lights. “We are Young” was playing in the background. Living in Japan, I wasn’t aware of a lot of new music, and by then, the song had already been out for some time. I recognized it from hearing the Glee rendition over brunch at Summer’s flat one Sunday morning. And when I think back to sitting there, watching the rain, listening to that song, Japan becomes some kind of personal Neverland. I won’t ruin the metaphor with detail.
London has felt like an arranged marriage so far – one that hasn’t yet moved beyond the early stages of mild discomfort and vague curiosity. An arrangement of practicality, involving very little emotion. I have faith, however, that over time, I will find things to love about England. I remind myself regularly that as with any large city, this is not indicative of the character and culture of the rest of the country. I haven’t ventured to many places around England yet, but I’ve read about the Lake District, Oxford, Dover, and a handful of other places that I’ve dreamt of visiting since my studies in literature at University. We will get to know each other and become closer for it, I hope.
It’s difficult not to compare this place to Osaka. To Kozu 3-Chome. To Kansai. What convenience, being able to cycle anywhere in the city within a reasonable amount of time, without the mad drivers of London threatening to knock me over! What excitement, knowing that most of the country is accessible via prompt, frequently running, relatively inexpensive trains! What wonder, living in a culture so far removed from the one with which I am most familiar!
I have no doubt that my memory is skewed and that my image of Japan has become increasingly idealistic since I left. Knowing that, however, doesn’t make it any easier to think of the plum blossoms at Osaka Castle, probably on the brink of emerging, and me, not there to see them.
I would venture out of London this weekend to get to know England better, but I’m afraid a large amount of it is underwater, or being blown away.
24 December 2013 § Leave a comment
Christmas in London, England. It’s not exactly the romantic comedy Richard Curtis led me to believe.
1. It’s not all pretty blue skies and perfectly timed snow.
It’s gusting sheets of cold, liquidy precipitation all the time. Blue skies may peak out from behind clouds now and again, but they quickly retreat as the next wave blows in. Why is it that movies always depict pretty white England Christmases? LIES!
2. There’s no silly, unnecessary drama, designed to pull at my heartstrings.
Thankfully. I can live without it.
3. Christmas shopping isn’t as easy as meeting up with Emma Thompson in front of a Christmas tree.
No, it’s bogged down with getting from place to place on various forms of dysfunctional public transit. It’s giant crowds. It’s ridiculous line ups at all the stores.
It’s not all completely different, though…
1. Staying in watching films on a couch with a loved one (but without the pesky “carol singers”).
The horrible weather forces us to stay in, which really isn’t so bad. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of movies since I left for Japan nearly three years ago. Lots to catch up on. Lots of old favourites to rewatch. No one knocking at our door trying to confess their undying love for my significant other. It’s nice. (That’s never happened to me, but I can’t imagine it’s great.)
2. Christmas concerts.
I had the pleasure of attending my school’s Christmas concert (sorry, “Christmas Miscellany”). Complete with dramatic sketches, choirs, soloists, dancing, and teachers singing back up. No little Spider Man king at Jesus’ birth, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for next year.
3. Having drinks with dear coworkers.
No staff party with dark corners for dark deeds, but an after school meet up at the local pub for a couple drinks. It was a lovely, laid back way to finish up my first term here.
4. Christmas with family.
With family here, and family in Canada. Flying into Toronto tomorrow, and should arrive in good time to have Christmas dinner with the family. From what I understand, it will also be a white Christmas. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.
Happy Christmas to my family and friends around the world – in England, Japan, America, Canada, and everywhere in between! xx
16 October 2013 § 1 Comment
Things that moving to Japan and moving to England have in common: lack of funds.
Certainly, somehow, some way, there was enough money each time, but not enough to afford the (somewhat frivolous) comforts of home. The nicer bread. The extra virgin olive oil. A desperately needed replacement pair of shoes. Zucchini. Little things, but things that cost more money than I really needed to spend after having just moved to a new country and weeks before getting my first paycheck.
We just opened up a new bottle of washing up liquid (dish detergent, whatever you want to call it) and it’s such a delight because it’s not the stuff from the £1 shop and it actually makes things nice and soapy. In August, though, what a deal to be able to get two big bottles of washing up liquid for £1! £1 for 2 bottles! Brilliant! After a couple days, we regretted our thriftiness.
