Countdown

Time for an update… I paid for the summer program so we’re full speed ahead on that. Last Wednesday I put in my official two weeks’ notice at work and my last day is in a week (what the) so now I am above board with everyone in my life about my crazy future plans, which is something that was not happening for a really long time. And after the summer, I’m moving to Japan… to teach English. Because I didn’t get any funding from the 10-month program.

I didn’t get anything.

Ugh. I’ve accepted it now, but it was really rough when I first found out. It was mid-afternoon on a Friday a couple weeks ago, and I got an email with two attachments. At first I was scanning them so frantically I couldn’t parse where the award amount was listed and emailed the stateside program administrator back in a panic. Then I located the line: “I accept the award of: NONE.”

None?? None? Nothing at all? But… I had been told that once you get into this program, they work really hard on your behalf to get you money. And I thought I was a great candidate, and I’ve been working towards this for a year, and preparing so hard. And this was my last chance because I’m ineligible for most other awards. How could I get… nothing? And how come they were telling me about it without any “I’m sorry to inform you…” or anything like that normally used when hard news gets broken to you in a formal letter? How come they used the same template as if I had gotten an award?

I was so confused I sent a few more emails to the administrator asking her to confirm that this was real… and unfortunately, it was.

I went straight to Kirk’s after work and burst into tears pretty quickly. Fortunately, he was wonderful, and just listened to me until I calmed down somewhat, then said he’d take me out to dinner wherever I wanted to go, his treat (even though money is tight for him right now despite the fact that he makes twice as much as me since he’s been working on his car project). And we went out to one of my favorite places and had a great dinner, and we came back and watched Iron Man per my request and I felt a whole lot better by the end of the night. He’s the best.

Over the next week, I took stock of things and made some decisions and had some realizations. I had already accepted the teacher job, but it was still a Plan B until this news. Now it’s Plan A, and it actually feels right. I’m going to work for a year, saving money (and getting even more when I convert from yen to dollars!), and re-apply for everything again, hopefully a lot smarter this time around. I re-read my essays and realized what I did wrong: I didn’t talk enough about how me achieving my personal goals is going to give back to Japan and the larger global community. I just talked about how it’s good for me, so I should deserve to get it, and blah blah. Um. Not what scholarship committees want to hear. So I know why I didn’t get anything, and I just hope the next time around I can do better. I talked to a pro translator who did the program too and he gave me some good advice–including a suggestion that I might not even need the program after all if I can do enough self-study, since not everything the program makes me do (giving speeches and writing essays) will be what I do as an actual pro translator, and that’s true. So, we’ll see. I do plan to self-study, I’m hoping to get N2 in December and N1 in July. If that happens it’s true that I might not need the program. In any case, I need to get to Japan and figure things out from there, and I’m doing that.

It still stung to find out that the one other accepted student for the next year that I could track down and contact online, a graduating college senior who also wants to be a translator, got $23,000 in funding. And she admitted I sounded more prepared and committed to this than her.

There are a few more rounds of awarding (mostly, I think, re-distributing awards returned by people who decide not to accept them) and I suppose there’s a slim chance that I could get something then. That will run until July so I’ll be sort of waiting until then. But even if I do get an award, which I probably won’t, I don’t think it will be enough. So I’m not holding my breath for that. At this point, starting the program next year doesn’t feel right anymore. I wouldn’t feel like I deserved any awards because my essays weren’t properly reflective of what I have to offer. Weirdly enough, at this point I would rather go to Japan to work, even as a teacher which has never been my favorite prospect, and spend the next year formulating a stronger plan of attack. I understand everything so much better now, and unfortunately I didn’t before. It might also reflect better on me if I demonstrate that I’m proceeding with my goals and living in Japan regardless–who knows. Although I know the separate full-ride scholarship is so image-conscious and “prestigious” that there’s no way they’d want to award to a mere English teacher, especially someone not even doing JET. Short of going back and getting an Asian Studies BA at Harvard before grad school at Ohio State researching the fascinating topic of 16th-century woodblock prints for my thesis (when not practicing the koto and writing award-winning haiku in my spare time, of course) there’s no way I can hope to get that scholarship… but I’ll try again anyway.

So this is it… six years later and I’m finally returning to Japan. Does not seem real yet, but it also seems like I never thought it would be this long before it happened. Of course, everyone wants to know when I leave and where I’ll live, but I know none of those things yet and won’t until closer to the end of summer. I’m excited for orientation in Tokyo though. Funny that this will be the first time in my life I have my own apartment. It’s also strange to think that I’ve basically been working towards this since college graduation in some form, and that was four years ago by the way. The plan has changed a lot over the years–fortunately Kirk and I stayed together throughout that time–and some might say I’ve taken too long to make it happen but now it’s finally happening. Better late than never I guess!

