Update: Getting Comfortable

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A typhoon was supposed to come today.

But instead I woke up and got ready like any other morning, preparing for classes, whittling down my mountain of kanji reviews, making myself some toast for breakfast and walking twenty minutes to campus.

Usually the morning is when I silently go about the motions while thinking about how much I miss how things were in America, where I can speak the language, where my friends and family all are, and where I know how customs work.

I combat it by thinking how, if I were in America at the moment, would I be wishing that I’d rather be here?

The answer is yes.

I’ve worked so hard to get here and now I’m finally here exploring and living a Japanese life.

But the adjusting part has been the worst part. Stripped of everything I knew from the language to aspects of everyday life like food and customs, I hid from trying.

But today I tried.

Not that I haven’t tried before, but today, a typhoon of thoughts of America aside, I really tried.

I went to my hour and a half Japanese class, talked about the community centered Japanese culture and how it compares to other individual centered countries like America, all in Japanese. There is no English in this class whatsoever, as my teacher constantly reminds us, because we’re 上級 (jyokyu): Advanced.

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After class I went down to Kuzuha mall and bought some art from an artist I really like, Otemo. Otemo’s not very popular, but I was happy to be able to see a smaller artist in a larger store and be able to support their work. I even had to ask one of the store clerks to pull off the lock on an item so I could buy it.

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Then I went to the movies with my roommate and saw 聲の形 (koe no katachi, the sound of a voice) and understood the movie without much trouble at all. Two full hours of Japanese with no English subtitles or anything.

I travelled back alone by train to the dorms while my roommate travelled by bus to get to campus for her class.

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After an hour of studying for my JLPT N2 (Japanese Language Placement Test, Level 2) back at the dorm, I went off to my next class called Japanese Popular Media and Culture and watched another Japanese movie called Barefoot Gen, a tragic story about a boy and the bombing of Hiroshima.

Getting back to the dorms I continued my studies for the N2 and reflected on how comfortable I felt throughout the day despite being faced with situations far different than any I would experience in America that I would have shied away from only a few weeks ago.

I participated freely in my Japanese class. I saw a movie in Japanese without any English subtitles for the first time and understood exactly what was going on and laughed at all the jokes, occasionally wondering to myself throughout the movie at how I could understand a language so complicated to native English speakers so easily. I travelled alone, something I would never do in America. I’m studying for the JLPT N2, a test that, if I pass, will allow me to work in Japanese business in the future. I watched a movie about an aspect of Japanese history I would never have watched in America and feel closer to Japanese history than I ever did while studying back at my home university.

I feel comfortable now and the scenery around me, despite being the same, seems more full of life and more like a second home to me now than ever.

And now that I’m comfortable, I can put myself out there, make new friends, use my Japanese more, and travel more of the country feeling like more or less like I belong.

I’m glad the typhoon didn’t get in my way.

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