I went to get my hair experiment fixed, and came away with not only some gorgeous hair but also a lovely gift and a rather twitterpated state of mind.
I went to a seminar on deciphering old Meiji- and Edo-era documents, and stretched my brain. The lecturer said afterwards it was the first time an American had ever come to one of his classes.
I went to a party held by a group of visiting volunteers, and got to practice my interpreting skills! I also got away without eating any of the crusty dried fish or boiled baby squid, which I see as a major bonus.
At some points during all of the running around, I had reason to consider a couple of nagging questions. I think they are good questions to consider whoever you are and wherever you happen to be, perhaps with the exception of #2. If you don't live in Japan you can perhaps substitute your country of residence, your state, city, or workplace. :)
1. What is my motivation for the work I do?
2. Do I like Japan?
3. Am I unknowingly walking around with an expression so sour it could curdle milk?
1. I think the problem is that I have so many different kinds of work to balance that one really genuine motivation can't support them all. For example, I could truly say that my motivation is to promote intercultural understanding. But that's a bit flimsy (IMHO). Of course, I could also say I work to pay the bills, but that doesn't reflect just how thankful I am to have this job and how much I prefer it to many others I might have. The fact is, some of the work I do, I do because I think it's valuable to the community, some because it builds my professional skills, some because it's fun and rewarding, and some just because I have to. In the end, the only generalization to make is that I want to do God's will.
2. The question to which "yes!!!" came so speedily as a student is now cause for a fearful amount of pondering. The longer I live here, the more I think of Japan as a person, about whom I am slowly learning; with whom I am trying to make friends. But this person happens to be thousands of years old, and shouldn't be taken lightly. This might not be a helpful analogy, though. It might be better to think of Japan as a mansion, of which I have only seen the foyer and drawing room.
On the other hand, I like my life in Japan very much.
3. I might be. I definitely notice a lot of other people walking around with glum and gloomy expressions, so I'll have to watch out for this in myself.
Definitely not a fan of the pasted-on-bared-teeth-grin, though. That's the kind of person who might eat you for lunch. Plain old pleasant is good enough for me. And for those times when one just can't muster up the energy to be pleasant?
-"Offer it up."
-"Just think of how much colder it'll be when we get further North."
-"Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out!...Cuz there's no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes!!!"
-"Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!"
And of course,
"There will be time yet for a hundred indecisions, time yet for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea."
Ah, poetry. Perhaps I should have been an English teacher, after all.