More than a year…

13 Jun

That’s how long it’s been since I last posted anything here.

There’s so many things I could talk about. I could also lament on about how I wish I were more consistent in my journalling online.

That said, I’ve not neglected my writing, I’ve simply taken it off the virtual platform, returning to the comfort of paper and pens (arguably an excuse for me to spend money on more pens, paper, notebook, stickers, washi tape, the list goes on…).

However, coming back to WordPress is refreshing. While I sieve through my thoughts and type them on my keyboard, I find myself unconsciously rewriting and rewording them. In other words, I’m really thinking through my thoughts; a sort of exercise for my brain, perhaps.

So, my year plus plus in a glance?

  1. Finished my contract with the JET Programme in Japan
  2. Hosted family and friends in the last month before I was due to leave – lots of eating and fun times
  3. Returned 2 weeks before my wedding
  4. Did a ton of DIY in those 2 weeks
  5. GOT MARRIED!
  6. Honeymoon-ed in Copenhagen & Norway – a memorable trip filled with lots of nature, food, and adventure
  7. Lived in Singapore for 4 months
  8. Learnt Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur for 3 months with the husband – best couple bonding time ever
  9. Relocated to Malaysia because of husband’s work
  10. BOUGHT A PUG!
  11. Living life as a housewife – completely new experience for this workaholic

Once year is a pretty decent amount of time for a variety of things to take place. But I think that the past time that I’ve had has been particularly eventful. Getting married, moving, and owning a puppy are all proving to be very life-changing.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to come and I hope I’ll continue to regard each day with joy and a determination to give my best!

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Remembering

11 Mar

Just before I entered the staff room this morning, I was stopped by a “Joy-chan~~”, from one of the English teachers.

Then ensued a 3-minute fumbling of words where I was being asked for the proper English expression for a Japanese expression which she was trying to express >.

Living and working in Japan for over a year and a half now has undoubtedly increased my skills in the game ‘Charades’. While waiting patiently for a teacher to tell me something in English, I am painfully aware of their every gesture, every eye movement, every word… for hints as to what they’re trying to tell me.

In this particular instance, the teacher was making glances to her right, where one could behold a beautiful view, filled with hills, and dotted by roofs depicting the triangle-style that is reflective of traditional Japanese houses.

There was also a flagpole in her direct line of vision.
 

Charades – Start – GO!

“What is the term for when the flag is not fully raised, representing the country’s mourning for a particular event?” – My rephrasing of the 3 minutes of word fumbling and gesturing.

In my ignorance, I said that I didn’t think there was an official word, because maybe it’s only a Japanese custom? Thankfully, I’m not ignorant of my ignorance. Instead of leaving it as that, I told her that I would do some research and get back to her.
 

“Half-mast” or “Half-staff”.

That’s the official term. To think that I thought it was a Japan-only custom, when in-fact it happens all over the world, in Singapore too.

 Well, I see it as an added benefit that on top of being immersed in the Japanese language and culture, teaching English, and interacting with students on a weekly basis, I also get to learn lots of new general knowledge thing-a-ma-bobs, because my teachers are always asking me these interesting questions that I’ve never thought about.

I guess, in all its entirety, I simply enjoy working in an educational environment. Even while working in a non-academic capacity as a Student Coordinator for one of the programmes in UBC, it was a job filled with all the good things that come with being a learner. Things like openness to new ideas and concepts, a mind to accept change, and most importantly, an attitude of learning; that of wanting to learn.

I’m sure this is not something that can be found in the education sector, but I do think it’s more pronounced, simply because education = learning. And when you’re learning, you can’t help but adopt a ‘learner’s attitude’.

Coming back to the issue about the flag, it was also further explained to me that today, March 11, makes it 5 years since that devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant leak. I also identify it as an event that people, friends and family, brought up frequently when I mentioned that I was going to Japan to study (which didn’t happen due to a series of events, partly chronicled here), and thereafter when I announced that I was going to teach in Japan.

Thankfully, I myself, did not feel immobilized by emotions like fear (and some may argue, logic), instead going for the plunge, and now find myself grateful and happy, living and teaching in Japan.

