During my final month in Japan, my friends kept asking, “What will you miss most?” I always struggled to come up with an answer because I wasn’t sure. I had a feeling I’d miss certain things like how polite everyone is, or having my own apartment, but I didn’t really know. I’d answer that I’d miss the food. Which is definitely true. Japanese food should be hailed as some of the most delicious food in the world. I’m not just talking about succulent sashimi or scrumptious sushi – but every single meal I had prepared by Japanese people was amazing. Maybe there’s a part of Japan that has less delicious food, but I wouldn’t believe it. I sort of wish I was exaggerating. It’s a great place for a cook - the grocery store is filled with wonderfully fresh ingredients! I miss frying up tentacles. So good!
While the food was phenomenal, I ended up missing something a little more subtle. I miss the cleanliness. Japan is fucking clean. Yes, an expletive was necessary. The only comparable place is probably Germany, but I wouldn’t know. I’ve just heard tales of its cleanliness. Which I’m sure are true, however Japan as I know it, is the cleanest place in the world. Damn. They sweep, and scrub, and wash everything daily it seems. Sometimes the streets would smell like bleach. I’m not kidding. I watched people prune trees, meticulously sweep sidewalks, and of course always remove shoes indoors. Garbage didn’t seem to exist. You can’t even find garbage cans – no joke. Ask anyone who’s lived there, you’re lucky if a convenience store has one.
Japan is beautifully, magically clean. It’s my sort of paradise. I believe in keeping things clean and organized. Apparently, they’re on board with that. When I returned to my hometown, what immediately sprung to mind was how dirty everything and everyone looked. I felt grossed out actually. I feel sort of bad about my reaction, but it was unexpected for me. I took for granted how absolutely picture-perfect everything is in Japan. People painstakingly keep their clothes tidy, and nothing ever looks out of place. Men and women in suits, children in uniforms, and even people dressed in casual attire appear freshly washed and pressed. In Canada – more specifically my blue collar hometown, people seem to wear just about anything. Ripped sweat pants and a t-shirt dappled with paint are acceptable clothes to wear in public. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I have to say I was a little spoiled. Even farmers in rural Japan didn’t appear out of place.
As an aside, the real reason Japanese people and the community at large appears so immaculate is due to their fear of offending anyone – or for that matter, bothering anyone. Seriously. They can’t even imagine intruding. It would be the worst, most horrible thing (another thing I have in common). Well, apparently my sensibilities became tailored to that environment and when I returned I…turned my nose up at it. I laugh at it now because it seems silly but it’s good to reflect in complete honesty.
So I miss the artfully clean streets of Japan, and the perfectly done up pedestrians – what else do I miss? I miss my apartment – as tiny as it was. It was my place. I ate what I wanted, came and went like I pleased, and on top of everything, had a sense of freedom and independence I’ve never known before. My family was in another country, but they might as well have been on another planet. I had no obligations outside of work. It was different. Now that I’m back home, things have more or less reverted back to the way things were.
What else do I miss? My friends, my students, the local grocery store, the 7-11 with my favourite clerk, washing and hanging clothes (oddly enough)…I miss my life there. My imaginary, brief life on another planet across the ocean. I had another identity, I was a different person. I became a person that enjoyed teaching children and adolescents. I should reiterate, I definitely miss some of my students (and others I'm all too happy it was the last time).
Thinking about how I miss everything now really makes me realize how ignorant I was before. I took the simple things for granted, and assumed I'd just be happy to be home. Which, don't get me wrong, I'm happy - but I can't help lament over the conclusion to a chapter.
I've finally returned to Canada!
One of the oddest feelings after returning from Japan has been finding a few little things that I had left behind but intended to take with me. Nothing too significant, but for some reason I immediately believe that if I had brought the thing with me – perhaps it would have rendered my entire experience more positively, and with that I feel a gripping sadness. An emotion of such proportions that in order for my ego to deal with moving, my mind imagines that it’s nothing but a faded dream. I have literally sat in silence, wondering if I had ever lived in Japan at all. A ridiculous thought that simply bewilders me to no end, but it also feels the most true.
