Saturday, April 24, 2010

Farewells and Farewell Party

A lot of things I can talk about, I don't feel like talking about anymore. Mainly I mean my medical state and tests, and I will explain bluntly: I feel I have spoken more about the medical system and my medical state than is interesting or syncs up with my current vision of this blog's purpose. I want to express things as they happen, partially in ways that allow family and friends to know what's up, but largely to allow potential and current residents or tourists to prepare for the sort of stuff they will deal with. This means everything from travel suggestions and warnings (this sort of place has these sorts of things going on) to support (this stuff is awful, but you are not alone in dealing with it) and honest experience that could be lost otherwise (this thing is terrible). In this line of thought, my family and friends tend to get health updates off the blog, so it seems unnecessary to repost every little detail. I'd rather talk about my experience in the withdrawal and leaving process, it is a rather unique process and aspects of it are applicable in a lot of different ways, ways that I hope can be helpful to other people, or at the least interesting. That said -- I will note that everything points to me being more or less alright, so if there are some people that have been out of my other loops you should not worry too much.

Moving on, I was iffy on how much I want to talk about the Stance Punks concert, but I think that night fits in well with the rest of this post -- both the venue and the night itself are individually worthy of mention, afterall. The venue, Shinjuku Loft, is a rather tiny basement, apparently used mainly for hardcore/punk shows (Guitar Wolf has played there!). It is kind of dirty, dark, cramped...basically the type of venue I have always wanted to go to! The show itself was kind of mediocre for my tastes, the music was good, but much more poppy than I was hoping for. It was really odd hearing loud feedback between songs, only for it to drop and the guitarist to go into down-tempo, smooth and melodious riffs. The fact that the singer shouted does not really make the rhythmic flow of his singing sound less like a pop song, nor does the fact that the crowd was going WILD change what the music was actually like. It was so weird seeing people (and joining in) mosh to ballads! Actually, the crowd was moshing but it was in a rather weird/dull kind of way...they were kind of crowd-surfing and pushing towards the stage. There was some pushing and jumping around, but it was basically a bunch of guys and gals in leather and plaid trying to get near the stage, or make asses of themselves. I feel it was only exhaustive at all because I went there sick and the venue was hot, if I would have had too much energy and just pissed people off (I kind of involved people vaguely outside of the pit, so I may have done this anyway...which is dumb as crap). Basically, what I wanted to say was the band and show itself was less than stellar, but the venue was fantastic. If I had the opportunity to see a band like Guitar Wolf there I would jump on it instantly (actually, I think the pillows were playing there when Jordan was in...I guess it's too bad we didn't go then!). Though, I am really happy that Viivi invited me to go and had as good a time as she apparently did (she was pretty into the band, from what she says).

The other point about that night I wanted to make is that is the same night I received word from my advisor that AU accepted my withdrawal from SILS, marking it the point after which I was willing to talk about leaving Tokyo. Telling people and dealing with the consequences is basically what I have been doing this past week, and what I really want to talk about. Really, I was terrified of talking to people about it because I was worried about how they would take it -- my expectation that, even if my friends can come to terms with it they would be pissed at least in the moment for me basically hiding it, as well as just generally sad to see me go. What I have found is that with the exception of maybe one person, everyone has been super cool and understanding beyond anything reasonable -- for which I am grateful beyond words. What's more, I find myself not having much trouble telling people I'm close to, I know they will understand, would feel worse not saying anything, and general experience shows it will likely go well each time (though I hope I have told most everyone by now). The people I find it hard to tell are those people that have given me good impressions, but I hardly know. Even people that I don't like that much, or have known for months but not really gotten to close with, are hard to tell. When I talk to these sorts of people I feel that there was a mutually, unspoken understanding that we either would or could in the future become closer (especially those I just met) and that I am sort of abandoning them, or dropping this unspoken contract. It is kind of irrational, and perhaps overly harsh on myself, but I have a pretty good eye for people I will become friendly it is hard to turn off this pang of guilt. Honestly, most of these people do not know, and I don't expect to be able to tell them...which is probably for the best as I really don't owe them any sort of explanation. It was just a feeling I didn't really expect to have, so it's hard to deal with.

As for actually telling people, again it has largely gone over well. I spoke to some professors this week, and they both basically were either able to guess the circumstances (Prof. Sidoli) or guess what was going on with no information (Prof. Pinnington). Sidoli and I had a pretty long conversation about his courses/how to improve them, came to the conclusion that SILS basically makes them impossible to do well, spoke briefly on me leaving, and then just kind of each ranted, shortly, about the problems with SILS. Prof Pinnington and I just kind of wished each other the best. Both situations were real easy and nice, I am pretty glad I ended up seeing both of them before I left. I hope I will remember how I felt talking to them next year and maybe pursue some sort of relationship with my various professors (this may be easy as I already have taken two of them before), but it has not really happened too well in the past. When I told Laur I was leaving, it was pretty straight forward and kind of sad, the emotions only really amplified by Ben being there (and knowing already). It happened as it happened, but I probably should have known better than to tell her infront of Ben, as it just made her feel like we were both in on a secret at her expense. She still took it better than I may have expected, though...Ben too. Of all the people I am leaving, it is really just these two I am really abandoning -- anyone else that I see again after this trip is kind of an unexpected awesome occurence, whereas the three of us entered this together with the expectation of leaving together too. I did not hesitate to withdraw without their approval, and have no regrets about that (nor about presenting Ben and not Laur the option of joining me), but I could see it being taken as a personal hit...whiich neither of them has really done. I guess Ji Won could have felt this way too, but oru situation was much more of a "It is cool that we are both going, maybe we will see each other around." rather than Ben, Laur, and my, "Oh man, you're going on this program too? We should keep in touch and hang out while we're there. It will be cool knowing we have friends there, too."

