Article first published in October 2004's edition of JETFuel


A New Perspective

By “Sherry Rhodes”

When I arrived last year, the second and third years seemed somewhat unreachable, very detached from us new arrivals.  They were, to me, sources of great knowledge, who knew all the answers about Japan .  I thought they wouldn’t want anything to do with us. 


I suppose four years at university, where there was no mixing between the years, had conditioned me into this way of thinking.  But it was something else as well.  We often talk about “group mentality” in terms of the Japanese way of life, and yet isn’t this a part of any culture? 


Arriving in a foreign country, starting a new job in new surroundings, discovering new problems and striving to overcome them (a very grandiose way to describe the general bumbling along that most of us do), isn’t it to be expected that we will form closer relationships with people who are experiencing, there and then,  the same as us?


Nevertheless, on my arrival in Fukui , I genuinely believed that the Renewers wouldn’t want anything to do with us – that they would already have their own groups, that they were settled.  Why would they want to know someone who didn’t know what the hell she was doing most of the time?


And now I’m that second year, and I have a completely different perspective.  The nervousness in early July when the realisation finally hits that close friends are moving on.  People with whom we have shared so much over the last 12 months, continuing their lives while we stay static in Fukui .  The detachment from the Newbies who are experiencing everything for the first time, forging new friendships and establishing themselves at work.  The resentment that these strangers are moving in to our friends’ homes, taking over their jobs.  Irrational, isn’t it?!


Now I find myself thinking:  Why would these new JETs want to know us Renewers?  Why would they want to hear, “Oh, when I first arrived…”, when they can have new experiences for themselves? 


Maybe I’m just tapping in to my own insecurities.  Maybe it’s just Human Nature.  It wasn’t until about Christmas last year that a solid link between the two groups – the by then not-so-new-arrivals and the existing JETs – started to form.  Now there is no longer a distinction between the second and third years. 


One feeling I didn’t expect as a second year was that of loneliness.  I still have many of my friends here, it’s true, but at no time during my first year did I feel this degree of isolation.  I also now realise that the second years don’t have all the answers!  We’re still just bumbling along, still trying to cope with new problems, and still trying to ignore the old ones.


I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we all dearly miss our now-absent friends, but we also want to form friendships with the first year JETs.  I know it will take time…


…we’ll see what happens by Christmas!




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