Thursday, July 16, 2009

saying goodbye in between a million other things

Well, things have been quite busy with me recently but now that my last day of work is done (as of earlier today), I've got two weeks of odds and ends to do before I leave Japan. This whole week was full of farewells from students, teachers, friends, and anyone else that I've befriended over the past two years. I feel like I want to give a massive review and analysis of all of the things that I have seen, done, and learned while living here but if I started doing that, honestly, this post would never end.

However, a good insight to some reflections about living and teaching in rural Japan can be gained by reading the speech I gave to my students and teachers during my final day at each school. Below, you can see it written first in Japanese characters followed by a pronunciation in roman characters (how it sounds when spoken) and finally a translated English version.

今、夏がきて、皆さんは遊ぶことに忙しいでしょう。私も楽しみたいですけれどちょっと時間がありません。なぜなら私はすぐにアメリカに帰りますから。二年間他の国でよい経験になりました。鳴門に住んで今、二年前とは別人になりました。日本での生活は挑戦がいっぱいでした。例えば私がアメリカから引っ越しをしてきた時、日本語は全然勉強していませんでした。でも他の言語を習いたかったから、日本語はとても難しかったけれど私の選択はある意味正しかったです。 鳴門で少しずつ勉強していきました。今は話すことができますけどアメリカでも勉強したいです。他のチャレンジと言えば一人で料理や、洗濯や、掃除など。初めてのことばかりでした。

Ima, natsu ga kite, minasan wa asobukoto ni isogashii deshou. Watashi mo tanoshimitai desu keredo chotto jikan ga arimasen. Nazenara watashi wa sugu ni America ni kaerimasu kara. Ninenkan hokano kuni de yoi keiken ni narimashita. Naruto ni sunde. Ima ninen mae towa betsujin ni narimashita. Nihon de no seikatsu wa chousen ga ippai deshita. Tatoeba watashi ga America kara hikkoshi wo shitekita toki, nihongo zenzen benkyou shitemasen deshita. Demo hoka no gengo wo naraitakatta kara, nihongo wa totemo muzukashikatta keredo watashi no sentaku wa aru imi tadashikatta desu. Naruto de sukoshizutsu benkyou shite ikimashita. Ima hanasukoto ga dekimasu kedo America de mo benkyou shitai desu. Hoka no charenji to ieba hitori de sumu koto deshita. Mainichi hitori de ryori ya, sentaku ya, souji nado hajimete no koto bakari deshita.

Itsumo hataraiteiru toki mata wa ie ni iru toki. Watashi wa takusan kantan ni dekimasu. Watashi ga taisetsu na koto wo surutoki tokidoki nihongo no kaiwa wa muzukashisugimashita. Soredemo mainichi atarashii koto wo dan dan to naraimashita. Mata, watashi wa itsumo jitensha de gakko ni imashita kara maiasa watashi no ashi wa totemo tsukarete imashita. Nihon no seikatsu de ichiban taihen datta koto no hitotsu wa jitensha de no idou deshita. Kuruma ga areba yokatta na. Watashi no kimochi ga ochikonda toki wa seito no kao wo miru to genki ni narimashita. Kono kankei wa totemo tokubetsu to omoimasu. Seito kara no tegami ya eikaiwa wo ganbarukoto wo itsumo omotte imasu. Shourai kono omoide ga seikatsu no naka de ichiban natsukashiku omoidasareru deshou. Sono kimochi wo zutto taisetsu ni shiteikitai to omoimasu. Naruto de no ninenkan wa kesshite wasuremasen.

These days summer has made its way here and everyone is busy enjoying themselves. I would also like to be doing the same but for me my time is running out because I'll soon be returning to America. Living in another country for two years has been a great experience. All of this time I've been in Naruto and I can say that two years ago I was a different person. But, for me, Japanese life was full of challenges. For example, I had never studied Japanese before coming to Japan. I had wanted to learn another language but I think my choice was interesting because Japanese is very difficult. However, I think I made the right decision. While living in Naruto, I studied little by little and now I can communicate and when I go back to America I'd like to keep studying. It was challenging to do all this while living alone. Every day I would cook, clean, or do laundry by myself and it was my first time experiencing a routine like this.

During my time here it seemed like I was always busy either working or doing something at my apartment. It felt as if I always had plans lined up. However, it's easier to do even simple things in your home country. Sometimes the Japanese ability that was required to do something very important proved to be too difficult. And, yet, every day I gradually learned something new. Also, I was faced with a bike ride every morning that left my legs sore when arriving at school. This actually might have been the most difficult part of my life in Japan. Taking a car would have been a lot easier, I'm sure. But, whenever I was faced with these difficulties, seeing the students always cheered me up. The relationship that I have had with them was a special one and I'll never forget the letters that they wrote me, the English conversations that we have had, or any time when they really gave their best effort. These really will become some of my best memories of my life and the results of my efforts was worth it. There's no way I could ever forget the two years that I spent in Japan.

Done and done...and so far it feels nice to be an ex-English teacher. It actually kind of feels like I just got done running a two year marathon. My last time giving the speech was great. It was this morning during an assembly at the technical high school and as I sat there waiting to give it, I thought about what an amazingly different culture I had just lived in for two years. I had a Tim Kinsella song in my head and as I took the stage I sensed a giant wave of relief that seemed like it was a few years in the making...


On another subject, I somehow was able to take another trip to Indonesia a few weeks ago...and I'm still not really sure how I was able to pull that off. Jon flew in from Korea and took his bike while I rented one for about $2 a day and used someone's old motorcycle helmet because Balinese people are incredibly nice and won't hesitate to help you out if you need something (ESPECIALLY transport). We biked for three days to a volcano and then back to Ubud where we ate consecutive raw meals for days on end. Bali the second time around was even better than the first and I found myself running into the same locals (one of whom remembered my name actually) on this surprisingly small island.

Next stop: China, August 1st...

eh? nan de?

naruto-shi, tokushima-ken, Japan
teaching my native tongue on the world famous island of shikoku, japan.