22 June 2013 § 2 Comments
There are a few questions that are difficult to answer upon return:
- How was Japan?/What was Japan like?
- Did you get to see much of Japan?
- It must be nice to be home, ‘eh?
- Are you glad to be back?
- What’s the plan now?
Difficult, because there’s too much to say, and there are too many emotions that go along with all of it to really properly express what I mean. The fourth question, in particular, is a challenging one. Like Alan Parrish and Sarah Whittle in Jumanji, the Pevensie siblings in Narnia, Samwise and Frodo, Harry, Hermione, and Ron – once you’ve been through an adventure, once you’ve left the comforts of home and found other worlds, it’s difficult to return and be content, knowing what you’ve left behind, knowing what you’ve been through, and knowing what might be ahead. That being said, of course, I am happy to be home. But it’s not simple.
Yes, there’s culture shock. For example:
- I assume everyone wants to steal my things. My purse, my (parents’) car, my sweater, my lip balm. Trying to get over this feeling.
- Becoming aware that Canadians really do say “Sorry!” a lot.
- A dislike of the word “deserve” that I didn’t have before going to Japan.
- Awareness of the way in which people don’t try to perform at their jobs to the best of their ability – a certain attitude or laziness, perhaps..
- The state of public bathrooms.
- More than a few times have I gone to put my grocery basket on the conveyor belt at the store, and then realized that that’s not what we do here.
- Frustration at how slowly lines at stores move due to people using credit/debit.
- The vast size of grocery stores.
- There are lots of big parking lots. Not pedestrian friendly.
I could go on.
I’ve been keeping busy. I had a week of interviews and things in London (England) in May. I found full time work as a high school teacher there starting in September and subsequently bought a one way flight for August. I’m working a couple of part time jobs, while also continuing my work for Waylines Magazine on the side. I’m trying to deal with and sort through the mess of storage bins I left behind in early 2011 before leaving the country again. I’ve been going to lots of poetry things (I meant to be at one tonight, but have found myself completely disinterested in making verbal communication with anyone this evening). I’ve been spending time with my dear family and friends.
And, as anticipated, it feels like it was all a beautiful dream.
29 April 2013 § 3 Comments
At the airport, again. Strange to think that I’ve been here over two years – I never meant to be. When I came to Japan, I had this plan to stay for one full year contract, April to March. Then, I would go back to St. Catharines, find a high school teaching position without too much difficulty, possibly do my Masters in Education (part-time), find the man of my dreams, and live happily ever after. And even though Japan was part of the Master Plan all along, since high school or before, it was that part of the plan that changed everything.
You can’t really anticipate what’s going to happen to you when you live abroad, I guess. You can’t imagine the kind of people you’re going to meet. The amazing, the chauvinistic, the inspiring, the aimless, the admirable, the courageous, the confounding. I have met so many wonderful people who were a large part of the reason I stayed longer that I intended. People who stepped out of their comfort zones to come to this beautiful, insane country. People who welcome these world wanderers and genuinely want to get to know them. People who I have no doubt I will run into in other countries around the world. People who I truly respect, and people who I will miss dearly.
Japan threw me off guard too. In Canada, I didn’t travel around very much, and I never had a great interest to because it’s right there. It’s not across an ocean. It’s not full of interesting, unfamiliar cultures. (I admit I was mistaken). I came to Japan thinking I would maybe travel to some cities near Osaka. Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama. And maybe, just maybe I’d make my way to Tokyo for a trip. Indeed, I went to those places, along with every other place I could afford the time and money to get to across the country. I didn’t know how easy it would be, or how enticing. Japanese cities are amazing at drawing tourists, whether it’s with a UNESCO World Heritage Site (there’s lots), the longest suspension bridge in the country, the largest lake in the country, the highest mountain in the country, the most ornate shrine in the country, the southern most island in the country. There are a lot of superlatives, and it works.
