YEARLY REVIEW: End of the Year Recap

Last year at this time, I was finishing up a Spanish class & HR management class. We had applied to several teaching jobs in Japan and come up empty handed. When Joe had an interview lined up for a good job in Chicagoland, I half-accepted that we’d most likely be sticking around Chicago for awhile longer, and started trying to figure out what else I could do for work in the area. Now, a year later, we’ve been teaching in Japan for 8 months already! We’re starting to better understand some Japanese and have made several new friends here (although the nearest ones are a few hours away!). We’re healthier now than we were last year, we get enough sleep, we cook most of our own meals, we are not stressed out, we are using our spare time to work on our creative endeavors and we are excited about the next year!

We’re now in the middle of winter vacation, staying warm, watching Homeland and all the tutorial videos we can handle, studying like crazy and doing mini home workouts since the gym is closed for 5 days! Not much to report other than that right now, so to close out 2012, here’s a month by month recap:

In January, we traveled to Portland (Oregon) to visit Joe’s brother & cousin. Then we hit San Francisco for an extra bit adventure & got to visit with Ted & Daniel & drive the scenic Route 101 along the coast. During this trip, we also had the interview on Skype that would land us in Japan just a few short months later!

In February, Joe started a new job and that same night, we were offered the positions in Japan. 24 hours later we accepted and started the hustle to renewed passports, and get ready to move to the other side of the world.

In March, we gave notice at our jobs (one of my best days at work in a very long time) & let the cat out of the bag that we were leaving Chicago. We booked our one way flights to Tokyo [ORD-LAX-NRT] and tried to squeeze in visist with all of our friends. Amber spent a week in San Diego & LA with one of her sisters looking at colleges and spending some time together before leaving. On the last day of the month, we vacated our Chicago apartment & moved in with friends (Thanks again, Sharon & Brandon!) for our final 2 weeks in the US.

In April, we visited some of our family for the last time before we would leave. We had our last days at work, and we repacked our things. We enjoyed a final Cubs game (CUBS WIN!), and various going away parties before staying out all night on 4/13 in preparation for our 8am flight the next day, which would be 10pm in Japan and the perfect time to go to sleep. So at 8am on Saturday morning in Chicago we took off, and arrived about 18 hours later in Tokyo at about 5pm on Sunday. In Tokyo we spent a fun night with my friend I used to work with in Chicago. We went to a host club, Studio Ghibli museum, and relaxed a little. After 3 non-jet-lagged nights in Tokyo, 3 more outside of Nagoya, we arrived in Takayama. We had lunch with the school owner, the company owner, and the receptionist of our school before going to our new house and meeting the outgoing teachers.

In May, we started our teaching jobs and learned our way around the new town. It was a beautiful spring month of sunshine and on the job learning how to be a teacher. We also updated our couch surfing status and began getting tons of requests from travelers, and thus started us making more new friends from around the world. We had our first karaoke experience in town and participated in a local art event with some other foreign teachers in the area.

In June, we bicycled around almost daily. We spent a semi-sleepless but fun weekend in Nagoya with Preston who agreed to host us for 2 nights (couch-surfing), and thus became our friend. We worked during the week and explored on bicycles on the weekends.

In July, we started our Japanese language class. We had our 2nd week-long vacation that we used to take a little road-trip to Kanazawa, about 3 hours away, using a road atlas we found in our house. We were invited by our school owner to go hiking around at Kamikochi (about 75 minutes away) for a day. We saw Japanese monkeys and ate bento box lunches!

In August, we had completed our first 90 days of work & realized weeks were flying by and Fridays were sneaking up on us! Time really flies when you’re having fun.we had yet another week long vacation, but no plans, so we somehow ended up hosting about 10 couchsurfers over the course of 7 days, including 2 that we would visit in the fall! We also celebrated our 4 year anniversary!

In September, it was pretty quiet. We stuck around Takayama, working & planning our vacation the next month. Kindergarten sports festivals happened in this month. Not much else to report here except that the temps started to dip slightly, at least at night it was getting cooler.

In October, we got to see our town’s famous fall festival and at the end of the month, we went on our 2nd road-trip, this time to the Kansai region. We visited with almost all of the friends we have in Japan (a few in Tokyo that we couldn’t see this time around). We stayed with Pege & his fiance in Kobe, and spent a day with Kasie (from the good midwest), in Osaka – both of these people we met when they couch surfed at our apartment in August. We also visited with our first friend in Japan who kicked off couch surfing for us – Akira! We started & ended our trip with nights in Mizuho with Will & Nicole, who welcomed us to Japan in April & trained us a bit.

In November, we returned from our road-trip and started to really use our space heaters as the cold had really begun to set in. On the 15th we got our first real taste of snow in Takayama, with about 2 feet of snow falling over a weekend and painting the whole city white. And it stayed white. There was no black filthy slush to ruin your shoes here!

In December, we had our school holiday parties, kindergarten music & dance festivals, and Christmas. Turns out we had to ship items by December 11 to get them there in time for the holiday, so everyone will be having a 2nd, late, mini Christmas when the boxes finally arrive! Joe nailed down his hiragana studies (Way to go!) and I started actually studying Kanji.
And that brings us to now. It’s cold, but it’s still beautiful and we still love it here. Though I daydream of biking and running around the town again, it’s also good that the cold keeps me inside, because i’m huddled up staying warm and forced to really study my Japanese & design work daily!

Stay tuned to see what 2013 will hold. Some glimpses – more creative stuff, more friends, moving to another city, and hopefully some visits with family & older friends!!