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This always seems to happen…

5 Oct

It’s been quite awhile since I last posted anything. The last several months have been insanity. What has happened since June?

I spent the better part of two months packing and cleaning my apartment. Moved in with a friend for the last few weeks. Saw A Tribe Called Quest and Stevie Wonder at Summer Sonic in Osaka (and CRIED). Returned to California. Reunited with Damon and had him meet my family. dramadramadramadrama. Went to Burning Man for the first time. Ran around the Bay playing tour guide and reconnecting with friends. Said goodbye to Damon. And now we’ve reached today and life is still insane.

I have a plane ticket to fly to Australia at the end of October. Less than three weeks away. I feel like my life is the plot of some overly dramatic romantic film. Full of twists and turns. WHAT WILL SHE DO NEXT?! I’m the one living this life and I only know half the story. I’m excited about moving to Australia and playing out all the little adventures being created in the happier, stress-free section of my brain. At the same time, though, I feel bad about being so far away from my family again. And while I have made a pros and cons list for the move (and lemme tell ya, the pros are winning right now), that doesn’t really make things any easier.

The biggest issue is that of change. When I left for Japan two summers ago, it seemed like was talking about how change was good and we all wanted change and change was growth and etc., etc. For a political theme, maybe it works. For me personally, its become a huge thorn in my side. A friend even said to me a week or so before I flew out “no matter what, don’t change.”

I thought that wouldn’t be too big of a problem, but then again I got flung into a foreign country to be immersed in a language and culture that, after two years, I still have plenty of difficulty understanding. I was living alone. I was self-sufficient for the first time. Independent. It was very different to how I had been living before I left: jobless, fully dependent on parents and responsible for helping other people. With one trip across the Pacific, I had gained a new-found freedom. “don’t change” Is that even fair to ask of a person?

One of the biggest lessons I learned (and am learning even now) is that above all, I have to take responsibility for my faith. 2007 and 2008 were some hard years for Christian churches across the globe. All kinds of scandals and lies and many people were hurt in various ways, including myself. When I left for Japan I was dealing with a lot of anger and hurt towards people who had broken my spirit through their own selfishness and greed. It was never a physical issue, but mentally I had dealt with a lot. It’s understandable that I didn’t want to attend church for some time. I went once in the two years I lived there. I caution the reader not to judge.

In any case, despite all that has been done I still believe in and love God. He’s like a dad: teaches you the things you need to know and then you get to a certain point where you have to walk it out for yourself. I have to make an effort to maintain the relationship and just like He gives each person a different gifting and we all have different personalities, we will all have a different relationship with God. I can’t use my perceptions of another’s relationship with Him as a measuring stick for my own. It doesn’t work like that.

I’ve disappointed people. I’ve changed. But I’ve learned as well and I think I’m the better for it. I can’t not change, that’s not how things work. All I can do is make decisions for myself because I can’t please everyone. Life moves forward. And like the song says:

Time is filled with switch transitions…♫

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Apprehensive

6 May

It’s been a long, long time.  And Japan has done a lot to me.

I’ve been here for a year and eight months so far. It’ll be time to leave soon. I decided not to stay a third year. These past few months have been difficult for me. Not because of work, but because of culture and life and dealing with so many things on my own.

I have to constantly remind myself to look at the good things: my Japanese has improved, after persevering at this second school things have really turned around and I love the students and staff, I’ve made lasting relationships with Japanese people and friends from across the globe, I’ve gotten to travel to so many places and I met a truly amazing person.

It’s just that the difficult bits rear up over and over again: I still can’t read any decent amount of Japanese, I have a third school that I now rotate to and the teachers seem a tad unfriendly and openly disappointed in my level of Japanese, I live in a homogeneous society and I yearn for diversity, traveling now makes me ache to escape and the one person I feel I can share all these feelings with uncensored is on a completely different continent in another hemisphere.

Before I came here, a friend told me not to change. I’ve since found that to be an absolute impossibility. Living here has increased my tendency towards anxiety. I don’t want to meet new people, I don’t want to face new situations, I don’t want to be outgoing. New things stress me out on a whole new level than ever before. I just want to hide in a comfort zone.

