back in the city…
well, it’s been a while since i posted on here. to anyone who has been waiting (doubtful) and those that have simply been trying to forget, i uniformly apologize. about 3 months ago i relocated. i opted to once again leave the relative comforts of home that i had spent the last year fashioning. i packed up and said ‘sayonara’ to my friends, students and schools in the japanese countryside and headed for the big city of Nagoya.
companies like mine don’t give a lot of consideration to location requests when hiring from outside of japan. they give preference to teachers with seniority or expats already living in those areas. so most teachers like me, get stationed in remote rural areas when they first arrive. this has it’s benefits. in reality, one rural town is just as good as any other. foreigners get a taste of everyday japan and there is an abundance of local or neighboring events taking place at all times of year. while they remains a relatively minute part of the population, there are still plenty of expat teachers all over japan to keep each other company. as is the case in any country, those expats find each other quickly and often band together. so no one is really isolated unless they allow themselves to be. anyone who’s seen my photos from the last year can see what i mean.
another benefit of living in the country is that it makes it easier to learn japanese since there are far less english speakers. make no mistake about it though, it’s an extremely difficult language and it’s very unlikely that one would pick it up just by living here. the japanese are debilitatingly shy and most wouldn’t dare correct even the simplest mistakes, but instead opt to praise how well you speak even if you know only a few words. learning to speak japanese takes a lot of hard work and i’ve seen firsthand that you only get out of it what you put in. in my case, i spent my last three months in the country studying very hard and it paid dividends. however, i haven’t studied a bit since i moved and not only have i not progressed, but i’ve also forgotten a good bit of what i previously learned. i digress
after missing city life for the last year, i requested a transfer. nagoya isn’t the most recognized of cities. it even remains fairly unknown to foreigners living in japan, which is exactly why i chose it. before and after being in japan, the overwhelming majority of teachers looking to relocate request tokyo and osaka. anticipating this and researching my company’s presence in major cities, i decided my chances were best with nagoya. it ranks as japan’s third largest city and its central location on the main island of Honshu makes it easy to travel anywhere in japan. in comparison, my former home on the island of Shikoko required sometimes two hours, and up to around $50 just to get to the nearest point in honshu before continuing on and paying more to get to your destination.
so here i am, back in the city. a few observations thus far…
- i’ve made a terrible mistake – i’ve complained in the past about how expensive everything is in japan. well, the one thing i forgot to research before moving was the cost of living in nagoya. i’ve landed myself in the 4th most expensive city in the world according to this article. to put it into perspective, new york ranks in at 49th. coupled with the fact that my salary is comfortably below the poverty line in most developed countries, it’s safe to say i’m f@cking broke! i thought i was struggling just to feed myself in the countryside. now it appears that i had it pretty good. at this point i’m completely tapping my paycheck out just to stay afloat. i tried selling my body for extra cash but i was barely able to make bus change…not to mention the emotional scars left behind from those 3 ½ minutes of hard work.
- wheels – since selling my body wasn’t as lucrative as i’d hoped and because the minimum price for a subway or bus ride is roughly $2.50, i decided i should get myself some wheels (pictured above). i call her “the pelican.” she’s the first bike i’ve owned in 20 years and maybe the best purchase i’ve made since i’ve been in japan (aside from my couch). she’s helping me get to know the city, keeping me in better shape and saving me time and money.
- thing are shaping up – the very tiny public gym in my former town left a lot to be desired. calling it outdated would have been an understatement. it looked like the gym where arnold schwarzenegger probably worked out in 1971 and it was filled with what i suspect was the same equipment. not only was everything in this gym old and dangerous, but it was all designed for users no taller than 5’8”. i’m happy to report that my city gym in nagoya is much more modern and well-equipped. it’s no Gold’s mind you, but at least the equipment was made for someone of a maximum size only a few inches shorter than me. compared to the country gym, the membership fee has risen from $7 to a whopping $20 per month, but i think i’ll survive. and this gym is close enough that i can bike or run there, so the only disadvantage now is that i’m pretty much out of excuses for being lazy and out of shape. one more thing…instead of the standard shitty gym pop that’s nauseated me for years, this gym plays nothing but oldies from the west making it better than any gym in history! ANYTHING is better than lady gaga. my god is she ugly!
- back to school – new location, new job. like last year, i’m teaching at four elementary schools. but this year, no more junior high for me and i couldn’t be happier. no more pubescent brats making my life hell and driving me to drink on a weekly basis. my schools are great. the teachers are all friendly and far less shy than last year. there are some who speak a decent amount of english, several who are relatively young and even a few that are cute. my students are a lot of fun and there is even a handful of kids that for various reasons speak exceptional english. all of this spells more people who i am able to speak with throughout the day. as an added bonus, my contract this year affords me an obscene amount of paid time off which i plan on putting to good use. job-wise, i expect this year to be a whole lot more fun.
- roommate – due to a ‘misunderstanding,’ the apartment i moved into placed me in a shared apartment. i’ve lived alone for years now. simply stated…i prefer it. who doesn’t? living alone is awesome. i’ve enjoyed living with roommates in the past but it was always with people i chose to live with. now i’ve been thrown together with a some clown from england of roughly the same age, who lives on mayonnaise sandwiches. and as luck would have it, he’s a neat freak who cleans EVERYDAY. he runs around with a dustpan and a lint roller getting noticeably irritated with any dust or hair that threatens to settle for even a moment. i can see everything i do making him nervous as he scans for any potential mess. despite his fastidiousness though, he has a strange affinity for adorning everything in our bathroom with plush accessories that harbor and breed germs like a furry petri dish.
as if that weren’t enough, he and his girlfriend use every opportunity to make sure i’m fully aware of their sex life. it seems i’m always ‘surprising’ them when i return home…always at the same time of day…to their semi-nude couch groping. and he never misses an opportunity to feign concern by asking, “i hope we weren’t making too much noise last night?” with an expectant look on his face as though he wants me to pat him on the back. yeah buddy…i remember the first time i regularly got laid too. i was over ten years younger and my girlfriend was almost as wretched as yours. get over yourself.
also worth noting: he seems to have no interest in music which i find untrustworthy and he’s got a big telescope that i’m fairly sure he uses to peep on other nearby apartments.
i can’t wait to move out!