Friday, July 14, 2006

All I want is one more chance to be young and wild and free

I’m moving to Japan in August. I’ll be spending the next 12 months living and working in a small mountain town on the rural island of Shikoku. I’m both excited and terrified about this.

I’ll be teaching English (hi, I’m so original!) in several elementary schools, which should be interesting considering I have zero teaching experience. My duties will also include delivering impromptu speeches at the town hall and attending banquets and drinking parties with my Japanese co-workers. (I always knew my mad karaoke skills would come in handy one day.)

I will be living in a spacious three-bedroom apartment that I will have all to myself. It should be nice and quiet since it’s on top of the town library. The best part? The rent is only $140 Canadian a month!

Since I will be living practically rent-free, I plan to spend the majority of my salary on travel. I want to go to Korea, Thailand, China, Indonesia and Australia. Or maybe I’ll just tour around Japan. Who knows?

It’s all very exciting but I don’t want to romanticize my upcoming adventure too much. I’m sure there will be moments of loneliness, isolation and frustration. Maybe I’ll suck at teaching. Maybe my co-workers won’t like me. Maybe the culture shock will be too much. Maybe my apartment will be infested with cockroaches. Maybe my mad karaoke skills will go unappreciated.

Honestly, the whole thing is a little terrifying. There are times when I’m drifting off to sleep at night and I suddenly bolt upright thinking “What the hell am I doing?”

But the panic attacks eventually subside. I just keep reminding myself that no matter what happens it will be an incredible experience. The fact that I’ll be living in a small place away from the major cities will only make it that much more rewarding. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

It would be easy to stay in Vancouver. I have a great life here. I love my friends. I like my job. It’s all very comfortable. But I’m worried I’ll wake up 10 years from now still single, still working the same job, still living in the same apartment. And it scares the shit out of me.

I need to shake things up. The highlight of my week is watching Canada’s Next Top Model, for chrissake.

Moving to Japan might sound brave but I’m not really chucking it all away. My boss has agreed to give me a one-year leave of absence so my job will be waiting for me when I come back. I don’t have to worry about finding an apartment in Japan or even paying the plane fare to get there. Everything’s taken care of.

All I need to do between now and August 5th is pack up my stuff and learn as much Japanese as I can. I’ve been trying to research my new town (Sakawa, pop: 14,000) but there isn’t a lot of information out there. The town has its own website but it’s in Japanese.

The Lonely Planet guide isn’t much help either. There are only a few pages devoted to the whole island of Shikoku and just a few paragraphs on the southern area where I’ll be living. Apparently, the region is famous for its incomprehensible dialect and, um, dog fighting.

Like I said, I’m both excited and terrified. But as long as there’s a good karaoke bar in town I know I’ll be okay.

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