JET Blog #1: I’ve been here for 4 months and…

I’ve been here for 4 months and this is the first written documentation I have attempted to make about my life here. (bar poetry scribbles, instagram posts, facebook statuses)

I’ve been here for 4 months and you’d think I would make a huge post chronicling my progression since July until now. But this post may not be so long.

The truth is, I don’t have that many blogworthy things to say!

I have been to some cool restaurants. I have had some fun days at work. I buy a lot of cool clothes. I’m getting fat. I play Splatoon entirely too much for my own good.

(plug: if you *are* interested seeing what my day to day life is like, my instagram *is* a much more convenient way for you to do so: @bradlybee)

So in that case, I hope I can offer you something a little different here. Some perspectives. Some anecdotes. Some universal truths and earth-shattering revelations. Ready?

1. “Culture shock” is misleading.

Culture shock: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Sometimes you are taken by surprise at a particular cultural quirk, or maybe something is just a pain in the butt to get used to. But (I apologize if this sounds harsh) to be “shocked” or “disoriented” by another culture is to understate the very fact that they are another culture. How can you be shocked by differences you ought to expect? Anticipate a different way of life, because that is reality.

Even having said that, Japan is a first world developed nation. So, it’s not ~that~ different. I can (and do) order Domino’s almost every week. I can pay my rent online. Public transportation is world class. This is Tokyo. So sure, you’ll be surprised or even annoyed by little differences in behavior, mannerisms, customs, etc, but please don’t be shocked.

Call me an asshole, but in an age where we can learn about anything by Googling it, it’s hard to be shocked anymore. Actually, the hardest thing for me to adjust to about Japan isn’t even about Japan at all:

2. Loneliness

And I am at least partially to blame for this. I probably don’t put forth the effort to meet people. I probably have a negative view of people in general which deters me from the majority of social opportunities. Maybe I expect too much attention from the people I know.

In any case, I was not prepared to spend so much time alone. I have whole weeks where I will not see another person outside of work. Sometimes I try to make plans, but I’m not close enough (physically or emotionally) to the people I ask for me to expect them to follow through. So lately, I have been trying  (mostly failing) to accept loneliness, and see the positives to it. It’s hard.

Back home, I cherished my alone time. It was awesome. So I thought it wouldn’t be so hard here. The fact is (in my case), I always had the *option* to not be alone, so I never felt truly isolated. Cool hangs were just a facebook message away. It was commonplace.

Now, social interactions are something of a treat. And solitude is the default setting. I have to make plans way in advance, and they have to be worth your while. It’s not enough to say “let’s hang.” My company isn’t sufficient.

Anyway, this is my experience so far. I’m certain this isn’t true for everyone. I hope I can make some changes.

3. Some students suck

Oh, man, this should be in red bold font in the General Information Handbook.

Just kidding. I really should have seen it coming, but I was too busy marveling over how great all of my students are and how much they all like me to see that some of them.. don’t. So, story time.

Maybe a month or two ago, three girls began running away from me whenever they saw me. (It wasn’t just like, moving to a different room, it was making a scene, screaming and darting up the stairs). Because they always made a scene out of it, I tried to ask them numerous times why they always do that, and to not do it so loudly. But they always ran away instead of speaking to me.

One day, two weeks ago, they came to my office and asked to see me. They said to come with them, so we went to the main entrance to the building. They joined hands and wanted me to repeat something that they said in Japanese (it was very loud, fast, and 3 voices, so I never understood what it was). Confused, I asked them to explain to me what they were wanting me to say, but instead, one girl pulled out her phone and began recording me, wanting me to say it again.

I was very put off by this (obviously), so I took the issue to my supervisor who said he would discuss it with them and discipline as necessary.

It turned out that they had expressed some grievances to my supervisor which they were unwilling to tell me earlier on. So, this week, we met in the counseling office for them to make an apology for recording me and for me to listen to what they had to say.

