It’s my last day of Spring Break and I’m sad to see it go. I got a lot done and I’m excited for the new school year to start because I know some of my teachers will have moved around and I will have new students at elementary school and my elementary school students will move up to my middle school. I think the last few months of my teaching job in Japan will go by fast so I want to enjoy it and do my best work before my contract ends.
I read the book The Happiness Advantage (click to read my review) and I want to start my new school year off on the right foot with a positive attitude. Of course there aren’t a lot of things I personally can control or change except my own attitude, so I am going to put more effort into doing so in order to improve myself at work and enjoy more of my job.
Last year I rarely used my paid vacation because I didn’t know when I would need it, and about 12 days rolled over to this year, so I stacked up over 30 days of paid vacation. I used some of it over the summer and winter breaks, and I still have plenty. Since my mom and grandma were on their way to visit Japan, I took two days off to clean and relax and I also go some reading done. The day they arrived, I even when to the community center in my city to take a swim in the pool. The facility is really big and nice and I had fun swimming and tiring myself out, so I also took a dip in the onsen before going home and getting ready to retrieve my mom and grandma.
Their plane arrived late, so we didn’t have much time to do anything besides lug their (six!!) suitcases to my house and get ready for bed. I was shocked that they brought so much luggage, but a lot of it was food and presents for me and Junkyu. When they left, they decided to empty out two of the suitcases and leave them with me so that they wouldn’t have to carry them. The two of them woke up extremely early each morning while I just wanted to sleep in, and we often scrambled to find something interesting to do.
We went to Kokura Castle and walked around in the station and I got to shop for cute clothes that my grandma bought me as a birthday present. We met up with my Japanese friends and drove to Mojiko to walk around the coast, shop, and eat. Since I don’t have a car, it was really nice to take a trip somewhere I usually can’t get to. The cherry blossoms were blooming in Kokura and we got to take pictures and enjoy the weather as it began to warm up.
On Saturday, Junkyu arrived and we had some time to kill so I took my mom and grandma to eat kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) and even though my mom and I aren’t big fish eaters, we ate a ton of pork and chicken and they had fun taking pictures with the new Japanese digital cameras they bought. I picked Junkyu up from the ferry terminal and we went to Canal City to walk around before going to eat yakiniku.
The next day, we ate pizza at Shakey’s before going to see Cirque du Soleil, which was really fun. We saw a show called Ovo that was basically a bunch of different bugs doing different tricks. My favorite were the ants who twirled giant kiwis on their feet. Then, we went to Ohori and Maizuru Park to go cherry blossom viewing. We ate street food and took pictures with the gorgeous blossoms.
We stopped by the shops on our way home so Junkyu could buy me a birthday present. He picked me out a necklace of two stars intertwined, one with a star and one without. He told me, “You are the bling-bling star and I’m the no bling-bling star.” I was really touched and I wear it every day. Stars are really special to me and he did a great job picking it out.
The next morning, I had to take Junkyu back to the ferry terminal, so we packed up some of my video games and books and clothes so that he could take them to Korea. Now that I have two big suitcases that my mom and grandma left me, I will be able to pack more of my stuff up in those for Junkyu to take to Korea next time he visits. The move will be a lot easier than when I moved back to America from Kyoto, but logistically I’m still trying to figure things out. The less stuff I have to pack when my contract ends, the better.
We then went to Osaka for three days and two nights, staying in a hotel next to Osaka Station. It was surreal going back there since I have so many memories going to Osaka as a student with my friends. When we arrived, it was raining, but the next morning when we set off for Universal Studios Japan, the skies were completely cloudless and it was a beautiful, warm day. We ate big cheeseburgers and rode Jaws and went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which the three of us went to in Orlando, Florida the summer that it opened) and got in line for the castle ride.
It was strange to hear the comments my mom and grandma made about Japanese people and the things they noticed about Japan because I’m used to Japan after living here many times and for about 3 years total. Every time I explained the differences they pointed out, I had to stop and remember how I first felt upon arrival. Seeing things through their eyes was interesting but sometimes stressful, since I can’t even explain things anymore, I just accept the way things are here.
We lounged around eating an American style breakfast the next morning before going to see Osaka Castle and all the beautiful sakura. The blossoms were floating around in the wind and we saw friends and couples taking pictures next to the pink and white trees. My mom and grandma loaded up on souvenirs, and we went back to the airport to wait for our plane to Fukuoka. On their last full day, we packed up their stuff and went out to eat ramen and yakiniku in my city. The owner was a really sweet lady who said she saw me at our chiropractor’s office and asked about my family’s trip. She gave us green tea and gum after dinner and we went home, stuffed.
The trip with my family wasn’t all peaches and cream, and there were a few stressful situations and disagreements. It was so hard readjusting to an American way of thinking while they were here, and even though I wanted them to see the great things about Japan, the period of time was too short for them to really appreciate everything I love about living here. A few months ago when I was thinking about making the move to Korea, I was concerned that maybe I wouldn’t be able to adjust or that I would find that there are things I don’t like, but I think that’s normal. I’ve lived here so long that even when I complain about the cultural differences, I can appreciate Japan for what it is and know that the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. Everything is what you make it.
I’m really confident that moving to Korea is the right thing for me and I’m excited to start a new adventure. I want to close this chapter of my life in the best way possible. I signed up to take the JLPT N1 so I am going to study more Japanese, read more Japanese literature, go to concerts, hang out with my friends, and enjoy the warm weather before I leave Japan. I’ll visit America before I move, so I’m going to go through reverse culture shock and then move to a new place, but I know with a positive attitude and Junkyu there to teach me about Korean culture, I will be fine.
Tomorrow is the start of a new school year, and I’ve already started another graduate school class. I’ll be a busy bee this year, and that’s just how I like it.