hello america

22 04 2008

Thinking about my two-week vacation to America is fucking with my head more than I thought it would.  About a week ago, I was swearing off my job about how boring it was, and how I had no friends in my town blah blah blah cry me a river.  And now, all of a sudden, I’m a perky as a percolator.  What happened?

Well, honestly nothing.  I’m not doing any more or less work at school (well, today I had to grade the first years’ handwriting assignments and save a student from a nose bleed of epic proportions).  Last weekend was plain Jane—I met up with friends and watched It (not scary!).  I’m not running any more or less than usual.  So my conclusion is that it has to be the fact that I’m flying home tomorrow.  For a VACATION.  Time off.  No plans (OK, minimal plans).  No work.  No studying.  No linguistic crises.  Staring at other people instead of being stared at.

But, it’s not like I planned this trip home on Monday.  I’ve had it in the works for months now, so I guess the only difference is its proximity.  The time is nigh.  I must pack.  I must print my tickets.  I must GET MONEY FROM THE ATM OF DOOM.

The irony of it though, is that now that my spirits are lifted (because of the trip?), I’m feeling energetic at work and thus a little guilty for leaving while things are on the upswing.  Rather than the usual of just being different, I feel like I’m making a difference (especially with my first year students who have just started learning English).  I suppose this is a good thing; at least I won’t be dreading my return and staying for another 14 months after that.

On a slightly related topic—if you’re someone I’ve lost contact with and you want to meet up during my break, just email me and I’ll try to work out a time.  I’ll be in the United States in various States (of the union) and states (of mind) from April 24th to May 8th.





homesickness manifest through coffee

16 03 2008

With the snow melting and little likelihood of me driving 4 hours to go snowboarding on a slushy hill, I was left with a completely plan-free weekend. What ever to do?!

SHOPPING! Duh.

Not shopping the way girls do–I’m a quickly-look-around-a-store kind of guy. So, I came home with a few shirts, a kitchen scale and a siphon. Very exciting stuff.

More exciting was the presence of a Starbucks. I don’t particularly love their coffee, but like McDonalds, no matter where you are in the world, you know exactly what your banira ratte is going to taste like. Even if it sounds a little…funny.

But this vanilla latte was special. I had one sip, felt the warmth spreading down my chest, and then all of a sudden was overwhelmed with thoughts of the local Starbucks at Penn. It was the weirdest thing. I was walking past shirts that said “If want love experience/fried chicken time,” but I was seeing Van Pelt and College Hall.

In a somewhat emotional week with graduations left and right, teachers getting ready to do the school-to-school shuffle, and facing the stark reality of Japan’s declining birthrate as each entering class gets smaller, I guess the only thing powerful enough to make me feel homesick was the sweet, sweet nectar of a Starbucks grande vanilla latte.

N.B. The school-to-school shuffle is not an official term, but every April, seemingly at random, teachers and other public officials get transferred to new locations. Some teachers request this, so they can, for example, be closer to their families. It’s not uncommon for a wife (sometimes with kids) to live in a small town ,while the father works and lives (in that order) in a city 3 hours away. Basically, there’s a lot of shuffling that takes place, and it’s another excuse for two giant drunkofest parties.

Also, I realize there’s a two month void of posts.  I’m working on it.  Slowly.  They were dull, dark wintry months, and right now I’m busy getting excited about spring.





going home

1 11 2007

This will be long. And that is an actual prediction, not one of my usual tack-on-a-disclaimer-after-I-finish-writing introductions (although with the amount of time this ended up taking me to write and edit, it doesn’t really matter). I suppose it makes sense to be lengthy given the weight of my first trip home, but it still surprises me the extent to which spending only five days in America so radically changed my thoughts on my experiences abroad.

Before I actually write anything substantial, I want to note that I’m sitting at JFK and there’s a woman plucking and shaving her face in the waiting area. I thought it was awkward when my bosses cut their toenails in the office, but this really takes the cake.
1829 more words…





empty suitcases

26 07 2007

I should be packing. But, there’s something about having a list of things to do that upon looking at it only inspires me to procrastinate. The list must be so daunting that I figure I should start attacking it later. So here I am, introspective me, letting my thoughts wander and writing down the most coherent (but barely lucid, I’m sure) parts.

The most profound thing, amidst the shopping and packing and researching and stressing is that I’m leaving in 2 days and still lacking the excitement I feel I should be experiencing. I’m finally doing this hugely different thing with my life, but I suppose between my ephemeral commitments (the GRE and my two-week job) and being stuck at home, the blunt truth of leaving for Japan for a year got pushed aside. When will it hit me? The plane? The Tokyo hotel? My little town where I’m the only English-speaker for miles (now, kilometers)? I can all too easily see where my lack of realization makes getting excited about leaving difficult.

Despite how brazenly obvious it is on paper, when I began preparing, I didn’t contemplate how stressful moving to a country with such different customs would be: the JET podcast says I need a minimum of eight pairs of shoes, and omiyage for 30 people (small gifts for co-workers, supervisors and neighbors–I got some Little Debbie cakes and baseball cards); properly sorting my trash into the five bins correctly; not speaking Japanese. I have been told that I can get by only saying sumimasen … ga wakarimasen (“sorry, but I don’t understand”), but it’s still all quite disheartening.

I guess it all boils down to me being impatient to leave the complacency of life in the states. I’ve been on a set path my entire life; always aware of what was coming next and generally knowing how it would be. I learn best through mistakes, and I’m eager to make a staggeringly large number of them.

60 hours.