What they had to say was that I make them feel uncomfortable, they don’t like it when I am near them, and that I should stay away. I started crying in front of my students and my supervisor. It was the first time I really felt completely unwanted. I (still) don’t know why they feel that way. It could be as simple as teenage immaturity, or it could be Japanese racism, or maybe I’m just obnoxious. Maybe they have troubled home lives and feel the need to take it out on others. It doesn’t really matter. The lesson learned is that you’re not going to be liked by everyone, and in fact you may be actively avoided by some.

It was a learning experience that I hope no one else has to go through in such a blunt and upsetting way. I know it’s unrealistic to expect to be liked by everyone. But it just never occurred to me. I love my school. My students (minus those three) are all sweet and kind and funny. I honestly just had my head in the clouds.

Anyway, it might seem obvious. But if you are ever thinking about teaching, don’t be blindsided. You’re in a building of 800 different people. Surely some of them don’t want you there. But you are.

—————–

Sorry to end the post on such a down note. I just wanted to offer a story that’s a little different (and more realistic) than the typical “JET is great!”

JET IS great. But it’s a job like any other. And I still have a lot of learning to do.

Dunno when my next post will be, but if you’ve read this far, give me some feedback! I thrive on feedback.

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Introversion and social media.

I’ve been pretty quiet about things lately, most notably the Ferguson killing and the following uprising. My silence was brought to my attention by this article, which suggests that my silence equates to “white silence” and in turn results in the oppression and death of black people. This article is making me guilty for doing nothing, because people who do nothing are cowardly, and cowards perpetuate the longstanding evils in the US and the world over. It is always the coward’s fault for not acting when he or she could have. It is the coward who is to blame when someone dies, because it’s the coward who could have done something but chose not to–nevermind the rationale for the decision, it doesn’t matter. My choosing not to signal boost every post I see on the issue means I am perpetuating black oppression.

It’s not talking about firsthand witnesses who could or could not have prevented the tragedy. It’s not about that. This article is talking about plain old internet activism. It’s targeting people who choose not to post a fucking status update–choose not to like or share a buzzfeed article. It’s blaming the click of a button for the systematic oppression of a minority group. If that isn’t trivializing an issue, then I don’t know what is.

I have to clear something up. My Facebook IS my facebook. What goes in and comes out of it is also MINE. And what’s mine is no one else’s, has nothing to do with anyone else unless otherwise noted and is in NO WAY meant to reflect or influence the lives of anybody with whom it comes in contact. What I choose to post, and more importantly what I choose NOT TO POST are NOBODY’s business, and to say that my decisions are perpetuating violence and oppression is not only disgustingly presumptuous but hurtful and insulting beyond belief.

This entry is not a discussion on racism, oppression or Mike Brown. I think the incident was heartbreaking, cruel, and speaks volumes on the corruption of the police force especially in urban areas and the treatment of minority groups by them. In my heart I stand by the protesters and activists doing everything in their power to create change and move forward. But that is not what this entry is about.

The author in the aforementioned article supposes that those who choose not to discuss these topics are too busy filling their “walls with nothing but rainbows and happy talk about how much you love your life.” I’m here to say that I don’t love my life a whole lot. In fact, I’ve battled depression for the better part of it and suicidal thoughts are not something I’m unfamiliar with. I don’t think it’s fair to box me into this “white silence” corner and blame me for how fucked up our society is when I never wanted anything to do with any of it from the start. I’m not a leader like you. I’m not outspoken like you. I’m not an activist like you. I’m not oppressed but I’m not spoonfed and I’m nothing special in either case–I just want to get through my life as peacefully and painlessly as possible because the thought of conflict and pain induces anxiety attacks and these attacks lead to depression and depression leads to matters I’d rather not get into at this time. But the point being that I’d like to be nothing more than a ghost outside of people who know me. I want to drift through life invisibly. I don’t want to leave a print anywhere. In fact, unless you have a reason to remember me, I’d rather be forgotten altogether. That is who I am and it has nothing to do with white silence, white guilt, white tears or white anything that you want to label on me. It has to do with introversion, social anxiety, depression and temperamental fear. I’m not protesting because there are several tens of thousands of people who are doing it better than me. Who speak louder than me. But do not for a single mother FUCKING second mistake that with caring more than me. DO NOT. You want to talk about ignorance? Start there.

