Toyohashi, Here I Am! Thanksgiving, Here We Are!

“There are moments in life that are bigger than we know it at the time. When you look back, you say, that was one of those life-changing, fork-in-the-road moments and I didn’t even see it coming.”Jenny Han

Happy Thanksgiving, America! To my family, to old and new friends, and to the many people I’ve been privileged to meet and get to know around this world… thank you.

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve hinted, teased, and talked specifically to some folks about my big move and career change… and here I’m finally telling you all about it.

First and foremost, I’m no longer working in Montana.

Actually, I’m no longer living in the United States.

I’m in Japan! My new city is Toyohashi, a lovely city on the Pacific coast and Mikawa Bay that’s just an hour from Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture.

Back in March when I wrote about road tripping down I-15 from Montana to Salt Lake City, I was taking a shot at making a change in my life. Little did I know, that one decision would land me a career change, a relocation, and a wide variety of new experiences. Have all my experiences been good? Not exactly, because moving to a foreign country gives you a wide range of challenges. Do I regret my decision? Not at all. Let me tell you why.

Why I haven’t written in 5 months:

Last April, I took a job to teach English in Japan. This meant a lot of stressful prep work during the spring and summer before leaving the States. First, I was still working full-time, which (with commuting and lunch), took 10 hours out of each day. On top of that, I needed to plan, go through and get rid of my accumulated possessions, pack my suitcases, study English grammar and what Japanese I could, and see as many dear friends and family members as I possibly could.

Mind you, I was still writing… but most of it has been unfinished and still needed some direction. Some of my writing was also personal. I’ve been journaling a lot, something I hadn’t been consistent with in the past. Yet now I’m finding it invaluable as I strive to gain perspective; it’s a muddle through my feelings and all the insecurities that accompany any big changes.

How Japan has made me grateful:

YoshidaCastleI expected many things when I first moved to Japan. I expected the jet lag and a busy first week of work training. I expected the language barrier to be an enormous challenge. I expected to get stared at a lot, because let’s face it… a redhead in a sea of Japanese people really stands out. I expected to meet some incredible people at my new job. I expected to eat amazing food (and oh my goodness is it amazing!).

I did not expect the immediate culture shock. For most people, culture shock hits after a honeymoon period where everything is fresh and exciting.

Not for me. I felt it from day one. Someone asked me a simple question in Japanese, and all I knew was that they were asking a question. Not being able to speak to people and be understood was a huge source of anxiety I didn’t expect. Not understanding others was even worse. The few Japanese sentences and phrases I did learn before arriving just flew out of my head. My mind just processed “foreign language” to the point where I even spoke a Spanish phrase to someone instead of giving Japanese phrase.

I expected to feel like an alien in a strange land. I expected to feel welcomed by the Japanese people I met. (And indeed I have. All I had heard about the generosity of the Japanese people toward foreigners has been true.)

Yet, I still expected to feel like an outsider.

I did not expect to find a church so close to where I live, where people who barely know me have graciously accepted me. I did not expect my new career to be so challenging and so rewarding. I did not expect the incredible friendship and support I have received from my new friends and coworkers.

In some ways, I still feel like an outsider. There’s so much I have to learn about living in the city and accomplishing daily tasks when I’m still learning the language. However, never before have I felt so unconditionally welcomed and accepted by the small groups of people I’ve met here.

Give thanks in all things:

I have so much to learn, and I have so much to share. But for now, I just want to say thank you.

Thank you for reading this blog, even though I’m sometimes sporadic in writing.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Thanks for the kind prompts and “why aren’t you writing on your blog?” remarks that get me back in the groove of my writing. (You know who you are, and I thank God every day for you.)

Thank you for writing to me and messaging me, even though I don’t always… okay, rarely… reply right away. You put up with my somewhat crazy sporadic attention to correspondence, and I’m grateful for your understanding.

Thank you, Japan. For your grace and your challenges. I came here  seeking to stretch myself and grow, and you are certainly doing that. I’ve been given many immediate and personal difficulties, yet I enjoy all I learn, and I look forward to all you have to teach me.

Thank you for teaching me that I’m both weaker and stronger than I ever thought possible, and for letting Toyohashi be my home in Japan.

I give thanks to God; you forever have my gratitude.

“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.Edward Sandford Martin


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