Finally I feel I need to mention what happened just this past night -- my farewell party! People totally talked about the possibility of one, but I basically spent this last few days thinking I was expected to set something up if anything were to happen (which I have not really have time to do, though I have been thinking about...) Well, I will describe what actually happened. Bathusi was going to take me to church with her tomorrow (Sunday), which from my understanding was legitimately undone by a church opening in Saitama (faaaar away). So, instead she suggested we go to the Saturday evening service (This sounded weird, but not totally unreasonable. Jewish services are typically Friday and Saturday evenings, afterall...) So I waited out near the Genkan, and kind of chatted with Mesa about the possibility of the party at some point (even this didn't really tip me off too much, as I thought the church thing was weird and honest, and had seen Niko and Jason leave...who I basically felt are too close of friends to not have any involvement in a potential party). Bathusi came down and was just like "Change of plans, we're going to 5th floor" which really killed any doubt (I could only respond "So I guess I don't need my jacket, huh?") All the lights were out, they turned them on when I entered the actual dining hall -- basically (almost) all of the girls of the dorm that I am friends with were standing around me in a half-circle and shouted "Surprise!" I mean, at that point I knew it was happening and was still just completely taken aback, it was just so nice and worked out so well. I have been a lucky guy in that a lot of my friends and family feel inclined to do sweet things for me, but the sheer number of people involved in this (and the stuff that actually went down) may put this at the top. Most of the girls there wore some amount of purple, Zsuzsanna even made a purple soup, due to my nickname from Halloween: Purple Tomodachi (It is because I wore that purple trenchcoat). I think nearly everyone either made or bought some food for the party (Toto made tapioca tea, as I have mentioned a number of times my love of it...I want to go through what everyone made but there was a LOT of things, all of which delicious!). They had me give a quick speech before we ate, and we generally just had a fun night chatting/musicing/eating/hanging around. Hakley (Cambodian guy I helped with some essays) surprised me with souveniers from Cambodia, Asta brought some amazing chocolates, and Bang somewhat teary-eyed offerred some Bul Gogi (I told he we can eat it together later). Eventually Jason and Niko joined the party for a bit (we played some darts). I feel bad my only real contribution was this picture for the dorm of myself, but it gave some conversation, and is now overlooking the dining hall (two more pictures were requested from me, too...). I could go on and on, really, but I just wanted to give an idea of how amazingly overwhelmed by this gesture I am. Not everyone was there, sure, but way more than I'd have expected were -- it kind of grounds me to just how amazing the people I'm leaving behind are, and how lucky I am I have met them.

Actually, I guess the real significance of this party is how perfectly it mirrors the beginning of my Japan trip -- an aspect that, very unfortunately, seems to have avoided a post as it took place in the US. Right before I left (literally days) I visited DC (stayed with James). While there, Blaine hosted a party for basically my favorite Tenley kids and Anderson Terrace kids, which inspired in me these same feelings, and unfortunately made it very hard to leave America (actually, these guys took me around to three different parties and I ended up having to leave without doing everything and seeing everything I wanted to, making it a tad different). In a way, this final party cements my thoughts of Waseda into a place I can consider home more than any of my other experiences or the general duration of my stay can, as it acts as the final sort of proof of the friends I have made here, and how close we have become. You simply can't have a home without people you care about, or at least some sentimental thoughts, and although I had them before this party, the party definitely brings all of these good feelings and memories to the surface. I guess, in this way, I'm both reminded of how sad it will be to leave everyone, but it also acts as the real last event necessary for me to leave, satisfied. Without this last piece, I fear I may have looked back and wondered if staying as long as I did, or coming at all was worthwhile -- perhaps regretted the whole experience. Now I know, with certainty, that I can never have those sorts of feelings. For this too, I am grateful beyond words. Thank you so much everyone!


  1. What proportion of your tuition did Waseda refund? I've been going one semester on a homestay and I'm trying to cancel my semester but the faculty has been difficult. How did you manage to do it?

  2. Sorry to hear you're in a similar situation to what I was -- it's pretty rough. As long as you follow their procedure and rules, they should give you a full refund. Actually, I handed my stuff in on the last day without really consulting my home uni (AU) or their office, so they gave me a de facto extension (over the weekend) to think it over/made me talk to a few people in their office to make sure I was sincere. They also had me send an e-mail to CIE and my home university to make the whole thing official. However, if you fill out the forms and bring them in yourself, at the right time, they will follow along with it.

    That procedure is here: Basically just print out the pdf, ( ), fill out the second page, and bring it to the CIE Office (or whatever it's called - 3rd floor building 11/SILS main building, I think?). It sounds like you're already talking to them, so maybe your situation is a tad different, but if you physically hand them the required forms they will take you much more seriously than they probably are now.

    Granted, make sure your home university (if you're studying abroad) knows what's going on and is cool with it. Most likely you paid your uni, who then paid Waseda - so their guidelines may be the deciding factor. In my case, Waseda was iffy about letting it happen because AU told them they would not give me a refund -- I had to argue with my Study Abroad office and FA using my uni's guidelines to get what I got, in terms of both withdrawal and my refund. In the end? It was the full cost of Waseda tuition, which is only about half what I paid AU. 仕方ない、ね?

    Anyway, I hope this helps. It may be noteworthy that the most helpful Waseda faculty at the time was 中村 容子さん (Nakamura Yoko). I couldn't say whether or not she's still there, but I had to do everything through her at the time. If you need clarification, or particular advice feel free to send me a mail (I can give you Nakamura-san's e-mail that way, too).

    Good luck!