Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a faraway tune

I have not tangoed for well over a year. I spend my Fridays in yoga class, usually, and Saturday nights often happily collapsing after spending the day in the mountains on my bike. In some ways, it is not dissimilar to the twists and turns of violins, bandoneons and steps lead by strangers. The mountains lead me in crazy dances around tight corners, dodging fallen stone, skimming across little bridges. Plaintive tango music finds its way into my morning commutes and late night walks through the city. I work far too much, though I enjoy much of it. I meet friends after work for a little dinner or a drink a few times a week. This is my city mouse life. Caught in the occasional cocktail conversation.

I’m doing acupuncture. I begin my 530am mornings with yoga in the dark. Predawn sun salutations. A year ago, tangoing in Eugene, playing cards with friends, moving from one friend’s couch or spare room to the next, all my clothes worn to pieces and faded from the dust of the road, morphing into far too much time ironing my one good white shirt and interview after interview… it seems awfully far away. It was only a short year.

This time last year I was caught in an incredible pull to try to get back to Bolivia and the park. Much like vertigo –or that desire to fall—, I longed to plunge into those simple and intense days. And there was a boy in the plan, wrapped in imagination… there so often is.

When I think about choices, or perhaps the choice-less idea of fate, I see it much like the potential energy diagrams of chemical reactions. You can take the girl out of the science lab but you can’t take the science out of her explanations about life… So, in the various paths we can choose there are many configurations, possibilities. Some are more stable than others. Some you can settle into easily. In order to move from one stable configuration to another we must first get the energy to get over a hill, of sorts. Once on top of the hill we can go many ways, rolling down to a new stable configuration.

So, this time last year, I see myself, a marble trembling on top of a very smooth hill. Poised between signing a contract for what looked like my dream job, plunging back into the jungle, helping my best friend with her new baby, … and the list goes on.
So many ways for that marble to roll.
Listening for the wind.
Unsure of where to slide down.
And because of a kind word here and a slow response to an email there. A weather forecast. A small coincidence. The sunlight through the window of my cold apartment… a bunch of very small things, really, and the choices were made.

I didn’t spend the last of my money on a three month return to the jungle. I paid off my credit card and biked to work through freezing temperatures, slowly regaining my cycling form, slowly rebuilding my Tokyo poise. Some part of me knows that if I left for a 3 month jungle return, I would have never returned to Tokyo. Just as if I had come back to the states this summer, I don’t think I could have returned to Tokyo. The gravity sink of the jungle, or anywhere that feels like home, is incredibly strong. I’m still here, in Tokyo, but the tug here and there never really gives up. I’m happy here but it’s nice to know there are many other directions I could roll.

And so I glide through my Tokyo days. I will likely be offered a new contract by the end of the year and I will likely accept it. Do you teach English? no. I teach Chemistry and Math.

At first I fought so hard to make sure all the English teachers knew that I felt we were still in the same boat, that I respected them and their work as much I respect my own. But as the terms progress and I see the curriculum I’ve built from scratch. The short term and long term learning goals, the tests, the assessments, the report card comments, the bigger picture, I know that teaching English lessons in eikaiwa or as an ALT is very very different. A single lesson at a time is easy. No oversight of your students’ progress is easy. That’s fun stuff. This is also fun stuff but it’s a labor of love sometimes. All teachers must feel that way. This year has been an incredible learning process. I feel like the time and energy invested in students and classes has –at least most days—has paid off. And that, more than anything keeps me, marble blown by winds, happy to stay where I am, learning, challenged, a little longer. I am learning so much.

Though I am happy in my current energy sink, gravity hole, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dear Northwest friends and that close-knit group of dancers. I truly don’t miss the rain and the dark, but I do miss the people. And I miss the beautiful tango music pouring out little Oregon dance halls and the graffiti-ed Buenos Aires past-their-prime buildings. summer night milongas and 2am frenet and coke. speaking Spanish and waking up late.

This is a year of mornings. Possibly the first year of mornings since I was 18? I’m not a morning person. Getting up early has been a serious adjustment. I wake up and see the sun rise as I, and a million other commuters, descend upon the caffeinated sleep deprived city.

I walk 10 minutes through a beautiful park with the leaves slowly moving from green to yellow to browns and reds. from the sky to the ground. feet crackling in the dry leaves as the crows. Today was the first day that felt like winter. Gray sky and bare branches reaching into the lazy sunrise. Puddles and damp leaves. Scarves and gloves.

What a fascinating journey.

and the adventures continue…

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