Two months in, we’re still using an upside down cardboard box as a coffee table. It’s functional. And it’s more out of not having had enough time to go shopping that we haven’t replaced it with a proper table yet.
But despite penny-pinching at first, we find joy in the little things. Playing 20 questions in Japanese while playing cards. Sitting around on a couch, entertaining ourselves with conversation and wordplay. Browsing through furniture on the IKEA website. Watching the entire Breaking Bad series (well, we’re two episodes away from finishing up). Going to a huge music festival for the entire weekend with £5 tickets (and what a weekend it was!).
A lot of people that I work with have asked me if it’s very different here from Canada. My response the other day was that it’s more like everything’s just a bit different, such that it seems nearly like Canada, nearly like home, but not quite – almost like being in a dream, or like being the victim of Amelie Poulain’s revenge scheme. The cars are on a different part of the road. There isn’t French on all the packaging. Instead of Walmart, there’s ASDA. Instead of Food Basics and Zehrs, Sainbury’s and Tesco. My students look at me funny when I say notebook instead of exercise book. I was out for a drink after work with some coworkers a few weeks ago and we were listening some tunes from the 1960′s – they all sounded very similar to the songs I grew up listening to on Oldies 1150 , but I wasn’t familiar with any of them. It’s eerie sometimes.
I might go visit somewhere new in a couple weekends. Explore a bit. Go relax. Take a break from lesson planning. Take a break from London. Remind myself that I’m living in England, which is kind of cool.
11 October 2013 § 1 Comment
Less than half a year ago, I was living in Japan.
Three months ago, I was living in Canada. Working at the same two locations as I was in January 2011, prior to moving to Japan.
Nearly two months ago, I packed my bags again and moved to England.
Culture shock has been minimal.
If anything, I’m still experiencing the culture shock that I started experiencing upon leaving Japan. It’s the shock of leaving the first home I established for myself independently. The shock of such a big life goal being accomplished – past tense. The shock of no longer living in a country in which I feel safe. No more cycling everywhere with ease. No more cheap kaitenzushi. No more cheap, amazing, punctual trains. No more ex-pat community (not one that I’m part of, anyway).
It’s the shock of not being sure anymore. I have no idea what’s next. Where I’ll be in a year. It’s trying to wrap my head around home feeling now split between three countries. The home that always was, the home I made for myself, and the home I now find myself in. A constant sense of displacement.
Anyway, I’m here. I’m pretty settled in. Teaching’s a crazy, stressful, beyond full time job. I love my apartment. London’s pretty cool – though I haven’t had any time to really check it out. More on these things and more.. at a later date when I’m not exhausted from the work week! x
12 July 2013 § Leave a comment
Someone I was chatting with last month was talking about her friend who had also decided to work and live abroad, describing her as having chosen to do “the selfish thing”. She didn’t say this with too much of a negative tone, but continued to explain how much this friend meant to other people, etc.
Sometimes, it feels like the selfish thing to stay home. To stay comfortable. To stay with the people I love and obviously want to be close to. To stay in the place that I know best, where I’m not confronted with the stress of language barriers, cultural barriers, and lack of understanding a different system.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s other people that are being selfish who are saying, “Stay!”
I loved living in Japan. I loved moving there. I loved getting to know Osaka and the amazing people who lived there too. I can’t wait to go to England and actually teach in a high school there. But it’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s terrifying. It hurts. Leaving home without knowing exactly when you’ll be back can be heart-wrenching. After being gone for awhile, that pain goes on a back burner or gradually decreases, as you put down roots wherever you are, meet people, get to know new streets and new neighborhoods and new rhythms. And then when you leave that place, it happens all over again. And again.
I get it though. I can see why it would seem selfish. Traveling to exciting new places, going off on my own (though I won’t be alone in England!), pursuing adventure! Gathering no moss!
But, perhaps whether I stay or go, it would be selfish. And either way, there would be something to lament. Leaving people behind. Staying in one place. Being an outsider (good or bad, though, depending on the day). Not following my heart (cheesy, but true).
I wish I had a dokodemo door.