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Retrospect

I feel a bit guilty about not writing more about 2014. There is a non-trivial part of me that feels I should have shared more about my adventures in the moment.

There is absolutely no arguing that 2014 was an EPIC year for me. It was my first year of marriage. I traveled the world, met more amazing people and lived in Japan. I admit that I’m a bit impressed that I was able to pull it all off. There were a number of times when I thought it was all going to fall apart.

As amazing as last year was, it was also hard. Impossibly hard. And impossibly hard to describe because it was impossibly hard to do. Hard in ways I couldn’t have even imagined before the fact. Hard physically – on average I got on a plane every four days. I only slept in my own bed for three or four months of the entire year. I have a chronic illness that requires  It was emotionally draining – when I was in Japan the only person I could really walk to was Will (who is great, but can’t and shouldn’t be my everything). When I wanted and needed to see friends and family I had to do so in giant tours that I was so exhausted by only a few stops in that I couldn’t really enjoy my time with them fully. I never felt like I really had a home. I couldn’t quite get comfortable in Japan – I was away too much and even if I had, I would have had to just given it up shortly anyways. And that would have been for the second time in two years.

2014 was amazing and utterly exhausting.

Talking about it while it was all happening, without some perspective would have been terrible and I’m glad I didn’t though I did take endless notes so I could later. And it’s starting to be later. It’s still too soon to talk about some things though there are things about last year that I could go on about for ages. For instance, the joys of the Japanese rail system. I’m not much of a train fan, but even I could see the beauty of that system’s precision.

Having an introduction to the blogging of my last year seems impossibly dramatic, even for me – but the truth is, I need to take this slowly. I need to process this with time – which is exactly what I couldn’t do last year.

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The Long Road Home

Today I will fly seven thousand miles to my home, but it won’t be my home for very much longer.

I spent a little time yesterday firming up my travel calendar for November.  I probably should have done this sooner, as November starts in two and a half weeks, but there are always so many places to go and people to see that I like to make the list as late as possible so I can try to fit everything in. Yes. I know this makes me a certain kind of crazy. But in looking at my travel schedule for the month, and really the rest of the year, I realized that I only have five weeks left in Japan. This is wonderful and sad-making and exciting and terrifying.

I cannot wait to be back living in the States. In fact, dear reader, you may have noticed that I spent a significant amount of time as a Japanese resident coming back to the US to see friends and traveling in Europe. Some of you may think that’s a waste of the wonderful opportunity that I’ve had to live here and that’s cool. Move to a different country on three months notice where you don’t speak the language and live in a community where you are ostracized and then let me know what you think. Until then, please don’t be offended if I don’t take your opinion too seriously. Also, living in a country where you are 99% illiterate does not for a good time make.

All of that said, I will miss parts of living in Japan and I will always appreciate the fact that we were given this opportunity. There are perspectives that can only be gained by living like we have this year. I would not trade those for anything. I will miss the strange beauty of this country that you can only find here. It is clean here, and they value natural beauty which reminds me a lot of living in the Midwest – it is very green. And while I wasn’t crazy about the quarantine rules that ended with my cat living with my in-laws for the year, being able to pet the deer in Nara and go to an owl cafe pretty much made up for that. I will also dearly miss the bathing culture. Our bathing room with a not even standard soaking tub is a million times better than a standard bathtub in the States. I will miss the shit out of the trains here. I’ve always loved traveling by train and Japan has spoiled me with its efficiency in this area. Amtrak, get your shit together.

I’m looking forward to finding our next home. In both of the places that Will and I have lived together the living situation wasn’t a decision that we made together, it was a matter of circumstance. In the first, I moved in with him to an apartment that I learned to love but never would have picked for myself or us. The Financial District of New York has some amazing apartments, but not much of a community around it. In Japan neither of us had any say in our living arrangements. Panasonic has for years, rented the same place in Mikage. It’s a beautiful residence very close to a train line that can easily deliver their liaison to work, and also potential children to some of the international schools somewhat close-by. It was perfect for the family they originally rented it for. Not so much for us. I cannot wait to find a place for us to live that will work for us, instead of finding ways for us to work with the space that we have.

However, for the second year in a row, I find myself not knowing where I’ll be living in three months. I don’t mean which neighborhood I’ll be in, I mean which time zone. I asked Will to look around at other cities he’d like to look in and we’re now waiting to hear back from a great firm that interviewed him in San Francisco. Will really wants this job. I really want him to get this job. Waiting to hear back on a job is hard. Waiting to hear back on a job that is keeping your from planning your immediate future is really hard. If Will doesn’t get that job, we go back to New York. To be clear, here, New York is a perfectly acceptable option. I have a great collection of friends on the East Coast that I will be happy to see on a semiregular basis. If we do end up in San Francisco, well…at least the flight back to see them won’t be as rough as it is now.