If one day I “wake up” to find that I have been living in an asylum, and somehow had been convinced of my delusions, well I wouldn’t exactly be surprised. I might be mildly startled. “Oh? All a figment of my imagination? Some sort of strange fantasy? You think I would have imagined something better…” That’s when the psychiatrist or what-have-you would explain that when my parents visited, I pretended to be skyping them. “They went along with everything – for your sake,” the psychiatrist might say. I’d simply nod – maybe yawn, “Makes sense”.
I suppose part of the reason I could believe it’s all just a fantastical and mundane story, is that no one acknowledges that it happened. Yes, upon my return they told me I was missed, but when I tried to share some of my experiences – I found an odd thing happen. People would avert their attention and talk about something else. At first it made sense to me – if I was the other person, I might be annoyed or bored by stories of some far off land I’ve never been to – it’s a possibility. Then it just started to feel weirder. I realized that no one really wanted to hear about it. So I’ve kept to myself largely, only casually bringing up a comparison now and then. That’s when people make the obligatory “Hm!” sound, like they just heard something interesting.
Now I know that by confessing these feelings I might appear vain or self centered. One might be inclined to roll their eyes, but from my perspective I travelled to another planet and completely transformed myself. I want to share my traumas, my heartache, my discoveries, and moments of absolute delight! I want to share with the people I love and care about. Yet, I sense a wall every time I broach the topic. I generally try and avoid it altogether for that reason. All of this affirms my odd belief that it was all make believe.
Then I remembered something else. Their lives have changed too. They lived their lives while I was gone. They weren’t put on hold – stuff happened. They saw movies, celebrated events, suffered tragedies…these things happened without me. There was a literal distance between me and everyone back in Canada. In a sense, I asked for a break. “Look, it’s not you, it’s me. I know we’ve had some fun times. And I haven’t stopped loving you…but, I need some time and space. I need to grow as a person. I just think this would be better – for both of us.” Canada then nodded and swallowed hard, wanting to believe it was for the better when all it could taste was the salty tears of abandonment.
I apologize. I let myself get carried away with theatrics.
After a long time of mulling things over, I remembered that there is one place where I may vent inexhaustibly and some people might even listen. A beautiful, wonderful place – you may have heard of it before. The internet. That’s right, “the”. As in, the one and only.
From now on, I'll be updating my website daily with one story or another from my time in Japan! (Maybe other stuff too...) Look forward to it!
March 5, 2013
Information session on teaching English abroad (conveniently located at my alma mater).
September 2, 2013
I officially complete my 100 hour course on teaching English as a second language, and receive my TESOL/TESL/TEFL certification.
September 18, 2013
I attain a federal criminal record check (with photo and fingerprints) in order to apply to a range of companies.
September 17, 2013 - March 20, 2014 (185 Days*)
Struggling job hunt rages war on my time, and emotions.
March 21, 2014
I'm contacted by numerous Japanese companies, including one long phone call discussing my goals and intentions. I'm asked to consider the position thoroughly, then contact them after I've made a decision.
March 24, 2014
I officially register with the company's website and await a reply. I immediately receive a call back and continue with an interview over the phone before proceeding further. I'm informed that I will need to send a scanned passport photo/signature page along with my university degree, a professional looking photo, and a minimum of 3 reference letters (2 work and 1 character). On top of that, I must complete a grammar quiz, and fill out a questionnaire consisting of various work related questions and an essay.
April 10, 2014
I discuss my upcoming decisions about deciding between jobs in a blog post.
April 24, 2014
I receive my final reference letter from my university Japanese professor. I immediately send it to DJ and finish that part of the hiring process.
July 10, 2014
My father drives me to Calgary, Alberta to visit the Japanese Consulate. They approve my work visa and instruct me on the immigration process after entering Japan.
July 16, 2014
As part of the final, official step for moving to Japan - I visit my doctor for a note declaring a clean bill of health.
July 21, 2014
I receive my work visa in the mail.
