Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock: Expectation vs. Reality

I've been home from Japan for more than a month, but I haven't had much time to process all that madness. I regret not writing more about the transition process, but it was such an intense, overwhelming time, and I couldn't bring myself to put it into words. I'm still not sure I can. However, I will attempt to verbalize the whole reverse culture shock experience so far, and how my expectations have met or clashed with the reality.


Expectation: Terror. I'd driven more in Japan than I ever had in the U.S. I expected to be constantly driving on the wrong side of the road, failing to yield, and getting tickets all over the place.

Reality: Not that bad. I've only had the urge to turn into the wrong lane a few times and quickly corrected myself, and I haven't had any close calls at all. Yay! I've driven a surprising amount, too. Instead of driving on the wrong side of the road, I often enter on the wrong side of the car. Haha I sit down and go, "Where's the steering wheel?!" It's ridiculous. I also turn the windshield wipers on when I mean to use the blinker. Of course.


Expectation: WAHOO! CHEESE! I'd missed a lot about food here, and every chance I got I'd be on base stocking up on the luxuries like coffee creamer, cereal, and--of course--cheese!! I knew I'd miss Japanese food, but I thought it'd take at least a few months of pigging out to get to that point.

Reality: Ugh. My stomach is upset more often than not, and I think the drastic diet change has a lot to do with it. There's just so much more fried food and dairy in my diet than there used to be, and I really need to keep an eye on my waistline... I would kill for my old farmer's market and a good kaitenzushi place. My brother's an amazing cook, though, with a really amazing mustache. So that's a plus!


Expectation: Yay, no humidity!! I love me some dry heat, and after sweating constantly for four years, I couldn't wait for an Idaho summer.

Reality:! All the time! I knew after adapting to Okinawa's weather that I'd be cold eventually, but I thought October at the earliest. Nope. I'm constantly cold. Even in August! Whenever I walk into a store with air conditioning, I start chattering away. Now that the weather has cooled down a little, I can't escape the shivering, even when it's sunny. And my wardrobe isn't exactly prepared for cooler temperatures, either. It's going to be a loooong winter.


Expectation: ALL THE CLOTHES! Gimme! I've never been much of a shopper, but when every store you go to carries only clothes that don't fit, or at best you are the largest size they carry, you start to long for a new item or two. Toward the end of my time in Japan, I was compulsively buying clothes, even if I didn't love them, simply because they FIT.

Reality: Shopping takes money... of which I have none. One of the great tragedies of my life is that when I had disposable income, I couldn't shop, and now that I can shop, I have no money. Ok it's not that tragic, but it does suck a little. Especially when winter is coming. *dread*


Expectation: Whatever it takes. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand being unemployed long, and I especially knew I wouldn't be able to afford it, so I completely prepared myself to take any jobs that came along. I was willing to scrub floors, wait tables, shovel horse manure, whatever it took to stay busy and pay the bills.

Reality: Subbing, ftw! So far subbing has kept me very busy, AND I love it! I get to work in my career field, gain experience in a variety of classroom settings, learn from the other teachers, and get to know the school in and out. So far, I've mainly been subbing in the elementary school, but am hoping for some high school days, too. :)  I've worked almost every day for a couple weeks, and if this keeps up, I might not need a second job! Although I am still looking for one just in case. Anyone need a nanny? House cleaner? Horse-poo-shoveler? ;)


Expectation: Easy communication with everyone! Hoorah! It's tough not being able to communicate fully with the people around you. It affects every aspect of your life, really, and I found it was often a hurdle to building relationships in Japan. I still made some great Japanese friends, mostly thanks to their amazing English skills, but it was always a bit of a struggle. I thought moving home would be such a relief on that front. 

Reality: Anyone out there? The hardest thing has been the change in my social life. This is certainly a small town, and there aren't many people my age with common interests. I miss having a pool of great friends to call on. For awhile there I felt extremely lonely, but it is getting better. A few old friends have sprung up and I'm gradually making new ones. Hopefully when I have extra cash I'll be able to spend more time in the "big city" and actually get out once in awhile. However, I do get to spend tons of quality with my family which I LOVE. :) It's so nice just to be able to walk up the road to Mom and Dad's house, help my cousins with their homework, give my nieces and nephews big hugs, give my grandparents a kiss goodnight. I am so lucky to be near them all again!

To sum up, returning home has been a bit of a mixed bag. I know it will continue to be a struggle and an adjustment, but I'm happy to be here, and I'm thrilled with the direction my life is going. I'm moving forward and growing, and that's really all I can ask for. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 Things

Hi again. It's me. Sorry I left on such a sour note for such a long time. Despite what my last update would have you believe, I am actually doing really well. There is so much good in life, in this world, and so many reasons to be happy, despite what happened. Let me recount just a few things that have made me happy lately:

1. Going Home 

 At the end of that distressing journey from which I last blogged, there was a perfect ten-day trip home. It was exactly, exactly what I needed to refresh, regroup, and begin to move on. I am so thankful for all of the family and friends I met who gave me advice, encouragement, and love. I don't know what state I'd be in right now if it weren't for that trip. 

