7 Weeks Later: Life After The Year Abroad

Um. Hi.

So. I didn’t update this blog immediately after landing back in Manchester, like I thought I would. I’d done my dues after all; I’d written 350 posts in one year like I’d predicted I would, and there wasn’t much more to say. Towards the end of the blog, I became really sloppy and didn’t really talk much about anything. Though did I really say much at all, over the course of one year?

What happened when I got back was that I slept. A lot. After two, maybe three days without sleep (I lost track of time, what with the travelling and the time zones), I got home about 5pm, stayed awake another few hours so that I could eat dinner (a lovingly-prepared roast dinner with chicken, my favourite), and then I went to bed about 9pm, and passed out for about 12 hours without dreaming/waking up. So I avoided jet lag. This is kind of the same as what happened when I first arrived in Japan – I remember stayed awake all through the flight, then went to bed at about 10pm in Kansai Airport.

I’ve noticed my life has kind of gone round in a circle, as people do things periodically each year. I’ve started back at university for one, that’s a given. Amusingly enough, I’ve started watching South Park again like I did last year, obsessively.

But anyway, enough about South Park.

Both my remaining grandparents survived my year abroad. I was worried one or both of them would die while I was gone, seeing as they’re both in their 90s and get sick easily. They lived, but their minds both seem to have deteriorated quite a lot since I last saw them. Before I left last year, my grandma on my mum’s side of the family still lived by herself, ran her own house, etc. Then she had a fall, like she had already done quite often, but this one was the fall to end all other falls, I think. She’s now in the same nursing home as my grandpa, on my dad’s side of the family, and she forgets things very easily. They’re both there full-time. While I was gone, they didn’t see me at all, though they were constantly told that I was in Japan. My sister, being at the same university, seemed to merge with me until we were one person in their eyes. When I came back, neither of them seemed to recognize me. Even when they were told it was me and that I was back from Japan, they looked at my sister and asked her how Japan was. It was kind of surreal.

My younger brother shot up a lot while I was gone, as predicted. Before I came back, he’d done karate training under a waterfall in Wales, much to the astonishment of some Asian tourists. I gather Japanese people who do karate don’t practice out in the open. But anyway, when I was taking both suitcases out of the car when I got home, I saw a figure coming towards me, who I didn’t recognize, and assumed it was one of the new next-door neighbours. Except they were heading in my direction, and they said something like, “Bethan!”, and I realized it was my baby brother, who’d just turned 15, and was now in Year Eleven at school. He was taller than me (just barely), his voice had broken, and he could tense his stomach like a brick wall from his karate training. That was very weird for me. I’d seen him over Skype a few times over the year, but I wasn’t prepared for how strange it would be to see the change in person. I felt very melancholy. Last time I’d seen him he’d only come up to my nose.

I cried a little the next day. It was so odd, being back in England. I had a new appreciation for it and everything, like the landscape, and the old, beautiful buildings, and the greenery… but it didn’t feel like home anymore. Japan had felt like my home for so long. So I felt a very odd sense of displacement. I still feel it now. I’ve lived in four different places over the last four years, and I think it’s going to be very hard for me to settle anywhere. I feel like I’ve constantly got itchy feet and I need to leap up and get on a plane halfway across the world again. Which is what I plan to do in March, by the way. Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco are in the works. More on that later.

7 weeks on, I’ve gotten used to being back in England. At first it was weird. My town had undergone some changes (I say that like it’s a big thing, but actually they’d only changed the Co-Operative to an ASDA), and I got frustrated by the railway literally the first time I used it again. There was signal failure when I needed to go into Manchester to pick up Lucy, and I didn’t have a working phone at the time. I had to run across town to leap on a different train, which was then delayed another 15 minutes. So I was 45 minutes late to pick up Lucy, and I couldn’t text her. But it turned out okay. She was waiting for me when I got there. And we had a grand old time. She stayed at my house for a few days.

My 21st birthday happened. In the end I didn’t have a party, and I’m okay with that. I had dinner at the pub with my family and a friend, and I only had a couple of glasses of wine. I’ve not really done much drinking since then, either. I went to my friend’s 22nd birthday, with people who I used to hang out with in sixth form college, and I realized I barely spoke to any of those people anymore. I still like them, and I think they’re great, but I really don’t speak to that many people anymore. Regularly. But that’s fine. I’m happy having only a few close friends. My ex-boyfriend was there, and at first I was wondering what would go down, would we chat like old friends, make passive-aggressive remarks, whatever, but the way it worked was we just sort of ignored each other. Fair enough, I guess. I was a little bothered by it, because it made the atmosphere kind of tense, and I hope the others didn’t dwell on it too much. Lucy and I left before everyone else could start drinking, then we went home and watched Big Hero 6 and Jurassic World, and I felt much better.

