I don’t like trains very much

I’m online doing research for my upcoming elementary school lessons. I’m throwing Halloween parties in all my elementary schools (well, I hope to–all the ones I’ve talked to so far are okay with it, but there’s one I won’t get to go to again until the day after Halloween, so I don’t know), and it hit me that Diwali, the Indian festival of light, is around the same time. It turns out it’s on November 1st this year, so I think I may follow up the Halloween lesson by doing an intro to Diwali the following week. I’ll have to think about that (and do a lot of research, because I have a lot to learn, too).

But as the title says, yes, I really don’t like trains too much right now.

It all started a week ago, on my trip back from visiting Louise in Fukushima-ken (it was so nice to see her–plus, she literally lives at the foot of a dormant volcanic complex, Bandai-san…so awesome!). I had a day of daikyuu (essentially, vacation granted for doing overtime), so I decided to extend my stay and spend Tuesday heading home. After catching the train to Koriyama and the shinkansen to Sendai and the shuttle to the airport and the plane to Takamatsu and the shuttle to the train station (it apparently impresses people that I was able to coordinate all that–it just impresses me that my arms didn’t fall out of their sockets from lugging around a suitcase, shoulder bag, violin case, and bag of omiyage, and taking them up and down elevators and escalators and stairs and on and off trains and planes and keeping them intact), I boarded what I was told was a train that would get me back to my town, Ikeda.

I ended up having to switch twice. The first time I was ready for, because I knew there were few, if any, direct trains to Ikeda from Takamatsu (for whatever reason). I’d asked a couple of people, including the train conductor, who let me know that the train I needed was coming 15 minutes after we got to that specific stop. The second time, though, I had an hour-long layover before the express train to Ikeda got there. But it finally did, and I got on board.

When it got to Ikeda station, I got my bags together and started to head for the door. But then, two people got on and headed down the aisle towards me, blocking me from getting off and actually shoving me aside so they could get to their seats. Finally, feeling more than a little disgruntled, I got to the door to the platform, and reached my hand towards the handle…

…only to see the platform start to move and hear the door’s automatic lock click into place.

I ended up at the southwestern-most stop in Tokushima-ken, Ooboke.

(Though I’ll ruin the momentous feel that has and point out that Tokushima is much wider than it is tall, Ikeda’s in the northwest corner, and it was just a 15-minute train ride because it was an express train, as opposed to a slow train, which would have taken an hour to get there. The Iya Valley, where Ooboke is, is quite, quite isolated. At least it was a beautiful ride, though…but I sort of managed to overlook that because in my frustrated and exhausted and stressed state after realizing that I hadn’t gotten off the train in time, I returned to my seat and started crying, and the really nice guy across the aisle got up and came over to check on me to make sure I was doing okay…it was embarrassing as anything, but still a sweet gesture. When I did get off the train at Ooboke, he gave me a grin and a thumbs-up.)

After a few frantic keitai e-mails and phone calls (there are 2 ALTs in Iya, so as a worst-case scenario, I could have begged/bribed one of them into giving me a ride up to Ikeda), I realized (thanks to Lindsay) that there was another train heading for Ikeda in 15 minutes, so I waited it out and finally got home safely…after 10 hours of traveling, and a full hour after I would’ve made it home if I’d have gotten off the train in time.

That’s just the first story, though.

The second one happened on Sunday, when I was trying to catch a train to Tokushima-shi to do some shopping before catching a ride with Nate up to the gorgeous park in Naruto to play ultimate frisbee. I was catching an 11:16 express train. I got to the platform at 11:12 and saw an express already there, waiting. “Oh,” I thought, “It must have gotten here early.”

At 11:13, the train took off…and instead of heading east towards Tokushima, it headed north towards Okayama.

On the same track–the same track–there were 2 express trains within 3 minutes of each other. I was able to get off at the first stop and catch a train back to Ikeda, where I then caught a slow train that took almost 2 hours to get to the city (well, 3, if you count my detour) just in time to meet Nate, instead of the express that took just over 1. I swear, I’m never going to be early again. Look what it gets you!

Well, anyway.

Hannah’s base high school already brought up recontracting with her. It’s ridiculously early, since I don’t think we have to make a decision till February. It really shook her up–it’s something we think about every single day, and we’re constantly weighing the pros with the cons.

For me…I’d considered staying for a second year, but now I think I’m just staying for the one. I want to take my GREs as soon as I can and jump back into grad school (or if not that, then work relevant to my area of study)…one of the major disadvantages of this job is no intellectual stimulation. I love working with these kids, and they all seem to like me a lot, and I know that a year really isn’t long enough to get the true experience (we’re already 1/4 of the way through the year, and it’s flown by! We’re about a week away from my 3-month anniversary of being here), but in the long run it isn’t doing me a lot of good, unless I pursue a career involving Japanese or ESL; I wouldn’t say no to doing something involving the Japanese language, but only if it’s part of something related to my area.

I can already feel myself growing stagnant, and it makes me really, really uneasy. I’ve been out of school for 10 months–staying for 2 years will just be too long, since I’ll have already taken an almost 2-year break from academia by the time this year is up. People say that you aren’t as detached from your field as you feel, but media studies, especially as it pertains to the web, is constantly changing and updating as the web changes and updates…staying out of it for a long period of time and hoping to jump back in easily is almost dangerous.

But at the same time, a lot can happen in 3 1/2 to 4 months. I’ve made a decision for now, but I’m not making a true decision until it comes time to actually make it in an official sense. There’s always that “what if” lingering in the back of my mind, but I’m sure it’s the same for all ALTs…everyone’s thinking about what’s happening next. It’s strange sometimes, being part of something this ephemeral.