Fresh Out of the Shower 1 Year Later

tsukuba udon

Lunch at the top of Mt. Tsukuba

Fresh out of the shower one year later, physically I feel clean but mentally I am a mess. That’s nothing new. Summer is behind us now, and autumn is underway. Lately, the weather has been ideal → 70s, sunny, and low humidity. There should be a name for this short window of time in between summer and autumn. I’m thinking of calling it bliss. Let me know what you think. Anyway, in case you’re wondering, I still haven’t sprung for any type of cooling device instead just opting to leave the windows open to air out the house and mooch off of air-conditioned stores and cafes. I AM looking into getting a room heater though as I’ve been told it gets much colder in Tokyo than in the south of Japan. I’ll keep you posted.

Last year when I first arrived in Japan I wrote about how my Nagasaki apartment felt temporary. Every time I came back from a weekend trip or even a day at work, it felt like I was simply coming home to a storage space. The apartment didn’t feel like mine mostly because I wasn’t allowed to hang anything on the walls, and the place was decorated with a hodgepodge of cheap furniture. On top of that, the walls were so thin that I could hear my neighbor’s talking on the phone or their TVs and music blaring throughout the day and night. In that way, it was like living with roommates. It never felt like a space I looked forward going back to every day.

My new apartment feels like home. When I came back from my recent trip to Sapporo, I stepped into the entranceway, took a deep breath, and exhaled “Oh my god, it feels so good to be home.” Here I have a color scheme (brown and earthy greens) and matching curtains that pull all of my furniture and carpet into one cohesive dwelling. It is a spacious and quiet sanctuary I can come home to and relax at the end of the day. The best part is that this place feels more permanent. It feels like I’m going to be here for a while, and I love that. I still have to step lightly across the hardwood floors so I don’t disturb my downstairs neighbor, but this apartment, this space is definitely my home.

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Originally, this was going to be a reflections post about everything I’ve learned over the past year living as an expat in Japan, teaching English, overcoming grief and darkness, but when I sat down to write, the words weren’t coming to me. Part of the reason is because I still haven’t slowed down enough to let the past year properly sink in. Another part of it is that I already feel so far removed from my old life in Nagasaki though I remain ever nostalgic that it was and always will be my first home in Japan. One day the words will come and when they do, I will be sure to honor my fresh start in Japan in writing. What I HAVE been thinking about is how I came to Japan as an amateur English teacher and now I am a full-time student of the Japanese language. Interesting, isn’t it?

I’ve only just finished week 2 at Japanese Language School, and so far, it has proved to be the challenge I’ve been looking for. In class, there is a lot of emphasis on speaking, listening, and learning kanji all of which are my greatest weaknesses. The school selection and application process was a real headache, but it turned out to be worth it. I’m really happy with my choice, and I’m looking forward to all the ways school will help me build my confidence. My teachers are all really animated, understanding, and some more strict than others. They teach in such a way that is easy to understand like using a lot of gestures, role plays, simple vocabulary, and repetition. Together with my classmates and teachers, we’ve created a dynamic environment where it is safe to make mistakes by helping correct each other’s speaking and entertaining each other with our answers to the teachers’ questions. Recently I’ve been feeling like I really need something to break me in half or shake up my world to let in new light, wisdom, and direction. My time in school will help me get to that point, I’m sure of it.

So here’s to year 2. I’m just as nervous and excited as I was when I first moved to Japan, but I shall remain open to whatever challenges and opportunities are presented to me. I’m ready to be torn apart, stitched back up, and grow in even more tremendous ways. Come what may.

Cheers!

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