Written 7th Jan.
As I sit at my UK home gently supping a cup of tea, I've afforded myself some time to reflect on what has been an excellent 5 months living in a place that initially seemed so alien, but is now my home away from home.
It's hard to believe it's been five months; it seems to have vanished so damn quick. In the past few months I've seen, tried and eaten (and lots of other verbs, too) so many new and different things, things I'd never expected I'd have the chance to. I live in a fantastic house on the edge of the Nagano Minami Alps, the rooftop of Japan, surrounded by beautiful scenery and nature. I like my job and love the new friends I've made. Being here has given me the opportunity to spread my wings a bit, see some more of the world and meet some new faces.
One of best things I've noticed is that being so far removed from my own culture has given me a different kind of confidence. I'm generally a confident person anyway, but on the other side of the planet I find the little every day things are often the hardest to overcome; going shopping, drawing money out of a cashpoint, finding clothes that fit well, trying to find out which platform to be on for which train. All these things become infinitely harder if you can't speak the native language. That's not to say I've spent every night rocking gently and sobbing myself to sleep - on the contrary, I try to meet all obstacles head-on and work them out myself - but I've found myself fastidiously planning even the simplest of tasks before I attempt them. That said, it's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to getting back to my little house in the mountains for the second stint of this year.
Of course I still miss home. Being back for the Christmas period has made me re-realise many things, such as how much I miss my family, how awesome my friends are, how beautiful the English countryside is, how great fish'n'chips are, and how much I miss being close to the sea.
When I headed to Japan last August I wasn't sure I would be coming home for Christmas, but I'm so very glad I did, for more reasons than I could have guessed. Not only did it give me the chance to stock up on all-round Britishness, but I got to travel a bit, see some interesting and beautiful places, and meet a couple of really amazing people. It's been a really great three weeks at home. Aaah the vapours...