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.


ditching never felt so good

1 08 2007

Planes seem like the most logical place to continue writing, although I’m glad to say that this is the last one that I’ll take for awhile. Three days of orientation in Tokyo felt like weeks, and though I’ve met great people who will be all over Japan, meeting too many people for whom 40,000 people is a “small” town (mine has 6,000) has increased my anxiety to the nth degree.

This plane is reminiscent of the last three days: bumpy (i.e. inconsistent) and foreign. (I guess it also describes some of the food I’ve eaten.) The days were boring; so much that I found myself bailing out of programming to explore Shinjuku. Amen for ditching. A few new-found friends and I went to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government towers, which give a (free—take that, America!) 45th-story view of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the haze in Tokyo is as bad as rumored, and we couldn’t even see the symbol of Japan: Mt. Fuji.

Tuesday night was my first tabenomehodai, an all-you-can-eat all-you-can-drink dining experience, complete with slippers, hibachi (I was the cook), colorless whisky (wtf!?) with the JETs from my prefecture. Sufficiently saucy, I continued on to wander the streets. We had both been abandoned by our eventual party members, but managed to run into them on the street (one of too many serendipitous events with Mckenzie—that much good luck in a short period of time can only mean bad luck later, right?), and join Fukuoka prefecture’s group for 4 hours of larynx-tearing renditions of the Justin Timberlake, Elton John and some whiny Korean chick—all with the ever-changing background ranging the Ponte Vecchio in Florence to the supreme court building to random streets in Korea. 2:00 came, and some people wussed out, but three of us continued next door with some Irish JETs.

Then this morning came. And I would NEVER have thought it hard to say goodbye to people I’ve known for less than three days. It was. I’m sure part of it is the realization that now it all begins. No more English-speakers, no more insulation, no more city, no more theory. Just reality. Saying goodbye was so much more than a farewell. MacKenzie and I could joke about the tears we would shed, and we can talk about meeting up soon as much as we want, but nothing assuages the complete anxiety I’m feeling. It is persistent. It is certainly not mitigated by my fear that Samani will be a farm and the people will be hostile-ish.

Our plane is falling. Or at least it feels that way. Hopefully this is not related to the cheap analogy I drew earlier.

I guess we’re not crashing, just descending quickly—time to wrap it up. Next post when I’ve settled in.

over the bering strait

29 07 2007

I technically wrote this on the plane, but posted it a bit late. Forgive me my lack of internet over the Bering Strait.

Something about juxtaposition comes up when I think about my current music selection. Certainly judging from the way we’re being treated on the JAL flight, Japan is nothing like the Gangsta’s Paradise Coolio describes in this 1995 epic.

It’s near. Not Japan per se—it’s still another 9 hours and 7180 kilometers away—rather the figurative, prototypical Japan experience that I kept worrying I should have had in my head (how am I going to teach a language with such complicated tenses!?). Spending three hours in the airport (teaching a lesson about punctuality?) with my now co-employees and talking about our fears of isolation and too many faux pas gave way to pure excitement, but it still feels like a vacation. I guess the mini-culture shock of hearing announcements only in a foreign language that will soon be decreasingly exotic helped with that too.

I imagine I’ll have more to write about when I land, but for now, I just thought I’d share some mid-flight thoughts. Oh, and of course the plane is pimped out. Even in my coach seat, surrounded by sleeping men I don’t want to disturb, I feel like a king. Hot towels, in-seat screens with movies (so far I’ve watched 300) video games (like Tetrix), and a camera with an underbelly view of the ground below: it’s almost as good as having a window seat! Nonetheless, it’s high time for a lap of the plane and bathroom visit.

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.