October update

I’m a full time working gal at my first office job (hence having a lack of time to write). I schedule appointments for a variety of patients seeking various services in the health and sexual reproductive field over the phone. The work I do is highly rewarding, albeit stressful.

I’ve come to the realization that you can’t help other people until you help yourself. Even though I’ve always been pretty self-aware of my emotions and so forth, I have needed to increase the amount of self-care I do on a daily basis to keep functioning well emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. I try to do yoga on a regular basis, schedule time away from my computer (I stare at a screen for 8 hours a day) go for bike rides on weekends, etc. Even with the amount of self-care I’m doing, I feel it could still use improvement. If you have self-care recommendations, I’d love to hear from you.

Outside of work I have yet to continue building my social circle (it’s pretty small right now). I am glad for the few friends I have made since moving here and the friendships I’m working to build, as well as the ones that remain strong – they are deeply appreciated.

Another note – my roommate and I have decided to cancel our overpriced internet (to save up financially for a little bit (a month or two). I will be using this time to focus on myself, read more literature, and rest my eyes. If you really need to get in contact with me, I can be reached over email at lalunasecreta@gmail.com. I won’t be responding frequently, but I will try and check my email once a day or every other day. If you have my number, you can text me as well. As I write this email, I am posting from a coffee shop.

Until next time,

Sarah

 

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A new chapter: life in the big city

Hello!

A number of changes are currently underway within my life! Wanderlust has kicked in again.

I spent July wrapping up my job as a barista, spending time with friends, dancing, swimming, having old friends visit from out of town, enjoying bonfires, and preparing for a new chapter in my life.

Back at the end of June, I applied for a position with Planned Parenthood. I was interviewed. A week or so later, I found out I was accepted to the position! I will be working as a Call Center Receptionist in the Twin Cities.

After finding out the good news, I had a few weeks to find a new place to live and wrap up my life in Wisconsin for the moment. I took a tour of two apartments in Minneapolis in July. I decided to move in with a roommate in a two-bedroom condo not too far from my workplace. So far, I’m really enjoying it! My roommate Alex and I spoke several times before moving in together. We are quite compatible in terms of cleanliness, sleep schedules, hobbies, etc. I feel as though I made the right decision to live with a roommate. I lived alone in Japan for nearly four months and I felt as though it was too isolating for me.

My job will be starting mid-next week! I plan to bike or walk to work up until the Minnesota winter creeps in and I don’t want to slog through piles of snow, at which point I will navigate city driving (which honestly terrifies me a fair bit, it’s taking some getting used to, all though so far I’ve been avoiding it).

Now that I have unpacked and settled a bit, I am looking forward to exploring the Uptown area and seeing what the Twin Cities has to offer! I miss my friends from back home, but I know they are only a few hours away by car, and I can go back and visit on a weekend sometime.

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Until next time,

Sarah

 

Reflections on 2016

A quick mention- Today is the 2nd anniversary of my WordPress page. Two years ago I found myself wishing to document my study abroad experience in Oaxaca, Mexico. Last year I was making my way to the East Coast on a road trip with my boyfriend. This year, I’m in my hometown, with no plans currently to travel anywhere for a while *sigh.* I’m saving up money, but I don’t know where I’ll be heading to next.

     2016 has been an interesting year in all senses of the word. I won’t get into the politics, social issues, and other events of the year- that’s too broad and lengthy to cover (and would be exhausting and depressing to be honest). (I am still in mourning over the loss of musicians such as David Bowie, too, but that’s another post for another time.) I will try but fail to keep this a brief post. It’s more of a way for me to remember what happened this past year, and for those I haven’t spoken to much in the past year.

     2016  was the year of the monkey, and the monkey is my zodiac sign. I went into 2016 after a fulfilling 2015, fully expecting a great year ahead. I wanted seize the day (carpe diem) and make the most of the year. In some ways, I did. The universe did pull some strings and make things possible for me, as did hard work (I fulfilled my dream of visiting and working in Japan!)

