I ended up getting less than 5 hours of sleep last night, after I realized that I indeed did not have the Halloween mix CD from the year before, and stayed up till 2 AM scrambling to collect enough tracks of music and sound effects to put another one together. I know I did have it, but it’s vanished.

My elementary class this morning went pretty well–everyone was really amused by my wings and hat and black/purple striped socks, and the surprised/bewildered/amused look on the face of the teacher who watches over the class while I teach was priceless. The kids enjoyed trick-or-treating (instead of wearing costumes, they drew them, and then told me what they were in order to score a couple of pieces of chocolate) and jack-o-lantern designing…I wish I had something like the masks last year, though, which they really got into, but oh well. They loved the costume and were really eager to try on the huge witch’s hat after class.

When I was leaving, the vice-principal walked out with me to the genkan the way one or two teachers from that school usually do, and she asked me how many more years I was planning to stay in Japan for. It surprised me that she was thinking in terms of years and not months. I told her that I was planning to leave next summer, which made her surprised and a little dismayed, and she asked me if I’d already decided for sure. I then explained that I really wanted to return to grad school, and that was what I’d gone to Osaka this weekend for, to take a standardized test for entrance into a graduate studies program.

She then brought up the upcoming start of mandatory English classes in elementary schools (I don’t remember exactly when, but it’s definitely a pressing issue and happening relatively soon), and said that she hoped I would still be there once those classes started, and that if I was interested in staying longer, I would be welcome there.

I was really surprised by that–she’s only been at this school since April, due to the annual staff switch, so for her to say that was a really big surprise and a very unexpected compliment. If not for the rather compelling factors that have made me decide almost certainly that this is my final year on JET, I might consider staying on, especially since they’ve changed the recontracting guidelines this year and ALTs can now be full-time elementary school ALTs and stay up to 5 years, instead of the three-plus-two deal from before.

At the same time, on the bus yesterday, I was witness to a really beautiful sunset over the coastlines of both Awaji-shima and Shikoku, and I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t imagine leaving this.”

I’ve already decided, though. I haven’t turned in my recontracting papers with the “I will not renew my contract” option circled, but I told my supervisor as much already, and she already knew anyway. It’s crazy to think about leaving when it’s nearly a year away–but time’s slipping by so quickly. It’s almost November–I have less than 9 months now until the end of this JET year. In thinking about the grad school application process, I’m forced to concede that I’m leaving Japan. Besides the things I know I won’t miss so much (vegetarian food situation being the biggest), there’s a lot of good I’m leaving behind. It’ll be difficult to put it behind me when the time comes.

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