Friday, June 22, 2007

On the edge...

I have been a ball of emotions lately. I will be leaving Japan in about 5 weeks and I feel it every day. I'm ready to leave my job and can't help but think "I will never have to teach numbers 11-100 again! Wheee!!!!" or "This is the last time I'll have to teach present perfect! Hoo raa!". But at the same time, I remember that I won't see my 9th graders graduate or that I'll miss their ocarina performance with the great and powerful Sojiro and I get a bump in my throat. That's what happened when my kids ask me if I'll be at their concert and I said no, last year was my last one and the kids said that there were sad. Ack! My tear ducts were screaming for release, but I held it together. I'm getting much better at that, thank you.

But, I've made it apparent in this blog, more than a few times, that I'm ready to come home. That's completely true, but I'm a little apprehensive. My world in Montreal has changed since I've been gone. My family has changed, my friends have changed, the scene has changed and I know a whole host of things I can't even anticipate have changed as well. But most importantly, I have changed. I wonder how I'll react to things that I used to take for granted. This morning, I was on the phone with my sister and she was cussing out some dude for stealing her parking space, and the guy was screaming at her at the top of his lungs. And I said (Christ, I can believe it), "That wouldn't happen in Japan." Eeeek. I don't want to be one of those people that looks at life through the rose-coloured "Made in Japan" lenses. You know what I'm talking about. Those people who were away for an extended period of time and come back to their hometown going on and on about how everything was so much better abroad. I can't stand that. I don't want to do that.

That gets me thinking though. Is life better in Japan? Can I say, that after two years of living and breathing all things Japanese that this was better than anything I've ever known in my life? I can say (somewhat hesitantly), that no, it ain't. There are a lot of good things about the country, as well as a lot of things that don't make sense to me or are just wrong, but life is not better here. I hesitated because I think that Japan has bettered me in a variety of ways. Without all the free time I've had here, and the opportunities I've had to travel and learn about the world and myself, this would have been all for naught.

So while I am sad about leaving my temporary home, and saying goodbye to friends and my sweet students, I'm ready to move on and to see how the new me takes to the outside world, the real world, if you will. I've been challenged and am still being being challenged. But now I'm ready to dip my feet in new waters.
I should be setting sail (or ahem, leaving on a JET plane) on July 29th.


Last weekend, Gen, Shi, Dave and I went to Fukui in search of nothing but finding a lot. We found some very interesting rock formations in the sea and decided to climb them. Never mind the facts that 3 of us were wearing flip flops, no one else was climbing, and bottom below was full of crashing water and jagged rocks. We climbed and we succeeded. I decided to take the above picture when I had the startling realization that I could very well die doing something that didn't need to be done. I guess I took the pic to commerate this moment when I grew golden balls. Dave was proud and surprised that I attempted this feat but I knew I had it in me. I guess I just choose/chose not to show it all the time.

We also found a sweet little cafe that jutted out into the sea and the view was breathtaking. Though it was seemingly picture perfect, the limitations of a camera made it difficult to do it justice.

I might be able to squeeze in one or two more day trips, but if this was the last one, then I'd be happy. It was all that and I bag of dried octopi.

Monday, June 04, 2007


There are many words in the Japanese dictionary that are difficult to translate. One that you can hear on an almost daily basis is ganbaru, which according to the dictionary means to persevere or do one's best. Often, when I tell my kids to "ganbatte kudasai", I translate it to English and tell them to please do their best. Similarly, when people tell me that, I reply "ganbarre imasu", which means I will try my best. However, irregardless of how many times people are told and taught otherwise, the most common translation of ganbaru is fight! Or in katakana English, fa-i(ee)-to! You'll here it at competitions, before tests or when someone isn't feeling too hot. I've decided to adopt this ill-translated word as a personal mantra for my final 8 weeks here. See, I've been feeling amazingly underwhelmed and understimulated during working hours, which means I'm a lazy sack of shit after I'm relieved of my duties. A growing sense of apathy started to take over my mind during my hours of solitude and I began to look at my remaining time as a cold, desolate desert that stretched before me. It sucked. I would awaken for the weekend and then return to a semi-catonic state sometime around 8:15 a.m. Monday morning. But today, I said enough is enough. I don't want my final weeks in Japan to be filled with disdain and blinding anticipation so that I would forget my nearly 100 weeks here. So I will reach down into my spirit and savour the lasts of everything. I WILL FIGHT!

I had a good weekend and I felt like I accomplished a lot without over-exerting. I shipped four boxes of my belongings, got a quote for my return plane ticket, tried out a new recipe, saw Pirates of the Caribbean, ate at one of my favourite restaurants (mmm, miso katsu, how I'll miss you), thorougly enjoyed watching Snakes on a Plane (Samuel L. Jackson, you are still the shit), walked around near a brook and saw dozens of fireflies (tres romantique) and spent 8 hours making the Samurai doll that you see here. I royally messed up this doll and had to make the pants all over again, plus I forgot to not glue one side of them in order for the samurai to hold his swords in his belt, but it worked out well because my guy is holding swords in each hand and looks like a total badass. I love happy accidents. This doll took a lot out of me so please forgive how used up I look in the first pic. This doll will be my second to last and I'm going to miss these classes that infuse Japanese culture with laughter and conversation. Truly one of the best things I've done here.


I received a newsletter that contained information about reverse culture shock, which is something I might encounter when I return home. Basically, it's a phenomenom that affects people when they return home after they've lived abroad for an extended period of time. I felt culture shock when I moved here (and how!), and I anticipate feeling its companion when I go home. The newsletter suggested doing a few things to prepare for this inevitable part of living internationally. For example, it suggested making a list of the things that I like about Japan and thinking about which things I can take home, which I can try to recreate back home, and which things I must honour and say goodbye to. This is something that I'll be working on over the next little while. It's extremely important for me to say goodbye to this place properly so that I can close this chapter of my life and move on to a brighter future. The newsletter also suggested writing a list of the 5 people I will miss the most and thinking of the most meaningful way to say goodbye to each of them. Thinking about it makes me want to barf. Saying goodbye is truly the most difficult and painful thing for me. Lord have mercy, it's going to be miserable. Gotta remember my new motto though - FIGHT-O! You can just sense my false enthusiasm, can't you?