Sometimes I wish *I* could be a metal man...

It probably sounds like a lot of complaining, or culture shock, or whatever. To be clear, I absolutely appreciate the opportunities I’ve had in Japan, and I don’t regret my decisions at all, but one can’t expect to live in such a different country than their own and not be affected to some extent.

Which is what causes me the most worry: that I will go back home and people will see the changes and not accept them or not like them or won’t be able to deal with them. Of course, I am happy with the person I have become, but to a certain extent it comes at the cost of others’ pride and faith in me. It’s really hard to disappoint so many people you love for the first time ever in life in such a short time, especially when it’s the first time you’ve been truly happy in a long while. How can you explain that?

Despite all of this, I am looking forward to going home. I love my family and I miss my friends. I just hope that everything turns out positively in the end. I’ve got less than four months left over here and though I’ll be more than happy to leave, it will still be with a bit of sadness for all the good experiences and personal growth this stint in Japan has given me.

Saying Goodbye

17 Jan

My flight back “home” is tomorrow morning and I have so many feelings about my departure.  I feel happy that I will be getting back to my own apartment, sadness that I’m leaving the baby and my family…  That I won’t be able to see her get older and start walking and talking.  I feel regret about not being able to see a few friends I wanted to see before leaving.  I feel apprehensive and excited about getting back into the swing of things at school… starting a new semester trying to teach some kids, trying to work with a teacher who don’t seem to like me too much or at least doesn’t know the meaning of the words “team teaching”.

I think I’m just ready to get things back to normal.  It’s funny that after five months I feel like this has become my “normal” even though I’m still not used to climbing up and down five flights every day.  And I’m still not used to the trek up from the train station.  And I’m still not used to people gawking at me each and every place I go.  And I’m even still not used to the different foods I’m eating everyday.

I guess I’ve already become used to  hearing people all around me speak Japanese instead of Spanish/Chinese/Vietnamese/Tagalog/etc.  I’ve become used to studying Kanji daily.  I’m used to sleeping on a futon.  I’m used to taking three days to dry my clothes enough to wear them… they’re never fully dry, just “not too wet.”  I like living in Japan… for now.  I’ve embraced the differences for the most part.

I’m going home tomorrow and I guess I’m just excited and ready to get back to life as usual.

You Can’t Go Home Again, I Guess

12 Jan

I’ve been looking forward to visiting home for a while now.  I wasn’t around for the birth of the baby and I was excited to see the little bundle of life that was created inside of and birthed from my sister.  I was excited to see my parents.  I was excited to see my siblings who understand me like no one else.  I don’t know what happened, but when I got here, I felt so different.

I’ve been in Kobe for just 5 months now, but coming back I feel like an outsider.  Not from any negative feelings or sentiments from family; by no means.  Everyone seems so excited to have me back for a visit, but…. I dunno.  I can’t really put it into words, but I feel a little like I don’t belong.  Even more, I feel uncomfortable.

I wonder, have things really changed so much in my life that I feel like I’m on the outside looking in?  Is it because so much has happened while I’ve been gone that I feel out of the loop?  Is it that I’ve created a different world or part of my life that is completely separate from that of my family and I’m just not used to that experience?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family with my life; but I don’t know if the decisions I’ve made or will continue to make with my life will push me further away from them.  When a belief is not just a part of your personal thinking, but most of your cultural experience, what happens when you change things up a bit?

They will probably love me no matter what, but for me it casts a bit of a shadow over all the exciting visit.  Now, there is also apprehension and doubt.

I think I will try to just push all these thoughts aside and sort them when I go back to Japan; if that is even possible.

It’s also hard because I don’t have an outside person to talk to, not so much here in California.  The strongest non-familial relations I have right now are all in Kobe… on a 17-hour time difference, with school schedules and roaming charges to think about.

Yay 2009… this feels a bit like a punch in the emotional gut.

2008… What Did You DO To Me?!?!