Sometimes silence is the best way for an individual to cope. Sometimes silence is the way that people choose to provide and obtain comfort. If I choose not to engage in certain discussions, do not blame that on my privilege when you don’t know who I am. If I never existed to begin with, you wouldn’t be blaming me.

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I’ve seen paradise.

I’m home and I’m not happy.

Everyone is going to blame themselves for it. Or feel inferior or wonder why I’m not happy it used to be so easy.

But a chapter just closed that I can never revisit. That’s what I’m upset about. I found a family there that I loved and a group of people who I wanted to be permanent in my life. We did everything together. Went to class, cooked dinners, watched movies every night and partied on the weekend. It was paradise. It was more than I ever could have asked for. I felt this childlike magic sense of happiness and freedom, a feeling of which I’d nearly forgotten. And in an instant I crossed through a security check and they were gone. It was over.

Now I’m back in a town where I have like 3 friends who are busy with their daily routine and I don’t anything to do and I have to just pick up where I left off. And back at NKK there’s a Christmas Party happening right now that I’d give anything to be at.

I’m supposed to have things to look forward to. There are great and wonderful things happening in the next couple of weeks. I’m moving back to Columbia, seeing all my friends there and getting an apartment with my fiancee. I’m just not mentally prepared for them because getting through this slump means accepting the fact that things will never be the same. And since I’m stubborn I just don’t want to do that. Who’s to say I’ll see them again? Even if I do see them again, it’ll be under different circumstances and a long time from now. I don’t want to grow apart from them. I have to keep them in my life because they gave me some amazing memories. How can I be excited about getting busy and starting school and my life again when I’m inadvertently forcing them out of it?

I’m so scared and I can’t sleep and I can’t stop crying. I love and miss Japan.

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the state of sinking

I just finished my last regular class period in Japan. I have a few finals and an essay to turn in, but by this time next week I will be finished, and in 12 days I will be back in Missouri.

I should be happy that I made it through. I should be celebrating my success and the journey I’ve come along. But the most positive emotion I’ve got right now is blankness. There’s a sinking sensation in my chest because I don’t want to face the farewells and the alienation. I just want to sneak away without being seen. Duck out while no one’s looking and leave nothing behind. I’ve nearly finished what I came here to do and I don’t want to find out whether or not I made an impression or left a mark. I might be scared that I haven’t and don’t want to admit that maybe I received more than I gave.

Maybe I don’t want to tell anyone how much they meant to me because I don’t believe that it’s as much as I meant to them.

But that’s a naive fear to begin with, because the ratio shouldn’t really matter.
It wouldn’t matter if I weren’t so insecure.

I tend to forget how precious time is when it gives you a chance to breathe. I think back to summer time when I’d smoke out and drift off and imagine a lifetime passing by inside of an evening. Now I’m hanging on to every second. My room is never clean, I’m always up late doing homework and behind on my laundry because I allocate my time differently and my priorities are different. I drink too much on the weekends because it helps me lose track of time. But I can nearly count the days left here on my hands. It’s too close to worry, not close enough to care.

Everyone back home is ecstatic to see me. I’m looking forward to the affection and the interest they’ll show in me, but the rift that these four months have created are going to make it difficult to convey what I’ve experienced and how I’ve grown. I want to pick up where we left off in August, but so many things have come and gone. I just want to listen to everyone else catch me up up to date. But I don’t think I can do that in return. These are such fragile and personal memories. These are such abstract emotions. The best I can hope for is that they’ll like the new me as much as the old me and silently accept the person I’ve become.

I have a lot of goodbye letters to write that are going to drain me until there’s nothing left.

Maybe it shouldn’t be this painful but I’m just prone to the emotion of sadness.

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Closing the Circle.

In one month I’ll be settled in at home on Christmas Eve and all of this will be over.

I can’t get my head around the lightning speed at which all of this has come and gone.

I’ve barely hit the 75% mark, so I guess it’s a little too soon for this kind of a post, but I’m ruminating and have words on my mind so I’m just going to try to get some things out.