At the beginning of the year, I spent two weeks on the East Coast with my boyfriend in upstate New York and Maryland visiting his friends. It was my first time on the East Coast. We visited Washington D.C. and played tourist during the off season of snowy January. I attended a Bernie Sanders rally at the end of January. I didn’t have a job for a couple of months after graduating in Dec. 2015. I allowed myself some time to relax and recover after burnout at the end of my undergraduate career. I began job hunting online in February. At first, I looked for work in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but then I branched out and looked for jobs teaching English in Japan. I tutored English online briefly at this time.

In the spring, I harvested maple syrup from the trees on our property (I live with my parents and brother on 22 and a half acres of land in rural Wisconsin). I purchased a Nikon d3300 and began figuring out how to use a proper camera. My family adopted a very sweet old dog, who is half German shepherd, half Australian shepherd. By March, I was accepted to a position teaching English overseas. Within about a month, I was on a big jet plane headed for Tokyo.

I spent three and a half months teaching English in Japan. I grew a lot as a person, and began to mature, learn life lessons, and adjust to living on my own.

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My best friend and I. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan. Aug. 16′

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A shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Aug. 16′

It had been my dream for nearly ten years to visit Japan. I was fortunate to receive the opportunity to teach overseas. I enjoyed my experience and learned many life lessons, had the chance to experience a new culture and way of live, and had the chance to learn a new language. I networked and made several friends and strengthened existing friendships in Japan. On the weekends, I took advantage of my time to travel and sightsee in Yokohama and Tokyo. However, my time didn’t go quite as I had expected. I was scheduled to work for one year, but due to job stress and unforeseen health issues, I returned home to Wisconsin.

I made my way back to the states feeling like a complete failure at first. I felt good for about the first day, (I was excited to see family and friends) but I was mentally struggling after that. My extreme highs turned to extreme lows. I didn’t know what to do with myself after my lifelong dream had been fulfilled/shattered (depending on how you want to look at it). I didn’t know what I would do for work, where I wanted to live, and so forth. I was having an existential crisis (an ongoing on, if that’s possible) about what I wanted to do with my life, and what my true purpose is. I walked a lot when I came home from Japan, as a way to both be with my thoughts and to escape them. I would walk for three miles at a time, once or twice a week. While I still don’t have the answers to purpose in life, I can assure you I am better today than I was when I returned home.

Two weeks after returning to the US, I applied to a barista position at a local coffee shop in my hometown. I was hired and began working shortly thereafter. Working shortly after my return home helped me readjust to American life and reconnect, or create new connections with people in the area. It took a while, but I began to make new friends and create new bonds. I enjoy having a moderately fast paced job that keeps me busy, but allows for a good work-life balance and isn’t too stressful (it’s the least stressful job I’ve had to date, actually).

The future is uncertain, but I’m not necessarily scared for what lies in 2017. Well, maybe a little bit. The rise of a bigoted, xenophobic, racist, homphobic president scares me (okay, this is my one political blurb of this post, I’m done now). I will continue to do my best to grow as a person, help others, learn new languages, visit new countries and states, and make new friends. If one thing is certain, it’s that there is no certainty in life (I sound like a cliché).

I hope 2016 was kind to you. If it wasn’t, (I’m guessing it may not have been) I look forward to a different 2017 with you. See you next year.

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Best,

Sarah

Back in the states

I’ve been back in the US for just over a month now.

I made the decision to leave Japan about two weeks before departing. I returned home on August 23rd. I left for personal reasons: namely, I was over-stressed and experiencing some health problems. I left my teaching job and my best friend behind.

I returned to the US 3.5 months after having arrived in Japan. I was stressed, in need of a doctor and dentist appointment, a general emotional mess, and 17 pounds lighter (not a bad thing).

