Sayonara Nagoya

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After each class, I’d quickly pen the lesson plan for the following class, and I’d look at the calendar to figure out next week’s date. It was always a surprise. Wow. It’s already October. Wow. It’s gonna be Thanksgiving soon. Holy crap. It’s 2015. In Japan, time moves faster than the Shinkansen.

The last time I wrote anything here, it was around my Six Month Milestone of a life teaching English in Nagoya, Japan. I made some comments to my future self (which, at the moment, is me) about hoping to still be madly in love with Nikki, about finding my knack for teaching. I think I owe it to my past self to respond to some of that stuff.

Firstly, yes, I am still madly in love with Nikki. The official plan is to finish my contract with ABC Plus and hop on a lengthy layover-filled flight to Guanajuato, Mexico on March 2nd. We were able to spend two great solid months together at the end of 2014 when she left her Peace Corps service in the Philippines. With that newfound freedom, she steered herself toward a Masters program in Santa Cruz, California that requires fluency in Spanish, and thus the plan to spend a few months in Mexico was born. In love, I’d go anywhere in the world with her, and Mexico sounds like an ideal, warm, festive place to go next. The two months that she was here, Japan was an entirely different experience. We were able to see more of the country and ourselves. Afterward, when I had a two-week Christmas vacation, we reunited in California for a tumultuous experience where details of my past were revealed that nearly destroyed the relationship, but at this current moment we’ve found a way to talk and breathe through it all. There’s more healing to do. At the very least, this episode confirms what I’ve known all along.

Do not attempt a long distance relationship.

Don’t. Never. It’s not good. It might “work” in the end, but it’ll be torture. It’ll tear at you, it’ll change you, it’ll hurt you. It’s not realistic. It’s not a true relationship. I don’t care how much you try to convince yourself that you’re special. You’re not. Long distance is awful.

So anyway, in response to my past self, the short version is this: Nikki and I are okay. When we reunite in Mexico, we’ll be fine.

As for teaching and Nagoya and Japan… I’m only a handful of weeks away from finishing my contract with ABC Plus. This realization is sometimes startling. It takes time and energy and heart to get comfortable with your students. They look to you for guidance. They listen (sometimes). They want to perform well for you (usually). They’re adorable little creatures who constantly surprise you with what they remember, what they can communicate, and their behavior. I know that I’ll sincerely miss at least 90% of my students, and our last classes together will be heartbreaking. I really do love this job.

And that says a lot about ABC Plus. The amount of supplies and resources at the school have made it easy to teach. There are hundreds of textbooks, games, stories, flashcards, and whiteboard markers within your reach. It’s a well-oiled machine, with mandatory two-month plans, weekly game meetings, and biannual progress reports. Sometimes it feels daunting to make dozens of photocopies each day, and crafting a useful worksheet can take time, and at the end of the day there is a heavy exhaustion… But you never take it home with you. Each class is mostly a success.

It’s been interesting to watch myself grow as a teacher. There are still classes where my presence doesn’t seem to matter, where chit-chat or obnoxious behavior still reigns over whatever English lesson I planned for the day. There are still lost causes (I’m looking at you, Tuesday 4:00 PM). But whatever. They’re kids. I’m not a “real” teacher at a school, and there’s a degree of lawlessness allowed at ABC Plus because we don’t really discipline the students. Therefore, the good students are great and the bad students just waste their parents money. It’s not my fault. It took a while to realize that a bad class was (usually) not my fault. And now, at the end of my time here, I kind of enjoy the chaos of a “bad” class. Remember: they’re just kids.

Working in a small office can be challenging sometimes, but I’ve always remained level-headed and at a slight distance from the gossip. Ten teachers. Not everyone can be friends. That’s life. Over the past year, teachers have left, new teachers have come in, and the dynamic is constantly changing. But really, the job is not about your relationship with your fellow teachers (although a positive relationship certainly helps), but how you feel inside the classroom.

I never really learned Japanese. I can sort of read, slowly. I know basics. I can order food and beer and say hello and goodbye. Oh well. My heart was always set on Spanish, anyway.

I climbed Mt. Fuji. I saw Tokyo. I experienced the beauty of the cherry blossoms in Kyoto. I checked Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nikko, and Nara off my list. Never made it to Okinawa. I had some couch surfers pass through–a German couple, a pair of Filipino friends. I rode the Shinkansen. I sang plenty of karaoke. I ate tons of sushi. Tried raw horse meat. Filled myself on Japanese beer and whiskey. I went on hikes. I went scuba diving near Echizen. Went camping. I visited dozens of shrines and temples. Got my fortune. Meditated. Went to a coworkers wedding. Watched a lot of streaming movies and shows on the internet. Rode the subway far too much. Went to two music festivals in Toyota. Saw a baseball game. Finished three 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. Ate far too many bento meals for lunch. Relaxed at two Onsen hot springs (wish I’d done that more). Small-talked with the occasional curious local who wanted to practice their English. Went to a few fireworks festivals over the summer. Experienced the heat. Experienced the snow. Felt a couple small earthquakes. Climbed onto the roof of my building.

And, amidst all that, I revisited Nikki in the Philippines a few times while she was still there. Those were wonderful splashes into a lush, warm environment to contrast with the city life of Japan, and it was always hard to leave Nikki each time.

Here it is. The end of my time in Japan. I’m not sure when or if I’ll come back this way, but leaving with a positive view of this country, I don’t see why I wouldn’t if I had the chance. Next is Mexico. After that, a return to California.

I’m signing out once again. Who knows when I’ll stumble across this blog in the future. Feels good to leave a little piece of my history here. Thank you Japan. Sayonara.

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