Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Looking Back

With my thesis finished (juuuust barely in time) and handed in, and graduation looming ahead in March, I have to figure out what I am doing next. But before that, I wanted to jump on the decade-look-back bandwagon that has been making the rounds on blogs... Here goes...

2000 - First year at the University of Toronto after a year at UNBC and a year on exchange in Japan, so really not a first year student. Lived in a boarding house with a crack addict, a couple of crazies and a few more recluses, a girl who gave up waitressing and bought herself 50 sheep and went back home to the farm, and a wacky and loveable Irish girl. Moved out of the boarding house. Spent the summer in the Canadian Rockies working in Jasper. Began dating a great British guy two heads shorter than me. Began second year at U of T. Moved into an apartment with a nice-seeming girl who gradually got more and more depressed over her job. Learned to start closing my bedroom door and not making annnny noise at all. Broke up with British bloke after one too many once-weekly trans-Atlantic phone calls from him on his way home from the pub after more than a few pints.

2001 - Roommate got better when she got a new job, but then worse again when she was fired at the end of the initial trial period for "no reason." Worked in Jasper for a second summer. Bought a kayak. Dated a co-worker with a very sexy French accent. Began third year at U of T. Was president of the East Asian Studies Department's student union. Began planning grad school.

2002 - Having finished all my courses at Christmas so instead of school for the second term I spent a month travelling around Japan where I was in the middle of nowhere when I phoned home to my dad and discovered that I had been offered a scholarship to Harvard (was the last one in my family to find this out). Went to the UK with my dad. Finally made it to France! Graduated from U of T . Spent my third summer working in Jasper. Dated a very cute co-worker. Started my MA at Harvard. Lived in a BEAUTIFUL studio apartment right on campus. Volunteered to help organize a grad student conference.

2003 - Got laughed at for handing in all my papers on time. Held the conference. Learned how to ask for an extension on papers. Spent the summer in Yokohama at a Japanese language summer program. Started dating one of the other students. Spent a week in the Canadian Rockies doing thesis research. Began a Philly-Boston long distance weekend relationship. Took a boy home for Christmas for the first time.

2004 - Managed to just barely satisfy the page requirements on my thesis. Graduated from Harvard. Was unable to actually hear Kofi Annan speak at the graduation ceremonies. Surprised my family, friends, and professors by announcing I wasn't going into the PhD program, but was instead taking a year off to go to India. Went to India where in addition to my volunteer work I learned to tie a sari, watched a snake have its brains bashed out, was infected with a love of Bollywood movies... Spent my first Christmas away from my family, surrounded by my Guiding family and my (ex) boyfriend.

2005 - Finished up my 10 months at the Guiding centre in India, then spent 6 weeks travelling around India - the experience of a lifetime. Stopped in the UK on my way back, visiting friends and hitting up two more Guiding centres in London and Switzerland. Was a passenger as my (ex) boyfriend drove us (and all my stuff) from New Jersey to Boston to Toronto to Prince George and then back again through the US. A trip that took up most of the summer and saw me behind the wheel for about two hours through the Rockies! Moved to Japan and started working at the museum. Got a job working for Bing Bang Boom Club that then went bust leaving me to submit piles and piles of paperwork to get a portion of my owed wages.

2006 - My working holiday visa running out I made the decision I wanted to stay in Japan and with the support of the director of the museum applied for the governmental scholarship. Moved to the hicks of Chiba and began working as an English teacher for a cram school. Refused to give up my dream and "return to the US" to be with my ex, so he became my ex. Was lonely and unhappy in the hicks of Chiba (sorta has a ring to it, doesn't it?)

2007 - Was awarded a Japanese government scholarship to study Museum Studies in Japan. Quit teaching English and left the hicks of Chiba. Moved back to Tokyo and into a dump of a foreign student dorm in a lovely neighbourhood. Took the entrance exam to actually become a full student and go after a second master's degree. Went drinking with my professor at least once a week, it didn't take the master-san of our regular watering hole to remember my beverage of choice - umeshu with soda.

