May 19, 2003
It has been over four years (nearly five) since I've written a diary of any kind. To describe the last four years would take a long time. I haven't been lonely enough again to want to broadcast my thoughts again to a wide audience (the Internet.) Thanks to search engines on the Internet, and thanks to the DMOZ Internet Directory where my page is visibly listed, people occasionally read it and write me feedback. I think my openness has encouraged others to open up to me, and I appreciate hearing from people.
I kept my diary up because I think that information ought be kept available, even though there are a lot of embarassing things in there.
The past has sweetened my memories of Japan. I had thought, from time to time of returning to Japan, getting a job, and learning more Japanese. I seriously thought of returning to Japan for work when I was working at Software.com, but that never materialized. I was laid off at the end of 2001, and I applied for jobs in Japan, but found out I would have to work at half salary. Plus, I didn't really want to work in Tokyo.
I've been busy working at m-Qube as a "Senior Software Engineer." I've done well enough, and Hitomi is happy enough in Seattle. I am looking to buy a house, and if I do find a suitable house I suppose we won't be living in Japan for quite a long while.
My diary has talked a lot about Hitomi, my first love, and my new wife.
I was skeptical about our relationship lasting, especially since I was a penniless student (I shouldn't have bought that Sony VAIO laptop) with over a year until graduation. Some people have asked: How did you manage to stay together? I haven't ever heard of any successful long-distance relationships. Hitomi would find somebody else, and so I would. Hormonal, financial, legal, and spatial forces opposed us. I was miserable, and my misery might have turned out to be the self-fulfilling force that ended our future.
Hitomi wasn't a penniless student, and in fact worked three jobs to afford to live modestly, pay back her (outrageous) student loans, and come to visit me. She visited once in November: I took her hiking and to the (invariably) rainy Olympic coast. When I went to school, she visited Starbucks and walked around Greenlake. In March, we camped together on Orcas island. In June, when I decided Hitomi was in my future (as a wife) we enrolled her at Everett Community College. I didn't have a lot of money, so Tim paid tuition. Out-of-state tution was too much to pay, even at a community college. Especially since the English program was more conversational (chatty) than acedemic. Tim refused to keep paying. Getting married seemed like the right thing to do, though I didn't feel ready. I got the nerve to ask for her hand in marriage finally. We were married in front of the newly built Kent courthouse September 9, 1999.
There are pictures from our honeymoon trip to Victoria online.
Hitomi has been encouraging me to keep up with my Japanese and probably would still prefer to live in Japan. The difficulties we had the first year as a newlywed were mostly caused by her cultural and language misunderstandings and inability to communicate, made worse by my insecurity as a financial supporter. She was 25, I was only 22 so I still had some maturing to do. I still had to live with my parents until I graduated in December 1999, and it took until April 2000 until I finally moved into an apartment.
We found a nice marriage counselor, which I encourage everyone to find until you're both comfortable. Think of it as training wheels for your relationship.
Actually, our marriage has been helped thanks to Hitomi's enthusiasm for the same things I enjoy. We both watch anime, go hiking, kayaking, enjoy food, and have the same lifestyle. She doesn't smoke (like the rest of her family), she constantly reads, enjoys art, spening time alone, intellecutally curious, poliet, empathic and humorous; she is everything I would want in a companion. Unfortunately, we are of different physical strength, so although she can keep up with me if I am relaxed, it is a lot more work for her.
Hitomi sometimes wakes up at 6:00AM to study English, even after being here for almost four years. Her English isn't perfect, but it is far better than many foreigners who have been here for much longer.
Physically, she is still quite cute and looks a bit younger. Even at 29, she might still be considered underage at a bar. At most five feet tall, her proportions seem quite young: Small neck, largish head and eyes, narrow hips, tiny hands. Her hairstyle exaggerates her round face. Her wide smile and large teeth often dimple her cheeks.
Why not go back to Japan?
A lot of nihonjin-ni-naritai ("I want to be Japanese") types seem to not understand what is lost when you live in Japan. If you can make Japanese (not American) friends and be part of a community, I think permanent life in Japan is feasible. For that to happen, you need to speak Japanese well enough and find like-minded friends (through clubs or work) who can be a part of your life. You also need to find work that you enjoy.
If I didn't have to return to the US, I and if were to stay in Japan with Hitomi, I imagine I would have become intolerably lonely. I might have made better friends with the people at Berlitz. I might have joined some sort of outdoor or anime club.
My frustations would have worn away at my relationship with Hitomi, and I doubt she would have tolerated me after two, three more months.
How or why would I be willing to return again? If I found work (say, with my business mentor Boon Hwang) in Japan, I would return in a minute. (The Japanese economy is poor, so I don't think I'll be going there anytime soon.) I hope someday an employer will decide to send me there. Even if I had kids or get a house, I'd do whatever it took to make it work.
I'd like to return because I know the culture and language experience is rewarding, interesting, challenging. Who wouldn't want to make their own lives richer?
Letter from Rae
My wife Hitomi might not like me talking to 16 year olds, but what the heck.
I am glad you enjoyed my diary. I don't know of any better way you can go to Japan than by getting a college scholarship (from the Japanese government.) I hope you are geek enough that you're good at school, since if you can make your way to a somewhat major public university, you can always make connections using a foreign exchange program.
I *know* it is easily possible for you to live in Japan if you work hard, especially if you learn Japanese and do it "white collar" style. I'd say 16 is really early for you to be planning on emigration, but you can probably spend a month or so in Japan with a host family for not a whole lot of money. It may not be all that you hoped for, as of course (as you read in my diary) Japanese culture has good and bad things going for it.
So, what would I do, if I were you? First, if your family has money, or you can stand working fast food, I'd save some money (stop buying anime) and research home stay programs in Japan. If your family can host a boy or girl your age, then maybe you can work something out. The Internet might not be your best source for this info. Call around.
Secondly, study your ass off, if applicable. In the meantime, study Japanese at your community college, or if you have significant discipline at home.
Go to college. If you're poor, get a scholarship. If you're not so smart, it doesn't matter, trust me. Even if you don't like school (I don't) find something you like to study. In freshman year, meet with foreign exchange people. Research scholarships. Don't go to an expensive private university, since you're not going to find any foreigners.
Spend a year in Japan, avoid German roommates and ferries. Learn Japanese, and meet some cute Japanese boy (or girl, as applicable). Get married. This might be helped if you're blond and blue eyed. Don't be so sullen, as I was, even though the Japanese drive you crazy. Convince yourself that only if you knew Japanese better, you'd be happier.
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