August 14 - 16, 2014
My plane leaves for Japan. There are stops in Vancouver, Canada and Taipei, Taiwan before landing in Nagoya, Japan.
August 18, 2014
A two week orientation begins, instructing new employees on curriculum and method.
In my previous post I mentioned being grilled by a Japanese company for a position as an ESL teacher. I've been in constant contact with a representative from the company and after completing a questionnaire, essay and grammar test, along with submitting two references, and a copy of my degree and passport - I finally have an answer. While it is conditional on submitting a third reference, the representative told me she is 99.99% certain she was going to hire me. She wants me to start looking for flights to Toronto for orientation day. My tentative start date is August 18. I told her I would be more comfortable with waiting until it was official. I won't have the third reference until next week, so at least it gives me some time.
Time? Time for what? Well, last Friday (April 4) I had an interview with another possible employer who hires in Quebec (technically a government job). The interview was really successful - it was comfortable, I answered the questions professionally and there was chemistry with the interviewer. He said he would give me an excellent recommendation but it was ultimately up to the employer in Quebec whether they wanted to hire me or not. It's for a position as a language assistant and it would be very similar to the Japanese job. They'll take longer to reply with an answer so I'm hoping that I hear back from them before I send in my third reference, and confirm my position with the Japanese employer. If I was offered a position in Quebec, it might change my mind. Staying in Canada and learning French has other advantages.
While that's going on, I received an e-mail yesterday from yet another employer. I applied for a media relations/communications job months ago, and finally I hear back with: "After an initial review of your application, you are currently in the group of remaining candidates being considered". I just stared at those words. Then they asked me to complete a 40+ minute questionnaire. What is with employers and questionnaires? Anyway, I thought, why not? So I completed the questionnaire, and now I'm waiting to hear back. Yeah - that's right - three potential employers all at once. I didn't see this coming.
I've spent months and months scouring around for a job. Applying to as many as I could and hearing only negative responses in return. I was beginning to think that I was un-hirable. I was actually settling in with that attitude - thinking about completely throwing myself in to my writing and forgetting about a conventional job. Which was a painful concept to accept since being broke sucks. You still need money to subsist as a writer. Now I'm suddenly in a position with at least one guaranteed job and a possibility of two others. If I do hear back from either or both, then I honestly don't know what I'll do.
Each job has its positives and negatives, and they're all in different places. One in Japan, one in Quebec and one locally. While I will be confronted with some difficult decisions, I also know that I've wanted to live in Japan ever since I was a little girl. I've been in love with Japanese culture for as long as I can remember. This is a dream opportunity that may never knock again. I could say the same about the Quebec opportunity but the reality is I may never have the chance to work in Japan again. The only thing really holding me back is the trusted words of my third reference. It's my Japanese professor from university - we met again last year at my boyfriend's work Christmas party. It was like fate. Anyway, she said her friend worked for the same company and had a really negative experience. I'm waiting to hear back why she had problems - if it was related to the employer directly in some way, I may have to reconsider.
Anyway, I clearly have some upcoming decisions. Either way, things will change in a big way. What's really exciting, is that I'll have the opportunity to share my experiences with my readers. For now, it's a wait-and-see game.
Class began at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. Perhaps 9:00 a.m. doesn't sound so terrible however that means I woke up at 6:40 a.m. on Saturday morning. Not exactly ideal especially since I stayed up late Friday night. At one point during the class I was having a hard time staying awake but I pulled it back together and got my second wind.
So how did the first class go? It went fine. It was quite typical of an introductory class. We were shown marking rubrics, discussed how we would be assessed and what would happen if we didn't pass the practicum. Apparently you can simply return and do your practicum over, without any additional fees or the need to take extra classes. However if you miss more than four hours, you automatically fail and have to take the course over. Again, there are no additional fees and you can come back when you're ready. Quite fair really.
