Friday, 30 July 2010

This is too hard.

This week has been a difficult one. I haven't been able to sleep at all, and I've been crying at every little thing. I went to close my bank account yesterday. The clerk stamped each of the remaining pages of my bank book with a 'void' stamp and it made me burst into tears. Admittedly, this was a really ridiculous thing to do and I am extraordinarily sentimental, but it makes me sad to be doing every little thing, even the most mundane tasks, for the final time.

I am heart broken at the thought of having to leave. I felt homesick for so much of my time here, and longed to be back in London, but now that it is time for me to go, I realise how much of a life I made for myself here. I don't want to turn this into a rambling, self reflective post, but I had a long think yesterday about what it is that I am going to go back to and the kind of life I aspire to have in London. I want to have a carefree time there; I want to move out, have enough money to be able to make the most of my city and take every opportunity to try new things, make new friends, meet someone lovely and have different experiences. It's easier said than done; London is a hard city to crack; it's socially closed and it is going to be difficult to make new friendships. I'm going to have to really make a big effort to achieve the experience I am craving. I'm trying hard to be optimistic and not frightened of going home. I need to remember all of the amazing things that makes me love my city so much and of all the new opportunities that are potentially waiting for me there if I try to find them.

The root of my sadness is having to leave the people I care about so much behind and utter fear at being back in a city that though I love, I know that I am going to find very overwhelming at first. I can't be sure if my additional sadness is at leaving Japan specifically, or leaving this life of living abroad. I will only know once I am not here anymore. Living here has been the most challenging thing I've done, but it has also been the biggest buzz ever. I've made memories here that I will value forever. I know I want to do something like this again, and soon.

It's my teaparty tonight and I want to have fun. I don't want to say goodbye, but I want my final night in Marugame to be a night of happiness, green tea cake, polaroid pictures, late night bicycle rides, and good times with the funny mix of people who have been a big part of my life this year.

It's hard to sum up a year in pictures - what a horrible task, but these are the ones that made me smile as soon as I flicked through the hundreds of pictures I have.

You have been a tough one, but you've been good to me, Japan.


Monday, 26 July 2010

Penultimate Party Weekend

This weekend, Vivian and I took a trip to our favourite places in Kansai, Osaka and Kyoto. It was the last trip we are going to take together (for a while at least...I'll be back to see you in Tokyo, Vivian.) so we were determined to make it a trip to remember. And we did. We really did....

We get embarrassed to arrive in the big cities in this bus. 'Sanuki Express' emblazoned across the front lets everybody know we are country folk leaving the rice fields for the weekend...

First stop - Osaka

My favourite Vivian and Isabel Osaka memories - J-boys, Osaka nightclubs, Aki and Bruce on the Dotombori, staying at the cutesy KOMO hostel, running away from a French man, bananas on escalators, day trip to Nara, trying on fluffy heels in the low budget shoe shop,encountering fellow Kagawa weekend trippers ('that's Kagawa'), Umeda station meltdowns, watching our friends jump into rubbish heaps fresh from the kitchens of McDonalds (urgh),waiting for return buses to Kagawa.

My final weekend in Osaka was our Osaka weekends always are.

We spent ages picking up clothes shaped treasures in Namba before meeting the Mikes...

(no, this one is better;)

We ate Mexican food and mango margueritas, and then there was dancing...

(I love this picture of Vivian!)

...and finally, some karaoke...

We arrived back at our hostel very early the next morning. The hostel was in a bad part of town and wasn't a very pleasant stay. It was also not very pleasant being woken up after two hours sleep and being told we had fifteen minutes to check out.
We wandered around Namba in a sleepy daze, attempted some more shopping (it was half hearted) before giving up and hopping on the train to...

My favourite Vivian and Isabel Kyoto memories: late night green tea frappucino and cake parties down by the river, walks through Ponto cho, befriending guest catchers, combini snacks at 3am, green tea everything, KitKat photoshoots, staying up all night, the lovely 'this is the button to increment and decrement the AC' owner of our hostel, meeting Mr. and Mrs. Pomme and eating cake at their lovely cafe.

We were so exhausted by the time we got to Kyoto. Late afternoon showers and cat naps at our lovely hostel felt like heaven after the dump we had stayed at the previous night. We even got room service from Mr. Increment Decrement :-)

Later that evening, we headed out for a beautiful meal in Gion, and took pictures in the most beautiful parts of the city.

It was the perfect weekend. I don't want this to end.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Weekend jaunt

It seems like it has been a while since my last trip so this weekend, I went to the beautiful city of Kobe with my favourites, Vivian and Yumi.

Kobe's reputation as a 'suburb city' of Osaka is, I think, a little undeserved.Kobe has a character all of its own - it's extremely chic with lots of elegant little boutiques,Scandinavian inspired homeware shops and as Japan's biggest confectionary producer, is one of the few places in Japan where real and wholesome cake can be found....

....We indulged...

After cake time, Vivian and I found a cute little bar called the Whirlybird and had a lovely night chatting away, marvelling at Kobe grown 'new type zucchini' (multicoloured and spherical courgettes grown by the barman's brother) and after arriving back at the hotel, spent an embarrassingly long time trying to put up a sofa was such a fun night.

Fun, Kobe karaoke bar. Myself, and I'm sure Vivian, had an 'I'm in Japan' moment upon seeing this.

The sofa bed antics + a blisteringly hot hotel room + The Whirlybird bar (despite its whimsical and twee name) = one very nauseous Vivian shaped girl and another very nauseous Isabel shaped girl. We only had two drinks :-/

On Sunday, we did very little other than visit the Muji cafe, which was amazing. Lunch is my favourite meal of the day, but light lunches have been difficult to find in Japan, unless you opt to make your own. Lunch at the Muji cafe was just what I had been looking for and appealed to my grazing habits. I had a helping of curried pumpkin salad, broccoli salad and a very nice Okinawan tofu thing.

I slept all the way home on the bus back to Marugame feeling very content with my weekend :-)

Today was my final day as a teacher in Japan - quite momentous eh! I have been saying my goodbyes for weeks so did not anticipate today being too special, but it turned out to be a really lovely day. My students and colleagues put so much thought into my last day and made it very memorable for me.
In the morning, I said my goodbyes to Josei and was given beautiful flowers and a book full of messages from my students. In the afternoon, I headed over to Maruko to attend another farewell ceremony. I felt very content with my decision; I leave with a tinge of regret, as I know that I was just beginning to become a confident teacher. Yet, I am also leaving with a feeling of contentment too. (Happiness also - goodbye Japanese conservative dress standards;I will never have to wear that grey skirt which makes me feel and look like a forty year woman, ever again!)

My favourite students at Maruko threw a farewell picnic for me after school...

...complete with cookies and yoghurt cheesecake baked by cutie Yuki;

It's little moments like this that I will remember :-)

It has been a lovely couple of days and I am looking forward to my Marugametastic week ahead with my best friend.