I Think I'm Turning Japanese
Something strange happens around January when you're a JET. It is just after the long winter break, the weather is getting colder, and everyone is getting over some kind of gaijin epidemic that plagued each JET for at least a day or two. But none of those are the "something strange" to which I am referring.

The "something strange" is that sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are actually  living in Japan. Somehow, somewhere among the months of fumbling for Yen coins, gawking at strange cultural differences, and standing flush-faced at a cash register not understanding the rapid foreign language being fired at you, you quietly and stealthily slip into a comfort zone of assimilation. You don't have to think about it consciously, but there is something in the back of your head that knows: this is home.

Now, this statement might upset those back at my REAL home, in California, when I say this. Because to me, truly, home will always be where my family is. But for right now, this is my home, and not just a place I am visiting.

 You start to see little signs that everyone else has settled into this country we now call home. There are less pictures being posted of Facebook. Fewer albums being created with such awe-struck titles as "OMG, Japan is so weird!" and "Japanamania 2010 woooooo!" Instead there is the sporadic status update like "Getting tired of going to _____, who wants to try something new tonight?" 

You also come to realize that you've discovered shortcuts to get to places. To escape the cold outside, you've managed to navigate through the underground tunnels downtown and never get lost. Instead of taking the well-known path home, you've found a way that gets you there 45 seconds faster. Oh yeah, and you've come to realize that your microwave also doubles as an oven.

People are becoming familiar, too. The woman's face at the Y lights up when you walk in and you are greeted with a "Hello, again! Happy New Year!" And, it takes you a second before you realize she didn't say it in English. The drycleaner doesn't have to ask your name anymore; she just brings your your freshly cleaned and pressed clothes when she sees you approaching the door. The kids you teach once a month at elementary school see you on the bus and go crazy with waving and shouting your name.

There are still days when you long for a certain creature comfort from your REAL home, or you feel a quick pang of homesickness when you realize just how far from your loved ones you really are. But, for the most part, there exists a day-to-day routine that has become second nature. And until you are ready to return to your REAL home, you smile inside knowing that this is where you should be.
1/21/2011 01:56:45 pm

So glad you found your second home...very comforting to know that you're all settled.


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