Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year - あけましておめでとうございます!

So it's Monday, December 31st, and another year for me here in Japan has come to an end.

Before I talk about the year that was, I'd like to say Happy New Year to my family and friends and of course, my great students! I wish all of you all the best in 2008.

2007 was a year of contrasts for me. It started rather well - I rang in the New Year in America, said goodbye to my favorite class of students so far in mid-March, decided to stay a 4th year in the same job in Taisha, had a great vacation to Osaka to watch live Sumo, and started another school year with a 3nen sei class I'd taught since they were 6nen sei at elementary school.

Despite other good moments throughout the rest of the year, it hasn't ended as well as I would have liked. I still haven't adjusted to my new job teaching at two schools, and some of my better friends in the JET program left in July.

I have to decide in the next month wether I'll stay for a fifth and final year, and right now I'd say chances are good I will stay. I still really enjoy my kids and teaching when I get a chance to do it. It will be hard to leave whenever I decide to do it. Thinking about my future beyond the JET program now occupies a great deal of my time, and while I'm pretty sure what career I'll pursue, I'm still uneasy about my eventual transition back to "real life."

Knowing that I'll most likely stay in Shimane until July of 2009 makes me want to set some concrete goals for myself for 2008. Call them New Year's resolutions if you like - there are three main things I want to focus on.
1 - I'd like to lose some weight and get in better health.
My diet is so bad, and I do so little exercise, I've really gotten fat - perhaps the fattest I've ever been. It's just not healthy and I want to try to reverse the trend.
2 - I really want to improve my Japanese skills. I've spoken to a local tutor and I hope to start private lessons with the aim of taking the JLPT level 2 test in December of 2008. I know I can do it - I just have to commit the time to studying. I don't want to leave after living here for 5 years with the level of Japanese I have now.
3 - I need to save some money, but at the same time, I want to see more of Japan before I leave. I haven't been back to Tokyo once since I was there for JET orientation in 2004, and I really want to see live sumo at the main Tokyo arena.

Hopefully I can overcome my inherent laziness and accomplish some of the these goals.

It's gotten really cold in the last few days. I'm surviving under my kotatsu. It started snowing today and we're supposed to have a "white New Year." I may walk up to IzumoTaisha on New Year's Eve or Day, but we'll have to see how the weather is.

It'll be a somewhat lonely New Year for me this year. I have a week off of work since everything shuts down in Japan for the 3 days around New Years. But I won't see anyone during this time. Every other JET in Izumo went somewhere for the holidays - either home or to somewhere warm like Thailand.
I was having some chest pain on Friday - nothing to worry about, most likely just indigestion from some weird food I ate that day, but it made me think for a minute. If I had a heart attack and collapsed in my apartment, no one would even find the body until January 8th or so, when I didn't show up for work. And thinking further I realized that the last conversation I had in English with a non-Japanese person was on December 17th, and I wouldn't likely have another one until after January 7th. That's a long time to go without speaking to anyone, save for small conversations in Japanese with clerks and servers. I don't really get phonecalls from anyone, so email and this blog is my only real means of "conversation." So if you've read this far, I thank you.

So you might think that being more social should be a goal for 2008. Hmmm... Well, maybe. I certainly would like to get out and do some things, but I only have a few friends in Japan. I should try to change that, but maybe it's a little late. On the JET Programme you're thrust together with a bunch of people from all parts of the world who might only share one thing in common - the basic job we all do or our common plight of being the outsider in a very homogeneous society. And I'm lucky in that the people around me in Shimane are good folks and I enjoy hanging out with them. Some even enjoy my company, but I don't really have a good friend - a buddy or a pal - in the sense of a person who invites you along to things, wants to hang out just to hang out, and knows me on a more personal level than "That old American guy who lives in Taisha." I've never formed an outside-of-work friendship with a Japanese person, and maybe that stems from my lack of Japanese, so hopefully I can concentrate on #2 above and change that.

The loneliness is pretty crushing at times, and makes me very sad some days, so I will try to remedy that as much as I can in 2008. I'm going to busy myself with trying to update my blog here and picture and video sites over the next few days, and as always I have plenty of movies I want to watch and books I want to read.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a safe and fun New Year. Check back for many updates over the coming week, and I'll see you in 2008!



K said...

Perhaps a 5th year really isn't a good idea?

I know you didn't ask for advice...

Everyone needs friends.

It is much easier to make friends in your home country.

Ang said...

Oi oi!! Wrong-headed.
If you answered your phone or replied to my calls, you wouldn't have that problem!!!! :p

I mean this in a loving way xxx