Well, February has begun with a frosty gust of snowy rain, and along with it the recontracting deadline approaches. For myself and others like me (a.k.a. fellow JETs), we have until the second week of the second month to decide whether we will sign our lives away to Japan for another year, or not. For many it can be a heart-wrenching and hair-tearing decision-making process, I’ve even heard rumors of decisions being made at the flip of a coin, but thankfully it was a relatively painless decision for me this year:
So Astroviper and I will be entering into our third year of the crazy Japanese life, as of August. When we came, we had in our minds to stay for at least two years, unless we hated it, and possibly three years, if we liked it enough. I suppose we like it enough, because we’re staying!
Of course Japan has its frustrations. I could make a fairly long list, but in the interests of brevity and not complaining myself to death, I’ll just share the most relevant one at the moment: Lack of insulation and central heating. It’s the same temperature inside as it is outside, which this morning was 4°C. I could go on about this for awhile, as this author does in The Japan Times, but I’m not feeling particularly culturally frustrated at the moment, so I’ll refrain.
Japan also has a lot to keep me interested. Travel is the big thing, and while I’ve had the opportunity to see lots of stuff since I’ve been here, and even do one international trip to the nearby Philippines, there’s a lot more I want to do and see. Language is another thing – I’ve put some effort into learning Japanese, and leaving after just two years when I have yet to cross the threshold into some degree of linguistic competency would be a waste of my time spent studying thus far. Money is a thing, as well, hence the title of this post. The best news this week is that I have finally paid off all of my student debt, within two years of graduating! We still have my husband’s debt, but with signing on for a third year, we should see that decimated in no time, and we can kiss financial bondage goodbye! For now, at least.
About this time last year, we agreed to stay for a second year, but there was little chance of staying a third. One of the big factors in changing that was probably taking on new hobbies. Both of us have joined aikido, a martial art similar to judo but that is non-competitive, and is based on the principle of diffusing fights and not harming your opponents. So basically we get thrown around a lot. I’ve also joined a taiko (Japanese drum) team, and already performed at local events a few times. I’m looking forward to a summer of festival performances!
Japan is a land of club activities, and many social ties seem to be based off this system. Before joining aikido and taiko, I felt little sense of belonging apart from the shared feelings of alienation and frustration that tied me to other foreigners here. Now with my activities, I’m “in,” in a sense, and people are willing to overlook my still poor communication skills in Japanese, because I’m accepted as part of their group. Coming from a place where friends are made easily and kept without much effort, it has been a difficult adjustment, but I’m getting there.
Another thing that’s difficult to detail at this point is, I have some things I want to accomplish, or at least get started while in Japan, a “dream” if you will. No, it doesn’t involve offspring quite yet, sorry ;). But I will probably be talking about it on the blog in the near future, so stay tuned.
To my friends and family back home, sorry but you’ll have to wait for me a little longer! I promise I won’t forget about you if you don’t forget about me! Or you could just come visit! And to Japan and my friends and everyone here, 今年もよろしく！