Categories
2018 Photo Journal

A Thought on Travel

18-03-18-20-20-43-629_decoIt’s been 1 year, 9 months, and roughly 15 days since I left New York to live abroad. In that time, I’ve done more traveling than I ever have in the 31 years that I have been alive. In a couple of months, I’ll be traveling once again (to California this time) to visit family during the period we call Golden Week.

In that year, 9 months, and 15 or so days, I feel like I’ve become less of an American, and more of a World Citizen. My mind doesn’t think of travel (especially international travel) as a once in a lifetime event or special thing reserved for honeymoons or anniversaries. It’s something that can be done by anyone with a bit of drive, careful planning, and a bit of free time.

People, here in Japan, are quite fond of traveling– be it to a distant country or the neighboring Prefecture. Every place is known for something, every place is though of special in its own right. Day-trips and weekend outings seem to be regarded just as seriously as a two week vacation.

Perhaps it’s because the US is so large, and transpiration so expensive and/or lacking, that we as Americans don’t travel so often. Perhaps it’s cleaver marketing.

For me, it was a lack of funds, time, reliable transportation, and any real feeling of safety traveling alone as a woman, that kept me home-bound.  It was only after being persuaded by open-minded individuals, on the dime of a relative, or even via a school trip, that I ever really got out there.

I am thankful to those people and experiences. They gave me the know-how and confidence to go and live in another country, to want to continue to travel. But at the same time, I can’t help wondering why is it not the same for many of my fellow Americans?

Since coming to Japan, I’ve been lucky to meet people from all around the globe. I have coworkers and friends from the Commonwealth, Europe, South America, and lots of other countries in Asia. I’ve sat down to dinner with these people to share stories about childhoods, everyday experiences, food, and culture. Every moment of it has been absolutely fascinating. These same people have asked me endless questions about the US, only some of which I am able to answer.

I feel like the international community has so much to learn and share with the world. From how Jamaica came up with the name for Jerk Chicken, to how fast-food in Australia is actually more expensive than most other foods, to the fascinatingly complex social conventions of Farmers in Northern England, to knowing the best season for wine from France, and why so many people suffer from Cedar allergies in Japan…

If I never left New York, I would have never know that Mount Fuji looks different depending on whether you’re viewing it from Yamanashi or Shizuoka. I would have never gone on a hunt for a rare and culturally celebrated red wine from France, after work with a friend, and beaten her parents (in France) to a glass of the stuff. I would have never learned how to play netball without befriending the Jamaican girl in my Sunday Japanese class.

I can only hope that others are privy to these sorts of things in the future. Go out there. See the world. You can only end up better off for it.

Categories
2017 Photo Journal

The Not-Sorry Sorry

 

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For many years I worked various retails job and I thing I noticed was the avoidance of the word sorry. I don’t mean that it was never said, but it always seemed so carefully phrased to brush off any blame on the company’s part. At a few jobs, we were actively discouraged or outright told never to apologize to a customer, as it was seen as the company acknowledging a mistake. The only phrase that I clearly remember being solidly okay to say was something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but…”

That isn’t to say I never apologized to people, but I did get chewed out more than once for doing so. However, here in Japan, it is the total opposite. We are expected to say sorry a lot, actually.

What made me think of this is something a coworker said. She said that I spoke in a round about way, but hardly ever said the word “sorry”. She said I tended to say, “ok” instead. For example, if I was reprimanded for having done something incorrectly or not quickly enough, my answer would be “Ok, I’m on it,” or “Ok, I’ll do that next time,” when most people would expect me to say sorry.

I don’t think she meant it in a negative way, to be honest. I think she’s worried about my relationships with my coworkers, since these new coworkers I have may be the ones who decide what becomes of me in another three months.

So it got me thinking. I used to say sorry a ton to my friends and family, but it seems like in the business world, it has fallen out of my vocabulary. That said, I’m working on it.

Has anyone else noticed this trend in US corporate culture, especially in the retail segment? Maybe I just lucked out and worked for some black companies or something?

Categories
2017 Photo Journal

Rolling Hills

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It’s hard to believe that Golden Week is over. It went by too fast. My next vacation isn’t until August. I also can’t believe that it’s something I can find complaint about.

Back in the US, I never really had any holidays. If I was lucky, I might have Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter off. Since coming to Japan, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to not only have two days off a week, but to also have paid vacations.

