Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time is Running Out

Today is the day one of my best friends from my home university, Mary, returns home to the states. I am so glad that both of us were able to be in Japan at the same time, even though she studied in Tokyo, and I came to call Kyoto "home." We didn't get to see each other very often due to the distance, but it was very refreshing to have a friend go through the same experience, in completely different ways, through different people, at the same time. I hope Mary makes it home safely, without any glitches through the airport and airwaves, and it's weird thinking that one of our journeys has come to an end, and a new chapter of life will begin upon landing on US soil.

Mary's departure has made me realize that my own journey in Japan will be ending in less than two months, and as much as I dislike the thought, I have to remind myself to be positive in my remaining time abroad.

Speaking of staying positive, I received a package from Captain Cornelius, one of my friends in Germany. I had no idea that he would be sending me something, and when I received a notice from the post about a missed package, I was more than surprised. However, it came at a time when everyone I knew was telling me that they were happy to be returning home, or my friends and family from the states were telling me they couldn't wait to get home. I felt as though I were the only person dreading the return, and tried to make myself think more optimistically.

Cornelius sent me a box full of chocolates and gummies from the Deutschland, but it was his letter that brought tears to my eyes. I feel like a drama queen when I type this, but I was really comforted by his letter. He told me to make the most of my time there and that I shouldn't worry about leaving even though he knows I'm upset about it. He's one of my loyal readers, I should say. (Although, that sounds weird since I don't update this blog on a normal basis, and I feel as though I have let the readers I have had down in the process of laziness.)

This letter resonated with me because I remembered how upset Cornelius was before his departure to Germany. Although he was, like many people I know, a bit happy to return home, and he felt that his trip to Japan had been satisfactory. But I felt that what I was feeling was the closest to what he was feeling months ago, even though it isn't striking the nail on the head exactly. In any case, because of this, I took his letter to heart. Yeah, it really sucks that I'll be returning home, but on the bright side, I'll be able to see people I haven't seen in almost a year, eat food that I love (Hello, burritos and salsa!), and more importantly, I'll have a better understanding of myself when I return.

Before I left for Japan, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, where I wanted to end up in the future, and who I wanted to be around for the rest of my life. Now that I've been abroad, I understand that I want, more than anything, to end up in Japan in my future. I want to teach English, not because it is the "Global Language" or anything like that. I want to give those learning English a positive experience. I want to talk about the things they enjoy, or help them learn English regarding the field of their career. While I love my friends and family, I don't feel as though I belong in the states, at least, not for all of my life. I want to travel, live in different places, and get a job in which I don't have to worry about myself financially.

As of now, I guess I can feel a bit relieved. The situation is a bit troubling, but despite working out things with my home university through contract, it seems as though they have dropped me as a student because I "haven't been in school for a year". It's annoying, and I feel betrayed by my school, which adds to the resentment and unhappy feelings I have held toward my university for the majority of my time there. Although I am very happy and grateful for their approval for me to study abroad, as well as the partnership, I must say I think some things about university policy should be changed, especially when the school knows the student is studying abroad.

In any case, because of my "lack of attendance", so to speak, I will not be given financial aid for my Fall 2012 school term in the states. This means that I will not be able to go to school, as like many families in the US, my parents cannot afford for me to continue my education in this economy. I have a year left of school, but my parents lack of savings, my lack of job when I return home and drained bank account won't permit me to go back to school. I am communicating with my parents, my home university, and academic advisers about this problem, but depending on the result of our conversation, I may or may not be going to school in the Fall.

A plus of this is, if I cannot return to school immediately in the fall, I will be able to stay for another week or two in the country that I love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Typhoons and Playing Catch-Up

I've had a heavy feeling in my stomach for awhile now. I feel as though I'm guilty of something even though I know there's not a real reason to feel that way. The more I think about it, the more I come to realize it's because I don't want to go home.

This is going to make me sound like a horrible person, and perhaps I am for even thinking this, but I don't really have a desire to return to the United States. I love my family, friends, boyfriend, coworkers, but I don't want to go back. I feel more at home in a place where I stand out easily in a crowd than I did in a place where I spoke the same accent, dialect, and played my part in the majority quite well. I'm sorry to those of you who are reading this. I'm hurting a lot of feelings and a lot of mixed emotions will probably come from this, but please understand I'm writing this as a way to come to terms with my own thoughts on two countries I love: the United States and Japan.