2. Friends
 Coming back to Okinawa was rough for a bit, but luckily I have incredible friends 
here who take me out for adventures to cheer me up or just sit with me in rough moments. 
of all sizes
My littlest friend, Dion, is the perfect cure for any blues. 

I also want to send a special shout out to my Canadian bestie, Sarra, 
who has been a huge encouragement from afar. Love you, lady.

3. Kudaka Island
One such adventure was a day trip to a gorgeous island. It was heavenly.

4. Rino's Wedding
 One of my local friends recently got married and I was not only invited to attend but had the honor to help with preparation. It was a great reminder that I will always be a hopeless romantic, and one failed relationship isn't going to keep me from having my moment someday.

5. Traveling!
This last weekend was sandwiched between two holidays as part of the "Golden Week" period here in Japan. In a nutshell, that means that everyone had time off, and that EVERYONE traveled. My friend I went up to mainland to finally experience some of the traditional Japanese culture
Fushimi Inari torii gates in Kyoto
Temple of the Golden Pavillion, Kinkakuji, in Kyoto
First, we went to Kyoto. These two temples were my favorite. Especially the top temple, Fushimi Inari. It's long been a dream of mine to visit and we went in the early morning and had the whole place to ourselves.

Osaka Castle
Next, we visited Osaka and while the aquarium was fun, if crowded, the highlight for me was seeing the Osaka Castle in person. Isn't it majestic? 

So, as you can see, life is pretty good. I still have tough moments, but they are becoming fewer and far between. I am excited about the future, discovering more small things to rejoice in, more adventures to embark on, and more life to live.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm at Narita airport now, in Tokyo. Soon I will board the long international flight to the U.S. I've been here many times, in fact, I was in this same spot almost exactly three months ago, about to embark on almost the same flight, wearing my same "travel skirt;" however, I couldn't be more different.

The ReBekha who boarded that December flight to America was nearly bursting with excitement. Her left hand, newly adorned with a shiny ring, seemed to float through the airport. She beamed at every stranger she passed, hoping they'd ask her where she was going, and why.

It's easy to tell people about an engagement. You show them the ring, squeal a little, absorb every "Congratulations!" and "When's the wedding?!" Absorb all that excitement and beam it right back at them.

But how do you tell people the opposite?

As I sit at this same gate, preparing to board this same flight, wearing the same clothes, I feel like a completely different person. I can't stand to look strangers in the eye, because I am afraid they will know. My left hand, though newly unburdened, seems to be made of lead. If anyone asked me where I was going and why, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to answer. 

I don't know how to be this person, and I don't know how to share this news. Posting it on a public blog is probably the worst way, but I need people to just know. I need them to not ask "When's the wedding?!" to not shout "Congratulations!" and to not look for the ring. It's not there now, and it never will be again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Surprise Engagement Party

Friday was graduation day at my high school, and this year was particularly emotional, because I'd seen many of the graduating students grow so much in the past three years, and had become incredibly attached to them.

However, it was also a uplifting occasion because I got to celebrate with them, take lots of pictures together, and see an old coworker, Max, who'd come back for the occasion.

 To celebrate graduation day, and for old-time's-sake, Max, Sun, and I went to lunch at Cafe Kugafu. While there, we kept an eye on little baby Dion, whose family owns the cafe. When we were getting ready to go back to school for an International Club meeting, the cafe got incredibly busy. I knew that Kazuno (Dion's mom) would be extremely busy trying to take care of customers and watch Dion, so I offered to take him back to school with me for the afternoon.

Back at Koyo, we waited for the club meeting to start, and Dion fell deeply asleep in my arms. When it was finally time for the meeting to start, I walked in and the room exploded! 
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More than twenty students greeted me with party poppers and screams of "Congratulations!" I was completely shocked: they were throwing me an engagement party! Amazingly, Dion stayed asleep through all that commotion, and I quickly searched the room for some place for him to sleep. I spotted the prop box full of cozy costumes and laid him in there. He stayed asleep in that box for an entire hour of loud music, dancing, laughter, and countless girls taking his picture. :) Too cute.

 Once Dion was settled I got a chance to really see what was going on. The students had gone into great detail decorating the classroom, and had drawn some pretty convincing pictures of me and J. <3 br="" nbsp="">

 Then the leader of our club, M, annoucned that it was time for the first event: a dance to "I Think I Wanna Marry You." At first I was amazed that they'd choreographed a dance for me, but it turns out the plan was to play the music really loud and just run/dance around the classroom in a circle. Tooooooo fun!

 We also had a delicious cake with fruit and a giant chocolate circle on top. :)
 And the final event was a model-walk-race. Haha only my girls would come up with such a thing.
 It was incredibly fun, though, and Max really got into it.  That boy looks FIERCE!
 After an hour, Dion's mom came to claim him, and the party kept going for about another 45 minutes. We played another round of runway race, they asked me a bunch of questions about J and our relationship, and then we all sat around eating and chatting. It was SUCH a sweet thing for them to put together, and I feel incredibly lucky to have such thoughtful, kind students. I am going to miss them all TOO much. What a great day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Engagement Photos from fotoShisa Photography!

