Attn: Lee Johnson, former Miyoshi-gun ALT

Hey! Thanks again for the comment several months ago. It really made my day (and week, and month) to hear from former ALTs who lived in the same area, and to hear that former ALTs still have very fond thoughts of western Tokushima, as I do! I recently started chatting with Cory Hain, who taught in Yamashiro/Iya while you were in Ikeda/Ikawa/Mikamo. If you could e-mail me (andorus at gmail dot com), he’d like to get in touch with you.

I set up iGoogle recently, Google’s portal site, and created a Japanese Study tab, with the two JLPT kanji modules, kanji of the day, and Eng/Jpn news tabs. I really don’t know if I’ll have the motivation to study hard enough to have even the slighest chance of passing the JLPT level 2–I’d have to be living in Japan and studying on a daily basis for that to be feasible–but I think I’m going to sign up for it anyway, to have that as something to work towards, so I don’t let my Japanese slip. I still haven’t had success finding flat-out conversation sessions in town; I’ve found actual language classes, but I think I may just give in and sign up for an advanced one to keep me on my toes and to give me a chance to chat with people.

In other Atlanta-Japan news, my grandmother found something in the paper about a weekend of Japanese films next month at Emory University. I’d like to check those out. And next weekend is JapanFest! I’m hoping to head there on Sunday with some people.

The first of my last round of boxes arrived today, too…aptly enough, it was the one with a lot of my very nostalgic gifts, sign-cards, and thank-you letters from my students and teachers. And my Sudachi-kun plushie! I found the cloth flower Atagi-san made me, the brocade and ukiyo-e purse from my junior high teachers, the indigo purse from my Thurs/Fri elementary school, the laminated sheet with photos of me crying and going under the student arch during my farewell ceremony, and much more.

I also found the notebooks of class notes that I’d meant to leave for Caitlin. CRAP. I’ll be shipping those out to her tomorrow…

The feelings of homesickness for Japan really haven’t faded. If anything, they’re a little stronger every day. Japan works its way into my thoughts and makes itself relevant to whatever I’m doing or thinking about constantly. This morning, out of nowhere, the image of Yaemi and Terumi seeing me off at the bus terminal in Ikeda on my day of departure came to me and made me start crying in the shower.

What does help, though, is knowing that I have a cool, laid-back, and friendly group of coworkers. I can go to them with anything, I can ask them anything, and they’re more than happy to do whatever they can to help me out. I chat most with the guy right across from me just out of convenience, but he also has a design background and is a software engineer, and we get each other’s input on stuff, and he’ll very kindly pass over different links he’s found related to what I’m working on, or just cool graphical things.

The thing that’s a little awkward–but of course, everyone goes through this–is that my coworkers are all at least 10 years older than I am. I feel like I fit in really well, though, and I haven’t felt any sort of “seniority” complex at all, and it now works in my favoror that I’m used to being the lone female in a group of tech geek guys after my college days. (We were all joking in the car on our way to lunch today about how we all were made fun of in middle school, but now geeks are taking over the world.) It’s just tough because they all have families or significant others and aren’t really the hang-out-after-work types.

I also just don’t have nearly as many social outlets as I used to, and I live 30 minutes from the city, and the areas where I live and work are awful during rush hour. It took me a solid hour to drive into the city yesterday after work, when that trip should only take 20 minutes. I’ve really started feeling the pinch that comes with having previously local friends who now reside hundreds and thousands of miles away. The days of decent train systems and friends in neighboring towns are definitely over.


Geez, I didn’t realize it’s been three weeks since I last wrote in here! I’ve thought about it a lot, and I had some ideas for things to write, but now that I’m sitting at my computer, of course those ideas have all flown away.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, in part because I started my new job. No specific details online for obvious reasons (though my coworkers already told me that they Googled me during the interview process), but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s an interesting challenge. I’m an interaction designer for a security software firm, designing user interface graphical elements like system tray icons and desktop icons and other non-iconic things. It’s an area of design I haven’t done a whole lot of before, but I’m starting to get the hang of it–it incorporates a lot of the general ideas I try to keep in mind when designing websites. I also have a great group of coworkers, and the environment there’s really nice. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.

I will admit, though, it’s been a little strange working in such an American working environment–one guy had studied some Japanese on his own and greeted me with an “ohayou gozaimasu” (good morning) once. But I actually miss saying “osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” when I’m on my way out, and I’ve even forgotten how to let myself into my boss’s office in English, now that I can’t use “shitsurei shimasu” upon entering and “shitsurei shimashita” on my way out anymore. I also have to stop myself from bowing to the people I’ve been meeting this past week. It feels so weird!

In other news, I bought a car on Saturday–a Mazda 6. It handles wonderfully, is gorgeous, has all these great features, and I love it…but then I started hearing this clanking sound Sunday night, like a soft drink can was rattling around somewhere to my right and in front of me. I took it in on Monday, but they were unable to duplicate the sound on their own, and the tech guy and I went for a drive today and still couldn’t hear it. I got my car back today, which is good–I’ve driven the loaner they issued me more than my actual car! Hopefully it’s nothing serious–especially since I have to drive a long way on Sunday to attend the wedding of a guy I’ve known for nearly 20 years, ever since my family moved to metro Atlanta.

I got hit with my first big wave of homesickness for Japan yesterday evening, as I was putting up more of my Japan photos on Flickr (I’m over a month behind, and still not quite done yet!), and after I put up an autumn-themed print I’d bought at Loft and several of the watercolor postcard prints of Ikeda that I’d bought at Gasping Lady’s restaurant in my cubicle. I’ve also been exchanging messages through Flickr with a former ALT in Yamashiro, the town bordering Ikeda to the southwest. It’s really cool that several people from the area still have fond enough memories of it to keep in touch with it and try to find out about it online.

To kind of combat the homesickness, I gave Hannah a call and we talked for about 45 minutes. Hannah used to live downstairs in our apartment building in Japan–she and I came in together and she left after a year. It felt really good to make all these references to Japan and our ALT community and have her totally get what I meant.

Oh, and the izakaya we went to for my birthday (it feels like it was ages ago, not just three weeks) was all right. It was pretty good for an American restaurant, especially considering that there isn’t a huge Japanese population here the way there is out west, but it still left something to be desired. I’ll have to try my luck again if I ever make it up to New York or out to the west coast.

I really miss it. There are some things I’m glad to have left behind, but on the whole…I can’t wait to go back.