New Beginnings in Semi-Familiar Places
While growing up in Hawaii has instilled in me a deep appreciation for all things that the 'aina has to offer, it's also given me a perpetual restlessness, an insatiable urge to "get off the rock" as we like to say in the islands. This need to get up and go is what led me to the American midwest for school and now to Japan.
With college graduation and the "real world" looming, I decided that I didn't want to be stuck behind a desk working a 9-5, nor was I quite ready to make a commitment to grad school. So, instead, I applied and was accepted to the JET Program, a program run by the Japanese government that brings native English speakers to schools all across the country to assist in English language education.
My initial thought when applying was that this would be a (relative) walk in the park because Japan was a place very familiar to me -- I had previously visited the country four times, including an eight-month stint studying abroad in Kyoto during my Junior year of college.
And, so far, it has been pretty easy. During Tokyo Orientation, I was able to lead a group of new friends around Shinjuku with relative ease. Ordering food at restaurants in Japanese came back to me without any thought. I'm incredibly lucky to have two other fantastic JETs in my area (one who lives next door to me even!) who have done a great job showing me around and getting me acquainted to my new home.
But, that's not to say that I don't foresee any challenges. I've only ever really experienced Japanese city life (and city life in general, to be honest), and my placement is in a very rural location. The town/village that I live in is over an hour from the nearest small city and three from the next big one. There's practically no public transportation, which means I'm going to have to drive on the other side of the street than I'm used to. It gets incredibly snowy here, and Japanese houses have very little insulation and no central heating.
Honestly, though, all that's a drop in the bucket compared to all of the amazing experiences I know I'm going to have. I plan on traveling not only around the country, but around the entire Asia-Pacific region while I'm here. And call me weird, but I've always dreamed of getting to work in rice fields, and what better place than the Japanese countryside! (I've actually already coordinated to help out with harvest next month!).
This is going to be one hell of a year