One year ago today I was waking up at 4:00 AM in a freezing guesthouse in Yotsukaido because I was jetlagged after returning to Japan. I was about 20 minutes away from Narita airport, and extremely excited to start Season 2 of life in Japan. Season 1, as some readers may recall, was spent as an intern with non-profit organization Run for the Cure Foundation. This year has seen a lot of exciting things for me, as I’m sure it has for everyone.
It’s easy to forget sometimes about the small accomplishments we make over a period of time. The big ones are always easier to remember, and our failures always seem to stand out more. My big accomplishments this year included transitioning to being an English teacher (or something like it, anyway), signing my first ever Japanese apartment contract (this is recent – more on this next week), and launching an exciting new career-related project I’m optimistic about.
Not a lot of failures come to mind, which I hope is good. I’ve felt frustrated, sad, angry, and sick here and there over the last year, but I can’t say I’ve messed anything up too badly (yet).
More so than all these big events from the last year, I’ve been thinking about the little things, which in strange ways carry more meaning for me. There are so many bizarre encounters and weird skills I’ve picked up that it’s difficult for me to discern sometimes exactly what is normal. Last week, I successfully navigated phone menus in super formal Japanese (and cheered myself on afterward). I can run up and down stairs for departing trains in high heels. I taught a three year old girl how to write her name in English. I cooked eggplant for the first time, and went to a shinto shrine on New Year’s eve. I am teaching elementary children how to read and write in my language. I sang karaoke in an almost empty bar run by a Japanese woman who wanted to give me presents and hair style advice. I confirmed with a 10 year old Japanese boy that “poop” is both a noun and a verb. I walked across hot coals with Japanese mountain priests, and surfed on the beaches of Enoshima (without being attacked by a jellyfish). I saw cherry blossoms bloom with my own eyes. I went to a year end party with coworkers, and a new year party with them two weeks later. I forgot the word “renovation” in conversation (all I could think was the Japanese “reform”).
These changes have been small, but they add up. I forget sometimes that I actually have a job here where I make a teeny impact from time to time, and it’s not all about enjoying myself. Many of my students took the “Eiken” test recently – it’s a level check of their English skills. They’re passing with flying colors the listening, speaking, and fill-in-the-blank portions, which I am responsible for assisting them with. I joke a lot about only pretending to be an English teacher, but wow, I think I may have accidentally become one (and a somewhat effective one, at that).
All of those moments up there are special (and often silly) memories in some way, and there are many, many more. Growing personally and professionally was my (however vague) ultimate goal in coming back to Japan, and I like to think that’s what I’m doing. I’m very excited for the next year. I still have a lot of “firsts” to experience, and I’m really looking forward to them.
Mostly, they all have to do with food, but hey, that’s something.
Thanks for joining me via the internet – who knows what the next year will bring?
…more blog posts. I hope.