Granted, I only have about 4 and a half months to go (sighs heavily), and hopefully I will be able to write a post about the ‘epic bittersweetness’ of it all, but I’m looking forward to a great last few months here as an employed civil servant of the Japanese government.

Today, at 2:46pm…

…we all stood, closed our eyes and as the siren signifying a tsunami warning sounded, we directed our thoughts to that event in 2011, remembering.

Another Semester of Work Begins

9 Jan

It was back to work on the 4th of January.

After making sure Denys boarded the bus that would take him to Fukuoka International Airport safely, I had to start on my own journey home.

The train ride marked another of the firsts of this year.

My first thick fog.

Fog

the ‘view’ from my window

The fog caused the kamome (a fast intercity train) that I was on to be delayed by an hour. At which point, I could feel myself beginning to stress out about whether I would get to work in time, whether I would have to take more leave (which I’m desperately trying to save to give myself ample time for wedding preparation), or on a more dramatic note, whether I would ever make it ‘home’.

However, I chose instead to try to get as much sleep as I could afford because I knew the day ahead at work would be a long and draggy one. After all, classes were not in session and would not be for me, for at least another week.

Long story short, I made it to work about 10 mins late, and 8 dollars poorer after making the decision to cab it from the station to the top of the hill where my school is situated.

The next 5 days of work were indeed long and draggy. Thankfully the much awaited 3-day weekend is here, of which I’ve already spent half sleeping away, letting my mind and body relax after the crazily fun month of hosting 3 different guests. The other half is hopefully going to be spent productively; cleaning and crafting.

Let the resting continue and may I be recharged for the next 7 months I have left here. And may the pain of saying goodbye to students, colleagues, and friends not stop me from continuing to give my best to this job that I’ve been blessed with.

Met my first PUG..

7 Jan

…in my little town today.

Was taking a little walk before a Skype session with Moomy, and as I neared the traditionally-triangle-shaped-roofed-house I currently called home, I spotted a cute figure with its indisputably super-duper-cute curled-up tail walking its human towards me. Here’s a mini break-down of our but less than a minute exchange:

“Pug-chan! Pug ga suki (I like pugs)!” I manage to voice as I turn to proudly showoff my pug backpack.

Making gestures to under her chin, Pug-chan’s owner tells me that he likes to be stroked under his neck and to give it a try.

Ii desu ka (Can I really)???” I excitedly ask.

Upon the signal, an affirmative nod, I reach my hand out. Barely a second after I scratch his chin, noticeably unimpressed, Pug-chan turns his majestic head away and pulls his human onwards to continue with his walk.

So, with that ends Joy’s, probably not very exciting but definitely memorable, encounter with her first pug in her little town.

Just the way I like to start the New Year, being blown off by a pug 😉

Seriously though, I started the New Year with quite a few firsts. First New Year in Japan, first “osechi”, first “fukubukuro shopping”, first time getting an ear infection in Japan (I probably got it when I was a kid too, since it tends to happens to children)…

And there will be many more firsts to come! Yay 2016!

 

Take 2

18 Oct

Today is the first of a yearly two-day conference for JETs (that’s me!) and JTEs (this is my supervisor!).

Last year, I had slightly very different feelings towards this conference. Largely due to the fact that I’m doing this/ going through this a second time. My expectations have been set from last year’s experience. That said, I’m sure it’s still exciting depending on who you meet and what you choose to take away.

On that note, I’m happy that I made the decision to stay a second year. Despite going through motions that appear at first glance to be similar to the first, they are and continue to have the potential to be radically different. The big events, like sports day, culture festival, marathon day, and common events like classes, remain the same but the people I work and interact with differ. Not only that, but the people themselves have changed, if only a little in the past over a year I’ve been around.

With regards to work, it’s nice to feel like I’m slowly developing my style and technique of teaching. Excelling in my strengths and identifying my weaknesses. The teachers I currently work with are open to my suggestions for special classes (like having special guests come in to expose students to English from other sources), and have basically given me free rein in lesson planning for all classes. Most importantly, I’ve been taking a breath and moving on when I feel like I didn’t do as great of a job in the classroom as I would have liked to, and seeing it all as part of my learning journey.

With regards to living in Japan, I’m glad that I’m having  different and less stressful experience than last year!

