It occurs to me that if I don`t start writing in this now, I may never get around to it before I return home. Considering my paper diary is still on `catch up`, although much closer now – only a week or so behind – and the length of time it took me to write up Malaysia`s entries, I might be better off to document those travels a little later when I have the time and unrestricted computer access again.
I`ll probably put them all together in a long post like I did my Japan Diary. If anyone I know is still checking this after my arbitrary posting pattern, I wanted to say thank you for the letters I`ve recieved since being back at Shiso: Jenni, Wai-sun and Lianne; for letters and birthday cards – arigatou! Oh and Rob, if you didn`t read my reply to your comment, also thanks for your letter ^^.
April… An entire month I let pass without a word to the world… (I`m quite aware at how pretentious that sounds :p). There`s virtually nothing to say about the work that I haven`t moaned about before – I have nothing to do a lot of the time, or the same toilet, bathing and cleaning duties, so its monotony is only endured for the money I`m saving for University. On that point, I finally accepted Leeds – Philosophy and Japanese joint honours, for the second time. Peculiarly though, this time spent in Japan hasn`t made me any more sure of whether doing Japanese as part of a degree is worthwhile, nor indeed broadened my mind for career options. Only narrowed it down in fact (which is not unuseful).
1) I can`t do care work for a living – I haven`t the patience. I`ve found more recently myself forgetting that the residents are disabled and maintaining the sypathetic attitude required to deal with them. (I.e. I lost my temper and sense of humour for the whole thing). The work doesn`t fulfil my intellectual need either – the classical background music played 24/7, coupled with the lack of mental activity required for the tasks has a disturbing soporific effect, leaving me finding myself entertained by half-hours of staring into space, the glaze on my eyes hardening into a permanent membrane there. In the work`s defense though, I am still battling a language barrier, so my interactions with staff and residents are not what they could be.
2) I would not like to work for a typical Japanese company. Cerainly not the `salaryman` lifestyle, anyway. The hours are long enough at Shiso for such poor pay (and I`m referring to the normal staff member pay, not the reduced salary I recieve) and the expectation (although I`ve never heard it spoken) to work longer than your shift is there. I probably sound selfish, but I`ve never accepted the view that, broadly speaking, your life should revolve around your work. I find the Japanese attitude of loyalty to company, although unified with the credible magnanimous air I`ve felt in a lot of Japanese people, restricting and ultimately, dominating. Perhaps it`s just that this is not my place, and so, as with the CO-OP, I resent being tied down. Perhaps I will not like working for any company for a long length of time, period. This is my first taste of what it feels like to have a full-time job and not be studying after all.
I wrote in an earlier post that I was impressed by the contented atmosphere at Shiso and how, perhaps, happiness could be found even in the detail, the small places. You wouldn`t have to do something huge and original and profound to feel accomplished in life. I do stand by this, but that niggling sensation in myself has returned to get moving again. In other words, to be `somebody`. Here, if I were to stay permanently, doesn`t feel like I will.
I think my Dad was right when he said that most jobs lose the novelty after about 6 months. I`m certainly counting the days down until I return now, but the sad knowledge that it`s Japan remains. I want to get out of this routine lifestyle but not leave Japan just yet. It`s one or the other, though…
I`ve written entirely my thoughts up until now, so I`ll mention my Birthday ohanami. `Hanami` is Cherry Blossom viewing (lietrally though, flower viewing), quite an event in Japan and the subject of countless poems and songs. The song our own Japanese group was taught was about the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms). I can even remember it now, Kushida-sensei drilled it into us so much ^_^;. If there`s one thing I have been glad I stayed for, it was this.
We (the new GAP volunteers, Niall – at Harima, Norrice and Christina – at Shiso and myself) stayed at Maeda-sensei`s on Sunday 10th (my birthday). We celebrated with an evening at our okonomiyaki house in Yamasaki, Nanphu – I tried the kaisenyaki (seafood fry) with bits of red octopus tentacle, prawns and other delights and as usual the free refills on ice cream and soda ^_^. We are showing the new volunteers Winter Sonata, the drama I`ve written about before, which has become prerequisite to knowing Maeda-sensei now, it would seem ^^. Norrice and Christina also made me a really good cake and I got a few presents from everyone. My main package from home, including much-needed cereal nourishment, is still, as I write, undelivered after a month… I bet the customs have it…
The 11th we took the akatonbo (Red Dragonfly) train to Himeji on a dull, overcast morning. It was forecast rain for the day, but resisted apart from a light spatter on our walk up Otemaedori – the road to Himejijo (Himeji Castle). All the pictures I`d seen prior to today (and even the odd tree in early bloom) had led me to believe that Cherry Blossoms are pink. They are, but the trees lining the path to Himejijo were a strikingly bright white with a hint of pink. I don`t think there is more a colour that could be the quintessence of fragile purity. The Japanese weren`t speaking in hyperboles when they chose this flower to hang metaphor after metaphor on.
I went along like a shutterbug, easing the mechanisms on my long disused SLR camera now thrown into the limelight again through lack of digital. I`d see Himejijo twice before, so I was mostly interested in watching the surges of crowds and different people come to observe the flowers, and of course, the flowers themselves. Himejijo took on a different feel in this garden of white-pink, very different to when I`ve seen it in Autumn and Winter, yet saying that, the castle manages to look magnificent whatever the weather ^^.
The rest of the day was spent browsing for Kimono for the girls and other shops. I was very disappointed to see the Japanese release date for Star Wars episode 3 to be in July *after* I`ve left, meaning I may not get to see it in a cinema at all… This feeling wasn`t helped when I read about the exclusive premiere in Leceister Square, May 16th where all 6 films are being showing back-to-back, including the Premiere of Revenge of the Sith ;_;. Probably better I stayed in Japan, or I might have actually bought one of those ebay tickets that went for over 300.00 pounds… To all those in the U.K. – don`t miss out on the event in London!
I`m closing up for today`s entry I think – headache forming from staring at the screen o.O;.