The teacher also discussed in length what sort of cultural changes to expect and the necessity to be flexible and adapt. She emphasized the importance of the journey and how the experiences shape you into a new person. Most importantly, she expressed enthusiasm at the idea of exploring the world and taking the opportunity when it presents itself. She said, "Usually opportunity only knocks once. If it knocks twice, the second time will be ten years later and you'll regret not taking it before".
I believe she's absolutely right. I'm most pleased that she is quite even handed when discussing the reality of travelling to another country; it's both intensely rewarding and challenging. Perhaps it's the challenge that makes it so rewarding.
I am excited and anxious and nervous and worried and happy and I can't wait. I want to travel to a faraway place and live somewhere new. Do something new. Become something new. I need this for me. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and see the world in a whole new light.
The instructor shared many, many anecdotes about her 7 years as an ESL teacher in Korea. They were quite enlightening. One really interesting anecdote was the reason she chose to live in Korea. She wanted to pick somewhere far enough that she couldn't swim back. She explained that she didn't want to be able to use a crutch to fall back on and return home early. She wanted to stay there and make it work, no matter what. I truly admire that. She commented that if you give yourself something to fall back on, you inevitably use it. She's right. The moment you say to yourself, "I can just return home if I want," you're really saying, "I already gave up".
I don't want to give up. I want to do my best, even if that means struggling along the way. Tomorrow is my second ESL class and I'm looking forward to it. Another step closer to my dream. Another step closer to Paris.
My entire life I've yearned to explore and travel the world. I wanted to do more than travel the world in fact, I wanted to leave it entirely! I desperately dreamed of being an astronaut.
For the past several months (more accurately, for the past several years) I've been seriously considering my options for world travel. Presently I don't have the money to pay for some sort of lavish vacation so I thought to myself there must be some other way. Then it hit me. Maybe I could do what others have done and teach English overseas.
Such a wild thought! I mean, to think of travelling abroad to an unknown country in order to teach English to people who speak a foreign language. It would be nerve wracking to say the least! However it would also be an adventure.
An adventure. I have always imagined going on an adventure. To travel to some sort of distant land and meet strange, new people. To eat unusual food and see fantastic things. It's everything I've dreamed of. Not to mention all the experiences I could gather and use in my writing.
Before my break-up, I never thought it was a legitimate option. Now it doesn't matter. I can be free to do what I like! I really was trapped. Given the option of freedom, I want to fly away to another country and live there instead!
So I registered for a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) Certification course and it starts in June. I'm very excited. It takes about a month or so to finish and then I can start looking for work! I still haven't decided where I'd like to go yet. Here's a list of some of the countries I'm considering:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
If I really had to narrow it down, I'd have to say that I'm probably leaning more towards Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. I think the sort of cultures present in those countries might be something I can enjoy. Especially France. Okay, maybe I partially have my mind made up. I just need to do more research.
I would have said Japan was my number one choice however I am all too aware of Japanese culture. It is quite patriarchal, racist and sexist. Not really something I like. I prefer people to be equal. Although I do speak some amount of Japanese. My Japanese is probably just as good as my French. Very basic.
Anyway, I will keep you updated. Especially in June! I can't wait to start!
I know that I haven't been updating as frequently as I should but due to present circumstances, I've been overwhelmed by a myriad of conflicts.
I thought as a courtesy for my readers and as a cathartic gesture for myself, I would share a little about what's going on in my life presently.
My relationship of over three years has ended. As I've mentioned before on a previous post, "If you love someone, you must let them go". I can say in all honesty that I will always love them but I can also say that we're not meant to be together. At first I had a hard time accepting it but I suppose that's rather normal. Eventually I realized that it was much better to be apart than together. A sad lesson to learn, I suppose but a necessary one. Everyone deserves to be happy, whatever that means. Sometimes that means you have to break up.
I feel lucky in a number of ways. One of them being that I don't hate them. I can truly say that my love for them is unconditional. I also feel lucky that they said what they did and ended things when they realized they didn't love me. I don't want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't love me. That would be doing a great injustice to both parties involved.