2008 - Entered my university formally. Began TAing a hands-on 4th year course for the curatorial certificate. Started thinking about the thesis. Decided I needed to move out of the dorm. Told a good friend I liked him. Spent the summer travelling about Japan - Girl Scout event in Nara, Girl Scout camp in Ishikawa, museum internship in Nagano. Began looking for a new apartment and loved the first place I looked at. Moved. Had my "friend" completely cut me off without any explanation or contact.

2009 - Second year of the MA program. Began thinking about buckling down on the thesis. Had a brief pseudo chance of something with a American navy guy. Met U. Went to Germany where I ate lots of good food and went to many museums. Actually began working on the thesis instead of just talking about working on it. Spent my second Christmas away from my family and first in Japan. Had a bad Christmas dinner and no holiday due to the thesis, but things were looking up by New Years (more to come on that...)


  1. very interesting! am impressed with all your studies! good luck with your thesis!

  2. Thanks Illahee! It feels really good to be done with the thesis. Really good!!

  3. Sarah, this is my first time commenting but I having been enjoying your journey for a few months now, courtesy of google reader!!

    It is interesting to see how different our lives have been over the 10 years. You really did manage to fit lots of travel and study in!! Congrats on handing in your thesis, is this the end of study or will that continue into the new decade?

    I'm really interested in your association with the guides. I was one back home but never thought about joining here. Actually I wonder if it even exists here in 'hickville'!!

    Hope you don't mind me popping by every now and then.

  4. Wow, reading your 10 years has given me itchy feet! Although apart from trips home I don't see much wandering the planet in my next decade.

    Christmas in Japan is always a bit hit or miss, isn't it? Christmas 2008 was particularly awful, I spent the day alone in my tiny apartment stuffing and drinking myself silly to cope ;) I hope that you have a better one this year!

  5. Achan - thanks for dropping by and for leaving a comment too! Feel free to come back any time!

    Once I started it looking back the past decade was pretty interesting. It has been busy, but that is the way I like things. As for the next ten years... who knows. I don't have any plans to do any more studying in the immediate future, but I can see myself wanting to do a PhD at some point (although preferably in English, because writing my thesis in Japanese was... a great experience but really really tough at the same time!).

    As for Guiding - it has been such an important part of my life (more so as an adult actually). I've had some AMAZING Girl Scout experiences here. If you're interested in it I'd really REALLY encourage you to look into troops in your area. Girl Scouts isn't as big in Japan as it is in Canada or the US, but it does exist, and hs some very dedicated and wonderful women. This year is the 90th anniversary and there are lots of fun things planned (I was on one of the planning committees for a while until school took over).

  6. Umebossy - writing about the past 10 years has given me itchy feet too! Besides travelling around Japan, and the short trip to Berlin I don't feel like I've travelled much over the past couple of years... But over the next year I hope to get to some more of Asia as I have friends offering me free lodging...!

    This was my first Christmas in Japan and it was just a combination of a number of bad things - I was just getting over a bad case of something and U was just coming down with it, I was stressed over the thesis, and having to spend most of the day alone and studying just put me in a foul mood. The dinner itself being a bust (the restaurant was not nearly as good as I had been hopin) made everything worse. Sigh. But U is really really excited about spending Christmas in Canada this year, so hopefully that'll happen and I'll be able to make my own turkey and show him what a Christmas dinner can be like.

  7. Great synopsis of your twenties - you have done so much and learned so much and grown so much. I would have added that you learned how to drive a boat for your job in Jasper - still something I am amazed by! May your next decade continue to be full of good health, good food and good friends, rewarding work, enduring love, and fun travels and adventures!
    love and hugs, Cath

  8. Cath - Well the decade has started off with fun travels and good food. Here's to more of the same!

  9. I've been to Chiba! One of the cities we went to with my choir back in '97. Don't remember much about it, except maybe a mall. And that I think it's Vancouver's sister city.

  10. Coletters - That'd be Chiba City which isn't all that bad. Unfortunately I was about an hour from Chiba City by train in the hicks of Chiba Prefecture... a whole different ball game!

  11. Congratulations on finishing your thesis! I'm sure it was very trying but I know that you've always been able to find a way not only to get things done but also get them done well. It was interesting reading about myself in your decade-long summary, too! I hope U really appreciates every minute he has with you.

    -Becoming Canadian
    From Toronto

  12. Becoming Canadian - Thank you for what you said, but also for commenting. It means a lot to hear from you!