Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Foreigners in a Foreign land

Usually I'm pretty easy going. I don't stress too easily. I don't often get hit with culture shock. I get along well in Japan. It's a good life. But sometimes, I get reminders that I'm an outsider, and will be for a long time yet...

Before, when I worked in the church English School, I was basically the only teacher. I did just about everything myself. Which meant I wasn't often bored. I was in control. That's always fun. :-D

Now I work in a public school. I live this rather odd half existence there. Half the time, I'm not sure why they bother to pay for someone like me. I rarely have anything to do. I'm not a full teacher, so I don't have teacher responsibilities. But I'm not a part time worker either, so I need to show up when the other teachers show up. I understand some Japanese, but not enough to know all that's going on around me. And of course, everyone is busy. It's not really practical to expect them to translate everything for me. When the teachers actually have time and are not stressed out and running around, they have fun casual conversations. They joke around with each other and tell each other stories. I can rarely join in. I am a staff member, but not really.
Even the students pick up on this. They like me for the most part, but they don't respect me as much as they do the "real" teachers. (although, I suspect that I get more respect than most ALT's because I actually attempt discipline.)

Like I said. Usually this doesn't bother me. But today it kinda made me sad. It feels... lonely.

I am living here, but I don't know if I will ever be fully accepted here, no matter how long I live here or how fluent I become. I love Japan, and that makes me sad.

But I can't just go back home either. I'm not the same person I was before. I have grown, changed my perspective. I don't fit in at home either. I don't see things the same as before. There is a gap in experience between me and my peers. I no longer fit.

I'm a funny shaped peg without a hole.

Well, that's not really new for me. I'm used to not fitting in and being different. Sometimes I embrace that. Sometimes I mourn it. (I'm guessing you can figure out which one I'm doing today.)

But it reminds me once again of a thought that I have often. This is a good reminder of what it means to be Christian. When we become Christian, we leave our old country behind and enter into a new and glorious Kingdom. We gain a new citizenship. But we can't enter it fully yet. We are waiting in our old country with our new passport and certificates, and we don't know when we can go in. But now we don't fully belong.

Sometimes we can hold a duel citizenship. Some countries let you do that. Some don't. But it's never the same. There are choices you have to make. The cultures don't match. You have to choose which to follow. The culture where you are? The culture where you are going?

We are stuck in a land of red tape, trying to live our lives here until our new ones begin.

There was a bigger, grander point to all of this when I started writing, but I've lost it. There's meaning somewhere burired in all this rumination.

But I guess for now, I'm left with a more real experience of what it means to be "in the world, but not of it." I wonder if Jesus felt like this too, living in this sinful world, in but not of it. Always present, but never really fully accepted. If so, then I can rejoice a bit, knowing that Jesus mourns with me, and I have a shared experience with my Lord.

1 comment:

chartonjeremiah said...

I loved this post and it made me think when you mentioned how Jesus may have felt the same feeling of isolation that you do in the school in Japan.

I can relate to that myself although not on anywhere near as dramatic a scale. My late father was a white English man and my mother is a black lady born in Jamaica. When you grow up with mixed race you try to embrace each of your parent's cultures at different times and then end up feeling isolated from both. You end up realising that you have your own culture that only other people of mixed race appreciate.

Jesus was much braver than me, though. He grew up in a volitile environment and faced up to angry mobs time after time. If only I could be comparible to him, even fractionally.