It’s confirmed

My e-ticket has come through, and my reservation is confirmed: I’ll be in (and around) Tokushima from March 12-22. Sweet! My travel agent even found a deal today that let him shave nearly $100 off my ticket price since I last talked to him on Monday–extra spending money for me!

And in other travel-related news, Genna’s booked her plane tickets and will be in Atlanta at the end of February! She’s visiting a few people, not just me, but she’s staying one or two nights at my place. JET reunions are so awesome.

A while back I was really thinking that I wanted to do some traveling while I was here–not just to nearby cities like Takamatsu, but maybe spend a night in Kobe to check out some jazz clubs (like Sone), or spend a night or two in Koya-san, where Kobo Daishi is buried and where the 88-temple pilgrimage traditionally begins and ends…but I can save the sightseeing for a future visit. This time is for visiting my old haunts and seeing people and having a Japanese “epilogue.”

For four or five consecutive days this past week, I’ve received several letters and nengajo (new year’s postcards) from Japan daily, from teachers and friends and eikaiwa students. I really did send cards to nearly everyone I could think of in Japan, at least 40 of them. It’s really nice to know that they’re still thinking about me, though I knew they wouldn’t forget quickly, since throughout my two years there, my eikaiwa ladies would bring up my predecessor Dave, who’s a grad student in Calgary, and give me the latest news about him.

It’s funny–the day after my Japanese lesson this week, I got a sweet note (on Hayashi Seiichi stationery) from the groundskeeper lady at my junior high, the one I really related to because neither of us felt like we were really part of the staff the same way as the full-time regular teachers were. I only understood maybe 50-70% of what she said, and the same went for her letter–full of (fairly legibly) handwritten kanji and vocab that are kind of beyond me.

Even though I couldn’t fully understand her, though, I really did always like that she just talked to me normally and didn’t try to dumb down what she was saying for me. There’s something to be said for both sides of it: going for easy words means they’re accommodating my low language level in order to facilitate easier communication. However, regular communication, while intimidating, is also awesome–it’s a true immersive experience and it forces you to challenge yourself and study harder in order to keep up and follow along.


I seriously didn’t mean to go nearly 2 months without posting. I remember times where going more than a week without posting was nearly inconceivable. Currently I’m doped up on Nyquil and about ready to collapse to work off the last vestiges of this cold that’s been kicking me around since midway through last week, but at the behest of the sweet anonymous commenter who asked me to post, and at the behest of my dad who’s bugged me about whether or not I’m keeping this up, here I go.

So, uh, yeah. Happy New Year!

I regret having to take down the gorgeous Japan-styled calendar from Loft which hung at my desk for the 3.5 months of 2007 that I worked in this job, but I have a styling planner that I use instead. (I have two calendars hanging in my cubicle, courtesy of Etsy. My job’s a creative one, but methodical enough to make me long for lots of pretty things.)

A lot’s been going on. I designed and sent out my own holiday cards this year, the majority of which went to Japan, to my friends and former students and colleagues and even to my old board of education and community center. I hope they all made it. I went to visit family in Ohio for the holidays and spent a lot of time with my friends. I’m still living with my parents–but very close to making a final decision about which apartment complex to move to, and hopefully moving soon. I’m looking forward to it.

In early December, I took level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I did better and worse than I thought I would, but I think I passed, and my private teacher and I have started working slowly already towards getting me ready for level 2 next December. I’m glad I’m keeping it up, but my conversation skills are definitely slipping. I also will be attending a meeting of a bimonthly Japanese/English book club in a couple of weekends; the book for this month is Nijuushi no Hitomi/Twenty-Four Eyes. The copy I have is all English, though…we’ll see how that works out. It’s an interesting read, about a teacher and some of her students from prewar, wartime, and postwar Japan, with very pacifistic overtones. It takes place in a village on Shodoshima (an island in the Seto Inland Sea, between Honshu and Shikoku), and there are references to locales in nearby Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku, and to places in Kagawa-ken that I’ve actually visited (Tadotsu, Kotohira, Takamatsu, Yashima), though I haven’t actually visited Shodoshima itself. I’m enjoying the book so far.

I still think about Japan daily. In fact, today I got a nengajo (new year’s card) from an elementary school teacher I worked with, the principal at my Monday-morning school, the really lovely lady who took such good care of me when I was homesick my first year. I’m in touch with my former bosses through e-mail (one even offered to try to send me homemade osechi-ryouri, the special new year’s food; though it obviously couldn’t make it, it was a sweet offer!), and more occasional touch with several other Japanese friends, and in pretty good touch with several ALTs, but it’s already surprising who I’ve lost touch with. Conversely, Genna‘s still set on coming for a visit, and I’ll have to check in with Chalice and Joe. I also may be traveling out to California in April or so, where I have every intention of seeing Hannah, and I scored a really wonderful 45 minutes of phone time with Lindsay this past week (first time in nearly two years) while she was back in the US.

And as of this week, I’ll get a chance to revisit many of those people, because I’ve booked my plane tickets for 10 days in Japan in March! Immediately on the tail end of attending SXSW Interactive in Austin for business (I won a free membership, even; scroll halfway down the page!), I fly to Osaka and make my way to Tokushima in time to attend my junior high’s graduation ceremony, watch the 2008 Tokushima musical, and just see everybody and everything again. I’m really excited for this–it feels like an epilogue of sorts, to round all this off. Leaving Japan in August was…mixed. I’d come off that pretty bittersweet Hokkaido/Tohoku vacation and was ready for it to be over, but it really hurt to leave at the same time. I hope that this trip will be much more upbeat, and that I can come away with the knowledge that these people and places will always be there, and that while my time as a Japanese resident has ended, my ties to the country and the places and the people will still always be there. I can’t wait to see it all again.