I really didn’t want to move back to my university town. I felt like I was regressing, big time. I had my year of binge drinking, drunken mistakes and coasting along in freshman year, and I didn’t want to be in that kind of place any more. But I’ve settled back in quite well. I became a member of the Japanese society again, and made some friends. I joined a Korean evening class and I attend once a week for two hours at a time. On Thursdays I do amateur improv comedy, and we play a lot of short games. I don’t know if I’m really that funny, but it’s good practice, making things up on the spot, and I have gotten in a few laughs. Plus there are some really hilarious people there, so even if I’m not that great, it’s good to go along and watch them work their magic.

I have my first major assignment due next Monday, and I’m stressing out about it, because it’s the first of many essays that will actually count toward my final grade now. But I feel much more passionate about my degree than ever before, and ready to take on the challenges. I may not be doing something daily, like this blog I used to write every day with devotion, but my overall attitude has really improved. I spend most of my time studying and working, not really socializing, but I’m okay with that. My sister and I share a two-bedroom flat together across the road from uni, so we speak every day, and are getting on quite well. I met her boyfriend for the first time a few weeks ago, and he’s quite a nice fellow. Him being a fan of South Park won me over, I have to admit. But he’s a very nice guy in general, and I can see why he’s supposedly quite popular with the rest of the family. I speak to my classmates in English seminars and Japanese workshops quite a bit, though I don’t really hang out with them much, but that’s okay, as we’re all busy. I’ve got some friends from the Japanese society anyway, who I can speak to in both English and Japanese. Some of them are British-born Chinese, like quite a few of my friends were back in sixth form.

Lucy recently sent me some interview questions about this blog and my year abroad in general. She’s really gotten into journalism, not just film journalism like she started off doing with reviews and so on, though I think it’s film-critiquing that she really wants to go into, ultimately. She published a good article on The Tab recently, and she’s making a new website for her own articles. So if this blog gets featured on there, I’ll be sure to direct you to it.

That may have been what motivated me to update this blog again, finally. I wanted to have a kind of end note, rather than it ending on me being sleepy in Abu Dhabi Airport.

Other notes:

  • On the side of my university studies, I started a Creative Writing course on FutureLearn. The course is run by the Open University and is completely free, though you can buy a certificate at the end to show you took part. It’s been really useful for developing my writing and I’ve already learned so much, even though the course is only in its second week. I may opt not to take Creative Writing next year at university after all, as I’m learning so much from this course, but maybe I will, as this course is giving me a heads up.
  • I had to change one of my main uni courses for this year. There was an uneven balance between English studies and Japanese studies. So I’ve had to drop Shakespeare next semester and replace it with Japanese Literature, but I don’t think that’s so bad. Besides, I’ve been doing some Shakespearean study in my own time. I saw the new Macbeth with Michael Fassbender (mixed feelings, though ultimately I’d say it was good), I went to see an adaption of Richard III at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Friday (pretty good), and I’m going to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in Hamlet next Saturday in the cinema.
  • I owe my mum a lot of money. I had so many expenses to pay in Japan that I’m currently working off a debt towards her, and still somehow hoping to go to both America and Japan this year.
  • I’m still continuing my job as an online Skype tutor, but I’m not getting as many bookings as I used to. Sometimes I get all booked up, other days I still have many slots free. This is a little worrying, as it’s my only source of income to fund my projects and pay back my mum.
  • Rika and I talked about meeting in the US. I was originally just going to go to LA and back, but she wants to visit Washington D.C. at some point, and so do I, and it doesn’t cost much extra to stop off in D.C. before flying back to LA, then for me to fly to San Fran, then fly back to the UK. So that’s what I’m hoping will happen.
  • I’m trying to get an internship next summer in Japan, as well. I’m less confident about affording that. Welp, even if I don’t travel much, I can always save up and go on a proper holiday the year after.

There’s a lot going on. Anyway, thanks to everyone for all the support over the last year! It was a fun project, writing every day for a year. I may still update with posts such as “What never to do at a supermarket” or titles to that effect, but it definitely won’t be with so much frequency. British university is VERY hard to pass, so I’m making that my priority.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s