When I speak to people from outside the US, they can’t believe that vacations aren’t the norm for us, especially if we don’t come from a white collar – middle class family. I’ve lived here for just under a year and I already find myself wondering if I could ever go back to living as I did back home. Something tells me I wouldn’t. it’s startling, but I wonder if I’ve left my home country for good.

Categories
2016 Photo Journal

Marigolds

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I’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting too much about myself as of late. I’ve been talking mostly about things I’ve seen or places I’ve been. I haven’t said too much on how I feel.

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I think that’s because I have very little to say. Work has been fine for the most part. I still go out with friends or by myself. I do housework.

I think I expected the experience of living in Japan to be a bit more novel. While a lot of people I know think that everything is so new or strange,  I just see it as everyday life, just speaking a different language.

Last night, while chatting with some coworkers after work, I think I might understand now why I feel this way. A lot of my coworkers speak and understand minimal Japanese, so [they said that] they fill in the blanks with their imaginations. So, everything has a story or deeper meaning to it. I don’t do that. They see a sign and guess what mystical wonderful thing its for. I see a sign saying Grilled Meat, beer 50% off.

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That isn’t to say I’m unhappy here or upset at being literate, because I’m not. I’m much more contdnt here that I ever was back home.

I just wish sometimes I felt that same sense of wonder as they do.

Categories
2016 Photo Journal

Morning, Glory!

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So, we’ve been handing out a ton of student satisfaction surveys at work recently. They are pretty straight forward, asking students how they feel about their classes, their teachers, and the general atmosphere of the school. It’s set up like the standardized tests back home, with students filling in a bubble on a sheet, with a pencil. There are also sections where students are to write messages to the staff and teacherd. They then put it in a sealed box to be reviewed later.

To be honest, it has me nervous.

Categories
2016 Photo Journal

The Past

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I just realized that I’ve been here for a little more than a month. Time is flying by so quickly. I mean, yes, I always say that… but it feels faster than usual. This time last month, I was worrying over what to pack as luggage. This time last year, I was going crazy over finding a new job. I wonder what my past self would say to me if I said I would be living in Nagoya…

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2016 Photo Journal

Wrapping Up

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Tonight I leave for Japan.

I have lived in the same place, with my mom, for almost 30 years. Tonight, I will get into a car bound towards an airport one state away, to board a plane headed to Detroit. From there, I will get on another plane headed to Nagoya, Japan.

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Until now, I’ve been so preoccupied with getting things ready, that the impact of just what I’m doing hasn’t hit me. I’m going to be away for at least a little over a year, if not more. I’m leaving my friends and family behind. I’m going to be half a planet away. I am responsible for myself now. I am an adult.

It’s a really odd feeling.

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I know it isn’t forever, but something about moving still feels kind of final. I’m not sure why.

All I do know is this: this is a good thing and I should look at it in a positive light.

Categories
2016 new york Photo Journal

Without Looking Back

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Today is my last day. I can’t believe it.

Categories
2016 Photo Journal

Erasure

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This is my last week at my current job, so I started cleaning my workspace and computer hard drive up a bit. I got rid of old documents, nearly a pound of post-it notes, any anything that I wouldn’t absolutely need in the coming days. I also deleted a ton of old files, dating back to when I first started. I logged out of accounts I no longer regularly use. I set my settings back to their defaults. Bit by bit, I’m erasing my existence from there…

It feels unsettling.

I started working there late last July, after my work at the school wrapped up. It was supposed to only last a month, as per my original contract. At the end of that month, my contract was extended, even after all of the other temps were let go. If I stayed a few more months, I would have made a year…

But there was no security, so I started looking elsewhere. I wanted to find something before they could tell me that I was being let go. I misread the situation entirely…

They were going to make me permanent…

Around the same time I gave my notice.

So now, I am erasing 10 months of my life, and I don’t know how to feel about it.

Categories
2016 Photo Journal

Creating Waves

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The last two weeks have certainly been an experience. I have been hesitant to speak of it before now, but things seem to be settling down somewhat. You see, my department at work has been going though some… restructuring.

It has caused me to do some thinking (a lot of thinking, actually) about my future. Because of this, I have been looking into other avenues of employment, both in the US and abroad.

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When I think about moving overseas, I am filled both with excitement and (to a lesser extent) nervousness. While I have been overseas before, I have never lived anywhere other than the house in which I grew up. It is a little bit unsettling.

However, I am an adult now, single and without children. I love to travel and would love the chance to live in countries that are not the US. If I do not do this soon, I worry that I may lose my chance to. I am loath to spend the rest of my life in Yonkers.