And I have about eight days (!) left here in town before I leave for the summer program. I’ve been trying to finish things up, but it still feels like I have so much to do. I’ve had two going-away parties so far. One was organized by one of the Japanese women I’ve met volunteering, and it was for me and another Japanese woman who was going back to Japan (just about all these women are here because their husbands have been transferred here for work, and a few are just married to Americans, but they are all married, so it’s interesting). It was held at my favorite Japanese restaurant and it was a Japanese-only conversation. I had a really great time, and Aro was there too. There were so many silly moments, so much giggling, and I kept up with the conversation well (except for a few moments when I’d missed the initial topic) and left feeling pretty good about my Japanese and so grateful that I could participate in something like this locally. I also learned some things, like that ochazuke (one of Kirk’s favorite dishes) comes at the end of a meal, not the beginning. And that the sight of croquettes can bring back childhood memories. At times the conversation turned to “There’s no good English translation of this Japanese word! How would you translate it?” and such things, which as a translator I enjoy instead of minding. At the end when we were splitting up the check they were like “Warikan… what’s that in English?” and I was like “Splitting the check” and they were like “Not ‘go Dutch’?” and I said “No… that’s uncool,” and Aro was like “Hey! I say it!” and they started calling Aro an oyaji (old man) and nodding and agreeing. Hilarious.

So it went much better than the last time I attempted a Japanese-only dinner a couple years ago (with the same woman who organized this party, but different other Japanese ladies, and another white girl whose Japanese was better than mine) when I remember feeling miserable and out of my depth. Also, I love talking to Japanese people living in the US, because even though you’ve just met they’re not shocked by every little thing you can do (there was no “Jouzu!” when I spoke or used chopsticks or anything). What a difference a couple years have made, and it’s all been self-study! I haven’t even gone to Japan! (Can’t overstate how much we can credit that to the two months of literally nonstop studying I did earlier this year, and the more relaxed but regular weekend studying I’ve kept up with since.)

The other going-away party I had for my friends here last Saturday. We went to a Korean bathhouse/sauna and had sooo much fun roaming the place in a large pack and taking over sauna rooms where we’d make jokes and giggle. At one point we went to a quiet room that wasn’t too warm, and I fell asleep and had an amaaaaaaazing nap. I woke up to an empty room and went out in search of everyone, to find them all sitting at a table and I joined in the conversation seamlessly. It was awesome. Of course soaking in the baths was great too. Then we went to Vi and her boyfriend’s apartment and had pizza and cupcakes (from some of my favorite places of course). They had made me a laser-cut wooden Pusheen magnet and a cute purple banner! Awwwww it was great. And then on Sunday I went to yoga (gave my instructor the last of the cupcakes and told her I was leaving soon! Now we are Facebook friends!) and then had a massage and the therapist got into all my knots and left me sore in the best way. I wish I could get massages like that regularly. Before the massage, which was at a fancy gym I am not a member of, I got to use the fancy outdoor pool area where there are body slides. You can bet I rode them twice… I love water slides (and water parks). And then Kirk’s parents had me over for dinner in anticipation of me leaving, and it was lovely and I really appreciated their gesture. So it was a wonderful weekend! After baths/saunas, yoga, swimming, a massage, and too much good food, I was super super relaxed. Trying to keep the returning tension at bay for as long as I can now…

Last week I also attended a going-away party for a former coworker, went shopping at the Anthropologie semi-annual sale with some friends (and had dinner at another favorite place), and on Friday (after getting let off work at 1!) I had margaritas and dinner with my parents and then my mom and I went shopping and I got to hit Anthropologie again, another location this time. It’s been a long time since I let myself go shopping and I got some good stuff (all on sale; I never buy Anthro full price) so I am happy. Looking back on it the whole past week was fantastic and I couldn’t ask for more. Kirk and I are going on vacation this weekend so that will be fun too! My last days here are basically going to be so jam-packed I don’t know when I’ll pack… not that I’m looking forward to that, or hauling my giant suitcase full of bedding around…

Other things… super into The Avengers lately, holla. And listening to a lot of new music as I try to cram in everything I’ve put off listening to and organizing or deleting as necessary. Also my favorite artists are pretty much all releasing new stuff this year so I am swimming in music lately. Wish I could go to several summer shows but pretty much can’t since I’m moving around too much and/or need to stay on campus where I am immersed and busy with activities anyway.

It’s really happening!

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