Happy First Day of Spring?

Yesterday was Setsubun, so, according to Japan, spring begins today (February 4). Living up here in Tohoku, though, and looking out my window, I highly doubt that Tohokuians had anything to do with the selecting of this date – hah! Nonetheless, I enjoyed ehoumaki (the closest thing I’ve seen to Canadian sushi) with some other ALTs at our weekly movie night and then threw some beans from my apartment doorway while saying Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (“Demons out! Luck in!”)

I realize that I left this blog on a not-so-happy note with my post about winter in Akita. Maybe it’s because we did get that 10 degree C day that I needed to get through the winter, maybe it’s because my apartment was a whole 12 degrees C when I woke up this morning (unheard of!), or maybe it’s because we’ve had more rain than snow lately, but the winter in Akita isn’t as bad as I might have made it out to be. Okay, it’s still bad, but it could be worse – I could live in Yokote!

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Snow scenes in Yokote… yikes!

We had our annual South (Akita) Block Meeting at the end of January in Yokote. I’ve never seen that much snow before in my entire life. It was surreal!

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Staff cleaning 5+ feet of snow off the roof of the museum. What.

I definitely can’t complain anymore about living in Yurihonjo.

The Block Meeting was the best conference of the year so far, in my opinion. It was a smaller group of us – only the ALTs and CIRs living in the southern cities of Akita Prefecture were there – and the presentations were all so good! I left the meeting feeling incredibly optimistic…

…which was probably one of the factors that brought me to re-contract for a second year in Japan(!!!).

Yes, you read that right – I was offered reappointment by my Board of Education and I accepted! Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be in Japan until August 2015. Holy cow.

The idea of reappointment has been weighing on my mind since I first got to Japan in August, as crazy as that sounds. Especially of late, re-contracting is all that anyone can talk about. Pros and cons, who’s staying and who’s going, more pros and cons… It doesn’t help that the signed forms this year are due on Friday, February 7th, merely half-way through our one-year contract and in the dead of winter.

Having to make a decision made me feel incredibly stressed, as I thought I had reasons of equal weight to both stay and go. However, talking to my friends (both here in Japan and back home) and my family led me to the conclusion that I would regret it if I ended my journey in Japan in only six months’ time. There’s still so much I want to do. I haven’t yet learned traditional Japanese dance and there’s still so much of Japan that I want to see. I want to help my students with the speech contest over the summer and into September. I want to participate in the school festival and the local neighbourhood festival in the fall with other ALTs. I want to show the newbie JETs around, even though I still don’t know of many restaurants or stores in my city (and that’s a real shame/almost a sin seeing as I’ve lived here for six months). And I want to see my students get better at English. I want to welcome in the new 1nensei (as crazy as I’ve heard they are) and watch them grow over the course of a year, as well as continue my relationship with the current 1nensei and 2nensei (and my JTEs, all of whom are wonderful!).

So, with all of that in mind, I signed my reappointment papers and handed them to my supervisor. Since signing them, I have had my doubts – I really miss my dance friends and my students back home, as well as my family – and I know that my decision to stay came as a shock to some people (it did to me!), but I think it’s the right thing for me to do.

tl;dr If anyone wants to come to Japan to visit me, my super-awesome couch is open for the next eighteen months! ;)

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