2018 New Year’s Musings

明けましておめでとうございます!今年もよろしくお願いします!

This is the typical (formal) New Year’s greeting in Japan, and I’ve repeated it—with my strange bobble-headed bows—to many of my coworkers earlier this month.

Many of my students also tried valiantly to New Years greet me in my native tongue. They’ve all been shocked when I say that their minute-long wish translates simply to “Happy New Year,” period, done. Because there is no real translation for the last part. “Take care of me again this year?” “Let’s continue working well together this year?” It’s just not something we say in English; a good language-based example of how collectivist societies (such as Japan) and individualist societies (like many English-speaking countries) differ. Of course, I know that the今年もよろしく is part of the set New Year’s greeting, and it’s often just said out of politeness, but I still love the meaning behind it.

Anyways, I’ve dragged my feet in writing anything lately (this post itself is weeks late), but we are now a full month into the new year.

And for me, it’s the final year on the JET Programme.

My current contract ends on August 2nd of this year, and I didn’t re-contract (despite a handful of coworkers telling me that they’d be very happy if I stayed forever. A few of the women in my kimono class even offered their same-aged sons as potential boyfriends to get me to stay longer).

I am so very happy here, which makes it quite hard to leave. It’ll be even harder to tell my students I’m leaving—they don’t know yet, and they won’t know until June or July. However, I know it is time to move on. Three years teaching ESL in Japan is short in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a long time to stay in a job that has no real job progression.

I have a little over six months left here in Ibaraki, and I don’t plan on wasting them! Here are some of the bigger events I am looking forward to over the next six months:

  • In February: the last Global Seminar meeting of the 2017-2018 program (and a 2-day trip to the United Nations University in Tokyo with the students).
  • In March: the last graduation ceremony for my 3rd-grade students
  • In March-April: a week-long trip across Southern Japan with J and her mother to see cherry blossoms (we are hitting Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto).
  • In May: my college roommate is coming to visit for Golden Week!
  • In June: my base school’s Class Match! Two years ago, I joined one of the teams and played basketball, volleyball, and tug-of-war with the students, so I’m hoping I can do the same this year!
  • In July: packing and a lot of goodbyes
  • In August: a three-week trip through Southeast Asia with J !!

And of course, in between all those big events will be the small little adventures and unexpected moments that I’m looking forward to even more. I need to be better in recording all these moments before I leave so I have something to look back on.

It reminds me a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro’s book “The Remains of the Day.” In particular, I think of one of the last scenes of the book, when the main character is watching the sunset and musing about endings. The end of a day, the end of a lifestyle, the close of a chapter… we all wax reminiscent as things end, don’t we?

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