For now, a day of trains, planes and automobiles.

Two Weeks Notice

Today marks living in Japan for two weeks. If I had it my way, Will and I would probably never leave. 

I don’t like change. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve has so much of it in the last year. Either way, I dragged my feet quite deeply about moving here. I was scared. I was scared of moving to another new place. I was scared of not being able to speak the language. I was scared of missing my family even more than I normally did. I was so silly. 

I love our neighborhood. It’s perfect. And I do mean perfect. If you had ever asked me to describe my dream place to live, Mikage is what I would have told you about. It’s quiet, but still urban enough for my tastes. There are flowers and trees everywhere, with a train a block away that takes me swiftly to the heart of Osaka. Our apartment is a dream. Hard wood floors, floor to ceiling windows, and a soaking tub that I can actually cover myself with water in. Even if I hated Japan, I could hide in this little slice of heaven forever. 

The language barrier isn’t as high as it was when I got here, and it’s getting shorter every day. I admit, I’ve lost a little bit of momentum in my learning, but that’s due to how much of the day I spend exploring the area. It’s a trade off I can happily live with. I’m starting to track words that I see out and about. Even if I have no idea what anything means, I can still sound words out and that gives me a certain amount of pride. Most things can be communicated through hand gestures and pointing, and enough people around here know key phrases in English than we can have a short conversation. 

With the exception of the first day here when I was fighting hard against jet lag and total culture shock, I haven’t ever felt alone. I miss my family, sure, but not any more than I usually would. And the constant stream of traveling I have planned (off to England on Thursday) will help keep any feelings of isolation at bay. It’s hard to mope about missing family when you’re planning a trip to the Great Wall of China with your brother and then a week in London with your mother in the same month. 

The only thing I wish was different here was that I had more time to write. I’ve been keeping a paper journal with me so that I can write down what I’m doing with each day, but I always run out of time at the end to transfer all of those thoughts online. I want to share all of my experiences with all of my friends right as they happen! Instagram is helping with that, but I really need to find a way to get everything online. Will has gotten the hang of it over on G+, we’ll see if he has any tips for me. 

Tonight more adventure are in store. I’m about to catch a train so I can meet Will in Kobe. We’re going to a ramen shop that he’s been trying to drag me to since I landed. There will also be some furniture scouting (our place is still a little bit bare) and most likely another pilgrimage to Lush for more bath bombs. The daily soaks here are really eating into my stash. What a hard life. There will be pictures of our evening, promise. 

Japan – First Blush

For the first time in my life, I am a morning person. 

To be clear, I don’t think this will last, but waking up and being cheerful an hour before Will is a very odd experience. It was nice to watch the day break in our neighborhood and start cataloguing all of the differences between here and the other places I have lived. I watched the fog burn off of the mountains (which are much closer than I thought) behind our building. The range arches around behind us and around the train station (only a block away) so that we can see both ends of it from our two balconies. 

This may be a function of the neighborhood we live in, but I was very surprised by how much space we have and how far apart the buildings are here. Our apartment has three extra rooms we’re not entirely sure what to do with yet other than stuffing friends and family inside when they visit. I also spent an hour rearranging things in the main room (living room/ dinning room/ office) because Will has many skills, but furniture layout is not one of them. Also, the trees, grass, and bushes are all very expertly manicured around here which is very different from the forests surrounding the airport in Tokyo. From the air, Japan doesn’t look drastically different from any other place that I’ve flown to (except that NOWHERE is as green as the UK), but as we got closer to the ground I noticed just how full the forests looked. The trees seem to grow right on top of each other. I plan on doing some hiking of the mountains behind us, so I’ll find out just how real of a thing that is. 

The buildings in the neighborhood look like they’ve been thrown together with very little thought to the general aesthetic, which I really, really like. There are no standard buildings, each one is a different design (there are few – countable on my hand- repeats) and different color. It gives the area a personality that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The streets are wide, and oddly empty. I’ve got a wide balcony next to my desk that allows me to look easily at the street. I only see a few people every couple of minutes, and there didn’t appear to be any sort of morning rush. 

That’s all I’ve really had time to discover, but a representative from Panasonic is coming to meet us in a few hours and I’m sure I’ll learn and see more then. I can’t promise pictures (If I do, I’ll be sure to not do them) but I can promise to try and remember.