I don’t know if it appears this way when I outwardly express myself, but my Japanese ability has improved so much since I arrived. I’m going through some readings for class and understanding a language I couldn’t discern a single word from just a little over a year ago. There might be other students who have learned more than me, improved more than me or are just better than me, but I’m not going to see myself as a failure when I go home. I think I gave it my best shot and I overcame a lot of challenges that I never thought I’d be able to. So on that front I’m really happy with myself.

On living in Japan, I was never the person coming here because I thought it was some perfect utopia where everything is kawaii and amazing. I knew there’d be pros and cons to living here just as there are just about anywhere. And there are. There are plenty of things I’ll miss when I go back home and will get on my nerves until I’ve re-acclimated with American lifestyles, such as being treated like royalty when I buy McDonalds, drinking in public and that sweet sweet conbini food. There are also many things that have worn thin on me over the months. Though not exclusive to Japan, my smaller town roots have me missing traveling by car and the ability to easily escape from the headache of city bustle. I have admittedly felt suffocated over the months by the sprawling metropolis of city life. There have also been those tragic reminders that my time here does not somehow exist outside the realm of pain and suffering. When we lost Picasso, nothing has really been as pretty as it was when I got here. I felt like we were one invincible happy family at NKK. That’s what they advertised. That’s what it legitimately seemed like. But suffering is everywhere and you can’t really escape it. I was foolish to think so, but no one could have prepared themselves for that anyway.

But through all of the life-changing highs and the pitch black lows, I built relationships here. There are people who have seen me at my weakest, and people with whom I’ve entrusted my heart. There are those I cherish and care about among some of the most important in my life. I’ve made some of my favorite memories of all time with some of you. I just do not have the ability to express how much I’m going to be crushed when I get on that plane and say goodbye to you. Some of you forever. We’ll exchange gifts and make fragile plans to keep in touch and meet again, but nothing is certain nor is it permanent. We’ll do our best at all of that, but I think that the only thing we’re guaranteed is a heaping pile of memories to hold on to forever. They’ll outlive everything. If we grow apart and become completely different people, we’ll still be able to remember when we weren’t. When we were here, together, close and happy because our paths intersected at this exact time and place.

So for the next four weeks I’m going to be a pain in the ass because I want to get every last drop of enjoyment out of my time here with my friends. I’ve seen what I came to Japan to see. I climbed a mountain, saw temples, nature, city life and dropped stacks on clothes and anime merchandise. From here on out I want to focus on the people who have made my life what it is during the past semester–exciting and amazing. All I want is to make sure that they feel the same.

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I want a new life, one without a cause

Everything is spiraling out of control. I wish I had blogged more before everything went to shit because I could have documented all the fun I had been having before my perspective was flipped upside down.

The parties and clubs and late nights and friends, it’s all been so amazing. Last weekend was the best weekend of the semester. Ironic that the worst week I’ve had in years directly followed.

Everybody is out of sorts since we lost Picasso. It still feels like some kind of fucked up practical joke or bad dream. Like after this weekend everything will go back to normal. But it won’t. Everyone is coping differently. Some of us are hiding away, some of us are putting on a smile and trying to ignore it, some of us are trying to take the brunt of the pain for those of us who are clinging to others for comfort. But everybody’s hurting and that’s the reality of it. Time will heal, but the funny thing about time is that it moves too slow when you want it to speed up and flies by when you want it to come to a crawl.

Everything has just been spinning around me in a haze. I feel like I’m on autopilot, I’m doing things that I realize are completely uncharacteristic of me but I’m not in control of myself. I’m completely disinterested in nearly everything, aside from making sure that the people who are going through the same things as me are getting by.

I was talking to some friends a few weeks ago, about autumn. I said that I enjoy autumn weather but I have a general disgust toward the season because terrible things always manage to happen during the fall. As chance would have it, I lost a dear friend almost exactly four years after I lost Laura. How the fuck does it manage to work out like that? Talk about a bad taste; October is permanently the shittiest month. I don’t think I’ll ever truly enjoy Halloween anymore.

