Goodbye, 2010; Hello, 2011

In a few hours, I will board a night bus and trade the tranquility of snow-covered rice fields for the neon madness of Tokyo.  I won’t be near my personal computer for the New Year, so I wanted to briefly post some thoughts before 2011 begins.  My main goal in 2010 was to get out of the stagnant rut I was in.  I wasn’t making a solid living as a freelance journalist, so I wanted to try something different for a year.  In 2010, I completed an instructive five-month internship at Crain’s Chicago Business, and started a new position as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan in July.  Although not everything has been easy in Japan, I am glad I tried it.  I feel like in the five months I have been here, I have learned a lot about myself and my country.  Yes, living in Japan has taught me more about America – what is great about it (its diversity, the endless food options) and what isn’t so great about my homeland (its lack of train options and more importantly, the culture of violence that impoverishes many people).

Although I enjoy living in Namerikawa, I definitely miss Chicago and my family, and I currently have to decide if I want to stay here for one more year.  It is a decision that weighs heavily on me because I like how I have grown personally, but I don’t foresee myself staying in Japan long-term, so I am not sure how another year here will benefit me.

Regardless of my decision, I have some personal and professional goals for 2011:

1). Read every single BBC NEWS country profile. If you don’t know about these, you should.  They’re very informative and easy to read.  The more I am in Japan, the more I realize how Euro-centric my history education has been. I want to know more about the world around me.  I established this goal in 2009 and failed.  This year, I hope to finish reading all the profiles and retain some knowledge about the world around me.

2).  Become a better teacher. My classes are really hit or miss.  I hope to become a more engaged and energetic teacher, and to try my best to think of lesson plans that will excite my students and help them become passionate about learning English.

3).  Get published internationally. I don’t miss the day-to-day struggle of being a freelance journalist, but I do miss writing for publications and researching.  I have a few ideas for some freelance articles about Japan, so I hope to get published at least once in an international publication.

4). Begin research for my three book projects. I have three ideas for books that I would like to write someday.  I know finding the time and getting published might be impossible, but I have to at least try.  I won’t share the ideas here, but two of them are very Chicago-centric, so I hope to at least begin the research for all of these projects.

5). Study more Japanese. I am proud to say I can read hiragana and katakana (slowly…), and I know very basic broken Japanese, but I hope to dramatically improve my speaking and listening skills.  I meet with a Japanese tutor every week, so hopefully by August 2011 I will be able to converse with people in Japanese.  On a side note, I also hope to become friends with more Japanese people.  I find Japanese people extremely helpful, loyal and kind people, but sometimes it can be hard to get to know them on a personal level, so I hope that changes as my Japanese improves.

Happy New Year, everyone! 明けましておめでとうございます

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best in 2011. がんばれ!

4 responses to “Goodbye, 2010; Hello, 2011

  1. I think you did pretty darn good in 2010, and you’ll do even better in 2011.

    P.S. I feel really lazy compared to you.

  2. What an interesting post. I loved the photos. What an interesting year you have had with the mix of cultures. Your goals for 2011 are great. I was so glad to read them. Yes, you do have a difficult decision (about staying in Japan). Good luck with it.

  3. Hi Sheila!
    I accidentally stumbled upon your website and I have to say that your posts about Japan are really interesting. Anyway, just wanted to say hi and to wish you a great 2011!

  4. Thanks, everyone. I hope to blog a lot more in 2011.

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