14 December 2015 § 2 Comments
I’m still here.
I get up at 5:45 every morning. I get to work at about 7:00. I usually get home around 6:00. I teach, I plan, I mark, I assess, I make phone calls, I enter data, I solve problems, I make problems. The last thing I think about is updating a blog.
Sometimes, though, I think about the fact that when I’m driving, my left hand is on the gearstick. I think about how I don’t know how to sound deliberately Canadian. About how I found it easier to meet people and make friends in a country where I couldn’t speak the dominant language very well. How as I’m getting older, exercise seems more important, but time seems more scarce (scarcer?). How the longer I’m away from Japan, the more of a personal Neverland it seems. How I loved being back in Southern Ontario in the summer because it felt so comfortable and I loved being near the people I love, but the thought of moving back with any kind of permanence scares me.
More on these stories at a later date. Possibly not for another year or two, but ideally sooner.
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…”
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 February 2013 § Leave a comment
Today is one of Japan’s many national holidays. National Foundation Day, I think. As tempting as it was to stay at home and enjoy having the place to myself while my roommate was at work, I opted to go hiking on my own in Nara, and feed some deer. After coming home and napping, roommate and I sat on the couch and watched most of I Heart Huckabees, which led to a conversation about how different it is now being in Japan compared to the first year. Last week we celebrated our two year “Japanniversary”. Indeed, after being here for two years, this feels like normal life, though I’m pretty sure it’s still a far shout (but really, what is normal life anyway, right?).
So we’re into 2013. A part of my mind has already left this continent, and has moved West to England. Another part has moved across the Pacific back to Niagara. Pulled in different directions. I’m leaving in less than three months, but trying to remember that all I can do is take one day at a time. Life continues as normal, for the most part.
My birthday has come and gone. Much more low key than my celebrations last year. A visit to Kinkakuji in Kyoto. Annual birthday french toast breakfast. Dinner and a movie with the other half-Japanese Morimoto. A surprise gathering at the local Irish bar, where my friends collectively presented me with an iPad Mini (which is awesome). A cake from my roommate, which I didn’t have to share with anyone. It was beautiful.
About a month ago, I started doing some work as a first reader for my friend’s online speculative fiction publication, Waylines. It’s a lot of fun, reading through stories every week, providing constructive criticism. It’s sometimes difficult for me to find time in my schedule to read, but this forces me to, and a lot of the stories are really interesting. What’s more, it’s something I can continue to do even after I leave Japan.
Travel plans are coming together for April. Right now it’s looking like hiking/camping in Shikoku, a short trip to Ise, a brief return to Tokyo (for a couple parks and the fish market), Nikko, and Taiwan. The rest of the month will, I imagine, be spent under cherry blossoms in an assortment of parks. I’m looking forward to having a whole month here without work.
Funny things happen now and again that remind me that I’m not in my home country, but I haven’t been remembering them so well. One of the children’s classes I teach, for example, has decided it’s funny to add the word “juice” to the end of everything because when I taught them the word “sausages”, they heard “sausage juice”. “Onion juice!” “Flower juice!” “Toys juice!” That’s all I can remember right now.
Also, I passed Level N4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which means that I “can understand basic Japanese”. Huzzah! That was good news. I passed by about 1.1111%.
And that photo that I won a content for back in early December? Now featured in a free calendar that was distributed by a monthly publication for foreigners, AND on display as part of an art exhibition at local restaurant/bar. Pretty cool.
Life is good.