Friday, May 11, 2007

The downsides of life alone on the other side of the world.

So I have been going through a bit of a difficult time recently. Just personal stuff, nothing horrible. I have been adjusting to being on my own (without Mhairi), my move, a new neighbourhood, and just stuff that comes up when you live in a foreign country. It was brought to my attention that I only ever speak about the latest exciting thing I have done on my blog and that no one would know from reading my entries that life is anything other than fun and exciting.
I know that that is true about my entries. It is hard to write about the other stuff for a variety of reasons. One is that I want to give a positive view of Japan and Tokyo, and with this I always want to keep myself positive and recounting the highs is one way of doing that. The other reason is that I don't really know how to communicate my feelings or experiences when they are not super positive. Things seem so complex here and the emotions I feel can be so veiled that I don't know what to make of them. I don't mean to be flippant or sound like a cheerleader in my entries. It is rare that I feel low for a whole day. My lows are momentary and they can be followed by great highs and I have felt that for the most part, my highs have greatly outnumbered my lows.
There are lots of issues that I deal with on a daily basis here in Tokyo. I am in a limbo world here where I am both invisible and glaringly obvious at the same time. It is strange to feel invisible when you know everyone knows you are there - foreign, white, girl at 2 o'clock. Some times this really gets to me, other times I enjoy my bubble and the ignorance it allows me to claim.
Jenna commented after being here maybe a week or two that she was getting really tired of her own narrative. Her comment made me laugh. Yes, you must like your internal monologue and us it for company and entertainment when you alone in a country where you can't understand or speak the language. Well I have had a good 8 months of me and my internal narrative and while we are good friends, best friends really, she can be sooo annoying, I mean sometimes she never shuts up! I have been awake half the night trying to get her to shut up so I can sleep. Books help. I read a lot.
Caitlin was here just two days and she commented on the complete lack of attention from males, Japanese or otherwise. This is one example of being invisible. I never felt that attention from men was all that important, it just happened and I often complained about it at home. I took it for granted I guess. Here most white girls get no attention at all, we are invisible. It is never nice to be invisible, but it is another thing that I have lived with here, dealt with, and sometimes it can really get me down. The same goes for my weight, but I don't want to talk about that. You can just imagine what it is like in a country of very tiny people, when the largest size in the stores is a size six, and the smalls and mediums are often the left overs since the extra smalls are the first off the shelf. (they often don't even carry a large, even if their large and our large are very different sizes). So sometimes I don't care, sometimes it gets to me.
While all of these superficial things are hard, I would say the hardest thing is my lack of contact with others and conversation. My job is nomadic and solo. I might say hello and goodbye in Japanese to staff at my schools and I teach my lessons to little children, but that is often the extent of my communication. I miss having discussions and debates. I tend to agree with myself a lot, which I am working on but it is tough debating with yourself. I miss strong opinions and learning from others. I listen to BBC world service but I don't have any opportunity to talk about the issues of today, and learn from what other people know about issues.

I have been asked how I could possibly live like this, how could I ever be happy? I don't really have an answer. I have learned a lot about Japan, the Japanese people, and myself. So I think the fact that I have been learning and discovering has kept me going in some ways. I can also say that I have a naturally happy and optimistic personality, and I might be slightly crazy so I keep myself entertained. I also have had Nina, Ani, and Mhairi. Now without Nina and Mhairi things feel different. But I am not completely alone, Ani is still here. I also have my visitors. Without visitors to look forward to and to help me pass the time I don't know how I would be able to push forward.

Life in Japan is not easy. It is not easy to be away from my family and my friends. It is not easy to be in a completely different, reserved, and closed off culture where I don't speak the language (I accept total fault for that). It is hard for all the reasons I have mentioned. Tokyo is also exciting, and a great challenge which I have enjoyed. I would say that my lows come when I just get exhausted of the challenge, of things always being hard.

That being said, I am going out tonight with Ani, Hera, and Caitlin. We are going dancing and we are going to have a FABULOUS time! Moderate is just not an option.

I will try to be more open in my entries in the future, but no promises.

"Exercise gives people endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people don't kill their husbands." -Legally Blond. Did I mention that I have a gym membership and I walk a hell of a lot?



Katherine said...

It is hard to write about the down stuff, especially when you know is reading and you certainly don't want to worry anyone. But the down stuff is interesting too and I've certainly learned to embrace (and expose) the crappier parts of my life. Your blog is always interesting, but this post told me a lot about Japan that I didn't know (all those size smalls - yikes!).

And I tend to agree with myself all of the time. : )


suebd said...

From Thank you for writing this. We all know how hard this has to be for you at times, inspite of all Japan has to offer. It will be good to have you back home.
Love you

Linden said...

Just to clarify, I am not moving home. I am staying in Japan until at least september, and maybe until december when my contact with my company ends.

suebd said...

I know that...just don't understand that. Seemed like you might consider coming home earlier is all. Whenever, it will be good to have you home.
Love ya