I know there are things that I can do in the United States that I will never be able to do in Japan. No matter how hard I try, no matter the visa or legal status I obtain, I will never be Japanese. I was not born in this country, and while this may sound quite racist or close-minded, I think that to some extent, I would have to look the part to be Japanese in this society even if I were a white woman born in this country. Even if I speak the language fluently, I will never truly "fit in" in Japanese society. I will never be able to erase the more American aspects of my personality. I will never truly understand what it's like to refrain from saying my opinion, I will never be able to completely work towards the group rather than an individual, and I will never fully be able to submit myself to a lower status than my male counterparts.

With all of these things said, I do not feel any differently about my desire to live in this country. Perhaps I'm one of the lucky exchange students, but Japan is home to me in a way that my hometown in Texas will never be. I know many of my friends cannot wait to return home to lands of cheese, cheap food, driving one's own car, and Mexican food. (I have to admit, the unavailability of Mexican food really takes it out of you sometimes.)

I do not regret living in my hometown or growing up in Texas. I think that it is a great place to raise children, especially if you live in a town in which the balance between open-minded and close-minded people are present. I'm glad that my town was relatively rural, but that I have had experiences (good and bad) with people who are stubborn and those who are willing to try new things. And I'm very thankful that my family, while stuck in their ways on some matters, encouraged me to try something different before making a judgement. Without their support, I don't think I could have ever experienced something so exciting, terrifying, and something utterly enchanting as my life in Japan.

Maybe I'm still young, and I'm not necessarily in love with the place where I grew up. I love the memories of my house in Texas, the moments playing with my cats and dogs outside, swimming in my pool in the summer, and enjoying the times, happy or sad, with my parents and relatives. These are things that I will treasure always.

I know I'm stepping on some feelings and I feel guilty for saying it, even though it's my own opinion, but I am in love with the country, culture, and people of Japan. i feel as though I should be crying over my family and hometown in Texas, but I feel like the land of the rising sun is calling my name.

Maybe my mind will change when the rainy weather clears up, the cockroaches invade my apartment, and I've had my fair share of final exams, but as for now, I am truly dreading the moment when I pull out my dusty suitcase from under my bed.

I can feel the tears well up in my eyes as I think of saying goodbyes, even though I know I will really be saying, "See you later!" and "We'll meet again sometime soon." I have made a great bunch of friends here, from all over the world, and it's really hard to imagine life without them. My departure from this country will be sometime in the near future.

I don't like it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dread and Flower Blossoms

I don't even know where to begin with this entry.

I feel like time is going by too quickly, and I'm dreading the last two months of my stay here. I will be leaving sometime around the end of August, and I'm horrified that it's already June.

While it will hurt many of those who are home, I don't want to go back to the States. More than almost anything, I want to stay here. I want to live here and flourish. I know that I can come back in the future, and if things go the way I plan, I can work in a middle school teaching English. My dreams are right under my fingertips. I'm teaching English at an English Conversation group, working at an English camp this summer, and even working with middle school students sometime soon. I've never been so proud of myself, and I don't remember ever being this happy to wake up and go to class.

I really don't want to leave this feeling behind. While I know people believe that happiness is something that is created by one's own will, I really think that happiness is easier for me to grasp outside of the states. I'm so much happier being myself here than I am in Texas. I think this is because I feel as though I found my place here.

It's weird getting used to being the minority, but aside from that, my personality seems very Japanese. My Japanese friends tease me about my eating habits, politeness, and often say something that roughly translates into, "Wow, you're so Japanese!"

I feel as though I'm searching for my identity all over again.

I've found myself staring outside more often than before. I enjoy the gentle breeze, walk without an umbrella in the soft, steady rain, and listen to the sound of buses passing by. I feel like this is the last time I'll get to hear these noises. An onigiri that I've eaten every day never tasted so delicious, and my house never seemed further from the school.

I feel like I belong here.