Monday, August 20, 2012

Tokyo: Tables and the Open Future

I wrote a bunch of posts while I was on the trains going hither and thither, and I still need to format and photo-ify most of them.
I was recently hesitant to post this one and I don't know why.

 Tokyo: Tables and the Open Future

Tokyo, like many things, is both hated and loved by me. I always used to say I like to visit and wouldn’t want to live there, but now I wonder if it’s not just the reverse of that. The thing I hate in Tokyo is the combined weight of lost-ly carrying a bunch of luggage in stations so incredibly full of people I don’t know how to maneuver. The truth is, stations would always be full of people, but if I were staying for a lengthier time, I might not have a suitcase under my arm at all times, and I might know exactly where I was going, which would mean I would spend a heck of a lot less time wandering sweaty and forlorn through a station that begins to resemble a clusterfuck the longer I spend there searching. This was in fact the case on Tuesday, but I get ahead of myself.

(Tuesday, just for the record, I visited the Mori museum in Roppongi Hills and had a wonderful time with a fellow PEPY JET friend and generally felt like one of the luckiest people in the world.)

What a pleasant spot on such a pleasant day

Mark shows how to interact with this map display.

The view from my lunch spot.

My lunch.
Monday, I had the delightful opportunity to stop in Yokohama and have lunch with Baye McNeil, author of Hi! My Name is Loco and I Am a Racist and of course, Loco in Yokohama. Alessandro and I had the chance to interview him for Impetuous Windmills. We waded through a Yohokama downpour to enjoy some seriously good ramen and seriously better conversation. I’m really pleased to have met this genuine and down-to-earth guy, and I hope to again some future day.

Talking with him made me think about writing in a more serious way again, and brought to the fore of my mind the story which I know I’ve mentioned and which everyone must think I have since abandoned, but I promise I have not, and in fact its development, to this point long and slow, has become something more like a boil after years and years (like, ten) of ridiculously slow cooking. For that story, ideas keep popping, and all the while I grow less and less satisfied with the level of the writing work previously done on it.

Anyway! Once I hit Tokyo and made my way up to the Orientation Info Fair, I was promptly installed as a PEPY representative. I met my fellow table-mate and we meshed well, as we were able to share different experiences from PEPY adventures. She having been on the ‘real bike ride’ (The PEPY Ride, across Cambodia), and me having been on a modified one-week adventure. I was also able to provide some photos from our Himeji rides, which I ended up thinking was and easier thing for new JETs to get into, idea wise. It’s difficult, the moment you land in Japan, to immediately start your planning to go on international trips! Much more accessible, I thought, is the idea of exploring your own prefecture by bike while donating to a good cause.

I’ve been back and forth from the PEPY website, especially before and after our winter break adventure, and I do want to mention that I respect what they’re doing out there a lot. Their whole teach a man to fish (or teach a village to educate itself) thing is something that I really get behind. More on this momentarily..
The table next to PEPY was the PeaceBoat table. I think I had looked over some PeaceBoat info before, I know I donated some money through them in March of 2011.. I did not really understand their voyages, though, or maybe I looked at them and thought the participation fee was pretty high for me and my life, or maybe IF I realized they were looking NOT for participants among JETs, but people to work on the boat as English teachers, I noted at that time that I did not have the time to spare, as the boat voyages are around three months in length.

But for a recently… retired? JET… you must understand that the moment I understood that I could apply to be an English teacher for mostly Japanese participants on a boat voyage around the world, the moment I looked at a map of the next planned voyage and understood that one could be part of that, doing what I already have the skills to do, and sail around the world with free time at various ports of call all over the world, I could have swooned, the prospect seemed so intoxicating (and to be honest, still kind of does).
(You’ll be pleased to know I was decidedly against applying for the voyage leaving in mid-December because I intend to spend the holidays at home this year, no matter how tempting the boat route map was for that voyage.)

It would be a little presumptuous of me to just assume that out of what must be a relatively large pool of applicants for a relatively small number of spots on a voyage I would be selected, but in this I am a little bit presumptuous. In the same way that I knew – see, I didn’t want to be a JET, I just knew I was one, or that it was a perfect fit.. that I could be good at this, that this could be good for me—in that same kind of way, I suddenly felt like being an English teacher on a PeaceBoat voyage was for me.

So I guess this is what I mean when I title this “The Open Future.” I don’t really know what I’m doing after JET, and even if I were to go on a voyage, from what I understand most teachers are limited to one voyage (in some special cases, they do take on repeaters), that wouldn’t be a ‘real job,’ that wouldn’t be ‘my future’ or the rest of my life, it would just be the next adventure, a three-month chance of a lifetime the way JET was a three-year one; it also wouldn’t have to be next, or now. It just seems like ‘now’ is when I ‘don’t have any plans,’ or at least not a job.

But that’s what I realized in the same moment, the open future. I had all but forgotten the ties I left behind, which I am sure it would take time to restart, but the jobs I did have, in Kansas, the beginning of a background in a few different things. I’m not worried about what to do when I get home because I believed I had options, even if I had forgotten what they were. I remember them now, Kaplan if I want to work in private education for GRE prep or maybe even ESL. I’ve been a substitute teacher and I know I would be better at it now than I was then (though I maintain that being a sub is hard, and I don’t know that I wanna… the fact remains that I probably could). And if, at the end of a year, I had gone from nothing at all to having started these things, I believe that given proper time, there are lots of options.

People tend to ask me in line with finishing JET, ‘where to next.’ I have always believed, even if they don’t quite, that the path forward lies for me back toward where I began it. Not absolutely necessarily in my hometown or even state, but I have always just assumed I would ‘end up’ in America sooner or later. Those who know me more recently, without having seen my roots, tend to think I’m an international, a wanderer in some ways, and maybe I am. But that isn’t what I want to be forever.

Still, I can’t deny that I still feel that, at least after I get the chance to be back for a while, to reconnect, to readjust, to move past this particular life I’ve had for the past few years and dust off the clean slate, there is an appeal, a draw in the world-wide-view, in believing there is more out there to do and be done than I can do or could have seen from within the previous parameters of vision I once had.

I talk about PEPY a lot, but I’ve hesitated to mention that I still feel drawn, as often as I do research on it, to go there and do that thing, not forever, of course (ideally, the real hope of PEPY and the folks there is to become phased out as unnecessary), but for a little while.

So what does that mean? Three months on a boat? A year in Cambodia? Will I be back in Japan for any length of time in the future? I shrug and say I don’t know, that I have ‘no plans.’ It’s not a lie; I don’t.  I can’t hope for any of those things until I’ve spent three months in America. Or maybe a year. Doing what? I feel a little silly sometimes, to say “I don’t know.” Only because I think maybe the listener will assume me careless, listless. But once, having to say that would have panicked me. Now, I’ve been me long enough to see that I am never idle for long. And so long as opportunities exist (as they quite obviously do), I hope that I will continue to be the me that at least seriously considers taking them on.


  1. Here is a secret: there is no adulthood, no certainty, no definite life plan that can be carried out from start to finish just as you expected and still be fulfilling.

    Which is to say, come figure life out with us! I think we will be buying a house shortly--we have one in our sights--and it's got room enough for a Lemmon. Spend some time writing in earnest, and petting some dogs, and drinking tea and bourbon.

  2. I know exactly how you feel dearest. I sort of freeze up when I am asked that question. I want to do and see things. I am returning next year but I have no idea what to do. I may return to Japan again someday, I am not closing the book on this country. There are so many places I want to go. I still want to meet Loco!