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January 2005

the next island

January 31, 2005

seaweed nets

A few weeks ago, I finally made it across to the neighbouring island. I went with my friend Teru from my taiko group, who also plays guitar in an Okinawan metal band. We visited a metal friend of his who lives on the next island. It’s a beautiful place—only about a kilometre or so from my island, but with a really different feel to it: it’s larger, with a smaller population, and more mountainous and windswept. Before the sun went down, I went for a walk along the coast, climbing over huge rocks and past half-submerged seaweed nets. The photo is of my island, over the nets.

Teru’s friend is into the sort of ‘progressive metal’ that only (certain types of) guitarists seem to listen to. The thing is, he can actually play it, too. Really well. While progressive metal isn’t really my thing, if there is a time and a place for ridiculous-speed, screaming guitar solos then it’s probably behind an outdoor stage on a sparsely-populated, windswept island at 2 in the morning.

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decisions, decisions

January 30, 2005

Right. Lately I’ve been busy and distracted, but it’s time to remove the lightvesselautomatic dust-sheets, because I have a difficult decision to make, and only you can help me.

A week on Monday, I have to decide whether to extend my contract by another year, or whether to finish up here and leave this tiny island this August. I can see so many reasons for doing both that it makes my head spin to think about it. Over the last month I’ve leaned towards staying, then swung back towards going. Then, last week I decided I was definitely going, and for about three days it was a relief not to have to think about it any more. But then I suddenly swung back towards staying, and now I just have no real idea. I don’t usually go in for lists (or at least bothering other people with them), but my thinking is such a mess that I think maybe an emergency list is called for. So. Here are my reasons for staying and reasons for going. Having read them, if you have even the vaguest idea about what you think I should do, I’d really like to hear it.

I wish, I wish, I had one of these fancy non-homemade web things with comments and everything. But please do email me if you feel like commenting… even just unhelpful, rude nonsense. Anything!

Right. So…

Reasons to stay:

  • I’m living on a small and beautiful semi-tropical island surrounded by a warm, shallow, and extremely blue sea. Who knows when that’s likely to happen again?
  • There are a lot of people here that I like a lot, and that I’m not likely to see very often once I leave.
  • There’s a lot more I could learn here – Japanese, taiko drumming, sanshin, and so on. In particular, another year would probably make a huge difference to my Japanese. And I’ve recently started having proper lessons in classical sanshin. And to leave earlier than I have to would also be spitting in the face of the Great Coincidence
  • There is an excellent JET community in Okinawa. I like being part of it – being part of a community is one of the things I missed most about being an undergraduate before I came here. And it’s really only since last summer that I’ve been leaving the island regularly enough to really be part of it.
  • I love Okinawa.
  • I have only the vaguest of ideas of what I’ll do if I leave.

Reasons to go:

  • I’m bored of my job. I have no real interest in being a teacher, and I know another year is likely to be more of the same. It’s a means to the end of being here, but it takes up the largest part of my time. I’m ready to do something else.
  • Although I love this island, I am essentially confined to it for all but about three weeks a year, plus the occasional weekend. I miss walking aimlessly round cities. I miss pubs and noise and being able to go to see live music when I’m in the mood to.
  • I suspect a third year would be pretty similar to the second. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one reason for staying a second year was that I was only just beginning to get the hang of things at the end of the first.
  • There are quite a few people elsewhere that I’d like to see again soon.
  • Laugh at my foolish idealism if you want to, but I’m worried about the state of the world, and I want to find something to do that somehow matters, in at least some small way. I have no clear idea what that might be, but in the scheme of things, I suspect it won’t have much to do with living on a small, warm island.
  • Plus, I want to be in a rock band!

So, what should I do?

  • Stay in Japan for another year, turn to page 117
  • Finish up this summer and find something new to do, turn to page 83
  • Stop bothering people with your so-called problems, you tit. Some people have real things to worry about. turn to page 72

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