Around 3 weeks after returning to Wisconsin, I was hired on the spot to a barista position at a local coffee shop. I’m glad I started working shortly after coming home as it’s helped ease my transition back into my local community and US society. Outside of work I don’t really have much of a social group outside of my family, whom I live with (my parents and brother). At work, I can see acquaintances and people from the area that I know. It’s a good thing. without it, I would never be social at all.

I am trying to reconnect with old friends, but after being in Japan, and even before then, I’ve drawn away from a lot of my old high school friends to some extent. It would be nice to make new friends or to reconnect more with old friends. For now though, I am fairly content. I’ve developed the habit of a taking a 3 miles walk on the country roads near my home at least twice a week to keep up with the walking habit I developed while in Japan. I used to walk everywhere. The weather has been spectacular this September- warmer than usual, which makes for wonderful walking.

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A corn field I see on my walk near my house each week.

There are times where I really miss my life in Japan. I miss my best friend, the train announcements, little phrases in Japanese, the snacks, the city bustle (sometimes). I’ve gained back 5 pounds I lost. But for now, the comforts of mom’s home cooking, inside jokes with my brother, hugs from dad, and so forth keep me going.

I don’t know what’s next, but for now, I know it’s good to be home in Wisconsin.

 

Growing pains

     I do a lot of things on my own in Japan. I make my own activities on my days off, (most people work on Mondays, but I don’t, hence I’m usually alone). I’m learning to enjoy my own company. I cry alone, I go through struggles, I explore on my own, I laugh by myself, and I learn on my own. But lately, I have been having some problems I can’t handle on my own.
You need to reach out to others for help, even if it scares you.
     I have been filled with anxiety and self doubt recently, particularly after my hajimete (3 and 4 year old students) class this past Saturday. During the class and immediately after, my thoughts wavered to a panicked, “I want to go home, now. I can’t handle teaching,” “I’ve made a big mistake,” etc. The students were running in every direction, all of my games and toys were thrown off the shelves, the class was a total disaster (or so it felt like to me). The students didn’t repeat the vocab, some were sitting while others were standing, they tried crawling on the table, they hid under the table. My class looked like a war zone as it came to a finish with Jenga blocks scattered across the floor and letter pieces strewn about.
     Recently, I’ve thought to myself “am I the best teacher, is this what the students deserve? Is there someone else who is more energetic and has more to offer than me? I bet other teachers are more fun and would do a better job than me,” etc. etc. My mind keeps racing with these sorts of thoughts. This past weekend was really fun, but I still couldn’t enjoy it fully as my mind has been cluttered with worries and negativity. I’ve also been juggling the stress of trying to please the parents of my students by having their kids learn English, while also ensuring the kids have fun and are engaged in their lesson. There are also cultural differences to take into consideration.
     Another stressor in my life has been my bills. Not only is this worrisome financially, but it’s also been a problem because 1. I can’t read kanji, and can only  read hiragana and katakana, and 2. I don’t know how to pay bills. I am now learning how to do that finally (thank you Japanese convenience stores). I still can’t read my mail, and I have troubles distinguishing between junk mail and legitimately important documents on occasion. On an almost daily basis, I send a photo of my mail to my best friend (she’s Japanese) and ask for her assistance. Where would I be without her help? I’m not always alone, my best friend has been very helpful in my transition to Japan. But even your friends can’t be there 24/7 to assist you.
     After speaking with my coworker, and reaching out to one of my supervisors over the phone today, I’m feeling a little better and less likely to book the next flight home. My supervisor gave me some good teaching advice, and they both gave me good encouragement. As my supervisor noted, I set my goals too high, so I am filled with stress when I miss the stars. But when you aim for the tops of the trees, metaphorically speaking, you’ll be pleased and less stressed when you find you’ve made that goal. I think I’ve been trying too hard and wishing for too much to happen all at once. Teaching is a process, and it will take a while for rules and boundaries and routines to be established and understood.
     It took the encouragement from both of these people, but it’s helped me see my own self-worth a bit more. Young children can’t be expected to sit still. It’s okay if the class didn’t go perfectly. They had fun, my coworker mentioned to me. She spoke with one of the parents and their kid said they enjoyed the class. That is the main point. It was out of control a bit, but the biggest goal is for the students to have fun while learning English. My coworker said to me today “I’ve seen many young teachers, and you are the best one I’ve met.”
     It takes difficult experiences like the ones I’ve been having in order for a person to truly grow. Sometimes I wish I could repress my negative emotions and avoid experiencing them, but that would only make the problem worse, and it would come up later. Sometimes I wish I was just a tourist and could see the fun, sparkling side of Japan and not have to deal with the harder side Japan and figuring out the not so candy coded parts of society. But that’s a different conversation. My thoughts boil down to this: we must deal with the emotions that come to us, even if they’re ugly or unwanted. It’s important to filter through them, realize they serve a purpose for use, and then let them go.
Until next time,
Sarah
“Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.”
-Harvey MacKay

