2006-09-03

28 years...

location: Alet les Bains, France
status: a little older


I haven't written in awhile, have I? I guess I'm pretty lazy about things like this. Again, this will be a long one, so get comfortable. Also, it may get a lottle (not a typo) sappy, so if you aren't into that, feel free to stop reading.

I am still in Alet les Bains, where I have been doing HelpExchange volunteering for a little over a month now. I have been reluctant to move on because my cash flow is getting on the low side. I have been searching for jobs around Europe or northern Africa, and have a few leads, but nothing is confirmed yet. I have sent my CV to various schools and companies all over Europe that I found on ESLJobs.com and Dave's ESL Cafe, and so far I have only received replies from a few places. Right now, the most promising places are Meknes, Morocco, Istanbul, Turkey, and Milan, Italy, in that order.

Of course, I wouldn't say no to "under the table" work if I find some, but I really need something to get me through the winter. My plan, if things work out, is to work and save money through the winter in order to continue my travels next summer. We'll see what happens.

I am very grateful to my HelpX Host here in Alet les Bains. She has been very sweet, and also very kind to have let me stay this long. The work has been hard on occasion, but the hours have not been. Besides, I am not afraid of hard work. This is a very charming little town, and I am enjoying the slower pace of life here. It has been a nice break from being on the road, but I am somewhat eager to start traveling again. However, this time I really need to have a destination that will lead to a source of income or I could be in trouble. No worries, though. Something will work out.

So here I am, having finished 28 years of this life. I'm feeling a little introspective, but I also probably shouldn't write too much because people will be coming soon and I can't ignore them. Writing is a very anti-social activity isn't it. I agree with Stephen King that writing should be done with the door closed, though perhaps he meant it in a slightly different way. Today it would be rude for me to disappear behind a closed door.

I've been thinking a bit about my 28 years, especially this past one. I don't feel 28, or rather, I don't feel like what I imagined 28 would feel like. Then again, I don't feel older than 23 (nor do I look it, according to a lot of people). I suppose these are good things. A lot happened during my 28th year.

It started with me beginning my second term as a full time teacher at Myojo Gakuen High School in western Tokyo. That was the term where I really earned the respect of my students and they earned mine. Unfortunately, teaching is not the only job of a full-time teacher, and my inexperience with my other duties, along with a lack of guidance and support from the other teachers at the school, led to the decision by the school to not renew my contract. This happened at the end of that second term, just before Winter Vacation. Winter Vacation brought a snowboard trip to Hokkaido, along with a couple of other day trips. The beginning of 2006 brought me into my final term as a high school teacher and a big decision to make. My contract ended in March, so I had to decide what I would do after that. The choice was between settling down and finding another job or setting off to try to go around the world. Since you are reading this, you obviously know what decision I made, but perhaps not completely why I made it.

I was actually quite torn. We all have a fear of the unknown to some degree and the easy road is always tempting. I could have settled down, worked at building my career, and been safe and comfortable. It wouldn't have been difficult. My resume is good enough that I could have found a new teaching position in Japan rather easily, I imagine. Or, the other choice was to set out for the unknown, seize the opportunity I had to escape from the mundane, and just up and go. I was leaning towards this, but my fear was holding me back. It turned out to be my students that made my decision for me.

My mind has always been open to my students, so naturally I told them of the school's decision to let me go and the reasons behind it. I found out that the school frowned upon this, but I don't care. My students were asking me about classes I would have been teaching the following academic year, and I wasn't going to lie to them or attempt to hide the truth from them. A good teacher wouldn't do that, and I want to become a good teacher. So, one week, I took the last 10 minutes of my classes and told them what was happening and what I was thinking about doing with my life. A lot of them were shocked, a good number of them were sad, and none of them appeared happy about it, but "That's life," I told them, "You have to take what it gives you and make what you can from it."

Anyway, one day, not long before my last days at the school, two of my students sat me down to have a little talk (those two, if you are reading this, you know who you are). The conversation went something like this (translated to English):
Students: "Are you really leaving? Are you really not going to be here next year?"
Me: "Unfortunately, yes. The decision has been made and it's probably not going to change."
Students: "Well, in that case, we want you to leave Japan."
Me: "What?!?"
Students: "No, no, no. We want you to go and travel around the world, and then come back and tell us about it."
Me: "Ahh, I see..."

Of course, I couldn't say no to something like that, and it turned out to be just the push I needed to make up my mind. After that, I told my students of my decision, and started preparing to travel.

So, that is why I am here, on the other side of the world from the life I lived for the past nearly 5 years with very little idea of what the future holds. I've actually almost made it all the way around from where I started from in the US. The east coast, where I grew up, is only the North Atlantic away.

Obviously, this particular journey is the biggest thing that happened to me in my 28th year. Other things that happened seem to have stemmed from this. I met a really great girl during my last 2 months in Japan, but never told her how attracted I was to her because I figured it would be less heart-breaking to leave as friends regardless of the outcome had I said anything. I managed to teach my students a few good lessons about life as well as some English. I helped some of my students pull of a really good choral concert, in which they sang all of their songs in English. I was introduced to my new favorite bar/restaurant in Japan. I found out about CouchSurfing, which has completely changed my life. I said goodbye to a lot of people that I really care about: my brother, my friends, my students. I've started on an amazing journey, on which I've seen some amazing places and have met amazing people just about everywhere. Rather than re-typing it all, feel free to read my previous blog entries.

Anyway, I just want to send out a great big thank you to all of you who have helped me get this far, who have kept me in your thoughts, who have given me your support, who have lent me your couches, and so on. You all should know who you are. Thank you so much.

I love you all.

5 件のコメント:

匿名 さんのコメント...

Your family has not heard from you in quite some time. I do not know any other way to communicate with you except this so I will say, Happy Birthday...and congratulations you will be an Uncle on or around the end of March. Yes, John and I are expecting our first child. Just thought you might like to know. Take care.
CJS

匿名 さんのコメント...

I second that - it would be nice to here from you- your family misses you. I will be in Europe in January. Happy Birthday
Love
Becky

Ranran さんのコメント...

Hi Alex, Happy birthday! Hope that you are having a good journey. Take care.

--Ranran from Japan

匿名 さんのコメント...

I wish I could say Happy Birthday in person or, at least, send a card. I guess this will have to do. I love you and miss you very much. Please take care of yourself.

Always,
M

Philippe さんのコメント...

pretty touching text, I'd say. Keep writing, we're listening.