Thursday, November 29, 2007

Strange Times

This week, time has seemed...out-of-sync. That's really the best way to describe it. Perhaps a change is coming, I'm not really sure.

This weekend I had Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, which was a holiday here in Japan. It's kind of a made up holiday, but nonetheless, it was nice to have it off. Saturday I focused on my squash game, playing quite hard for 4.5 hours, before going out with a friend from town on Saturday night. Sunday, as usual, was a day for recovery. I got up late, had a delicious bowl of Ramen in Shimizu with Chris, and then we headed to the nearest onsen, (it's actually quite a nice one.) Afterwards, we watched the new Battlestar Galactica and headed home.

As I was leaving his house, I mentioned that I felt...weird. It's hard to explain, but my best explanation is that the temporality of the moment was displaced, or compressed. What I mean by that is, I felt placed out of time, or as I said on Sunday, "The past is occuring in the present." It may sound crazy, but that's what it felt like!

This weird feeling has persisted throughout the week, and seems to have had other effects. My routine, which had become pretty stable, has been completely shot this week. I stayed up far too late reading on Monday night, and also did a lot of messaging and Japanese studying, which for me, is unusual. Tuesday I was exhausted, and completely unmotivated, which isn't terribly surprising, but I also had this very weird feeling throughout the evening, much like my feeling on Sunday night, a sense of things, occurring out of order.

On Wednesday, this feeling only increased. I was still tired, and so I went home early, around 4:15. (Technically I should have gone to the Board of Education after school, but they never check.) I decided to have a nap before playing squash, but I was tired enough that I slept till 9pm. I had strange dreams, which took part not in the past, or the future, or in some strange dreamtime, but completely in the present. Sometimes, when you wake up, your disorientated for a second, perhaps you're unsure of where you are, but this time it took me literally minutes to figure out where I was and what was going on. I could have sworn I'd gotten on a plane a week ago and travelled back to Canada. It was a disconcerting feeling, and I was upset that I'd missed squash, but I decided to take it easy, and ended up going back to sleep a couple hours later.

Basically, the whole week has felt weird, I haven't been able to get anything done, (and the BoE has been extremely aggravating) and I've felt as if I'm waiting for some sort of change to happen, as if something big is going to happen soon. Who knows, but it's been....


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good vibes in the strangest places

So I've been kind of down the last couple days, but tonight everything is looking up. It's amazing what a good supper, (spaghetti with garlic bread and salad, all homemade) and (strangely) bad reality TV (the amazing race) will do to lift one's spirits.

And someone in Shikaoi finally messaged me back. :D

Monday, November 19, 2007

Retrospective Part 2

We'll return you to your regularly scheduled programming (or lack thereof, what with the writer's strike in Hollywood and my own video-editing negligence) in a moment, but first, a quick rundown of the last couple weeks for me here in Shikaoi.

Life is dull. November has for many years now been my least favourite month, and this one, despite being located on the wind-swept plains of a frozen and foreign island, proved no less tiresome. The best word to describe the 11th month is neutral, or if you prefer, gray. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. The temperature is grey. My mood is grey. November lacks the crispness of autumn and the purity of winter. It's cold, but without the benefits of the cold, like snow and snowboarding. It's a month of transition, which means it's dirty and off-putting, but it's even worse than March because it lacks the promise of new warmth that wafts through the spring air. I hate November with a special passion.

At the same time, I've also stumbled onto my JET-scheduled culture shock. Back in the handbooks they gave us in August, it claimed that between 6-12 weeks we'd get our real culture shock. Not the "wow Japan is so crazy and wonderful" culture shock, but the "why the fuck can't I find whole wheat bread?" kind of culture shock. Of course, I thought to myself that it wouldn't be a problem for me, but right on schedule I've been going through it the last couple weeks. The biggest trigger for it has been my feeling of isolation these past couple weeks. For whatever reason, the people in my town that I used to hang out with just haven't been around. I'd be paranoid if I thought they were avoiding me, but it certainly seems odd. I had a bad experience with a teacher not telling me about an event I was supposed to go to, and myself consequently looking like a complete fool at a bar in town, before getting sworn at by one of my English teachers, so I guess it's just a feeling of getting a little burned with cultural miscommunication. What seems to happen with a lot of JET's is that they either integrate into their community, or they don't quite make it, and retreat into the understanding circle of foreigners in their area. I'm not at all bashing hanging out with foreigners, god knows, without them I wouldn't still be sane, but I feel as if I've lost the balance I used to have. I definitely feel like I've been sliding towards Option #2, and I think it's about time I did something about it. Perhaps that's too harsh an assesment, but I've just grown tired of messaging people in Japanese and never getting a response!

So my game plan for the next few weeks is to have fun in my area with some of my old friends, enjoy the 30cm of snow we just got, and figure out a way to pay for all the things I want to do in the next few months.

At this point I don't actually feel like writing up a couple retrospective points, so look for those in the future!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

3 Month Retrospective Part 1 of ?

Your shitting me right? I've been here a Quarter of a Year?! I realized this yesterday as I was eating the lunch made for me by my 8th Graders in Home-Ecc class, and it just blew my mind. I could swear that I've been here, perhaps a month, at most.

I guess this isn't really all that different than the timewarped university period. (4 years=2 years) but the ratio seems to be skewing evermore in my disfavour. At this rate by the time I'm 25 years will be passing by in daily chunks, which is a scary thought. And I can't claim that "being busy makes the time fly" as I've been less busy than I was in University, although I can already feel a certain restlessness growing itchily inside of me, telling to hurry and get things done. Maybe next week...

So I thought I'd go back over some the big dreams, assumptions etc. that I had before coming here and compare them with the way things really are. Of course, lots of bubbles get popped when coming to a new and exciting place, that's inevitable. But I still think it 's interesting to see just how things are different.

1. Schools
I was a little better informed than most people on this regard. I knew that the old myth about the impressiveness of Japanese schools was a complete load. I knew that the level of English was likely to be extremely low, and most students wouldn't have a lot of motivation to learn it. As with most things, the reality is somewhere in the middle. In every class I seem to have a few students who desperately want to learn English, (one girl moved from Sapporo to Shikaoi, and has been living by herself for 3 years so that she could take part in the Gr. 10 trip to Canada!) a majority of apathetic students with generally dismal English skills, and a few troublemakers. Pretty standard I guess. I haven't had any of the horror stories that I've heard from friends, but none of the huge successes either. The High School is perhaps the most surprising for me. The level of delinquency is certainly low, although that probably has a much to do with its rural location as the students themselves. As well, since High School is not mandatory, perhaps the worst students drop out. The level of English that the students possess is fascinating. While a very few continue to improve, most seem to get noticeably worse in High School. My Gr.7's have the highest level of English overall, my Gr.12's the lowest.

2. My House

Sorry to disappoint, but its not particularly "Japanese," apart from a few quirks. It's actually quit similar to my place in Montreal, with hardwood floors, (no tatami) and good insulation. The kitchen sometimes feels lacking in counter space, but that's not exactly the end of the world. I do have a Japanese style bath tub, which is quite deep, but I don't use it much as it is also very small in width and length. Heating is also typically Japanese, as it uses a kerosene heater supplied from an outdoor tank. All in all, it's decent, but small. But I guess that saves on heating!

More to come soon!...