Pre-immersion

Ahhh. Future plans are starting to come together more and more. I need to pay the rest of my summer program fees (never came off the waiting list for the scholarship, but financial aid still covered half the cost), and we’ve also been sent literature that makes it all feel a little more real. We have to sign a language pledge vowing not to use English (or any non-Japanese language) except when strictly necessary (this basically means when communicating with family, and in my case boyfriend) and that includes reading English. Um, yikes. I mean, I knew all this going on, but it’s just hitting harder now. I read tons of things daily, and I’m going to have to give all that up. Checking a multitude of blogs throughout the day, Facebook, Twitter, webcomics at night, sometimes a fic or scanlated manga or two, reading from a library book before bed–none of that. Do you know how much media we take in every day, and how much that eliminates when anything in English is completely out? This means no progress on my to-read list, falling behind on celebrity gossip and my favorite blogs and webcomics, not being able to chat daily with my friends on Gchat and Skype, not getting to read my friends’ tweets and family’s status updates OR post any of my own… including on this blog! It’s going to have to lie completely dormant from mid-June to mid-August. This also means listening to music in English (or any other foreign language, for that matter!) is out, so I am going to have to reconfigure my iPod and music library to only hold my Japanese music, and only listen to that for two months, which is going to be hard because sometimes I feel like a particular style of music and the language is not Japanese. My guided relaxation recording, which helps me de-stress when I need it, is also in English and would technically be out. I was also planning to get my yoga teacher’s DVD and do yoga to de-stress as well; obviously her narration is English. But, this just occurred to me, they let you go to church and stuff if you’re religious and obviously those services are going to be in English. Perhaps I can consider yoga and guided relaxation my religion, and therefore the English is okay? Ha, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need all the sanity-saving techniques I can get; it’s a year’s worth of study crammed into two months, and I can only communicate in Japanese. All of this is going to be hard.
(Yes, no one is going to be checking my iPod or what I read/look at on my computer in the privacy of my room–except my roommate but I doubt she’ll be out to tattle on me–and anyone patrolling is mostly going to be checking to make sure I’m speaking Japanese to the other students and teachers, but I do want to get the most out of this program and I’m interested to see how well this full immersion thing actually works. Even if I get to attend the intensive program in Japan, there will be a language pledge when at the center with other students but no restrictions outside those walls, and I can just tell you now I’m not giving up non-Japanese music and literature for 10 months. So this is probably the one time in my life–including the times I spend living in Japan!–when I have the opportunity to live in a completely, fully immersed Japanese-only world. It’s two months, not forever, so I’m really going to try to stick to it as much as I can even though I know I could easily get away with less than total commitment. I’m going to try to make the extent of my English maintaining communication and my relationship with Kirk, as well as staying in touch with my parents–maybe my sister and I will start emailing in Japanese instead–and let that be it. I just don’t want this to be like the language house in college, which was supposed to be immersive but I can tell you we only spoke nothing but Japanese when we had to, mostly because we were all lower intermediate level and it was just too hard.)

I am sort of excited though to put as many computer programs as I can (including my laptop itself) into Japanese… my iPods are already in Japanese so that’s done… and I have several Japanese books, magazines, and manga I can bring with me to read, although it’s going to be hard as several of them are translation projects and I quite obviously won’t be able to translate into English. That’s another thing–no translating. Just like reading and consuming media in all forms, translating is something I do at least several times a week, and not doing any (and thus not updating my website) for two months is going to be hard. I’m just glad TV shows will naturally be on hiatus over the summer so I wouldn’t be tempted to watch those. There will be TVs with access to Japanese programming there so I’m looking forward to catching some dramas. They also screen Japanese movies weekly and I’m guessing there will be newspapers and stuff too.

I really am looking forward to a lot about the program, not just the fact that it means I can quit my job and not have to work. It will be fun to live on a college campus and in a dorm room again. Meals are totally covered and we all eat from the cafeteria buffet, so for two months I don’t have to worry about buying and/or preparing food, which sounds like such a luxury to me now. Although until I find a group to sit with–and learn who I want to avoid, because I’m sure there will be some–going to meals is going to be nervewracking. There are a couple summer festivals, so I’m going to bring my yukata and geta. There’s a lot of interest clubs you can (okay, pretty much have to) join, and while most of them revolve around things that have always bored me (tea ceremony; calligraphy) there are a few I’m interested in checking out. I can tell you I’m going to arrive at the program and immediately seek out the other people who speak fluidly with good accents to be friends with, as much as I can. Hopefully others will feel the same way about  me. I do hope I can make some good friends there, and I also hope I get a roommate I can deal with who won’t hate me. I have only shared a room for two school years, and the last time was in 2005-2006. I also only had to share a communal (not attached/en-suite) bathroom for one of those years, so that’s another thing I’m not thrilled about. Shower caddies! I got rid of mine because I thought I’d never need it again; how wrong I was! Actually, I’m not excited about all the typical dorm room furnishings we have to bring when I’m flying there from halfway across the country. It was different when I could jam-pack my car and drive an hour north with all my crap; not so easy when I’m boarding a domestic flight with a giant-ass suitcase that will incur charges. I will probably have to ship a big box of extra stuff to myself too (and then back home at the end), which is not going to be fun since big boxes are not cheap to send! Also, from what I understand the campus is more or less in the middle of the ghetto and I won’t have a car so I won’t really be able to make emergency runs for any supplies I  need, so I have to make sure I have everything I’ll need with me when I start. Fortunately, however, an old classmate from Japanese and someone who went on the January Japan trip with me lives in that city now, and I’m hoping at the very least he can give me a ride from the airport to campus.

