日本, for Robert

Robert and I went to high school together very briefly in 2004.

He was two grades younger than me and good friends with my cousin who was in the same grade. We were part of the same football program until I left the school after 3 months.

We spoke sparsely thereafter, until I was in Brazil in the US Spring (Brazilian Fall) of 2014', a few months before the World Cup started. He sent me a message on Facebook asking how I got to be where I was. I told him I started teaching out in Japan in July of 2012 and then I moved down to Brazil in July of 2013 to continue teaching.

He asked what kind of qualifications I had and how I got them (Oxford Seminars, I 100% recommend them).

I told him and thought nothing of it.

About 6 months, 7 countries, and 1 World Cup later, Robert and I were drinking in the shadow of Downtown Los Angeles heavily, regularly, and discussing where he should go and what life abroad is like.

Naturally, I recommended 日本.

*****

What's good big dog!?

お元気ですか?今は日本語大丈夫ですかね?

You'll wish you'll have learned after you leave.

What's it been for you now? About 3 months? You left in April didn't you? Do you feel that dip yet? Or do you still feel that everything is brand new and awesome? How many ハイボール have you had for me? What about a 祭? Have you been to one yet? Is it summer still or are they saying it's the rainy season already? I hope your doing well since the last time we talked.

You know, this past Saturday I went into Downtown (where I used to work over there on 7th and Fig) to celebrate a friend's birthday. Her man rented her an apartment for the weekend at one of those luxury apartment complexes that have 50% vacancy because they're so expensive. I'm sure you remember what I'm talking about. It was, undoubtedly, a drunken debacle and as happy as I was to celebrate with my friend on her birthday, that wasn't the only reason I was celebrating.

See, last Saturday was also the 3 year anniversary of the day I landed in Japan.

Call me trivial or fickle, but as I'm sure you can understand, you don't forget the day you leave "the greatest nation on earth" for a country where about 90% of the country doesn't look like you or speak either of your languages.

You're one of the only guys I know who's gone from East Los Angeles to さいたま.

You're definitey the only North American.

I'm sure you'll celebrate your anniversaries the same way.

How are the 女 treating you? Are you a 軟派先生 now? What about the ラーメン? Have you found your favorite spot yet? And 日本語? I hope you're practicing.

I remember once, on a train ride home from a particularly long "Saturday" at work, I got into an uncomfortably deep convesation very quickly with another foreigner on the train (It happens way too often out there doesn't it? Too deep, too fast!). He was a chubby black dude from D.C. who told me,

"Dude, never say 'no' out here. There's so much to see and you'll never know what you miss when you say no."

I remember getting off the train, hitting up the コンビニ on the way home for a ハイボール, popping it open on the walk home, and saying to myself, annoyed and out loud,

"Fuck that guy! I can say no if I want to. I can stay home and get plastered by myself if I want to!"

But truthfully speaking, I rarely, if ever did.

Never say no out there man. There's so much to see and do.

In retrospect, I wasn't annoyed with what he said. I was annoyed with how he thought I didn't already know what he was trying to tell me. It's bad enough to feel misunderstood by what seems to be everyone in the country. It feels even worse to think that a foreigner misunderstood me as well.

Of course there's so much to see and do out there!

Homeboy really thought I didn't realize that?

Ultimately, I have faith in you. Say yes to every invitation, learn as much Japanese as you can, and stay humble and calm. 3 years from now, you'll know that everything you experienced was valid and had its purpose.

Keep your 心 open and kind.

You've only just started.

- Jacobs


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