Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Out of Sight...

Lone-ly: unhappy as a result of being without the companionship of others.

I woke up two nights ago and had what I can only describe as a mild panic attack as I thought about all the preparations for Peanut's yochien (preschool). Her school has a uniform, multiple bags and sacks and packages for everything from crayons to tissues to notes from the teacher. I did my best to look through the guide from the school, but reading Japanese is still incredibly difficult for me and it could take me hours to translate the whole thing. As a result, I felt about 1/4 prepared for all the things we'd need to know and do. (Check for lice every morning and make a note for the teacher, fill up her water bottle, ensure that tissues are in the skirt pocket, etc.) The more I thought about all of this, the more overwhelmed I became.

Initially this preschool/yochien idea sounded ideal! She'd go off to school from 9:00 until 2:30 every day. Perfect! For a child who loves activities and needs a great deal of stimulation and interaction from other adults and kids, this seemed like a great solution. I didn't understand at the time we were first considering it, that this is more like a co-op preschool which relies heavily on the work and participation of the stay-at-home mothers who take their kids to this school (Japan is lagging behind in the women's liberation front and the glass ceiling sounds more like steel to me - the end result being a LOT of college educated women staying at home with the kids rather than working because there's nowhere for them TO work).

Anyway the more I lay there in the dark thinking about how much time and work would go into this effort the more frustrated I became. How would I ever get to see my friends in Japan? And if I don't get to see them more than once every couple of weeks, how will we build on our friendships. And this is important because once I'm out of sight, I'm out of mind.

It's pretty common for ex-patriates to experience this phenomenon I gather. Once you leave a place, the friends that you leave behind get on with their lives (and their other friendships) and don't remember to e-mail you or write you regularly. This leaves you out of the loop. For me, since I'm in Japan for part of the year, and the U.S. for part of the year, I'm always out of the loop somewhere. I think it's starting to get to me. I was suddenly not just overwhelmed by the thought of my child starting preschool, but with the thought that I don't have any friends to commiserate with and those that I do have seem to be out of touch. Most of my U.S. friends have been out of touch since we left over a month ago. True, I'll be back in just 4 1/2 more months, and maybe that's what they're waiting for - my return. But in the meantime, it can be incredibly lonely.


  1. On the plus side, I'm sure she'll start voluntarily speaking Japanese as a result of being around other kids.

    It seems like people check out sometimes when they think you won't be around for long. I was starting to become friends with my neighbor then when we announced that we'd be moving, she said sadly, "Oh, we were just getting started" then totally backed off. Others try to make the most of the time you have, which is obviously preferable.

    Oh, and tissues always in the pocket? Brilliant.

  2. Oh gosh, I can only imagine how lonely that can feel. I spent a year as an exchange student in Germany and experienced it to a some degree, but I imagine you feel it even more keenly.

    By the way, I'm completely in awe of you doing so much in Japanese, I think I might shut down in your shoes.

    I bet Peanut will absolutely love her preschool. Will it give you a chance to meet some of the other mothers?

  3. I understand a bit. Before Ryu and I married, I saw a magazine with obentos for kindergarten and had a bit of a panic attack! Turned out not to be an issue for us as we are in the US, but...

    Two things I use to keep up with a few important people are Skype - with Japanese friends - mostly students, and Facebook to keep up with American friends. Facebook doesn't take time, but I really appreciate getting support and comments from friends when I need a kind word.

    It's hard to keep up with folks on both sides of the ocean!

    And, I think you are incredibly brave to do all that work for Peanut to enter pre-school! However, you, yourself might make a great friend or two for future 1/2 years in Japan!

    Sorry this is so long!!!!