Sunday, December 27, 2020

Life Post: I'm Leaving Japan and Going Back to the US

 I'm kind of dreading writing this post (despite the title already giving you the gist of it) because there's just so much I could say, and at this point, I'm kind of exhausted by repeating it.

But after three and a half years of living in Japan, I'm moving back to the US at the end of January.

This feels like such a long time coming because I actually made the decision to move back last January. The plan then was that I would go back in July. Then the pandemic hit, and I wound up extending my contract twice. I could have extended it again, and in many ways it might have been the smart thing to do, but continually pushing it back was making leaving so much harder. I feel like I need to leave now. Not because I'm unhappy or anything but because it feels like it's the right time. Or, rather, it felt like it was the right time months ago.

I know I'm not unique in the pandemic pushing back plans. It's happened for just about everyone, so I won't go into that too much. But when it comes to why I'm deciding to leave, I really don't have an answer other than it feels like the right time.

When I started working at my school, I had eight coworkers. As of right now, three of those coworkers are still at the school. Our school has two foreign teachers (of which I'm one), and I've worked with three different ones since being here. I've apparently worked here longer than any foreign teacher has at least in a long, long time, and it's been incredibly difficult to tell everyone that I'm leaving.

I haven't mentioned anything online until now because the students didn't know yet. We started telling them the week before last. There are still a few who don't know because they were unable to come to class, but the odds of them finding this before I can tell them are at least very low.

Leaving Tokushima is going to be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and the fact that it's happening during a pandemic definitely makes it harder. I have a lot of anxiety about something going wrong (especially with my flight), and every day I think about the fact that I have good health care here but don't know if I'll even have health insurance when I get back to the US during a pandemic that's far worse there than there.

But those aren't worries that I want to dwell on in this post. I'm sure I'll right more in the future about how moving back goes, and once I have dealt with the grief of leaving a bit more, I'll hopefully write more about my experiences and emotions about leaving as well.

Now that I can talk about leaving online, you can probably expect to see some mentions of it here from time to time as I've been talking around it quite a bit in the few life posts I've done on here for the past year. But that's if I have time to even write anything. Believe me when I say that I have a to do list a mile long and more stress than I know what to do with over everything I need to do in the next few weeks. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that nothing goes disastrously wrong and that I don't get so stressed out to the point of not being able to enjoy the time I have left.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Published: January 5, 2010
Publisher: The New Press Inc.
Received: purchased
Read from October 31 to November 22, 2020

Summary from Goodreads:

"Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."

As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.


This book is a decade old, but it is still relevant to the current situation in the United States. Really, it's quite striking how much that is true. The book was published not long after Barack Obama became president, and references to that are made in the book. Now, after another Obama term and a Trump one, this book is as true as ever.

Much of what is covered in this book are things that I've already known from other reading, but that didn't make it any less compelling. Alexander has done a great job of providing data about the current state of incarceration in the United States. I know this saying has become quite cliche, but this book should be required reading. These are things that every American should be aware of, yet too few are.

I highly encourage everyone to pick up this book.