When I moved to Thailand, I skipped that whole culture shock thing that people are always referring to. I fell in love with every aspect of my new life in the country, and while I lived there, I was happier than I ever recall being. Moving to Thailand was almost like finding the place I felt I had been searching for all along. It was a second home to me, where my heart and soul were happy.
I've been in Japan for three weeks and not only am I experiencing culture shock, but slightly struggling through an adjustment phase that I've never had to deal with before. The first weekend in Tokyo was all play, but since arriving in Matsumoto, I have had to adjust to the life that is now mine.
Since moving out of my parent's house, I have live in Santa Cruz, Washington DC, Lake Tahoe, Orange Country, Nakhon Sawan, Northern Thailand, and Surat Thani, Southern Thailand. Moving is nothing new to me, nor is starting over and calling a foreign place home. But Japan is different. For the first time, maybe ever, I have to be truly independent. I didn't move here and have an immediate circle of friends. I don't speak Japanese, and most of the people in my prefecture don't speak English. I am not a member in a big foreigner's community, nor am I a student in a college town. I am not a snow bum living in a mountain town with hundreds of others who are there to party and ride, nor am I a young adult surrounded my other inters and hardworking individuals. This life here is unlike any I have ever known. For once I am on my own, learning to call a place home, where nothing resembles the parts of life I find comforting.
While it's been an introspective last few weeks, Japan has been kind to me. On my first weekend in Matsumoto, I lost my wallet on the way to meet my coworkers. They were taking me out for a day of exploring, soba, sake, and purchasing a bike. All of our plans went down the drain once I arrived and realized my wallet was gone from my bag. After retracing my footsteps and failing to find it, with their help I filed a police report. The wallet contained $500 USD, along with three forms of identification, all of my banks cards, my social security card, and my house key. That afternoon I got a spare key from my landlord, and spent the rest of the day at my house, feeling sorry for myself. I couldn't stop crying when I realized how big of a mess I had gotten myself into. I had lost all of the money I had until pay day, along with the most important aspects of my life while living abroad.
That night I got a message from my coworker that the police had contacted her. The wallet had been returned by someone who asked to remain anonymous. It had everything in it that was there when I lost it, down to the very last yen.
I quickly learned that this is a country where you can trust people. People, for the most part, have good intentions, and although I can't speak Japanese, they still treat me with respect and courtesy.
The town I live in is beautiful, and every time I leave my house I have the pleasure of looking at the Alps. Life here is pretty mellow, similar to living in any Western mountain town. Although I easily get bored, I keep reminding myself that the fun starts in October, with the arrival of the winter season. I came here not just to teach, but to snowboard, and I am in one of the best locations in the world for it. Every time I look at the Alps I remind myself that it'll be worth the wait.
In the meantime, I am exploring, biking, spending a lot of time in parks and outside, listening to music, writing and just getting settled into this new life.