Now that I'm single again I can honestly say I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I have my wings back and I'm no longer trapped in a tiny cage. Despite admitting to a few close confidants and the pages of my diary that I was unhappy in my relationship and wanted to leave, I could never seem to admit those feelings to myself. I kept denying them. I wanted to believe I was happy because I loved them. Yet I think we all know that at some point those buried feelings will surface, again and again. I would just take it out in my diary. I looked back on things I'd previously written and I realized how tortured I felt. I never felt loved and perhaps that truly was the case.
If someone is unhappy with themselves, they'll never be happy with someone else. Love or no love, it's not going to make a difference. I desperately wanted to believe that if I loved hard enough that I could make someone happy but I forgot the key to happiness, "Only you can make you happy". Any effort on my part was sadly futile.
My relationship was like living in a barren, arctic wasteland. Every day I sat trapped in an icy cavern and I desperately tried to think of ways to manifest some warmth. I hoped that my own body heat would reverberate back to me, yet I was unaware of the many drafts that sucked out every last bit of heat and only made me colder. Sometimes the wind was so fierce that it howled through the small crevices and sounded like voices, then I didn't feel so alone. Over time, without my acknowledgement, the cavern's structure began to fail. One day the ceiling collapsed and exposed a bright, blue sky. I stared, uncertain. What was out there? I hesitated, comfortable with the familiar. At least I knew the cavern but I could not remember the sky. So I tried to stay. The entire cavern began to collapse around me, surrounding me with rubble. Some pieces hit me, bruising my tender body. Without another thought, I ran. I lifted my head towards the sky and raced for the only exit. I climbed furiously over remnants and finally reached the top. I closed my eyes and jumped. I expected my body to fall briefly before meeting an early demise. Yet I was lifted. Higher and higher, into the brilliant blue firmament and into the reaches of the sun. The warmth enveloped my body and suddenly my memory was restored. Flashes of a life long forgotten pressed on me. I forgot that I could just fly away. For a brief moment I looked down to the cavern. It had been completely destroyed. I had escaped with my life and I was grateful.
Over a month ago (and probably a bit longer than that), I woke up in the middle of the night from the loud sound of a thud. I reached over and felt my night table to see what fell. It was my phone. I didn't want to find it later so I looked over the side of my bed and saw it on the floor. Immediately I bent over to pick it up and somehow in my slightly awake state, after scooping it up in my hands, I raised my head to hit the steel arm of a treadmill.
It's a sturdy treadmill.
My whole vision went black and I doubled over. Then I saw stars and tried to sit back in bed. I started crying audibly, the pain was tremendous. It was the worst head pain I've ever experienced. I tried to calm down and wish the pain away but it was terrible.
Then I did what I probably shouldn't have done and went to sleep.
Lucky for me I woke up. Then I realized there was something wrong with my vision. In my left eye there was a large, flashing square. I tried to blink it away but it continued. I rubbed my eyes, I shook my head, I blinked again but nothing would make it leave. It was horribly distracting. It made it difficult to even look at a monitor and unfortunately I spend most of the day doing that.
Eventually it got smaller and smaller until I had believed it went away. Then one day, something came back. In my left eye, in just the periphery there was a spot of constant flashing. As if the scene was being replaced over and over.
I was forced to finally call my doctor. I sent up an appointment immediately and visited her. She took a look but realized she couldn't see the problem. So she sent me to an optometrist to dilate my pupil and get a closer look. I made the appointment for the same day. The optometrist did a number of tests to try and get a clear idea of what was happening. Then he sat down with me and admitted that he needed a second opinion. So he's sending me to an opthamologist.
I do have some good news, I think. The optometrist said he didn't see any retinal tearing or detachment. So that's something. However, he was uncertain because I was experiencing persistent, pervasive symptoms. He did suggest as an alternative that it might be that my vitreous (liquid-y, gel-like substance covering eye) was pulling slightly at my eye. It's kind of like when you rub your eyelids and you see spots of light (phosphene).
