28 November 1999 - 14 January 2000
To leave the country requires much more effort than one might suppose. Securing the passport is only the easy part. But it is, finally, only a symbol of intention. The much more complex part is the severance of much more delicate personal connections while, simultaneously, pinpointing and then preparing for some far-off place of destination. Lies become a necessity for living at both extremes of this double life. Discernment, in the placement of lies, becomes a strategic essential. [The Peace Corps or advertisements for English teachers are as good a place as any to begin the search for a destination. Officials there are always on the lookout for people who will go into the small villages of the world.] But to reach these destinations, one has to first negotiate with the bureaucracy with some semblance of style. Almost all of the bureaucrats are U.S. nationals, so one cannot say that one no longer believes in one's own country, wants very badly to get out, so that any other place on earth will do. This is the very last thing they would want to hear. It becomes necessary to employ stealth, if not subtlety, in appeasing the bureaucrats. First, you write an official letter of application for a position, one detailing your background, age, credentials, race, religious preference, as well as the names of those people able to give an assessment of your moral worth. Then you wait. Someplace along the line, while waiting, you learn again to pray. The officials will want, of course, your reasons for wanting to go. You must not be honest about this. The statement "I just want to get out. I just don't seem to care anymore! Any place in the world will do, as long as I can learn there to not expect too much" will not produce the best results. You should say that you can sense yourself becoming increasingly selfish, and think you need a challenge in order to force a healthy change. This is why prayer becomes a necessity while you wait for a country that will accept you. Subterfuge is also required while dealing with others in your current life, in the life that is still bound to this present locale of your self. A false front of calm devotion to present duties becomes the very best disguise. Friends must find you cheerful and accepting of this reality, even as you plot secretly to create another, in the new place that is soon coming. This Janus-like two-facedness will require the most exacting of imaginative work. You must imagine yourself into a settled, all-accepting persona, employable for daily uses here, while quietly fleshing out a new and better persona for daily uses there.The passage quoted above is from Crabcakes by James Alan McPherson with my modifications of organizational and place names enclosed by . I found it a very apt description of what it is like to "leave the country" and also describes the Janus-like life that I am now leading. Doing all those things that I can to maintain the current assignment at Washoe Health System yet NOT telling them that I have accepted the position in Japan. I am convinced that once I leave this assignment, and Accountemps knows that I am leaving; I will not receive another assignment from them. The job at Washoe Health System is mostly General Ledger account reconcilements, bank statements, prepaid expenses, receivables, payables, etc. This is the stuff that I have been doing most of my working career that puts food on the table and a roof over my head but certainly does not provide me with a sense of accomplishing anything. With any luck at all the assignment will last through the end of January; it is too much to hope for the end of February. Then I will be faced with the problem of telling Accountemps that I am leaving and not get re-assigned for the month or six weeks remaining until I leave.
I have a few more details about the job in Japan. I only know what the company has told me but, I have also talked to the mother of a teacher that is over there now and she confirmed that what her daughter and I have been told all seems to be the way it really works. The company, Interact Nova Group, is Japanese with recruiting offices in San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, London, Paris and Brisbane. It is the recruiting offices that hire teachers for a 2,800 person staff that is approximately 23% American, 24% United Kingdom, 26% Australian, 17% Canada, 5% New Zealand plus others. Upon arrival in Japan there is a short orientation in Tokyo or Osaka and a short training period, at or near your site, in how they teach. Then it is Learn by Doing with the local School Trainer providing ongoing feedback during a 2-month probation period. I was somewhat concerned about the short training but that is the way they have operated for years and it works. There are Schools all over Japan, about 280 of them, so I could be assigned anyplace. However, like the Peace Corps, they attempt to assign you to your preferred area; but like the Peace Corps, that may not happen. I have requested a "smaller" (around 100,000 population) town in what they call their rural Schools. The students are mostly high school and university age but there are also older adults and there are special classes (and teachers) for younger children. Class size is limited to a maximum of four all at the same speaking level; students are classified at 9 levels of English speaking ability. The teachers also participate in "Voice Room" which offers students the opportunity to practice English, like the English Speaking Group that I met with in Zlatograd. The workweek will probably include Sat & Sun, which I don't mind, but it will also require working until 9:00pm. The late hours and weekend classes are necessary to accommodate the students of course - but I'm a morning person. The positive aspect of those hours is that I will have a chance to go places during the week when they are open and I will have morning hours for biking - that is not all bad!
I have signed a one-year contract and have the opportunity to re-new it during the 10th month, assuming the company continues to want me. I won't know when I am going to leave until around the end of January and will then go in about a month after notification. Will not know where I will be living until two weeks before leaving. I should have access to my Yahoo account but it may take me a little time to find out where and how. I have bought a book to get me started on learning the Japanese language. Everyone is on their own to learn the language however the company does help find tutors for you. I was told that some of the teachers don't attempt to learn the language and are able to function without a lot of problems. Housing is arranged by Nova but each teacher pays their own rent; what this saves are the huge deposits that are required if Nova did not intervene.
My Holiday Season was relatively quiet but that is not news, most of them are. I had a wonderful Christmas dinner with John & Janis on December 11th the day after I received the job offer from Nova. It was at this dinner that I got a chance to talk to the mother of the girl that is now in Japan; it truly is a small world! I then went to Lake Tahoe for New Years Eve and New Years and celebrated with Shirley. This was the first time that we had been able to get together since the Christmas Lunch that she had in San Mateo in 1995. It was another chance to relive my time in Bulgaria, showing pictures and telling stories. It was also a chance for her to relive the many places that she has been in this world. A fun time for both of us - remembered travel is almost as great as doing it the first time! It was a blessing to get away from Reno and greet the New Year in a beautiful place and watch the noise, fireworks and excitement on TV rather than be in the midst of it. Shirley has a very nice cabin in the pines with a fine view of the lake. It became even more beautiful when a small storm rolled in around 3:00 in the afternoon of the 1st leaving about 3 inches of snow.
I was told yesterday, 13 Jan, that my tentative departure date is 24 February. Today I told the people at Washoe and Accountemps that my last day would be 16 Feb and everyone seems to be very happy with that; most of all me! Have also called for furniture rental pickup and called the same storage company that I used while in Bulgaria to come and get the same stuff they stored before. This is probably the last Long Letter that I am going to get out before leaving for Japan. To leave the country requires much more effort than one might suppose.