In many ways I’m sort of preparing for this as if I’m about to join a convent and take a vow of silence. And I guess in some ways, I am! At the same time I’m going to miss my boyfriend and my cat terribly. I will miss my friends and family too, but I’ll miss those two the most. I love that my cat sleeps right next to me every night, sometimes even sharing my pillow. I love that Kirk lives here now so I can go over to his place pretty much whenever I want and see him often, and I am giving that up (temporarily!) with this.

As for what I’m doing after the program, it is still not ironed out, and at this point I’m just trying not to think about it so it doesn’t cause me more stress. Program scholarships will be awarded over the next month or two, and I can’t make any decisions until I know those results (soooo worried though). In the meantime, I now have two English teacher job offers to choose from, although I have to accept or deny one soon or lose it (the one I interviewed for last month–glad I got an offer out of that!)… and I have no idea what to do there. We’ll see. It does look like one way or another… by hook or by crook… I am headed for Japan in the fall like I’ve been planning, which is good because I’d hate to quit my job, do the summer program, and then have nothing! But until I have a plane ticket, it still doesn’t feel real; it’s like it could be snatched away from me at any moment. At least the summer program is very real and becoming imminent.

With all of these thoughts comes an increasing sense of senioritis and impatience at work. I have about five weeks left and I’m ready for the end–although at the same time I want to maximize the time I have left with people here, so it’s hard! Conflicting emotions! As we saw when I tried to change jobs and hated the new job more than my old/current one, it’s not that the work itself is bad or hard. I don’t just want to quit and find a new job in the same field because there’s no guarantee it would be any better; chances are it would probably be worse. As spoiled as it sounds, I still just don’t want to be here anymore! I’ve been here so long now, seen so many people come and go, and if I wanted to I could probably keep doing it until the company folds (something I see as an inevitability) which is a thought that’s terrifying in and of itself.  But really the thing that’s gotten me through so much until now has been the thought of my pursuit of my next career awaiting me at the end of all this. If I didn’t have that in front of me it would have been much harder to deal with stuff like coworkers trash-talking me over perceived (imaginary) slights, almost everyone else in my department leaving including my mentor, ridiculous policy changes, getting lectured by someone not even in charge of me for not doing every little thing perfectly, the realization that I don’t respect or believe in what the company does… even the constant toilet issues in the upstairs women’s restroom (apparently we’re too cheap to buy new toilets which are like $100 each!). The thought that something better or at least different is waiting for me after I’m done putting in my time here has propelled me through all of that. I can’t possibly imagine staying here indefinitely, but I also know there’s a limited number of (non-teaching) jobs in my city for someone with just an English writing/editing background, and not many of them are appealing to me as something to do for the rest of my working years. I also know that I never wanted to graduate college only to end up right where I started. These are things I have to explain many times when people ask me why I want to do this.

It’s funny how long this post-grad journey has gotten, and how many times my plans have changed over that period. First it was teach in Japan (just to be there and pick up the language by osmosis, apparently–I hadn’t really thought that plan through beyond “get to Japan”) with Kirk, then it was go to Japan by myself to study, which led to the discovery of the 10-month program which now seems like the only and best way to do this. In some ways I wish I’d had it all figured out sooner so I could have planned for this since age 15 and made much better, more informed choices. But I can’t deny I’ve had so many great experiences along the way, and of course met some people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, while I’ve been working it all out and waiting. I’ve reconnected with my high school (and earlier) friends, I had a fabulous time being roommates with Aro (the night we stayed up until 4 a.m. inadvertently and had no choice but to go out for freshly made doughnuts will go down in history), I’ve dealt with my anxiety/OCD issues that cropped up, and Kirk and I have built an extremely solid relationship foundation that means I can leave without worrying (too much) that our connection will fall apart with the distance. It’s all been worth it, though just a little vexing when I think about how long it’s taken. I’m impatient for the rest of my life to get started.

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