The roller coaster of reverse culture shock

It’s a slow day at work, and I’ll be leaving within the hour to “work from home” for the rest of the day with my lovely work-issued Macbook Pro in tow for the long weekend. It’s been a while, and I’ve been wanting to write, but just trying to figure out what exactly to say. Japan’s done with, but the experience of JET and living abroad hasn’t left me totally alone yet–reverse culture shock is still in full swing. In the same way that I wanted to write about what it was like to prepare for this adventure and how I really felt over there, I feel like it’s important to talk about how I feel now that I’m back.

Until this week, I hadn’t seen any of my Atlanta friends in about a month. Many of them have left town, and the ones here have their own lives and schedules, and I go into work late to avoid traffic and end up staying late and coming home and just crashing, which doesn’t really allow for an active social life anyway. I went up to Boston a few weeks ago and had a great time hanging out with people (Georgia Tech friends, a really close online friend I’ve spent a lot of offline time with, and a friend from Japan, who’s a grad student there), only to come home and have my social life grind to a halt again. I started feeling more and more down and resentful about my living situation and this suburb and everything, since I still don’t really have a way of meeting new people to hang out with.

But seeing my friends, getting out and having that social outlet again, has helped me feel a lot better and really put things into perspective. It’s something I always try to do when I’m down–I try not to let negative emotions cloud my judgment and make me think that I’m so unfortunate and unlucky when I have so much going right in my life, but that’s what was happening. But I hung out with Moshe on Sunday, and Terry and Ryan Monday, and we’re doing an Indo-Western Thanksgiving with our group of Indian family friends tomorrow (after eating a Trader Joe’s Tofurky for lunch, which I’m ridiculously excited about!), and I’m having lunch and playing frisbee with my university orchestra friends on Friday, and we’re doing Japan Night on Saturday, with pretty much everybody in Atlanta that I know–dinner at an izakaya, then karaoke (at a place with a purikura/print club machine).

I still maintain, though, that the Atlantan suburban sprawl is pretty much devoid of any real culture, and I’m ready to get out of this town as quickly as possible. I’m looking at moving close to my office–if not for the really long commute times and huge gas bills (I just spent $47 filling up my car today) and high rent involved with living downtown, and the fact that most of my “extracurriculars” are just a few minutes from my office, I’d try to find a place to live that allowed me to walk around and have a lot of conveniences and fun things accessible, and that allowed me to meet people easily. But one nice thing about being up here: all the trees up here have given me some nice eye candy in the form of a dazzling fall color display on my drive to and from work.

The other thing occupying me lately (to the point that I’ve let my violin practicing slip again) has been studying for the JLPT, which is now 11 days away. I have no doubt that I’ll pass, but it’s not as easy to absorb new kanji and vocabulary as it used to be in school, though the grammar makes a lot more sense now that I have a real foundation to ground it in. I’m most of the way through my Nakama 2 textbook from college, and I have dozens of kanji flashcards scattered all over the place, which I’ll be memorizing over the long weekend.

And I’m almost totally certain that I’ll be back in Japan for a week or so this spring. I think I really need this. I may keep this blog occasionally updated till then, and have that sort of serve as my epilogue to this two-year adventure. We’ll see what happens.

It’s about time to pack up and head home, so I should sign off here. To any American readers, happy Thanksgiving! It’s really interesting that this was the week that I could see all my friends and have my mood be lifted like that, just in time for this holiday of gratitude and reflection on the good things and good people in our lives. I’m grateful for this timing of events, and for finally being able to see that everything really is okay. I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

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