My first month in Japan

Life has been a whirlwind since I last wrote. It is difficult to find the time to sit down and write, or even to find time to sit at all, for that matter. I have been on my feet a lot lately.

I am about to open a new English school in Idogaya, Yokohama. I live a short distance from my school. Starting tomorrow, I will be giving demonstration lessons to students. The school officially opens on the 28th of June. I will be working weekends for the next two weeks to do promotional work, such as handing out flyers to people on the streets and possibly putting flyers in people’s mailboxes.

So, Sarah, you haven’t even gone to your new school yet. What have you been doing for the past month? Great question. I had a week of training in Aobadai back in mid May. After that, I spent two weeks training at Motosumiyoshi. The following week, I had more classroom training in Hoshikawa. Finally, I spent a week and two days at Musashi-kosugi.

Aside from training, I have been able to find some time to get out and see Tokyo and Yokohama. It’s been quite the adventure. Training has been stressful and I have been awfully homesick lately, but my adventures make everything worth it. Allow me to touch on some of the highlights since I last wrote.

  1. I embraced my inner nerd at the Ikebukuro Pokemon Center (May 21st).13256537_10153579238537727_5941886529827482303_n.jpg
  2. I found a small slice of peace within Tokyo at Meiji Jingu Shrine (May 23rd).13267982_10153583220012727_925948059940576925_n
  3. I sang karaoke and ate home cooked Japanese food (May 29th).13327372_10153595174512727_7469379530191468320_n.jpg
  4. I reunited with two of my best friends, who I hadn’t seen in 4 years (June 6th). We took purikura photos, had lunch, and sang karaoke!13407327_10153610436467727_1137460386214499751_n.jpg
  5. I moved into my apartment where I will be living for the next 11 months (June 6th).13325682_10153610611377727_3696651919611866427_n.jpg
  6. I met my best friend Mari’s family (on two occasions now). Photo is from June 19th. Mari’s mom cooked us an awesome dinner with lots of cheesy pizza, which is one of my favorite foods!13417451_10153638612027727_1315269840838549587_n.jpg

I went to Kamakura to see the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine and to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha) Buddha at Kōtaku-in. My friends and I even witnessed a Japanese wedding ceremony at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu!13435419_10153639537802727_1267096801897433082_n13451001_10153639615907727_617950774966733908_nMy experience has been very incredible so far. I’ve had the time of my life, have been stressed out, cried a lot, made new friends, and generally experienced a wide range of emotions that comes from starting life in a new country. I’ve been so busy that over a month has passed seemingly in the blink of an eye. Already, this is the longest I have gone without seeing my family and some of my friends back home.

I am still getting settled into my apartment in Idogaya. Today was the first day I had the chance to explore the place I live. I found a few Lawson stores near my house, and went to a park on the top of the city. It’s only about a 10 minute walk, but the view from the top of my city is beautiful. I want to hang out pictures in my apartment and decorate the place for it to be my home away from home.

Best,

Sarah

 

 

 

I’m going to Japan!

