Thursday, October 05, 2006


You would think that returning to the Philippines, a country about as far away from Canada as one can possibly get, physically and culturally, would be slightly disorienting, if not disarming, but it's been surprisingly smooth. Sedate, even. I've been here for almost a year, after all, exclusively in one city, one house, and so coming back to this town and this time is almost like returning to a corner of one's own head and heart. You know the streets, the weather, the people. The distance is vast from here to there, but feeling that distance, via air travel, is almost impossible. You get on a plane in one place and get off in another. You don't see the ocean below or the altitude above. You sit down, the windows are closed, the movie comes on, and the plane shakes. Repeatedly. It doesn't feel like you're moving -- just shaking. Travelling by train, or car, you can look out the window and see the world go by: people and cars, woods and buildings, all of it rapidly receding past you, replaced by something else, and something else, and something even more. Plane travel reduces everything to static. You move, and shake, and Canada is replaced by the Philippines. (Or, in my case, Ottawa is replaced by Toronto, which is replaced by Vancouver, which is replaced by Seoul, which culminates in Manila.) I know that over there is quite distant from over here, but now that I'm back, time has shifted to its old acknowledged patterns. I've found I can exist almost anywhere.


I'm waiting for the greenlight on a teaching job in Japan. Having returned to the Philippines, oh what do I find in my e-mail inbox but an offer -- or a semi-offer, anyways -- for a teaching gig at a university in Japan. (The company places you at a university somewhere in Japan. This offer is for a school in the Kanto region, which is a broad area but includes where I lived from 1999-2003, so if I'm sent back there, it's either some kind of a cosmic joke or a karmic inevitability.)

They also offered a gig teaching corporate clients and junior-high school students in various sites in various places, but that requires an International Driver's License, and I just renewed my Ontario license back home, and the official one hasn't arrived yet, and besides, I'm not too keen on driving on the other side of the road in Japan. I'm a bad enough driver as it is; visions of Chevy Chase in European Vacation dance through my head...

They told me that it wasn't a formal offer, per se, but that with my high qualifications I had a great chance of being hired, so I said sure, sign me up, count me in, and here it is, Thursday, and I'm still anxiously wondering when they will e-mail confirmation regarding a job that starts next freakin' Friday. Leaving the Philippines is not something I particularly relish, but I do need to make money, and it's impossible to save anything substantial here, and a return to Japan would be a) comfortable, as I've lived there before, and the culture shock of dealing with yet another new culture at this somewhat fragile point in time is not something I think I can handle and b) teaching at the university level in Nippon would be interesting, I think, different than I what I did before in that country. ("Same, but different," as Mr.Miyagi tells Daniel-san in the first Karate Kid, and in a different context, but a noble sentiment nevertheless, don't you think?) I taught university in Cambodia, true, so university teaching is not completely out of my real, but truth be told the words 'university' and 'Cambodia' do not exactly co-exist comfortably with one another.

Nothing to do now but wait.


Recovering from jet-lag is mind-numblingly mundane. The symptoms are boring and clear: you wake up fresh at three a.m., and feel sluggish and inert around suppertime. But the sleep you get doesn't refresh you, and you wake up with a slight, unfocused buzz, as if you had been staring at a computer screen for hours on end instead of sleeping and dreaming. (And the dreams themselves are deep and strange and fathomless.) You lay on the pillow and instantly open your eyes, six, seven hours having passed. You don't feel re-energized; you feel, instead, re-plugged. Automated action, I guess you'd call it. A week from now I should be fine, and the precise sensations connected to jet-lag will fade, as all things do, only to reemerge one or two years down the line when the next, long journey makes its mark.


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