As you read in my last post, J and I recently got engaged, and one of the major things on my Post-Engagement To Do List (behind jumping up and down, calling everyone, crying a lot, and getting a manicure) 
 was to get engagement photos taken.  I love, love looking up engagement photos online, 
and photographs are incredibly important to me, so I started searching for professional
photographers in Oki right away (ok I technically started looking before he proposed... details, details.) 

When I found Pete Leong (of fotoShisa Photography), I knew he was the man for the job. The photos on his facebook page are not just professional and beautiful, but tend to highlight the silly side of his subjects. Just what I had in mind! 

We met on an overcast but pleasant day in early January at the castle ruins in Kitanakagusuku. J and I were a little  early, but Pete was already there and had scouted out the location for our first couple of photos: a beautiful old  banyan tree.   

Since Javier and I had our first date at Starbucks, I wanted a couple shots with our favorite beverages. Pete ran with that idea right away and had such great ideas! 
I knew right then that he was definitely the right photographer for us.

We also wanted a few Okinawa-themed photos with my sanshin. 
The roots of the banyan tree were the ideal setting!

I mentioned before that we met at the castle ruins, but our real objective was to walk to an abandoned hotel nearby and get some unique images there.

The grafitti made great backgrounds, and they inspired some super silly photos. 

All of those images make for a pretty perfect engagement session, don't you think? 
But the best is yet to come! 
 Our main objective was to get really crazy, a little dirty, and leave a mark... on each other?? 

Keep reading for the really great photos!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2012 Updates (BIG ones!)

I've developed this bad habit of saving up stories until I have too many to share. Feeling completely overwhelmed at the prospect, but going to attempt it anyway. The good news is that a post FULL of stories is more likely not to bore you to tears! ;) SO here is what happened at the end of 2012.
 In honor of the new year, I will do it in countdown style! 

10. Zoo Day! 
Javier and I took a road trip to the northern part of the island and visited Neo Park zoo! It's a unique zoo because most of the animals are wandering freely and you can feed them, pet them, whatever! No lions or anything like that, but some really fun creatures (mostly birds). 

Little nervous!

fishy kisses!

I really wanted to pet this guy but he was a little weary. Bummer!

  9. Kouri Island 

Javier and I also went to visit one of our favorite places in Okinawa: Kouri Island

We made sure to be there at sunrise to enjoy the beautiful colors.

We searched the beach and found lots of sea glass!

You're not supposed to eat it!

It was a great day!

8. New Friends! 
I've decided that I love having couple friends! Bonnie and Brandon are a married couple who came to the island in August. They are so much fun to be around! I am so glad they came!


7. Ice Skating! 
Speaking of new friends, we invited them along to celebrate the Christmas season 
and escape the sudden heat wave with some ice skating! 


Bonnie even taught Javier to skate backwards.

 6. Sanshin
I had to take a little break from sanshin lessons in December, but I am rearing to start up again.  
My teacher expects me to pass a sanshin test in June, so I better get to work!!


5. Trace Adkins Concert 
 Apparently the USO hosts a bunch of concerts on Okinawa that are free for military (and their friends). I am bummed that I've never made it to one before, because this one was so cool! It was rainy a lot and the concert was outdoors, but we still had a great time!   

 Bonne and Brandon came with us, of course!

Such a fun time. I was only disappointed that I didn't hear him sing 

4. Maternity Photo Shoot, Take 2!
Last year when Kazuno was pregnant with Dion, we went to Toyosaki beach to take some fun maternity pictures! Now is she is pregnant with a little girl and we decided to take Dion (Now more than a year old!) and have another fun photo shoot, this time on Ojima (their home island).

He looks so chivalrous holding that umbrella. ;)

Beautiful momma

I was lucky to have Javier with me for this photo shoot! Whenever I wanted to take pictures of just Kazuno, Javier would play with Dion. Those two were laughing sooo much! It was adorable!  

3.  Leaving Japan
I signed the papers and it's official, this is my last year in Japan. I've been here three and a half years so far and it's been the best experience of my life! But I am certain that it's time to go. As much as I love my job, I am afraid that it's just not challenging enough anymore, and as much as I love living in Japan, I feel I've grown as much as I can here and am ready to continue growing on my next adventure! Stay tuned to find out where! ;)

2. Puerto Rico!! 
 Javier is orignally from Puerto Rico and he wanted to take me home so I could meet his family! \
We had been planning this trip for months when, at the last minute, his job kept him from leaving Okinawa. I still had my ticket and decided that I would go anyway--alone.

Luckily two wonderful friends that I had met here in Okinawa were also home visiting
 their family in PR so I got to meet up with them for a few days.
They even invited me to celebrate New Year's Eve with their family!
Some days were pretty amazing and some were a lot tougher, but overall it was totally worth it. I am hoping to post another blog all about it, unless I forget or run out of time. ;) 
1. Engaged! 
Javier finally popped the question!
And of course I said yes!