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365 Days of Japan

March 19, 2011

This is it. Today is the day.

Exactly one year.

March 19, 2010
: I landed at Narita Airport in Japan, terrified out of my mind and thrilled beyond belief.

Happy anniversary to me!

So much has happened this year and I am stunned at how quickly the time has gone. Yet in some ways, I feel like I have been here so much longer than a year.

This truly has been the greatest adventure and equally the greatest struggle of my life thus far. As I reflect back on the memories, I am flooded with images I will never forget. From the beautiful cherry blossoms in last spring to the heartbreaking aftermath of the tsunami this winter, I have collected everything within my heart and have solidified Japan as part of my life, forever.
I read my last blog post before leaving America today and I said something then that has held true. Life is still life, even in the most foreign of countries. Everyday is full of highs and lows, the exciting and the mundane.

My first day as a teacher in Japan!

Today has been an emotional roller coaster for me. Because of the events this past week relating to the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear crisis, everyone in Japan feels a certain level of stretching tension tugging at them. However, another more intimate event took place today.

I symbolically spent the anniversary of my first year in Japan at the graduation of my sixth graders. These students are my pride and joy. They have worked so hard and I have enjoyed teaching them so much. I tried very hard to keep my emotions under control but I ending up crying. I was doing well throughout the ceremony but the final goodbye’s tore me up.

All of the students from grades 1 ~ 5, along with all of the teachers and parents made an arch with our arms for the class to run through out to the front door of the school. As the students ducked and crawled their way through the tangle of limbs, I heard soft sniffles mixed in with the laughter. After everyone lined up outside, I surveyed the damage: red puffy cheeks, tears freely streaming, and voices cracking on the word “sayonara” (goodbye).

I simply lost control.

For what seemed like the hundredth time this week, I found myself openly weeping in school. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. My students, boys and girls alike, threw their arms around me, and sobbed, spilling out thank you’s and promises to study hard. These kids are so dedicated… I just want to make sure they have fun.

卒業おめでとう!Congratulations on your graduation!

Talk about bittersweet!

Another difficult part of today was being split between two schools. I obviously can’t be in two places at the same time, so I could only see one group of my sixth graders graduate. Talk about feeling guilty! However, on my last day of class, the students I would miss out on wanted to say goodbye messages to me. I grabbed my video camera! They start off introducing themselves in English and then most of them are saying how much they enjoy English and that they will work hard in the next term as well! *happy tears*

I am very grateful for so many things. I’ve finally, after a year, settled into the daily comings and goings of Japan. I’m cozy here. Progress has come to me in little bits and pieces. Little victories have made my heart triumph. The garbage is properly sorted, milk cartons unfolded… those funny little quirks about Japan have begun to settle into the fine lines of my soul. I am so thankful to be in Atsuma.
In all honesty, at first I was bitterly disappointed to be sent to such a small, rural community. I wanted the bright flashing lights of Tokyo to give my life some glamour. Now I’m here out of my own volition.

So here’s to the next 365 days. これからもよろしくお願いします!★ミ

I want to close with the words of a beautiful song: 明日の記憶 (Memories of Tomorrow).
I feel that it sums up the torrent of emotions whirling around my heart. Right now, there is still so much pain in this beautiful country. They still need so much help (please give compassionately and generously to 【HELP JAPAN!】). I remember the wonderful moments and the painful moments equally. I want to help instil hope back into this country that has given me so much. I will do all I can… I hope you will join me! As always, ありがとうございます。Thank you!

同じ景色も気持ちも 二度とは取り戻せないから
輝いてた過去の夢を 振り返ってしまうんだろう
まっさらな未来にさえ 悲しみが零れ出して
こころを滲ませるから 誰もが立ち止まり見失ってしまうよ

The same scenery and feelings will never return again
So I’ll surely turn to look back at the shining dream from my past
Even in the brand new future, sadness spills over
Staining the heart, making everyone stop in place and lose sight of it
In the midst of the changing seasons
What color will we paint tomorrow?
If we can strongly, strongly believe in each other
What color future will be waiting?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. lbarnes permalink
    March 19, 2011 9:04 pm

    It was so nice to read this. You have found your place in the world, Jennifer and I couldn’t be more proud of you and happy for you. You’re always only a thought away.

  2. March 20, 2011 8:13 am

    This is such an excellent post! I love reading about teachers’ experiences in their classrooms, especially when those teachers develop a sense of investment in and compassion for their students. I suspect you are an excellent teacher!

  3. mike permalink
    March 21, 2011 11:23 pm

    This grabbed the heart. Great post, I know your kids are proud of you

  4. Kaitlyn Whitaker permalink
    March 22, 2011 2:01 pm

    Your story is very touching!

  5. September 2, 2011 3:30 am

    wonderful commentary and sharing from your heart

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