Letter from Nanaimo – Jess


View from my porch

Dear Bob,

You gave me some post-Japan interview questions and I did it in one go! Thanks for asking.

How does it feel to be back on the Island?

I feel better than ever about being – and staying in the foreseeable future – in Nanaimo. I love and care for this place, and I think that’s due in part to being at a time where I need to make some commitments to find sustainable meaning (the tricky minx). And being lucky enough to have had experiences and formed relationships that made me want to come back each time, because Nanaimo’s just pretty great on its own. I’m still constantly discovering stuff. As for the Island, as soon as I got back I bought a big detailed wall map and realized I’ve got a lifetime of exploring to do way closer to home.

What did you learn from your work in Japan?

That a connection with a person transcends language and culture. Some of the people I felt the closest to were the lowest English level. There’s a few that after just one lesson of barely speaking English – and certainly not the English they would speak if they could – I felt like I knew them, and those are the ones I am still in contact with. It’s one of the most mysterious things! Sometimes I think language obfuscates the connection. I came away much less skeptical of low-verbal relationships – as long as you can be with them.

What are your career plans now?

Philosophy (and all the “interesting” yet low-paying jobs you’ve led me to), it’s been a slice, but it’s time to get fiscally responsible,  so I’m gonna do the electrical apprenticeship program at VIU and I’ve been working p/t under my electrician in the meantime. I also start an evening front desk job at the Coast today! I’M IN A UNION!!

What cultural differences did you notice?

The big differences I noticed all related to community and harmony. Like the concepts of one’s true feelings (honne) and the façade one keeps in order to preserve harmony (tatemae) being so ubiquitous. I think every culture experiences this to some extent, but in Japan people seem to at once do it, know everyone else is doing it, and are annoyed by it. It’s sort of funny to them, like, “Oh well, that’s Japan”  It was stressful for me though, not knowing or being told.

That and (keeping in mind that it’s a countryside town), the sense of trust and safety. People would leave their bikes unlocked, my school would leave the door unlocked, you can walk anywhere at any hour, and just the feeling like everyone wants to get along.

What was the effect of living in a place where you had language difficulties?

I never found it difficult or even frustrating; only amusing. Most know at least enough to get across basic communication, or we use Google translate (the downside of that being you don’t learn much Japanese by necessity), or I had my fluent-English speaking bosses on call.  I relished in each and every language misadventure.  I’m used to feeling like the odd one anyway so it was almost a relief for it to be chalked up to my western-ness and nothing more!

What are you going to do when you grow up?

Ha ha, very funny. I have two plans for the future: one, become an electrician/wirer of tiny homes, build and wire my own tiny home, move onto the property on Gabriola my good friend bought for the intention of having a tiny home community (we need people to join us or to park there in the meantime, so inquire within/pass along), live in communal self-sufficient bliss writing, wiring, and prepping for doomsday. Second, be with the one I love doing whatever follows. I am hoping they are not mutually exclusive, but I’m flexible.

3 thoughts on “Letter from Nanaimo – Jess

  1. Regular readers (460) will recall that Jess wrote a series of letters for us from Japan while she was “on assignment” there. Those letters are collected here and are worth a read or a re-read!
    She is a talented young woman philosophy grad from VIU – and it is good to have her back on the Island. Perhaps she will write a weekly post for us again!


  2. “I came away much less skeptical of low-verbal relationships – as long as you can be with them.” This does describe a mystery. Can you expand? Non-verbal communication? Feeling?


  3. Plans for post “grown-up” days are fascinating!
    Bob was a construction worker – you will end up teaching philosophy!


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