It’s been a whirlwind month. After getting out of quarantine, I relocated to my uncle’s house in Osaka while getting my apartment squared away. From his house to my daily training (and later work), it was a 90-minute, ¥1000 (about $9.75) trip both ways. Thank goodness I moved! One week ago, I picked up my keys with a family friend and officially started my new life here. Now it’s only a 5-minute bike ride to work!
After two weeks of room-temperature, not-quite-bursting-with-flavor bentos, I was looking forward to a hot, delicious eki bento (train station bento). But alas, my ekiben was also room temperature and could perhaps have been more flavorful. Nevertheless, I was content on my way to Osaka. Between my lunch, some Mary Oliver poems, and several rounds of solitaire, I did all right.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the folks from my local town hall, whom I’d met during daily orientation sessions during quarantine; they drove me to my future home to do a little paperwork. The town hall buzzed quietly with the sounds of typing, shuffling paper, and the occasional ding when a ticket number was called. It reminded me of the DMV; I guess bureaucracy is a cross-cultural phenomenon. My uncle met us there, too, and he took me to view a couple apartments. I found one I liked right away, and we applied that evening at his office. Seeing a sleek Windows 10 computer next to an ancient fax machine was a nice bit of whiplash.
Dealing with 12.9 year-olds
Occasionally, I’ll come across a question online, like “If you had the chance to wake up tomorrow as your thirteen-year-old self with all the knowledge you have now, would you?” And every time, I say, “Of course not, because being thirteen was the worst!” and move on. And now I work with not only about 120 thirteen-year-olds, but also twelve-year-olds who think they’re already thirteen and know everything.
Being thirteen is hard. Comedians write bits about you. TV shows either don’t address you or try to make everything about ~the struggles of adolescence~. You’re already an adult so why doesn’t anyone treat you like one?! Uh, at least that’s how I felt. When I told some of my friends that I was going to teach middle school, most of them gave me a sympathetic hand on the shoulder or a pitiful nod. Okay, I get it, yeah, very funny, but give them a break! They’re wonderful! They’re doing their best!
I didn’t have the best time in middle school. Being an anxious straight-A student doesn’t do wonders for your social life, especially when your religious preferences and ethnicity make you stand out already. But thanks in no small part to the kindness and patience of adults in my life, I turned out pretty good. So I want to pay it forward, even if my students don’t necessarily appreciate it now.
As an English teacher and a foreigner, my position is already fraught in some ways. Some students, I can tell, already don’t like me; they think English is useless and boring. And you know what? Yeah, it can be pretty useless! There are so, so many paths one can take toward success and happiness that don’t involve English!1 But I think that learning languages should be a fun experience, even if nothing is really retained. Learning new ways to express yourself and opening your world through language is incredible, is it not? My main goal is to help make English class enjoyable, not simply to motivate my students to learn English but because… well, it really sucks to be bored.
In my work, I team teach with three different English teachers, each of whom has a different teaching style but all of whom are very open to collaborating with me on crafting curricula and activities. They all share my vision of an enjoyable and informative class session through activities and living language. Others from this teaching program, I’ve heard, are not so fortunate. The luck continues.
Happy Home Designer
Speaking of luck, I’m so blessed to have lots of family and connections here. Not only did my uncle deal with a large portion of the apartment process, but he also bought me a fridge and washing machine! Ahh!! Then our family friend (who came with me to pick up the keys) was kind enough to buy me a rice cooker and toaster oven… Plus she helped me pick out a futon and kotatsu (heated table), and she gave me several of her unused household items like rugs, a blanket, hand towels, and an electric pot. My mom keeps saying, “Girl, you didn’t have to buy anything!” I know!! I’m so, so thankful for everyone! ( ´ ∀ `)ノ～ ♡
My apartment is small and beautiful, with the back window facing east and the front facing west. In other words, I see both sunrise and sunset! Osaka Bay is also visible from my front door.
Thus far, I’m doing the millenial/zillenial thing and decking my apartment out with plants. There are eight family members so far!
Not pictured: some hydroponic lettuce I’m growing and more wildflowers. I was inspired by this great YouTube channel (in Japanese) about simple home hydroponics. If my lettuce setup works out, I hope to try growing spinach, basil, and maybe even cherry tomatoes! It’d be really nice to get a little yuzu tree or something for my balcony, which is nice and spacious, but I’m worried about what to do with the tree when I move.
I’m also cooking quite a bit. I’m used to helping my mom cook, which means I always make family-sized portions. Ack! Luckily I can freeze stuff. I’ve been able to keep my cooking vegan, too, which rocks. Excited to try lots of new side dishes to put in my lunches!
In regards to my diet, I’m not intent on staying strictly vegan/vegetarian outside of home cooking. Both for propriety’s and experience’s sake, I am open to eating many different foods. If there’s some famous, delicious, gotta-try-it-at-least-once ramen that’s topped with pork… I’m gonna eat it. That being said, I will try to avoid meat where possible. To be honest, after over a year and a half of being vegetarian/vegan, I’ve sort of lost my taste for meat. (￣▽￣*)ゞ
Is this it?
I found myself asking myself that this morning as I scraped some burnt bits off my morning toast. Is this it? Is this living alone? Waking up, burning toast, doing stuff, buying stuff, grimacing at my bank balance, potting plants, and going to sleep? I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life already. The only difference now is that I can’t turn to a parent or sibling or roommate and ask them aloud, “Is this it?”
I’m not dissatisfied — quite the opposite, actually. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. I can hike if I want, or stay in if I want. I’m going to my old jazz bar tonight to see a friend perform, simply because I want to. It’s the 21st century, which means I have a little Wi-Fi brick smaller than a bar of chocolate that I can use to video call my loved ones any time. Or watch funny videos, or listen to music, or tell the world about what I’m doing.
Put shortly, I thought living alone would be terrifying at worst and utterly transformative at best. I thought that as soon as I locked my door and was alone for the first time, some part of me that lay buried super deep would emerge that I’d have to grapple with, crying, “Why did I ever think I could live alone!?” But after work, when I close the door behind me and hang up my coat, as I wash out my lunchbox and make dinner, it’s just me, as I’ve always been.
Not to mention that the teaching of English is in many ways a neocolonial act, blegh! ↩︎