Christmas and New Year's at home were lovely. There were twelve of us! It was so good to see how each of my little siblings has grown over the last year and a half; my sister can make so many more sounds to communicate with now, and my little brothers are slowly become better behaved and even gentlemanly at times. I'm sorry I didn't get to go sledding with them-- first, I was too cold (and unused to the Northern winter temperatures), and then the snow got too hard on top.
Our internet went out for about a week, and while it was inconvenient sometimes to be unable to Google a location or check inboxes or movie times, it was a really wonderful opportunity to talk with my older-younger siblings and my older sister, too. It seems like everyone is doing their best in various challenging situations.
I got to meet a nice group of former high school classmates one night at a bar in St. Paul. (As luck would have it, I'd forgotten my US drivers' license in Japan, but they let my alien registration card and expired US drivers' license pass... whew) It's strange to see people I used to take English class with now married and having babies and out working in the real world! Of course it's only natural that they are, but some part of me just feels like that whole high school universe is still preserved somewhere in a time capsule, and everyone else is just the same as they always were... It was a good night, and it put me in mind of the pub scene in The Return of the King, where the four travelers sit down once more in the Green Dragon after many adventures.
I spent a lovely afternoon with A, my old roommate of college days in Saitama. She is getting her teaching license, and hopefully will be joining the JET team in Japan this summer! I hope she is placed near a big city so I can visit her there.
Perhaps the best meeting was the furthest away. I didn't really want to sit in a car for five hours one way and five hours back, but seeing my grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins again was worth every minute! And such food as you can't get in my neck of the woods... cheese curds and cheesecake and cheeseburger soup and lasagna! (And someone made puppychow, too..... mmmm)
What's up with this picture? Not much, you might say. But there are so many wonderful things about it! The bread came from a long, thinly-sliced loaf from the grocery store, toasted in an actual toaster, and slathered with wonderful chunky peanut butter and the best strawberry jam in the world! (because it was homemade, with the best strawberry jam recipe in the world) Beautiful.
Just like coffee shops, and old friends.
Since coming back to my town, I started panicking about finding a new job quickly enough to finish my time in inaka-cho this summer. It was so good being home that all I want to do is go back--- but, after all, it's not so bad here that I'd rather be unemployed for months. I think. I could do a much better job applying to grad schools and hunting for jobs if I start at the end of the summer. Then, you see, I'll know for certain that it's my last year in inaka-cho, unlike this year where I've been swinging back and forth about it.
I've been looking into other work in Japan for a long time. Yet the simple fact is that the system is set up so that English teaching/tutoring is about the only job someone like me could get. If I had special technical, engineering, computer, or financial skills it might be a different story, but I was a liberal arts major and so, to all prospective employers here, insupportable. When the time comes, I will certainly look for work in the Kanto and Kansai areas, but I don't want to settle for just anything. I'd rather be able to use existing and develop new skills in international exchange, whether here or in the US. Eventually I'd like to train as an interpreter.
I never thought I was the type to "get the ball rolling," but I guess I just ran out of patience for someone else to do it, so I got all the local English teachers and one girlfriend to come to my place for dinner and Monopoly last night. It was great! I really hope we can do that more often, and A already offered to host the next one. Sweet.
Isolation is so much easier to bear when you don't have to do it alone. Solidarity!