I've been wondering if Peanut is over-stimulated. We're having a devil of a time getting her to sleep these days - bedtime and naptime - oy. But that got me thinking about how under-stimulated I was when we were living in Japan. In part it was because we were living in someone else's space with minimal stuff. With everyone pitching in to do all the cleaning, the house work was minimal. Another possible culprit, lack of comprehension in the Japanese language area. Since I couldn't understand much beyond the basics, it made stimulating conversation really, really hard to find. Thank goodness, once again, for the AFWJ ladies. I don't know what I would have done without them. Being able to gab and catch up on pop culture, world politics, books, even national politics (Japanese or American) was a blast. The major problem with not being able to understand all that much is that I couldn't read for pleasure - my number one hobby. But beyond that, I couldn't even read the newspaper or bulletin boards for local events. Well I could sometimes read a sign on a community newsboard, but it might take me 5-10 minutes to decode the thing. It's not the same when we're here in the U.S. I've got dozens of local newspapers, magazines, and websites to check out for upcoming events and community activities. Needless to say, we're not lacking for things to do over here. But all of this activity highlights for me the *inactivity* of living in Japan.
I had this vague sense of ennui while we were living there, but I realize now that I was totally bored out of my noggin most of the time that we were in Japan and I couldn't find a way to put an end to it. Local parks were few and far between. Here I walk 5-20 minutes and I can be at one of easily a dozen parks and 2 different library branches. English-speaking friends were remote (at least an hour by train & bus and that was hard if it was my turn to watch Peanut which generally it is since I'm a SAHM). Japanese friends were hard for me to find. Most people wanted to talk to me about my Japanese language skills and why I was living in Japan. This tends to get boring for me quickly since I've had the same conversation countless times. But to be fair to the questioners and potential friends, it was also some of the safest area of conversation I could have. My Japanese as I've said seems pretty limited. In spite of the exhortations of nearly every Japanese person I've met who says, "Your Japanese is great!" I've also lived there long enough to know that it's a pretty standard response to foreigners speaking Japanese and doesn't really mean anything. It's the polite thing to say.
Needless to say, I realize that things could be better the next time around. I'm not sure what kinds of things I'll do differently upon our return to Japan in the end of December - I'm open to suggestions. But in the meantime, I realize that keeping up with my Japanese studies would be really useful in order to further my goal of making more Japanese friends over there. Now if only I could find the time!