The last line of defense in the face of an epidemic: teaching English. A candle in the darkness. A bastion of hope. Everything else may have closed, but my company refused to. I stepped through a dark, abandoned mall to make it to work. It was eerie, but people were truly counting on me in these difficult times. The only other place with their lights on was the supermarket.
In April, Japan extended it’s state of emergency from the hard-hit prefectures to the entire country. Things out where I live slowly started to change. But there was never really any social distancing. Stores measured out and marked how far you’re supposed to stand from each other in line. That’s about it. People were and are still gathering just like before, though it’s quite rare to see people not wearing masks. More recently, everything around here began to close early. And some places have just been closed period. Of note, many of these places are restaurants, which has thrown a wrench in my regular schedule for grabbing lunch at work. This whole corona virus thing may have killed thousands of people and thrown economies into disarray, but now that it’s inconvenienced me, it has gone too far!
I hope everyone read that as a joke.
The number of cases in my prefecture have been at a standstill for weeks. And just yesterday, the government announced that it will be lifting the country-wide state of emergency, and maintaining it only in heavily affected areas. This means things will hopefully go back to normal around here very soon.
In other news, Golden Week, the week-long Japanese holiday, just went by at the beginning of May. Originally, I wanted to travel to Hokkaido, but with COVID-19 on the radar, I had to cancel. Instead I joined my friends on a surprise hiking expedition that was going to take “two hours” (it was actually closer to six), where we visited three temples in the mountains. The fresh mountain air and the scenery were fantastic. The temples were all unique and interesting. My feet hurt like never before. It was one of those snap decisions that will be memorable for a lifetime. It was a small reminder that no matter what happens, we can always use the time we have to do something worthwhile.
Then, the other day I found myself staring out of the employee break room window, at a magnificent view of lush distant mountains. I longed to be out there in the fresh air, adventuring. And that brought me back to my school days, staring out the window at a beautiful summer day while the teacher talked on, having the same feeling. Every now and again growing up, I would always look back and ask myself if I’d changed, but looking back now I feel like I’m still the same kid I always was: the one who brought a soccer ball out on the playground with the other kids during a snowstorm and slid around the field through the cold white fluff until the school bell called us back in; the mischievous child who, during class, used to take things from his friend’s pencil case, smother glue on them and throw them at the wall until they stuck; who skateboarded as fast as he could to school because he was always late; who was always training for and playing hockey, and ended up breaking his arm twice; who never did his homework, because homework is for chumps. Trying new things, longing for adventure, wanting to push myself, refusing to do things I disagree with. It’s as though all of these things have always been a part of me from the beginning. To me, I’m still the same little kid I always was. But now here I am: an “adult.” Someone who the kids now have to listen to. The more I think about it, the more I realize there were never actually any adults. There are just kids who got older.