When I taught school, my job pretty much consumed my time and energy and any projects were relegated to winter break or summer vacation. When I started working at the library, I no longer had long vacations and it took awhile for me to figure out how to work on projects as they came up rather than waiting for long stretches of uninterrupted time. I found myself feeling more productive, focused and rested.
Some of that feeling probably was related to the fact that the kids were not living at our home anymore so my time was truly mine, but with a year-long work schedule I was able to separate my work life from my home life more easily because there were no long breaks to put things off to. I think teaching did require that single-minded focus and there is no way I could have sustained that type of work without summer vacations, but it has been easier for me to keep balanced with a job that mostly is confined to actual working hours. Working for the BOE in Japan was tightly scheduled, and coming home to take care of Jiro’s mom always felt like working overtime. Since I quit, I started scheduling check-in times with her and it is easier on all of us.
So now I find myself with long stretches of mostly uninterrupted time and I am adjusting to setting up projects and tackling the day-to-day in a manner that makes me feel productive. I am fighting against the urge to schedule myself, but also aware that without direction, a quick email check can turn into a three-hour session of wandering on the internet. So I have set up a couple of projects and goals and I am trying to see if a “schedule” emerges…. it would be a lot more straightforward if I really did have a free schedule, but this is starting to feel comfortable. I am fully aware that it is a luxury to be able to not have to work, so I feel an intense pressure to not waste this opportunity.
I spent the first few days in April cleaning and organizing, reminiscent of cleaning house in June after school got out each summer. I took a short trip to northern Miyazaki Prefecture to visit Takachiho and the surrounding area. The weather was cool and rainy, it really reminded me of Oregon. The landscape is lush and wild rhododendrons were in bloom. I didn’t do much hiking because of the weather, but I did walk along the Gokase River and visited several shrines-including the one which protects that cave where the sun-goddess Amaterasu hid out.
I stopped into the History and Folklore Museum and waited in the lobby while they ran upstairs to turn on the display lights. The museum there traces the history from the late Jomon Period(3000-1000 BC) to the present day. I was treated to a personal one-hour tour by the museum director- he told me a story of an American B29 that had crashed in the mountains there a few days after the Japanese surrender in 1945 and other stories about artifacts from the battles of Takamori Saigo fought during the retreat from Kumamoto to Kagoshima during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877.
Other highlights of the trip included a short stop at Hideji Brewery a microbrewery (ji-biru 地ビール) in Nobeoka. Because of extremely strict zero-tolerance drinking and driving laws, I couldn’t do any on-site tastings, but I did buy several bottles (about 500 yen ~$5 each!) and the beer is really good. I especially like their pale ale. Japanese beer is generally not very good and ji-biru is really hard to find.
I also drove home along the most beautiful stretch of coastline I’ve seen in Japan, in northern Nobeoka.. It isn’t too far from here, so I am hoping to get back again next month.
I also finally got a library card for the prefectural library which has a modest English language fiction collection and another card for the local library which only has a few children’s books in English. I figured out the process to request books from the prefectural library, but was disappointed to find out that the only way to renew books is to actually go the the library in Oita (an hour drive).
The first large project that I am working on is developing a usability test for a friend’s online language learning site. I am reading lots of background literature and am enjoying the challenge- it’s a little like being back in school, but this time I don’t have to pay for the experience. It is really satisfying to work on something that I am really interested in and connects to the work I did before coming to Japan.
I am collecting unemployment for the first time in my life and have decided to limit English teaching
to a day and a half a week. Waiting to see what else unfolds- I’ve got a short interpreting job next week.
I still have pangs of homesickness and was really sad last week because our dog Shoga died. It is so hard to be far away- we were really glad that the kids were both there and we were able to see Shoga on Skype during the last weeks of his life. That dog was amazing!