The New Normal

I apologize to my readers for taking a while for this next post. I’m still getting into the rhythm of the semester, though I think I’ve almost got it, now. I’m getting used to the food, the Tokyo metro system, the classes, my club, the language–the language is pretty difficult, I must admit. I studied Japanese for about 4-5 years before coming to Japan. And while there are certainly a number of people that I seem to have a leg up on, there still seem to be many people who know the language really well, and I feel like I have so much more yet to learn. To put specific numbers to where my Japanese is, I know maybe 400-500 kanji right now. The amount that a Japanese high school graduate knows is about 2000. Listening to Japanese is difficult for me too. Frequently I have to ask people to repeat things or to slow down. No matter how hard it may be, though, I’m committed to this place. I want to learn the language. I want to hit my limit each day. I can only get better from here, right?

After the first couple weeks, things have died down a bit. The welcome parties are over, classes start. People have things to do, jobs and obligations to attend to. You start to lose your rockstar/new-kid-on-the-block appeal as people get used to you. And you get used to the new world around you. People don’t help you through the metro system anymore, because you’re used to it. I’m getting used to it. I miss the novelty a bit, but this is what I want, because when you get used to something, that means you’re getting closer to it. Day after day, I wake up in my Japanese bed in my Japanese room, and look out the window to see the cherry blossom tree outside my window. (By the way, how awesome is that?! I got a freaking cherry blossom tree out my window!! How much closer to Japan can you get?) I go down and eat my usually Japanese breakfast, and go about my day. I’m getting used to this. I can’t believe it. Just a couple months ago, I couldn’t have fathomed this. And yet now, I feel like I’m slowly starting to take it all for granted. Like this is normal.

I actually had a nightmare last night. I dreamed that I was being sent back to the US because of some strong winds here. (Yeah I know. It was a dream.) I felt terrible inside the dream. But in the morning, I woke up to the morning light streaming in through the window curtains, the cherry blossom tree outside reassuring me, I’m still here. I’m here.

I think often we forget how not just how much we have, but also how easily things can be taken away from us. After last year, I determined that I wouldn’t take a single day for granted here. I want to receive and live every day with delight and gratitude, because this new normal is such an incredible gift.


About Stephen Gabriel Falke

Stephen Gabriel Falke is passionate about loving Jesus and loving Japanese! He grew up in Virginia, America, and first visited Japan in 2007. He then studied abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo for a year in 2012. He also participated in the JET Program as an ALT from 2015-2017. He currently works as an English teacher at Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Secondary School in Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan.
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4 Responses to The New Normal

  1. Suzi Grady says:

    It’s great to hear from you and I’m so thankful you have this opportunity. I have to say that I associate Cherry Blossums with D.C., though! 🙂

    • Stephen says:

      Lol it’s actually kinda funny, cuz I never got the chance to go to the Cherry Blossom festival in D.C. They were given to us by the Japanese though.

  2. Ian says:

    wow, man. Praise God. Awesome stuff. So glad to hear it’s everything you hoped it would be. It doesn’t get much better than dreams realized. BTW, the main verse from the sermon attached to your testimony: Hebrews 13:5b- “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” boss.

  3. Michael B says:

    You know, I’ve tried so often to explain to people how it is different to live in a place than it is to go on vacation. It seems like you understand though. When you live in a place, you get past the honeymoon period and it is normal. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of the love you felt and feel. Remind yourself of why you believe God has you in that place and with those people.

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