At one point, my general marker of time was "one day at a time." But that unit quickly evolved into weeks slipping by, and now it hardly seems like long between my monthly paychecks. In fact one arrived today and I had forgotten it's payday.
I like to tell myself that every day here is one less day in Japan. Of course that helps get through the rough, busy days, but it also encourages me to enjoy everyday to the fullest as part of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I ask myself, if I were to go home tomorrow, what would I wish I had accomplished. I would wish I had painted more, I would wish I had become more skilled in Judo and Japanaese cooking, and I would wish that I had seen more (any) of Pacific Asia outside of Japan. Luckily THAT pandemic has a cure- new experiences, like travel to yet unseen countries and seeing brand new sights. The itching in my shoes is becoming too much to bare. I'll be jetting somewhere at the first opportunity.
This brings up one more interesting point. I was having a conversation on Saturday afternoon last week with a Japanese English teacher, after doing a volunteer weekend English/cooking class where we made cheeseburgers with Jr High and Elem. students. (that in and of itself was awesome). Anyway, she was complimenting me on volunteering and singing the praises of what a fine ALT I am. I told her it was fun and that many ALT's are doing much greater things. She retorted with an example to illustrate that not all ALTs are great: a few years back, apparently one ALT was traveling, and some small disaster occured in the country while he was there, preventing him from flying back to Japan for almost a week. She left it at that.
Not seeing the connection between having no way to return for a week and being a bad Assistant Language Teacher, I scratched my head and asked "Did he know that something was going to happen? I mean it wasn't his fault, right?" To which she gingerly said "AH! soudesune! Bunka wa zenzen chigao" which means "Oh, of course! your culture is totally different!"
"But he didn't do anything wrong, right? Even if he really wanted to come back and teach, there is nothing he could have done short of not travelling at all"
"Yes but in Japan, you must always be thinking of your job."
I left the conversation confused and kind of scared. I ended on an awkward note by somewhat indignantly stating "Well I do my best when I'm at work, but when I leave my school, I am not thinking about my job." Which only prompted awkward silence.
That conversation has stuck with me. I discussed it with another ALT who has been here a year longer than me and speaks Japanese fluently, and he said that after a long time here, he identifies more with the Japanese culture of work.
I don't want to do that. My time is MY time. My goal is to travel. I will fulfill my work duties to my best capacity, but I hope I never lose sight of the fact that work is work and life is life.