Sunday, July 26, 2009

5 years in a song....

I've been asked many times in recent days to sum up my 5 year experience here in rural Japan as an ALT. There are so many aspects, both personal and professional, that I would need to talk about that I can't adequately do the experience justice in a short blog post or casual conversation at karaoke or over dinner.

To put it very simply - I have enjoyed my time here in Shimane beyond words.

This experience has been transformative for me - a life altering experience that I don't think I'll ever fully recover from - and that's a good thing.

My life here has been filled with friends and fun times, and also frustrations and sadness. The overwhelming outpouring of well-wishes from my co-workers and students these past few weeks has been really touching, and I know that the hard work I put in over the years has been appreciated.

I went to a sayonara party last night with about 10 area shogakko teachers that wanted to say Thank You to me - some have been teaching with me for 5 years. They serenaded me with SMAP's "Arigatou" at karaoke and needled me about finding a nice wife when I return to America. It was a fun party!
And they talked about my relationship with the students like I was more than just an ALT - like I was a friend and they kept using the words "famous" and "popular" which made me a little embarrassed but also good inside.

Just the previous night I was invited to another sayonara karaoke party with about 20 former students, all now in HS, and the contrast was funny. The choice of songs with the slightly drunk teachers was Eagles and Bay City Rollers and Joe Cocker, while the kids were happy to sing the latest GReeeeN or HY song and had no interest in singing English songs.

I was asked once what song I would listen to as I flew away from Japan...
and again recently I was asked to "reflect" on my time here for a local JET publication and this is the song that I found that I think pretty well sums up my time as a rural ALT.

It's a Billy Joel song from early in his career, and it's among my Top 10 favorite songs of all time...

"Summer, Highland Falls"

They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own
Now I've seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria

So we'll argue and we'll compromise
And realize that nothings ever changed
For all our mutual experience
Our separate conclusions are the same
Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason coexists with our insanity
So we choose between reality and madness
It's either sadness or euphoria

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies
So we stand upon the ledges of our lives
With our respective similarities
It's either sadness or euphoria

To Shimane: Sayonara - mata ne - see you again.



David said...

You're an inspiration.

humiko said...


Anonymous said...

I always loved your video blogs Jason. They totally helped me get into JET this year. I wish you luck in the future!

You also inspired me to keep track of my own blog. I'm gonna try and update it daily!