Sunday, July 31, 2011

11 hours left in Japan.

My scheduled departure from Fukuoka to Seoul is 16:45 and it is currently about 5:30 a.m. I am making excellent headway as far as packing and apartment preparation goes - I might even be able to sleep for a couple hours. This is my second all-nighter in a row and I suspect I will sleep like a dead baby most of the flight home.

I don't have feelings obviously but if I had to use emotionally based language to describe what's going on, I'd say it's a kind of deep sadness not dissimilar to how it feels the few days after a breakup. I have been purposely overstimulating myself with booze and lack of rest so that I can hide behind it (and look awful in all the photos).

There's something incredibly moving and awe-inspiring about watching the sun rise. I have grown to associate it with a successful night out, with a tinge of sadness that it's over. I guess the three year long wild night that was my time in Japan is seeing the sun rise.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


That's me. Funemployed. This morning I went to the immigration office and downgraded my visa from a 3 year working visa to "temporary visitor." I packed up my things from my desk at school and at 4:30 this afternoon was escorted out the door by a hodge-podge group of teachers and a few students (there was hardly anyone in the building).

I came home and had a nice big cathartic cry, something I haven't done at all during the entire process of farewells and goodbyes. It's been overwhelming and surreal, and a large part of me is fighting the inevitable huge changes that lie ahead. I still have a couple days left in Japan so I'm going to enjoy myself and look forward and spend my time with the folks I care about.

Above all else I am dreading the loss of my social circle that revolves around Oldies. I went there for dinner last night - Miho made me a chimichanga - and we sat listening to the '80s satellite radio channel, uncomfortably skirting around the issue of me leaving. She is a dear friend, a sister, and possibly the kindest person I've ever met. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't fuck around pretending to care about people. I know of course we will see each other in the future and stay in touch, but it's not the same when I can't walk 20 minutes down the street to say hey.

Two lives, one heart, we all knew it was gonna be hard.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farewell speech

How are you? I say "I'm fine" but to be perfectly honest, I am very sad. It's been three years and my time here is coming to a close. I cannot fathom that on the 31st of this month, I will be back in New York.

My time here has been interesting and full of unique, one-of-a-kind experiences. I really enjoyed teaching English classes. I also relished the opportunities I had to talk with students and teachers outside of class and work. Everyone here has been so helpful, and I have learned many things. Before I came to Japan, I was nervous at the prospect of living in a foreign country. However, once I got here, everyone welcomed me with great kindness.

I was surprised at how truly generous the people in Japan, particularly Chikuhou, are. I have never experienced this degree of kindness in my life, and this was probably the greatest culture shock of all. I do, however, believe that people across cultures are fundamentally the same. Generosity and selflessness are virtues that anyone can possess. It is simply a choice you make.

You may not have donated a million yen to charity or personally saved a dying man's life, but there are many everyday situations in which human kindness shows. I often see you out and about eschewing selfishness in favor of altruism and helping others. You are helping a blind man find a seat on the train, staying up late consoling a friend who is upset, and bringing vegetables from the family garden to share with your coworkers.

I don't care what your priorities are. Perhaps you love to speak English and are interested in living abroad. Maybe you're not the academic type and prefer sports or music. Whatever. The important thing is that you live your life as a good person and show love and kindness in your own way. I wish you all the best in whatever you choose to do.

Not surprisingly, it will be considerably harder for me to leave Japan than it was to move here. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all the students, teachers and staff who looked after me and welcomed me so warmly into my beloved Japanese life. Because of you, I have grown to truly identify as part of the community at school and in town. It will be impossible to walk away without feeling great sorrow. I have two lives, but I only have one heart. I will miss you deeply, but I know we will persevere and keep on living. Life is short so please give it your all. Thank you.