Goodbye Japan, Hello USA

April 23, 2016


“She may not look it, but actually she’s really sad that you’re leaving,” said the girl’s mother.

I knelt down to look into the face of one of my favorite kindergarten students. A shy, sensitive girl of six, she spoke perfect English and had a penchant for embellishing her handwriting with cute little curlicues. I had noticed this and taught her to write in cursive, something none of the other kids learned. We enjoyed goofing off together and had developed a special bond.

“I’m sad too,” I said, “but I know you’ll do a great job. And if I come back, I’ll make sure to visit you.”

I hugged her and almost wanted to cry. Was I breaking this poor little girl’s heart? But no, she was good and smart and talented and had a wonderful mother– she would be fine and go on with her life and probably soon forget about me, her kindergarten teacher. And I had to do the right thing for myself, right?

But was this really the right thing? Either way, it was too late to change my mind now. [Read the rest]

I slid my feet into the old leather shoes one last time. I knew I would have to get rid of them, because the right one had a little hole in its toe that let the rain in, and the soles were worn so thin that I could almost feel the pavement directly on my feet. But I had grown attached to those shoes. People often complimented me on their unique style, and the wear on the leather almost made them look better, as if they’d been made with an intentional “worn” look. They looked like they had been some places. They’d seen some things, man.

But what had they seen, really? I found myself thinking about it as I stepped outside in them, feeling the now familiar bit of leather insole curling up against my toes on the right side. I walked down the drab gray stairwell of my apartment building, onto the sidewalk past vending machines and convenience stores in the artificial glow of neon signs, and I thought, what have I done in these shoes?

oldshoes [Read the rest]

Dear Polyglot Gathering Organizers and Participants,

I have a problem, and it’s all your fault.

You see, before I decided to join the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin this year, I thought I finally had my life all figured out. I had immersed myself in making music, and it felt so right that I was sure I had found my “one true calling”. Finally, I thought, I could stop this confusing lifestyle of endless wandering and indecisiveness, and dedicate myself to one thing like normal people do. But oh no, you had to come along and tempt me by scheduling your gathering of language geeks right when I happened to have my spring vacation. How could I not go? I even had some frequent flyer miles saved up.

And since I was going to Berlin, of course I had to learn some German. It had been quite a while since I’d seriously studied a language and I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be into it, but after going through a few online lessons I was surprised to find myself hooked. Soon I had bought textbooks and was spending all my spare time studying German, my musical instruments forgotten and gathering dust in their lonely corner of my apartment.

A couple months later, I was there in Berlin. The Gathering was a great experience. I met several people whose names and faces I’d been seeing online for years, and I was surprised and flattered that several people recognized me as well. (I honestly thought my name had long fallen into obscurity in the language learning sphere.) I have to admit it was a bit tiring sometimes, with people attempting to converse with me in just about every language I’ve ever studied, but it was very motivating and inspiring. It was also incredibly freeing to be surrounded by people who actually think learning languages for fun is “normal”. In normal circumstances, it’s very rare to be able to discuss my unusual hobby without getting blank looks or furrowed eyebrows in return! And the speakers were just… wow. I was blown away by the vast knowledge some of these people had about so many different languages. [Read the rest]

backpackbnwWhen I arrived in Japan just over a year ago, I had nothing but a backpack, a small purse, and a laptop bag. I had just spent three months in Honolulu, Hawaii trying to find a way to make a living through freelance work online, but things weren’t working out too well. The atmosphere of Honolulu didn’t fit me as well as I’d thought it might, and I found myself missing Japan more than ever. The stress of trying to “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” in such an expensive city also made it nearly impossible to focus on what I really wanted to do at the time: Make music. Realizing that both my sanity and my wallet were growing dangerously thin, I decided to use my last remaining frequent flyer miles to take a one-way flight to Tokyo and find work. (Thank goodness I had those miles, because I couldn’t have afforded the flight otherwise.)

After about a month of searching and completely emptying my bank account, I ended up taking a job teaching kindergarten. The school helped me find an apartment, and although it would take a while to get completely back on my feet financially, it was a huge relief knowing I didn’t have to worry anymore. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually loved teaching kindergarten, so I’ve now signed on for a second year.

They say you can tell a lot about a people by looking at their bedrooms. But if you had seen my room back in Honolulu, you wouldn’t have been able to tell much about me. I did have a ukulele sitting in the corner, so maybe you would have guessed I play. Other than that though, there was pretty much nothing in that room expressing who I was. The walls were completely bare, and there were no gizmos or gadgets sitting around. I could have thrown all my belongings into a backpack and flown away at a moment’s notice (which I obviously did). [Read the rest]

As I explained in my last post, I took a break from making music after I got sick (just a cold, but it was enough to keep me from singing) and decided to re-evaluate my ambitious plan of sharing one new original song every week. I knew that I was going to have to allow myself more leeway in my schedule, but I imagined I would be more or less dedicating myself to music again once I recovered from my sickness.

Yet for some reason I wasn’t quite feeling inspired to work on music even after I recovered. I guess the whole incident threw me off so much that I couldn’t get back into the swing of things. So I thought maybe I needed a longer break, and decided to spend some time doing something else just for a change of pace.

Because I’m a weird nerd and this is my idea of “fun” and even “leisure”, I decided to try learning a bit of some random foreign language as I often used to in my free time. I’m not really sure why I picked this particular language, but on a whim I chose to teach myself some German. It had been a while since I was really into languages, so I thought this would just be a fun distraction I would probably get bored with after a couple of days. I thought I would learn a few basic phrases and come away refreshed and ready to work on music again. But things didn’t quite work out that way. [Read the rest]