This week was the start of term for the Japanese students (school terms in Japan start in April, while the CIE operates on a Northern Hemisphere September-May system). On Monday the campus was full of giggly Japanese students who hadn’t got over the gaijin novelty factor, and had us pose for pictures, gasping in astonishment at our ability to speak Japanese. It took me back to when I first arrived. Back then, the “gaijin novelty factor” was a strange but welcome ego-boost, but it still felt odd to be treated like some kind of exotic pet. Fortunately, as the year went on both Japanese and international students settled down, and I came to know a bunch of friendly, intelligent Japanese people who treat me as a friend without the superficial foreigner stuff getting in the way.
Anyway, that made me think back to the new sensations at the beginning of the year: I used the phrase “glory days” ironically in coversation with some friends. They weren’t the glory days, of course – no days ever are – but it was the time when there was a lot ahead of me. My interest in the language, my studies and Japan itself had been kickstarted again, and I couldn’t wait for what was up ahead. Now, on the other hand, the year seems almost over. I have two months till the semester finishes and my housing contract runs out. The overwhelming sense at the moment is limitation. I feel like things are closing in, leaving me less and less room to move.
I think about things I’ve said that maybe I shouldn’t have, about people I don’t talk to anymore. Walking down the corridor past the CIE lounge and looking through the glass walls, I see another person I’ve alienated, another person I don’t talk to, another person I’ve never talked to but wish I had. Missed chances, missed opportunities. This is the time for making the best out of whatever I have left, before it shrinks any further.