Sunday, January 15, 2006

Evening Encounter

I was walking along, minding my own business, running late for a meeting to tell the truth. An old woman stopped me and called me over to her. She was so excited to talk to me I couldn't refuse. She only spoke Japanese, but she told me about her life, her family, invited me into her home. She wants me to teach her English when I have free time. I don't know her name, and I only have a vague idea where she lives. I hope I can find her again. Talking with her, even if I barely understood what she was saying to me, and her invitation gave me an unexpected feeling of warmth.

Later that same evening, I was told that the Japanese are outwardly very friendly, but difficult to know on a deeper level.

This has me thinking about my options here in Japan. I have less than three weeks to make a decision about staying here in small-town Japan for another year, or returning to my home and native land. Not helping matters is fact that it is winter, and that I just got back from three weeks in a tropical paradise (one that is much less culturally restrictive to add to the difficulty).

So what do I get if I stay?

Better Japanese for one. I'd like to come back with at least passable spoken Japanese -- more to show for my time in Japan than excellent enkai Japanese and the ability to order drinks.

More opportunities to start useful language and cultural activities. I've had numerous requests to start an eikaiwa (English conversation class), and I'd like to do a pysanky (Ukranian Easter eggs) class as well, not to mention get my Junior High classes involved in Hokkaido's English Challenge Cup (an event that lets ALTs actually be useful and do more to teach English than parrot terrible dialogues).

More opportunities to travel within Japan and Asia, and of course, there's the fact that I'm getting paid pretty well to do this.

And if I don't stay?

I'll admit it, I've got more reasons at the moment for staying than for going home. If I go home, I have to start looking for a job and figuring out what to do next with my life. Not something I relish doing, even if I know I have to do it at some point. I miss my family too -- quite a bit. Especially after being with people from home, but not being home for Christmas. Maybe that's just the "joy" of Hokkaido winter speaking.

Maybe I'll just janken with my supervisor...

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