Friday, October 03, 2008

Six seasons in Kyoto

I have some big news. Really big news. News that may or may not surprise you, depending on how well you know me.

I'm moving back to Japan. This time I'll be living in Kyoto, one of the loveliest cities in the world.

This may seem sudden and unexpected. It is and it isn't.

Back in the winter, I applied for a Japanese Government research scholarship to study at Kyoto University's graduate school of environmental studies.

The scholarship is for 18 months and includes six months of intensive Japanese language training. It is a fully paid scholarship (flight, accommodation, tuition fees, exam fees -- all of it is on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' tab). It also includes a generous monthly stipend.

When I applied for the scholarship back in February, I had to submit a research proposal, a thesis, writing samples, university transcripts, reference letters, a certificate of health and a 10-page application form. In typical Japanese fashion, there were lots and lots of hoops to jump through. But I put my head down and got it all done.

Two months later, I was invited to the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver for an interview, followed by a 2-hour Japanese language exam. The interview was tough. I was nervous. I spoke quickly. I answered questions without taking the time to think them through.

When they asked me when I first became interested in Japan, I talked about the Karate Kid.

When they asked me about the difficulties I faced when I lived in Japan, I talked about the cockroaches in my apartment.

I thought I had failed spectacularly.

So when the Consulate contacted me in August and said I had won the scholarship and had been accepted at Kyoto University, no one was more surprised than I was. I said yes right away. Getting paid to go to school in a country I love seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

I suppose that's why everyone keeps asking me if I am excited. I tell them yes, because I am, but the truth is more complicated. Am I excited? Yes and no. Had you asked me three months ago, I would have said yes, absolutely. Full stop.

But now my excitement is dampened by the fact that I recently started dating someone I really like.

It's not easy to pull up and leave just when I've met someone great. He makes me laugh. He makes me happy. He makes me want to stay.

So while I'm excited to go, I'm also a little sad.

I leave on Sunday.

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