But it’s not even about me, really. Why would somebody take their own life? It’s the shittiest thing you can do to anybody. Hundreds of people are suffering an unneeded pain because of this rash decision he made. He chose not to reach out when he had all the support in the world. Now everybody feels like they missed something somewhere.

Two things. They’re both corny but I’m going to go with it. On Pokemon Y, I named my Golurk Picasso after him, because he is  fucking strong and never dies. I thought that was a suitable way to remember him as silly as it may sound. Second, I want to give my Felix Golden Hammer to his family, because it’s the closest thing that I have to a memento from him. He gave me the paintbrush to paint it gold. Maybe it can fix somebody’s pain, even just a little. I like to think that it does.

——–

I’m going to Nara with Logan tomorrow for Fall Break. Hoping for good weather so I can spend some time reflecting in nature. I want to have a lot of fun during the next five days and flush all of this out of my system, so I’m going to be positive about it despite the fact that it will never be the same.

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Confidence in cooking.

The work flow continues to be unrelenting, but today was lucky because I got a nice break from studying.

Well, Wednesdays are the ones with only one 90 minute class, so they’re usually quite open anyway, but usually Thursday is test day so it’s a better use of time to spend it preparing. Well, there IS a test tomorrow but I feel quite prepared for it as it’s a reading exam and I did well on the last one. So we’ll see.

After I had a speaking (shadowing) meeting with my professor around 1:30, I had some coffee in lieu of a nap thanks to Emma and we caught Nick and Harriet just as they were going to go explore. So we joined, naturally.

We went to the Irinaka area by foot because the sun actually came out, and went into an entertainment store. All the One Piece merchandise makes me want to cry from how much of it I’ll never own 😦 But I picked up a surprise figurine box hoping for a Shirahoshi but ended up with Whitebeard. Oh well. It was a really cute store and I’ll definitely be coming back for the puzzles.

On the way back we stopped at the supermarket and I guess it was decided that it was my turn to finally cook dinner because I’d been cooked for by mostly everyone at this point, so I frantically scrambled about trying to patch together some sort of strategy for a successful, tasty and spicy  impromptu meal. Honestly, I really didn’t want to mess anything up because first impressions can be pretty important when it comes to cooking. And I enjoy cooking for myself but I get so nervous when my food is put in front of other people. If they like it, they’ll be excited for me to do it again, but if they don’t, they might be hesitant about giving me a second chance.

So there was a lot of guesswork involved, because I had in my head the flavors I wanted to achieve but trying to hunt down those flavors when I can only read like 2% of the labels of things in the store proved to be a challenge. I was going for sweet chili chicken, marinated veggies and kimchi rice because my experience at Sabai made me pretty confident in getting it right, but I’d never made it outside of the restaurant where most of the time the ingredients were always prepped. I found most of what I needed except for the sauce for the veggies which I had to find a similar approximation that ended up working quite well. I also used unbreaded chicken rather than the deep fried kind that the dish normally uses.

Nick helped a lot with the prep, cutting up carrots, ginger root, garlic and chicken, which was very kind. I diluted some of the chili paste paste with water to a familiar consistency and started cooking the chicken. At least three more people joined the dinner party at this point so I was getting more nervous. Of course, I was frequently reminded that there wasn’t any pressure which I really appreciated but my own lack of confidence was really at the top of its game. By the time I taste-tested the chicken though, I was pretty sure I’d be successful. So I did the veggies next, and finally the kimchi rice. And it was done. Painless!

I think it was a massive success.

I’d never cooked for 6-7 people before, so the positive feedback made me much happier than I can even explain in words, especially given all the risks I took in buying ingredients and measuring them out by eye. I don’t know, for some reason I didn’t think I could pull it off, but hearing my friends tell me that it was delicious and wonderful and all these great words just made me ecstatic. You can say it was just dinner, and it was. A lot of people cook everyday and most of them are better than me and for most of them it’s routine. It’s true, but it was special for me because I made a good impression and I think I really did something that people will remember me by. And that’s just a really, really great feeling. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.

If you guys were serious about me doing dinner for you every Wednesday then I’d love to give it a shot. 🙂

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