Firstly, no hives. YAY! Last year, three weeks into my stay, I broke out in really bad hives. Itchy, swollen, and red spots everywhere. My back, my neck, my ears, my legs, my hands, my foot, and even my toes. You get the picture. Oh, but in case you don’t, here’s a few literal pictures.

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Wow did those photos make me feel itchy and uncomfortable. I’m sorry I had to put you through that experience. Lol.

Well, I went to the doctor a couple of times. The school nurse told me it was stress. I didn’t feel stressed and I was so excited to be in Japan.

Finally, we did a blood test. Lo and behold, I’m highly allergic to dust and dustmites (specifically the kind that lives in tatami mats). My request to hire a cleaning company was turned down. I have a massive two-storey house, and I was paranoid by the dust and depressed by my hives. I had been having them for about 2 mths by this point. Thankfully, a friend coincidentally turned out to be an awesome ‘Cleaning Queen’ and to cut the long story short. We spent a good chunk of hours unearthing huge balls of dust from all kinds of undiscovered areas (it’s a really old and huge house that’s been thoroughly lived in).

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I moved my bedroom to a room that had hardwood floor, away from all the tatami. The hives still stuck around for another 4 months, but they’ve stayed away since some time this year!

I guess this post sort of turned into a post about my hives. However, that was not my intention! I’m just so, so glad the hives are gone!

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m truly grateful for the ‘Take 2’ that I have to live in Japan. The events may remain the same, but I have more realistic expectations, solid friends, and I’m going to give the next 10 months my best before I embark on a journey that will guide my life in a completely different direction! (hopefully one with the absence of hives, forever – oops the hive talk reappears, sorry can’t help it!!)

Cleaning the figurative dust off this platform

11 Oct

It’s been a while since I sat down to write.

There are so many things I could talk about…

  1. My Japanniversary – I’ve been here for a year-and-counting!
  2. My thoughts on competition and sports festival
  3. My trip back to Singapore
  4. Exciting News
  5. On how living in a house all to myself has changed me
  6. Pugs in all their greatness

However, it’s hard to write after delaying it for so long.

Sometimes you have a compelling thought, or something that really bugs you, or something that you feel is really ‘deep’. You think to yourself, “This would be a great thing to write about in my online blog.” But guess what, you never get down to it. And as time passes, it seems less and less deep, and the importance of writing about it passes.

Soon, you may realise that close to a year passes as dust, in all its figurativeness, grows on your blog. If you didn’t yet see it, I’m definitely describing the state of this blog.

Thus, despite having no real theme/topic/reason for this post, I’m simply cleaning the figurative dust off this platform, in every sense of the word.

Spiderllets – Chapter 2, read it now!

19 Nov

http://sheandread.wordpress.com/

Looks can be deceiving – On being Asian in Japan

14 Nov

(This was originally written a while back for an editorial piece. However it did not really fit into the requirements, due to the general style and structure of the writing. Hence, it’s up here instead – for friends and family!)

“Is that your water bottle?” My JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) asked, gesturing towards the turquoise David’s Tea tumbler on the table.

“Yes,” I responded.

“It’s… very nice.”

The exchange seemed normal enough till I found out that it is not customary for teachers to drink water during their classes. I guess it’s another one of those things to add to the “Only in Japan” list; a list that all foreigners start when they come to Japan.

Call it whatever you may, it exists.

Some lists bear striking resemblances, others differ greatly.

For example, I am a Canadian of Chinese ethnicity who grew up in Singapore and I’ve had conversations with my non-Asian friends who speak of experiences foreign to me.

I have never had someone stare at me as I walked down the street. I don’t feel like I’m an unidentified alien when I walk to the grocery store. Nor do I get surprised looks when I greet people with simple Japanese phrases.

In that respect, some might be tempted to think that Asians have it easy in Japan. However, like any issue that has to do with identity and appearances, that is only one side of the coin. When I first applied for a position on the JET programme to teach in Japan, I did so with initial trepidations due to my Asian heritage.

Would I be what the teachers and students in Japan were looking for?

See, I lived in Vancouver where there’s a diverse community of Caucausians, Aboriginals, and Asians who proudly proclaim themselves Canadian. Before arriving in Japan, my work in the University of British Columbia involved interaction with international students on a daily basis. There, I was exposed to students with varied backgrounds and was conditioned to think without having preconceived notions of individuals. Yet, with all that training, in addition to my background growing up in a culturally-diverse society, I am not spared from judging others by their appearances.

