While I know I’ve already written about having an anniversary of sorts, it really didn’t hit me until the first day back from summer break just how long I have actually been here.
The same assembly I attended a year ago, with my nerves at their peak, was now just another ritual; Another thing I was required to go to, hear the kids sing and watch them awkwardly “receive” awards they had won during the summer. It was watching this, and imagining where I was standing just last year, that made me realize “oh, right, it has been that long.”
Having to pay $2000 and solidifying the dates for my return trip home during the winter break also facilitated this clarity. I’m already starting to think of how weird it might be heading back, seeing people who will have changed and those who haven’t at all. I find myself asking friends who went home during the summer what reverse culture shocks, if any, they encountered. Though I’m not really sure why I am asking. Do I want nothing to be a surprise when I go home? Maybe that says something about me on a couple of levels.
But as I already think of the stories I might have to tell my curious family members and friends, it just hits me more and more how much I’ve perhaps changed, physically and mentally. So, here’s some interesting observations I’ve made thus far.
-I am now more accepting of the procedures and structure of the Japanese school system than I was when I first arrived (maybe a story for another day). I have more problems with specific people within the system than I do the system as a whole. This was the opposite from when I first started.
-I have found myself was more conscious about the clothes I wear. The international students had a joke when I studied abroad that every Japanese college student had to look like they were about to go on a date. Even now, it seems many Japanese people make an effort of trying to look nice (outside of the office, at least) and it’s certainly rubbed off on me. The extra cash certainly helps.
-The fact that I now have a black belt in Judo still surprises me. A year ago, I would have never imagined that I would take up a martial art, as stereotypical as that might be. I don’t think a-year-ago-me would have really believed it.
-My feelings regarding to stay in Japan long term seem to change on a daily basis, whereas before I was very set on staying for as long as possible. While there are many things that make me want to stay, there are plenty of other aspects that make me want to venture out. Working in a Japanese office environment and talking to those in the thick of it was the major factor in this.
-I’ve perhaps become way more open when it comes to appreciating the nerdy stuff, maybe to a fault. I just grew tired of acting like I didn’t know what (enter property) was, even if I was actively interested in it. Though, some people that know me may say I haven’t changed at all in this respect. Luckily I don’t think my students have caught on just how “bad” I might be.
-I’ve found that I have become way more comfortable with the position I’ve been given than when I first arrived. In the beginning, I found myself very frustrated with just how little I was given/expected, among other things, but I’ve now come to use that free time for my own purposes, rather than waiting on some “order from above.” I still try to help out where I can, but the summer break of having absolute 0 things (this is not an exaggeration) to do became a lot more tolerable when I did things for myself, even if those things had nothing related to school work.
I guess I may be more curious as the changes people point out to me; The things I would never be able to notice myself. I wonder, though, if I am getting too wrapped up in what these changes might be, if any. Many of them have been good, defining, I believe. Maybe these self-reflecting thoughts aren’t really true at all, and I just think I’ve changed in some fashion.
But I wonder if becoming so interested in what might have changed will leave me disappointed in the things that wouldn’t have changed at all. I guess we’ll just have to see. Having said that, you can bet that a vast majority of the holiday season posts will be all about the weird stuff during my trip home. This trip, and December in general, will answer a lot of questions going forward, so it seems like it will be a pretty eventful month.
I also just miss good pizza way too god damn much. That fact hasn’t changed at all.