Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Prodigal (Jame)Son

In my interview for all of the three schools I interviewed with, they asked how I would deal with feeling homesick or isolated in Japan. I'll admit that wasn't really something I'd thought about at that stage, but thinking on my feet (and spinning spectacular loads of total bullshit) is a skill of mine and I wasn't about to be outdone by a hypothetical. I told them that homesickness and isolation were inexorably linked, and that if I felt homesick, I would force myself to go out and speak to people or experience the world around me, instead of just sitting alone and pining for the world away from me. I didn't really believe it as I said it, but part of me believed it after I'd said it, and after tonight, I believe it with absolute certainty.

I had a skype call with my family tonight. While it was fantastic to see and hear them all again (including the dogs, one of which, it's reassuring to know, is still an insolent little bastard), seeing something as aesthetically mundane as my own kitchen was enough to make me miss Ireland. For a moment I almost gave into it, got into my pyjamas and sat in front of the playstation. I didn't though, instead I put my shoes on and went for a walk. I didn't know where I was going, but I figured I'd find out on the way.

I walked to my train station and past it and all around it and took note of every shop and restaurant in the area. Japan likes Italian food. Or at least Minami does, as there are like 5 within two minutes of each other. As interesting as it was to see my area in its entirety (there was a donut shop and a chocolate/ice cream cafe that piqued my interest. I'll never understand how the Japanese aren't all fat with all this delicious stuff around them all the time), it wasn't long before I was wandering back.

Every time I've gone home I've walked by this mysterious little bar, all with english language signage and always advertising foreign beers. Tonight I decided to be brave and go in. Shut up, any social situation, let alone one with a potential language barrier, is brave for me. The counter was FULL of whiskey bottles from all over the world. Within seconds, I'd located Jameson, my favourite. I explained (in Japanese) to the barman that I was Irish and loved Jameson, he laughed and went about pouring my drink, then refused to charge me because there wasn't enough Jameson left for a full measure (there was just about enough I can assure you). I managed to understand him and we chatted in Japanese about why I was here and how long I'd been here. It was relaxing. Then I saw they did food, so I ordered a pizza. Pizza and whiskey. What more could I want?

I joked that Irish whiskey was the best in the world, he retorted that Japanese whiskey was also great, to which I promised to try it afterwards. Another guy came in, a regular, and the three of us spent the next hour talking about what whiskeys we like and the differences between food in Japan in food in the UK & Ireland. I won't lie, there were a few moments where I resorted to English, and I was very relieved to hear that the regular, Hiroshi, and the barman, Kiwa, both understood and spoke a little English, but I can honestly say that the majority of our conversation was in Japanese and I was somehow able to hold my own. I tried the Japanese whiskey, Yamazaki (recommended by Hiroshi) and yeah, ok, it was good. So good that I might have bought a bottle for my apartment on the way home.

A current teacher at Shane sent us prospective teachers a guide to living and adjusting to life and work in Japan, a week before we arrived. One of the things he mentioned was "finding a local", a place you can go where people will be happy to see you, even if only because you'll spend money. I guess I've found my local.

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