Thus, it comes as no surprise to me that in the eyes of the Japanese public, I must be Japanese since I look it.

When I first started teaching, students greeted me in Japanese and continued to do so even after I had been introduced to the school as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). Teachers at my school told me they first thought I was a new Japanese Teacher. In fact, every single person I’ve met in Japan has immediately assumed that I am Japanese.

Yet, without a doubt, I betray my ‘gaijin-ness’ with more than just my broken and sorely-lacking Japanese.

There’s a Uniqlo right in my neighborhood that I frequent. The first time I tried on a dress, I did what any Canadian would do, step into the changing room. On a whim, I peeped out of the changing room before closing the curtains. My eyes went from the horrified look on the sales representative’s face to the pairs of shoes that were outside the various cubicles.

Who would’ve guessed that the Japanese do not wear their shoes into fitting rooms???


Another time, a student came to me after having received her journal.

“What is wrong with this sentence?” she asked as she pointed at an underlined portion of her journal.

“Absolutely nothing, it’s great!” I said.

As I recounted this exchange to my supervisor, I learnt that in Japan, correct answers are marked with circles and wrong ones with checks.

What a great thing to find out, after already marking 280 of their journals.

Yes, I may look like one of them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like the foreigner that I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace looking Asian. I appreciate the chameleon-like ability it gives me to blend in. However, there is a danger that lurks when you start to believe the perceived reality that others have of who you are.

Take my situation for example: I look Japanese. People believe I am Japanese. I believe I am Japanese. (Sounds something like Descartes’ ‘I think, therefore I am’, maybe?)

So, maybe it’s not that simple.

There are other factors at play; the desire to embrace a culture and reflect one’s adaptability, for one.

If you have chosen to be in Japan for long-time work or studies, you likely relish the opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture foreign to your own. Ideally, you would interact with it on your own terms. Realistically, you will be faced with situations you’d have never dreamed you’d encounter. Amongst difficult things like homesickness, fatigue, and stress, you may find yourself looking to be part of the community that you are so seemingly submerged in. Things that you’ve added to the ‘Only in Japan’ list start to become a commonality, possibly even a habitual trait of your own; an attempt to adapt and fit in, maybe? Or a genuine identification with culture?

Either way, for some this shapes and strengthens you. For others, this splits you in half. To the latter half of you, I say, “be wary.”

Take heed to find the balance between the fine line of adaptability and losing yourself.

The countless encounters I’ve had with the surprised looks and remarks about my not being Japanese did eventually take its toll on me. At one point, not being able to speak nor understand Japanese well made me feel highly inadequate as a person. Only when a friend remarked, “but, you speak English…” did I realize the need to consciously remind myself to put things into perspective…

So, whether you decide to add or delete things off your personalized ‘Only in Japan’ list, never, ever, let it diminish who you are.

She and Read – Chapter 1….

12 Nov

now online!!

Read it here – http://sheandread.wordpress.com/

:3

She and Read – an online novel endeavour

10 Nov

Hello!

I’m starting a new project that I’ve so far named as ‘Project Read’ (edit:// now transformed to She and Read :p).

For those of you who know me, you know that I’ve always loved reading. You also may or may not know that one of my dreams is to write a book sometime before I die. I eventually hope to write non-fiction, but to start, and to keep my brain nimble, She and Read will be a collection of short chapters about fictional characters in a fictional world telling stories inspired by real-life experiences.

I do not claim that this is by any means a venture equivalent to that of a book, but I am a perfectionist and I will never reach anywhere if I don’t start, at least, somewhere. Though an amateurish effort, I hope that if you join me as readers, it will be as enjoyable and entertaining to you as it will be to me.

To that measure, I shall shamelessly request, if it so suits your fancy, that you might share this on your blogs/walls/word of mouth and spread the word for ‘Project She and Read’.

More details soon! Keep your eyes peeled for the first chapter at http://sheandread.wordpress.com or http://joycited.deviantart.com/ ^_^

(disclaimer: Though inspired by my own experiences, all characters and events are purely fictional and are not in anyway a portrayal of real relationships!)