Not in Kansas anymore

A few people have asked me if I’ve stopped updating this journal, or if I intend to stop updating it. I will eventually, and nearly every other Tokushima ALT who’s left Japan has stopped already…but I started this before I came to Japan, to talk about my preparations and feelings, and I feel like this won’t be a complete encapsulation of my experience if I don’t talk about how I feel now that it’s over.

So far, three boxes (winter clothes and the first shipment of books) and my futon have made it home safely. I should have another six boxes of regular things and two smaller boxes of books on the way, but it should still be a few weeks before they arrive. I’ve ordered some design books to prepare for my new job, and they should be here any day now (and one art book by two Pixar artists and a friend of theirs, which arrived today: Three Trees Make A Forest, which is a kind of in-joke explaining the kanji for “forest”–Tadahiro Uesugi‘s work has such a wonderfully natsukashii Japanese feel to it). I’m hoping to buy a car in the next couple of weeks, hopefully in time for me to start commuting to work, and then it’s time to start thinking about moving.

But the honeymoon period is definitely over. In small ways, it’s finally hitting me that it’s over, that I won’t be returning to Japan in the next few weeks (or months), and that it’s time to start establishing things for myself here. I’ve spent most of the last week and a half just resting up and hanging out at home, since I had jetlag for a solid week and since most of my close friends have moved away from metro Atlanta. But the jetlag has passed, and I’ve gone out to see a few people, and I’ll be seeing more tomorrow when we get together for my birthday and more this weekend during DragonCon.

I’ve found myself stumbling in situations where I have to use English around strangers–it’ll get easier over time but it’s so strange that I’m having this problem to begin with. I guess I just got so used to using English mainly with people I already knew, so I’ve forgotten how to make small talk. Seeing my friends, and running an animation panel at DragonCon, will definitely help that along, I think. I didn’t realize how good we had it in Tokushima–nearly all the ALTs lived fairly close to a train station, and having my own car made getting out so much easier. Now, we don’t live anywhere near a MARTA rail station and I’m borrowing my mom’s or brother’s cars any time I go out, and most of my friends are too busy or live too far away to come out on a whim. There also isn’t nearly as much to just go out and see–no temples or beautiful natural drives untouched by traffic and the urban sprawl.

I know that moving out will go a long way towards helping me establish things for myself here. I’m feeling almost exactly how I’ve felt during my last two visits home–I’ve just snapped right back into the routine I always am in whenever I live at home, and I don’t do much for myself. I made some curry for the family one night, which felt familiar, since I’ve become a better cook these past two years out of necessity, and I’ve come to enjoy it as well. I’d like to do it more often, but I think I only will get that chance when I live on my own.

My homes in the US and Japan are two very distinct things for me right now, and I’m looking forward to the chance to merge the two in my own personal living space, with my futon, lamps from Loft (by the way, the little spherical paper lamps do work in the US!), wall decorations, and other little things that remind me in major and minor ways of the last two years. And of course, I’m looking forward to moving forward, to painting walls and framing/mounting my favorite Japan photos and decorating my place and settling into a place where I know I’ll stay for several years. It would’ve been nice to go to a new city, now that I have this insatiable exploration bug; I feel like I’ve already seen a lot of what Atlanta has to offer. But you never know, right?

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