If I could describe Japan itself with a few superlatives, I’d go with safest and most convenient. The amount of decent pubic toilets, the abundance of convenience stores, the accessibility and punctuality of the public transit system. I can’t imagine living in a more comfortable place. Certainly, there are many discomforts as well – cultural differences, language barriers, xenophobia, never being sure what sauce goes on what, not knowing if you should finish every last piece on your plate or if you ought to leave just a little bit (a surprisingly frequent conversation). Despite those things, I stick to my previous statement. I have never felt so safe in my adult life as when I’ve lived here. A country where I don’t worry about parking my bike in public, where if I lose something valuable on the train, it’s pretty likely to get returned, where if I fall asleep on a bench at the train station, no one bothers me or steals my things, where I can walk alone at night and not have to worry about anyone harassing me, where I can wear a tank top and shorts in the summer because it’s hot out without a man making some distasteful comment. It’s going to be a big change moving back to Niagara.
And now, I’m on my way to the UK to spend a week with a wonderful person before heading back to Canada. In a few weeks, I’ll be going back for interviews in London. In a few months, with any luck, I’ll be moving there. For now, I need to get ready to board my flight out of here.
1 February 2012 § Leave a comment
I keep waiting to feel inspired to update my blog, and it’s not happening. January has been too much fun and I haven’t been able to sit down long enough to give you an adequate update. I find this particularly thrilling as I have a history of not particularly liking January.
Coming back to Japan was hard. I got in late at night, had to lug all my stuff up to the fourth floor of my apartment. Two of my favorite people in Japan hadn’t returned yet from their holiday adventures, so I couldn’t go to them for cheering up. All I had with me were the very fresh memories of all my dear family and friends back home, and they were all suddenly an ocean apart once again. I guess people who are here for awhile get used to that. Or maybe they don’t, but it’s still worth going back to see everyone on occasion. I’m back into the swing of things now, though. I dove into my work, having picked up some overtime, and working a lot at my second job too. Improv practices have started up again for the new year. My friends and I have kept busy in each other’s company.
I recently celebrated my 25th birthday. It was a delightful weekend. Friday, we ventured out to Asuka in Nara. It’s a small village about a 40 minute train ride away, and the location of a lot of ruins, tombs, and temples (including the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, apparently?? I think we at least walked past it, unknowingly…). Right outside the train station there, you can rent bicycles for the day. So we biked around all afternoon. There wasn’t actually anything that impressive, but it was still neat and just a nice way to spend a day off. Saturday night after work began at a yakiniku restaurant with some lovely people, before moving on to an Australian sports bar where my Swedish friend Mats was playing an acoustic set. When I got there, there was a sign up for me, and balloons throughout the place. I was thrilled! He happily met my requests for some ABBA and for John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”. Sunday saw a Skype date with my family, a photo exhibit in the north part of the city, a lovely dinner, karaoke, pineapple champagne, and such thoughtful gifts. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.
I finally baked for my first time in Japan. It wasn’t a matter of laziness; it’s not an easy task when oven’s aren’t a common appliance and baking powder is so difficult to find (or is baking soda… I always confused them). It felt like baking for the first time. Not only did I have to wait until I had a friend with an oven (actually, I’ve had access to an oven since October..), but I also had to acquire measuring cups, measuring spoons, a mixing bowl, and a spatula. I picked up both baking soda and baking powder while in Canada. I always forget the existence of differences in how things are quantified around the world. I was worried at first because looking at my friend’s oven, I thought it only went up to 300 degrees fahrenheit. He then suggested that maybe the temperature’s in celsius. And so it was. The banana chocolate chip muffins turned out amazingly.
Lots of strange little, delightful observations over the past while here. Carbonated tomato beverage (gross, right?). Mis-shelved books in the children’s section at the book store (“Balloons over Broadway”, “Emergency!”, “I want my hat back”, and “Flesh & Blood so Cheap“). A brilliant Engrish T-shirt that, I realized tonight as I was staring at it, is stolen from some Jack Johnson lyrics, but not very well – beginning to think that maybe Engrish isn’t so simply just a result of poor translation, but so much more. Even after I display my incompetency at speaking Japanese, people in public prefer to address me instead of my less-Japanese looking friend.
There is more to be written, but I haven’t the time just now. But everything above this has been waiting to be posted for days and days, so this much for now. If I ever go so long again without posting, do comment or e-mail and get on my case. I respond well, albeit begrudgingly, to nagging! (My mom might suggest otherwise… 😉