Posted in Anxiety, Corona virus, HOME SICKNESS, Leaving your job, RECONTRACTING

A tale of cultural exchange

One thing that I notice in the ebbs and flows of putting out this blog is that honesty resonates with people. As a writer and storyteller, one of the first lessons you must learn is to write what is true to you. It’s easy at first. You wonder how people can write things they don’t know. Where do they find the extra creativity to write about feelings and emotions they’ve never experienced?

Visible confusion

What a strange way to open this week’s post. As you read this, it’s probably been a few months since I wrote this. It’s something that’s been on my mind as I have thought about the new direction this blog will take over the next few months. “A tale of cultural exchange in Japan.” A fitting title for a lady living her best life in Japan perhaps, but things are about to change. 

In January we were once again asked to state our intentions about the year ahead. The recontracting decision is a weird process where we sign a contract about our intention to sign another contract in a few months. The idea is to help the municipality start preparations for leavers. If all goes well and you make it to the end of your contract, the municipality takes on the cost of your flight home. In the time leading up to this date, they help you take care of other admin things like ending your contracts with your landlord, amenities and bank. Last year I wondered if I could give “the easy answer” again for this years’ decision. I got pretty comfortable with life in Omura, and I guess I assumed that by now the idea of staying in Japan forever would have grown on me. But then Corona…

It would be dishonest to say that this hasn’t been an enormous factor in my decision. I think this virus has really exposed the true nature of those around us and especially those in charge of us on all levels. Suddenly the things that would have kept me here for another year became outweighed by the things that told me to go. On top of this, I’m no stranger to the call for change. I always recognise it because it comes as a prolonged uneasiness about where I am. Where I am physically. Where I am mentally. Where I am spiritually. I haven’t hit this full trifactor of uneasiness since I left the advertising world, so I knew when I felt it last October that I had to silence any doubts about it. It’s time to move!

For those of you who have a hard time following my vague ramblings, basically: Time’s up. I decided not to recontract! It’s time to go. But what’s next? Will I continue to travel the world, learning new languages and exploring new cultures? Or will I head home to be with the ones I love the most in the world?

With the divine torture that is job searching in the year of our lord, 2021, I’ve spent the past few months agonising about the future as I lay on my tatami mat floor on the weekends. Mostly I’m agonising because I’m torn. A substantial part of me wants to go home. It’s been a year and a couple of months since I saw everyone. In that time, I’ve missed a few funerals that I wish I hadn’t. I’ve lost out on milestones in my little nieces’ lives. My siblings have gone through things that I wish I was there to support them through. And my friends? Sometimes I feel like they’re growing up without me, and if I’m honest, that invokes its own kind of loneliness. With Rona still doing its thing, and there being no prospect of going home, it’s felt like a monster has captured me and trapped me in a glass ball somewhere far away and left me with no hope of seeing my humans again. 

On the other hand, the world is so big and I’m still so young and unattached! When I first started this journey, I intended to use it as a stepping stone to open up opportunities for myself abroad. Fortunately, it’s done just that. Through a mix of LinkedIn and Glassdoor trawling, I’ve managed to secure interviews abroad and they’ve gone great. But again, that ache for home was still clouding my judgement as I applied. I tried telling myself to be objective. Think about things as if there were no Rona on your stoep. It’s a difficult ask because the reality of the state of the world is a huge influence on our lives right now. Moving to another country right now would involve having to set up another new life from scratch, and during a pandemic that might be trickier than it was when I moved to Japan. And of all the things I’ve enjoyed about living abroad, the admin of moving is not one of them. In Japan, I’ve had the luxury of having someone at my beck and call for my every need and whim (a definite bonus of working on the jet program). Just this January, I asked my coordinator to help me tell my landlord about the pipes being frozen at my house. In a way, this is to say that independence has been a concept. So the question is: Will I survive abroad alone this time? 

As if these thoughts about my future were not daunting enough, somehow my interviews resulted in two job offers being placed before me. One in my homeland, South Africa with a team I already loved because of their great energy during the interview process, and the other in Germany, with a team that made me feel at ease whenever I interacted with them. Both opportunities offered me something that I craved. At some point the decision became too much for me to bear alone; so I called home and cried my eyes out for my mom. She didn’t have the answers for me, but in a way, she helped me to put down the weight that I had put on my own shoulders.

Honestly it’s all she had to say

She made me realise that missing home isn’t the same as wanting to move back and start a life there again. I love South Africa, probably more now than ever before, but I’ve got things to accomplish and people to see before I head back permanently – and best believe I will head back! So I’m officially moving to Germany. The admin has been as stressful as I imagined it would be. Mentally, I’ve been trapped in a bit of a freeze for the past few weeks because of it. Having to sort out admin while working is a lot! My friends here have been getting frustrated with how easily I’ve been forgetting things lately. I haven’t done enough packing. I haven’t sold off enough of my belongings. I haven’t said goodbye to enough of the friends I’ve made here. I just haven’t. It’s all just been overwhelming. As someone who is meant to fly out within the next couple of weeks, I should be doing better but I’m not and that’s okay. I’ve moved house enough times at this stage to know that it only takes one solid day of packing to move out of a place.

Anyway, I know it’s been a while already since my last post but I thought I’d update you all on the happenings in my life before going silent for another month or so. I have two more Japan centred posts half-written right now so if you’re lucky you’ll get posts for the next two weeks but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll see you on the other side as I share A tale of cultural exchange in Germany.


I'm a writer with some stuff on my mind.

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