Of course I'm a little freaked out. It's the whole reason I avoided talking to a doctor for a long time. I know that's the opposite of what you're "supposed to do" but I don't want to be an alarmist. Trust me when I say that I'm anxious enough for 1000 people (or maybe more). Luckily I do apply occam's razor, so I can use logic to reason with myself. Usually whatever symptoms I experience can be rationally explained but this was one of those times I was better off seeing a doctor.
I think there's a lesson in that somewhere. Visit your doctor if symptoms persist (I sound like a pharmaceutical ad on television). Or maybe it's more along the lines like, never take anything for granted. I truly didn't realize how important my vision was to me until I had this strange periphery flashing. I already wear glasses (gasp) and I guess I didn't appreciate how easily our bodies can change and leave us unprepared. I find everyday I'm more and more grateful for everything I'm able to experience with my relatively healthy body.
Edit: I saw the opthamologist and he said my eye looked healthy. Apparently it really should go away on its own. That's probably not something a doctor should say to someone like me since I avoid visiting a doctor . . .but. . . my eye is "okay". That's good news. The only bad news is that my eye still flashes. I hope it goes away soon. Seriously? There was nothing they could do? Oy!
I mentioned on a previous post (Life and Death) that I would discuss the meaning of life as I saw it. Many people have attempted theories before me including Monty Python. I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring and let you in on my theory.
If this topic makes you uncomfortable then I suggest stopping right here. Although seriously, I imagine other things probably make you uncomfortable too if that's the case. Regardless of your sensibilities, I am continuing. If I were you I'd read anyway just to satisfy my curiosity. After all, you don't have to believe anything I say. It's just my own theory.
The simplest I can describe my beliefs regarding life is fate. I believe in destiny. I suppose that sounds rather corny, doesn't it? I've thought long and hard about this and I've come to a conclusion I feel satisfied with.
I'm sure at some point in your life you've been in a situation that appears completely random. Perhaps unpredictable. You're so certain that something so bizarre could not happen that in fact it did.
Anyone could sit back and look at life as a series of random events. Perhaps indeed they are. It is my opinion however that there are no accidents. That's right, no accidents and no coincidences. To me, everything happens for a reason.
What does this have to do with the meaning of life? If there are no accidents then life is indeed fateful. It means we're all destined to a particular set of experiences. If that's the case then perhaps the meaning of life is intrinsically tied to fate.
I believe that as interconnected beings of energy we are on a collective journey. What sort of journey? A journey of spiritual growth. Our experiences help shape and define who we are as individuals but more importantly these experiences assist our "soul" growth as well. In much broader, more accurate terms, these experiences not only affect the individual but the collective (the ball of energy I described before). While assuming these physical bodies,
each sensation, each emotion, every hardship or thought is funneled into the collective consciousness. The collective consciousness has been described in multiple ways by many people. I believe that due to the interconnectedness of nature that everything we know, think and feel is gathered together. We are constantly tapped into this consciousness whether we realize it or not. It breathes inspiration and ideas into our minds. This consciousness is crucial in helping us grow by sharing our experiences and serves to remind us that we're not alone.
Destiny provides us with the necessary catalysts to grow in new ways. In the grand scheme of things, the physical body only provides the required vehicle for experiencing fateful events. It is through the limits of these bodies that we come to understand the nature of the universe and ourselves.
To sum up, we are interconnected beings of energy placed in limited physical bodies in order to experience destined events that help us progress together as a "ball of energy".
Sounds silly, doesn't it? Maybe it is. Maybe it's absurd. It doesn't really matter, after all these are just the musings of one person (more correctly, the collective consciousness). So thanks to everyone who helped me form this theory.
After much deliberation I've decided there are going to be some changes to the website. This is just the short and sweet version:
1) A brand new art gallery showcasing photos and drawings
2) Instead of Storytime Sunday, I will be replacing it with a brand new segment
Please do not worry, Storytime Sunday will remain as it is but for various reasons I will no longer be making contributions to it. There will be a whole new addition to the website. As of right now I'm still in the process of organizing and preparing my website for the new changes.
I will keep you updated! In the meantime, please fill out a brief 5 question survey.
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