(Joe, don't read this--stay in your "Japan honeymoon period" as long as you can. I swear it's all worth it. Seriously, don't read this.)
I came to Japan for many reasons, including not really knowing what else to do and being single enough to follow a whim without feeling at all responsible for anyone else's happiness. And so I came. At first I wasn't sure if I was happy about being in Tokyo but I figured if I can make this place home, I can make any place home. So that became my mission, along with learning how to teach, to make Tokyo home. At times, I feel I have felt success. I used to get along smashingly with the folks at Kaihin Makuhari. Kevin, Yoshi, Akemi and I would drink and sing all Saturday night and I felt included and good about being here.
When I came back in January, I made good friends with my neighbor, who I still see almost once a week, despite moving to a different part of town. I was sorta dating that ex-Boy and liked his friends. I'd go out with Kevin and Yoshi on Saturdays, or head into town and hang out with this other group, associated with exBoy, that laughed and were always friendly. During the week I'd meet my funny neighbor for dinner. I'd meet my 'truly a world citizen/couchsurfing' friend Yuri on the weekends. Even when I was becoming unhappy with the job, I felt like I had a social network. I felt like I was succeeding in making this my life. One of the reasons I got a new job was to have more time for my friends.
But somehow, this network seems to have run dry. Not a single person in this side of life wished me a happy birthday. While I wouldn't have wanted any big deal, or anything at all except an acknowledgment, a nod or a joke about getting older would have sufficed.
so I spent the day, teaching my last classes at Kita Senju, packing up my stuff, missing my mom, and feeling like a stranger in my life.
I mean, I have no regrets ditching the exBoy, even if I don't get in on the cool embassy parties anymore. And I do love my new apartment (it doesn't shake with each passing train!! and is in a safer neighborhood... etc), other than it doesn't come with the same neighbor (who probably would have remembered my birthday but is on holiday in Hawaii). And I like this new position better than a normal teacher in a lot of ways, besides Akemi, Yoshi, and Kevin have all moved on. And I have and am making new friends all the time.
I do have hope that many of these friendship seeds that I've been planting will grow into real friends one of these days (perhaps when all these new teachers get their cell phones)... I have hope that things may get better. I've also found a tango group on Mondays that seems to like me, even if it is just for being so weird and white (what a rare foreigner, she can speak Japanese!, one said AT me. but jokingly and friendly. his partner chided him for using the derogatory form of 'foreigner' and gave me an apologetic smile).
It's hard much harder to make friends here than it was in university (that would be the international English speaking... I mean, in college). I'm not sure exactly why. Some two ideas:
teachers are almost exclusively in a transitory state in their lives with no intention to settle in Japan. They have their families and best friends elsewhere. So, they don't really want to invest in new friends. Or, if they have decided to live in Japan indefinitely, they assume I won't. It's a good assumption, because I won't stay here forever, but I do want to invest in friends in the meantime.
when I meet people in work, they see me and I see them not in their natural skin. we are just all token white people in suits. It sounds stupid but it's harder to get to know someone without being able to judge them by their clothes. I suppose this is a good thing but since we are all suited up looking ready from the next young republican rally, I don't even trust myself looking like that. when one of my clean shaven, properly tied tie and politician's smile bearing coworkers started talking about how he used to eat mushrooms and tried to hop a train, I tried to picture him rugged and dirty and couldn't. All this time he'd been a closet hippy and I had no idea. After we got on well until after three weeks of sincere flirting, he mentioned his girlfriend. Perhaps a suit and tie, or a suit and heels in my case, are just a big time space continuum warp around the truth. I'm so confused.
I guess I just want to say that I miss all of you. I feel like I've failed to make a new life here, in part, because of the wonderful beautiful friends and family I left behind (and friends that are family). My friends here are fun... but they just don't hold a candle. My adventures keep me amused and that's wonderful and all, but I just miss the partners in crime that I had in you guys. I wish you were here.
Drop me a line and tell me what's going on in your lives. And to all of you who sent wonderful birthday letters and packages, thank you so much. I've really really appreciated it.