Monday, January 13, 2014

Enter Stage 3

When I first moved to Japan, I felt utterly alone. I wondered what I was doing alone in this country.
I missed my home and family, I missed having a place and a purpose.

But when I returned to my house life resumed as usual. There was work to do. There was daily life to be lived. And I lost myself and found myself in those things. This is the life I am living.

I described this experience by saying that “my head finally caught up with my body,” we were both finally living the same life. This is to say, that although I was physically present in Japan, my mind was lingering on thoughts of home. Now my home in America is a memory, and my mind is here in Japan, right where I am.

This may also be described as Stage Three of culture shock, known as the “adjustment phase.” This is when things basically begin to feel normal.
My house in the winter months 
Wikipedia lists a few traits of people in the adjustment phase. I will reiterate them here with a proper citation. You know you have entered the adjustment phase when…
1.    You develop routines.
2.    You know what to expect in most situations.
3.    You develop problem-solving skills for dealing with previously difficult situations.
4.    You view the “culture’s ways with a positive attitude”
5.    Your “negative responses and reactions to the culture are reduced”

Now that I have officially entered the adjustment phase, I thought I would share some of experiences in this stage.

One routine I developed early on when I moved here was to run as often as possible. I started out only running 3K, but increased it to 5K, and now I run about 6K three times a week. My village lacks the fancy gyms of the big city, so I run outside, on an enviable path that winds parallel to the Gono river, right along the edge of a mountain. I run at sunset, just when the sun dips behind the peak of the mountain and the gold lite of dusk makes me feel like I'm running through an oil painting.  Being outside so often has taught me many things about nature, about the changing of the season. I could tell you the position of the sun at any given hour. If there is a strong wind, it means it will snow the next day. Running has helped clear my mind, put my thoughts and worries in perspective, escape myself.

I had many pleasant and unpleasant surprises when I moved to Japan. Eventually, there are only so many brand new things you can experience in a single day, and sure enough, situations begin to repeat themselves, and the second and third time, you know what to expect. I don’t have it down to a science, but I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the outcome of situations.

Problem Solving Skills:
One example of this happened today. I needed to do a wire transfer via the ATM, and for those who know about 振込Japanese ATMs, this is no easy feat. Back in my village, I could go to the local bank, where the staff know me, and are always eager to assist. Today I was in the city, so I walked into an unknown bank branch, and was told by the staff that no one was available to help me (which I anticipated being told), so I had to call customer service and get assistance over the phone. Three months ago, I would have angrily stormed out and waited until I was back at my home branch to make the transfer, but today, I gave the customer service center a call. They were hesitant to help me (which I also anticipated), what with my limited Japanese, but somehow, after ten minutes and twenty questions later, I successfully made my first wire transfer without in-person assistance. It sounds a bit embarrassing, but I almost skipped out of the bank, I was so proud.

In the adjustment stage, the positives outweigh the negatives. You start to experience more successes than failures. This is true of things big and small. From navigating a Japanese ATM, to running a 10K, to just generally having a good day, these successes manifest themselves in many forms.

Happiness is abundant. 

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