summer in the city.

28 July 2014 § 1 Comment

And just like that, my first year as a secondary school teacher is complete. Above all else, patience and humility got me through – along with some dear individuals who helped me keep things in perspective. I’m excited about putting in to practice next academic year what I’ve learned this past one. I’m also excited that I am in the midst of a six week long holiday. 

While lots of people fly off to destinations far and near, I am spending most of the summer here in London, doing all the things I wish I had more time to do during the school year. Learning to drive in the UK, reading, jogging/making efforts to be more fit, writing, donating blood, learning to make bread. 

Being done my first year of teaching also means that I’ve nearly been living in the UK for a year. 

I’ve been writing poetry on and off since elementary school, nearly since I could write a coherent sentence. I find that each phase of my life is accompanied by a different voice, a different kind of poetry. Middle school was fantasy, Tolkein-inspired stuff. High school was poems about loneliness and love. University was academic and playful. Post-University was thoughtful and romantic. Japan was reflective and focussed on communication. England doesn’t have a voice yet. This has been reflected in my lack of writing poetry, as well as my general ambivalence about living here – so obvious when anyone asks how I find living in London/England (“Umm.. well,.. it’s good. Not great, but.. it’s alright..! You know, I don’t love it, don’t really hate it…”). I’m hoping I can find that voice this summer.

A colleague lent me a book a while back. “Burnt Shadows”, by Kamila Shamsie. I only just started reading it last week, as my holiday kicked off (“At least one book every two weeks!” I promised myself). It seems to fit fairly well with this idea of finding my England voice. While it is driven largely by international conflict, it follows the lives of a few different families as they move about, providing a thoughtful look at ideas of loss and foreignness. I’m about two thirds in. I recommend it. Y’know, if it sounds like your kind of thing. 

And that’s your end of July update! Over and out.





20 June 2011 § 3 Comments

One of my students to me, as I walked into the room: “Your imagination has changed!” It sounds like something out of a strange dream sequence. In fact, he was simply commenting on the fact that instead of wearing my apparently usual dark attire (I tend to wear a lot of black to work, I guess), I was wearing a pink flowery shirt and a light grey skirt, topped off with a high, bouncy ponytail.

I started reading a new book today, lent to me by a man in my Japanese class on Fridays:

I’ve thought before of reading Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, but just never did. I started it last night and made a dent in it today on the train to and from Wakayama (travel time equivalent to that between St. Catharines and Toronto). It’s written from the perspective of the Japanese-Canadian narrator, Megumi Naomi Nakane, a Sansei (third generation, the second generation born in Canada). Over the past few years, I’ve been developing an interest in Japanese-Canadian history. Every now and again, I’ll read something relevant. A couple years ago, a collection of poetry from Daphne Marlatt about the Japanese on the West Coast of Canada. Last year, part of David Suzuki’s autobiography, which begins with a couple chapters on the Japanese internment in Canada.

At times, I feel quite distanced from what happened to Japanese people in Canada in the first half of the 20th century, but then other times, I think of my family that experienced the internment first hand and it feels, at times, quite immediate. I’ve always thought that it was kinda cool being half Japanese, and I’ve always felt that this was a large part of my identity, but I’d never really considered how important that combination of Japanese and Canadian is.

I went to a poetry reading last fall where one of the poets was from Vancouver, and she was a half-Japanese woman, also born and raised in Canada. I talked with her after she read and we talked briefly about being half-Japanese. I told her about my intentions to come teach in Japan and she commented that she had often thought of doing the same thing, but felt that it might be strange going to teach English in Japan as a half-Japanese person. So far, my experience has been that many of my students feel closer to me because of my being half-Japanese. Of course, there will be different experiences. Another half-Japanese girl I was talking with the other night said that her family in Japan wasn’t very pleased with a couple of her family members when they married Westerners, and this was sort of evident in their dispositions when she first met them.

Anyway, if any of you reading are ever curious about Japan itself and not all the random thoughts that go through my head while I’m on the train, do check out Alice’s blog. She’s well-written and explores the strange and wonderful things that make living in Japan for the first time such an interesting experience. And please, if you’re ever curious about something in Japan and want my perspective, do ask 🙂

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