29 Dec

I don’t know if any year of my life has ever been so epic and life-changing.  I was looking over the blogs from the past year and I can’t recall any other time in my life that has been as epic as these as these last twelve months.

In January my Grandmother was diagnosed with bone cancer and after a few months of caring for her weekly, she passed at the end of April this year.  My sister learned she was pregnant and the baby was born in October.  I had also heard from the JET programme about my application just before beginning my last semester of college.

In February I interviewed with JET and both my brother and Grandfather were in and out of the hospital a few times.  March was kind of quiet aside from working on school projects and trying to learn Japanese while I was still waiting to hear back from the JET programme about my interview… that was agonizing.  Oh yeah, and we moved.  I hate moving.

In April I found out I was accepted into JET and just two weeks later my Grandmother passed away.  I drove cross-country three days to attend the funeral.  I also found out the baby would be a girl.  In May I finished my final project for school and graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree after what seemed like forever.

In June I just spent time with family and in July I spent countless hours staring into my closet figuring out what to bring to Japan.  I had a going away party and in August I moved to Japan.  The last four months of the year have been an absolute whirlwind.  I’ve picked up a lot of Japanese already, I’ve met lots of great people, and have traveled to several places across the country.

Nara, Japan

Nara, Japan

I’ve had many firsts this year, like a great leap in feeling independent and having a disposable income.  2008 made me feel death, life, divorce, ridiculous drama, knowledge, growth, accomplishment, fear, apprehension, shame, pride… and love.

If this next year is anything like the one that’s coming to a close; I should prepare to get my socks rocked off.  So let’s get ready to eat some mochi, drink some sake (everyone else… not me), and ring the temple bells into the Year of the Cow!

Me in Hiroshima

Have a Very Merry

25 Dec

It’s Christmas here in Japan… well… what’s left of it anyway.  At 11:30pm Christmas is pretty much over; especially in a country that loves the commercial aspect of the holiday and believes it is celebrated with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas cakes.

I don’t even know what a “Christmas Cake” is; all I know is that when I asked my students what they wanted for Christmas, several of them said Christmas Cake.  I don’t know what type of cake is used for Christmas here in Japan: chocolate, fruit, rum… I have absolutely no clue.

I do know that this Christmas has been kind of weird and a little lonely, even.  I mean, it hasn’t been completely lonely… I got to spend an early Christmas with a family and have a turkey dinner and play some Mario Kart on the Nintendo Wii with a set of gorgeous and absolutely amusing children… but having to work on Christmas (because I couldn’t justify to myself taking paid-leave to sit in my apartment all day alone) and then come home to a lonely apartment with no music, no family, no comfort foods… it was chotto tough.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket, though.  I will admit that I did get a nice little mini-vacation the weekend before Christmas, and I will be going home on the 9th for a visit with family, so I don’t have too much be negative about especially since school is out for vacation and (because of my trip home) I won’t have to teach until late January.  That’s a nice feeling.

So, Merry Merry; Happy and the like.  Spend time with the ones you love.  =D

Barebones

14 Nov

I will update soon, I’ve been really tired lately, or not in the blogging state-of-mind if you understand.

Here’s a barebones update:

  • My birthday was last Tuesday, it was pretty cool.  I went to Kyoto with my Ni-Nensei students (7th graders)
  • I got a package in the mail from home, thanks Mom!
  • I might not go home to visit in January as planned because my sister, her husband, and baby Gabby may be in Antigua for half the time I want to come home. My opinion: it’s almost pointless to come if the baby won’t be there. Almost.
  • The temperature here is playfully dipping between winter colds and autumn warms on an almost daily basis.  I’m afraid for the winter that’s around the corner… my first one with snow.
  • I’m getting along really well with my teachers and students.
  • Some other JETs from San Francisco will be coming to visit next weekend.  I’m excited.
  • I would have to take a paid day off to avoid working on Christmas.  I just might do it because that might be too hard for me to handle – working on Christmas, no family around, not being home, etc.

So… yeah. Hopefully I shall return soon.