Back to LCJ homeAbout UsYour PageContact English TreeEnglish Tree Company PolicyVisit the Business PortalVisit our English School Site

General Living

Round up your friends and watch these bad movie recommendations!

If there’s one thing that every Peppy teacher has in common, it’s the memory we share of stepping out of the plane at Nagoya International Airport into a land at once entirely unfamiliar and by fate or twisted circumstance, home. We prepared for it with our Lonely Planets and awkward chats with friends of friends, so despite the extremity of the situation we found ourselves as ready as could be. We jumped. We fell. And here we landed. Or were caught rather, thanks to our dear friends at General Affairs.

A year or more passes and, though we may not be completely fluent in Japanese language and culture, we have for the most part achieved a level of functionality. Canned coffee no longer strikes us as disturbing. The concept of “fashion” is, well, gone. We’ve adapted, and apart from the small protuberances we’ve found our comfort. But then the time comes to move on, and home and family re-enter our list of priorities. All memories of friends and hideaways flood to the forefront, and despite the mourning that comes from leaving our kids, we’re filled with excitement and expectation. Back to the homeland. Back to what we know and love. Back to our roots. But doesn’t the saying go that expectations are the primary source of disappointment?

Nothing really hits you until the moment the plane touches down, when with a thump you’re jolted into the reality that from this point on, for however long a time, the ground beneath your feet is not the same. Looking out the tiny window of the plane, my eyes met a scene I at once knew and thought of as home, and didn’t know at all. Mountains: large, graceful lumps of earth topped with snow and wisps of cloud. Sky: blue sky, crisp sky, sky unadulterated by the haze of pollution that normally interferes with our vision. And space: more space than I remembered, and to my altered frame of reference more space than seemed possible. I looked out, myself dim with recycled oxygen and corrugated dinners, to see home. I closed my eyes and tried to allow such a concept easy entry.

If there’s one thing above all that gives humans the advantage in this world, what makes us powerful; it’s the ability to adapt. One might think that in this case I had it easy – I was adapting back to something once familiar rather than trying to shape myself around something entirely foreign – but in truth this was far from reality. In the physical sense, my surroundings, it was simple enough. It certainly wasn’t a struggle to go from the congested streets and hazy skies of Nagoya to the untarnished hills and glistening ocean of Vancouver Island. But socially it was something else altogether. There was this circle, made up of those I had called friends. There was a chair waiting for me (so to speak) and I sank into it easily enough. But when it came to speaking from that chair and relating to those who shared the table with me, I was met with a web of lines that had been unknowingly drawn between my world and theirs. My brother/soul-mate/kindred-spirit was someone whose company I could no longer enjoy. One of my best friends couldn’t communicate with me without first ingesting something that I had no interest in. Even my sisters, with whom I’ve always connected so completely, couldn’t help but place me in the context of my former self. I had returned with open arms only to find that the one needing an embrace was me, and it was here that shock first set in. In an instant, a year’s worth of daydreams deflated, and returning home went from being a source of rejuvenation to a source of discomfort.
It wasn’t all bad. There were a multitude of pleasures that I took from those simple things that never really change. Quality cups of coffee. Large plates of food. English directions everywhere. Falafel. And in the end it was these that saw me through my stay. But it wasn’t easy, and I know that were it more than a holiday my struggle would have been all the greater. Returning home is not something one can truly prepare for. Some things you thought would always remain consistent will have changed, and other things you hoped might have changed will remain the same. The only thing we really have to guard against our return is an awareness of the fact that, in absence, we glorify, and that involves both people and places. Be excited about going home, but also be aware that home is not the fairy-tale land you’ve conjured in your head. You can stand on the same piece of earth twice, but it will never be the same you standing there.

Think of a chameleon. It is born with a colour that by all rights is it’s “home”, it’s core appearance, but as it walks through various terrains it shifts from shade to shade, and with each shift its skin is left with a residual tint. A year passes, and that chameleon goes back to the place of its birth expecting to unwind and catch up with its chameleon buddies, but the tones in its skin no longer match the foliage surrounding it. He still goes green the way he should, but now there’s a light orange underneath it, and on top a purple-blue so subtle that at first not even he could see it there. He blends in, but no matter what branch in the tree he sits on he never goes back to exactly what he was, and this bothers him. He is the crowned king of adaptation, yet now he’s faced with the fact that he can never be the same shade twice. Experience is the great catalyst for change, and Japan is an extreme experience. So go back open, but knowing that you’re no longer the person you were when you left. This way a return is not a regression, but simply the next step in a long journey, and change is not a disappointment, but simply an excuse to adapt.