Last week, I had a Skype interview with WinBe English School in Japan. This is a fairly small company, with about 100 foreign employees and 400 Japanese employees, if I’m not mistaken. A few days ago, I had a dream that the company send me a congratulations email/acceptance email, followed by an email with the contract. Well, yesterday at 3:30 am, I woke up (I was too warm mostly) and had the distinct feeling that WinBe had emailed me. Sure enough, as I sat up in bed to check my phone, my inbox showed one new message from WinBe, offering me a teaching position in the Yokohama/Tokyo area. I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited! I emailed back quickly to accept the offer and asked about the next step. WinBe proceeded to tell me about a form I needed to fill out and files I would need to send to get the visa process going. I’ve already sent in most of the files I need to apply for my work visa. WinBe has been very helpful with the paperwork process this far.

Nine years after developing an interest in Japan, and four years after developing an interest in teaching, my dream of living in Japan is finally coming true!

 

Photo I sent to the hiring committee

 

The semester is finished! Let summer begin!

I completed my second to last semester today. It was a tough one I will admit; there was one class in particular that was very stressful. I am happy to be done for the semester and to have the summer ahead of me. Question is, when will we have summer weather? Wisconsin has been rainy/cloudy and 40-45 degrees for the past few weeks.

While it would be easy enough to waste summer away being lazy, I do have a number of tasks I would like to accomplish this summer. Here are two lists- a “fun list” and a “practical list.”

Fun list:

1. Read any fiction novel by Haruki Murakami that I can get my hands on

2. Create a summer reading list and follow through with it

3. Learn how to use some kind of music mixer program to seamlessly blend one song into the next for a dance playlist

4. Go salsa dancing in the Twin Cities this summer

5. Celebrate Homecoming and spend time with my brother, who is visiting at the end of July

Practical list:

1. Work as much as I possibly can (at Barnes & Noble, and doing online writing consultations for my on-campus job)

a. Squirrel away money to pay my student debt

b. Start setting up a budget and figuring out how much to pay towards loans each month after graduation

2. Apply for the Peace Corps and similar programs

3. Put serious research and thought into what I will do after graduating this December

4. Find a month-to-month rental for the fall – this will need to be done ASAP

5. If my boyfriend goes to grad school right away: learn how to make a long-distance relationship work

What are your plans for the summer?

New job & ramblings of a young adult

Hello, followers!

I’m so sorry I haven’t had time to blog. I plan to make ‘wordpressing’ a regular thing once summer is here.

For now, I’m here to just check in and let you know what’s been happening recently.

I interviewed for a barista position with Barnes & Noble earlier this month, and was hired on the spot. I went in on Friday for orientation to learn some of the basics. My training should begin Friday now, fingers crossed (there have been some minor hassles with ID issues).

I will also be working as a writing consultant over the summer, a job I currently hold. However, there will be online consultations, which I will be doing on a rotating basis between two other consultants. In other words, I will only be doing consultations a few days out of each month this summer. I may need to get a third job as well to help pay the bills… and my tuition.

The end of the semester is approaching now; there is less than a month left. I will be scrambling to work on posters, papers and presentations over the next few weeks.

I almost forgot to mention- my brother flew in from Utah on Friday, and I spent a three day weekend with him and my family. My parents and I usually only get to see my brother once or twice a year, so it was great to spend time with him, hiking, seeing waterfalls, visiting friends, drinking coffee, and indulging in sweets.

Today, my dad had his gallbladder removed. He’s been having some health issues lately, but his surgery went well. He’ll be in the hospital overnight, and I plan to return home again tomorrow to check in and to say goodbye to my brother before he goes back to Utah this Friday. Beyond all these things, I’m still paying for car insurance, rent, groceries, and generally appearing to be a successful adult on the outside. I figure I can make my confidence work by “faking it till I make it.”

I’ll be back when the workload dies down a bit.

Hope you are all doing well and staying fairly stress-free.