Friday, March 29, 2013

Haiku Friday - We Meet, We Part

Haiku Friday

end of march, japan,
much ichi-go, ichi-e (一期一会)*
april start anew

(*perfectly worded reminder from Patty's comment on my Facebook status)

Today is the last day of the school year for teachers, and this year so many at my school, including some of my favorite teachers that have made here feel more like home when I'm living so far away, are being transferred in this puzzling Japanese March tradition. Today I wrote some letters and shed some tears, and people finished clearing out their desks, slowly transitioning them from full to empty by the end of the day when they will leave for good. This year has been the biggest transfer time blow I've experienced since I've been here. Tomorrow night, we will eat and drink and cry and maybe sing karaoke together one last time if I'm just lucky enough. 

Next week, about a third (!!!) of my co-workers will be brand-spanking new total strangers.

It's hardest on those leaving, for sure. This isn't their blog, though. From my side, like many foreign teachers here, this big shuffle that happens in March can be really hard in a different way. It can be exceptionally difficult for a foreigner to fit in in Japan, and most of us never really feel like we completely do. Still, I/we finally manage to navigate the complexity involved in achieving even just a handful of those super elusive meaningful relationships, only to have to start all over again, from scratch, come Monday (or, OK, technically, Tuesday) morning and do this all again come this time next year. In one word, it's bittersweet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Madness, Japan Style

No, this isn't about whatever brackets or grids or sports or whatever is going on back home, about which I clearly know too little about to even be saying as much about it as I have. In any case, there's this thing that goes on in Japan in March, right at the end of March, when Madness descends, and people find out that they are being transferred elsewhere while others learn that even if they are staying, everything will all be different come April One. April Fool's Day has never sounded more appropriate than it does on that day when everyone is new, and everything is a scramble, and nobody has any idea what the hell they are doing. In truth, leaving people usually find out a week or two sooner than everyone else, but it's all such a Big Damn Secret, and that's hardly enough time for people that need to, you know, find an apartment in a new city. In the case of teachers, it's usually just a matter of doubling or halving their commute, but for some it can require more change than a reasonable person cares to deal with every 3-5-7-or-so years. Yes, changes happen that often, every March/April.

I used to ask why Japan chooses to go this route. I kind of get the idea of shuffling teachers around to prevent certain schools from always having/keeping the best teachers and the idea of sharing the goodness or diluting any badness, or in a company to provide advancement and promotion in other roles or locations or to take cross-training to the next level and not let any one person become too powerful. Sure, some of that makes sense, but the whole last minute top secret silliness makes it tougher on everyone than it has to be. Anyone that's ever tried to explain it to me kind of ended up shrugging and admitting that they don't really get it, either, so I've just stopped asking and put it in the inscrutable column along with face masks, lack of soap and waiting at a completely empty intersection in the middle of nowhere (come visit me once and giggle) until the light says you can cross the street before people will make the leap. 

My school is losing A LOT of teachers this year. I cried a little as the official word was released. Some changes I saw coming, others where completely out of the blue, and all of them just made me wonder what the next school year (we start in April - so, yah, not much prep time on that side, either - silly madness, all of this is, sincerely!) will be like. In most jobs, probably all around the world, the people that you work with side by side every day can really impact the experience. Mine's been really good so far, overall, and I'm sad to see some really excellent teachers go. Hopefully we will do OK in the trade and get some more of the good ones. If not, there's always next year. Sigh.

Goodbye Flowers
(Not Mine)
There will be lots of these saying goodbye all over Japan in the weeks to come.
These are actually the second ones I've seen so far.
I saw the first in the clutch of a man passed out on the last train the other night,
presumably coming back home from his own goodbye party. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Are you there, blog? It's me, Maggie.

I managed to go an entire year without blogging, and I kind of miss it. I don't miss feeling obligated to write something just for the sake of writing something (OK, maybe I kind of do?), but I do miss having a place to express myself in ways I otherwise don't. That said, I'm very (perhaps too) active on my personal Facebook page, and it has filled some of that need I have to say stuff where people can see it. I'm toying with the thought of spending a bit more time here, sharing some pictures, writing some haikus, waxing on while I navel gaze, you know, the usual fare around here. Part of me wants to start a 365 project of some kind to hold myself to being here, doing this. Part of me is afraid I'll fail again. Part of me doesn't care because it's my blog to do with as I wish. So, we'll see what shakes out.

Meanwhile, it's been a year. I wonder if any of you who used to read here will even see this, especially once Google Reader goes away in a few months (I'm using Feedly instead and am liking it quite a bit!). Are you here? Maybe say hello? Anything you'd like to see happen here if I get this thing rolling again? What have you been up to? Are you still blogging? Should I follow?

I'm still in Japan. Tom and I really only expected this Japan thing to be for one year, but here it is already my 4th year. I'm still having a ball, and he's still OK with it. We finally got Tom out of Tulsa and up to Chicago, and it will make leaving here a lot easier knowing that we are reuniting there. Surely there are a million other things that have happened in this past year, and so much is still on the horizon, but this is what I've got for now.

Oh, and maybe a picture and haiku, inspired by the most delicious sakura (cherry blossom) tea I'm drinking. If I do get back to blogging, look forward to pictures of Japan's gorgeous spring. Cherry blossoms are just around the corner. Lots of flowers are beautiful because that's what flowers do, but cherry blossoms reflect the cycle of life (or love gained and lost, I suppose) with their fleeting beauty. There's that giddy sense of anticipation for their arrival, the joy of savoring every moment they are here, and the realization one day when you are used to having them around that they are suddenly just gone (until next year, anyway). Along with them, so come and go all the seasonal sakura flavored joys of the season.
All things sakura
this is springtime in Japan
so momentary.