Books and Reading as a (likely) Temporary Expat

Hi, readers. This is more of a diary entry than the normal “We did this” so feel free to skip it should you wish to. Although, it does come with embedded links to things I recommend, so there’s that to look forward to as well.

* * *

Living in another country has its perks but one of them isn’t having to keep your physical possessions small and easily transportable, just in case you end up wanting to move. Because of that, you miss out on some lovely things that would have been a regular part of your life on your native soil. What I was missing was reading an actual physical book (not an e-book; a real, paperback book).

To give some sort of context, here is what led to this overwhelming feeling: I commute to work and, during the times when I was not exactly happy to be going to work (this is because I had picked up a teaching position in the middle of the school year with absolutely no information on what the students had been learning, a fractured curriculum, and students that thought of me as temporary and treated me as such), I would dread the the train ride and subsequent walks to my schools because all I would be able to do was think and had nothing positive to think about. I then began listening to podcasts (started off with Radiolab but then grew to include This American Life, Reply All, Fresh Air, Love + Radio, Two Dope Queens, and a short-lived time listening to Science Fridays); that helped such a huge amount! I was able to look forward to listening to my podcasts, and forget that I was commuting.

After a several months of listening to podcasts, there comes moments during which you can’t connect to the internet or you have run out of unheard episodes, which leaves you in this blank space your mind is then happy to fill with negative thoughts (should you have anything to be negative about, of course). During a period of time filled with those sorts of moments, I found that I had also accidentally signed up for a free amazon prime account trial which then led me to a free audible account trial. So, to make the most of it, I got The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which had been recommended to me but I had never managed to read it. This audible gift/purchase extinguished the need for podcasts (sorry, podcasts!) because it overcame all of the technical and timing issues, while also giving me an ongoing story with which I could fall in love.

After Kavalier and Clay, I had found I dreaded the commute much less and work had improved, but nonetheless I moved onto a long Haruki Murakami book, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (which was fantastic) and am now on a reading of Ready Player One, performed by Wil Wheaton. These audiobooks have become such a nice thing to have around, especially in the summer heat since my phone doesn’t generate as much heat as my computer (which is also constantly getting on my nerves due to tons of reoccurring technical issues). But, being engrossed in the story has led me to want to listen to these books constantly, which goes against their purpose and existence in my life. It also brought out a need for something that our stay in Japan doesn’t totally allow: books. But not just books, really; when you’re living abroad you need to cut out as much non-compacted anything from your life, except in the case of food or other temporary items. So, no board games, no books, no tv or gaming systems, no unnecessary sports equipment, and not much that can’t be bought super cheap assuring no guilt when it’s left behind if we move. We only have  a few comics I brought with me and forgot to bring back on my California visit.

But I still had this aching need. Every time I would find myself listening to Wil Wheaton talking about the intricacies of a cyber world, I thought to myself how this wouldn’t be an issue if it was just a book. Then I started day dreaming about reading, one of the expats’ forbidden fruit (depending on the individual, of course). Finally, last night, I just caved and bought a used, super cheap, mass-production copy of the Sci-Fi classic, Ringworld. I haven’t received it yet, since it was purchased online, but I am super excited to have a form of entertainment that doesn’t include any heat source! Because in the middle of 90ºF weather, who really cares if I don’t end up liking the book; it doesn’t need to be plugged in!

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6 Responses to Books and Reading as a (likely) Temporary Expat

  1. deb92024 says:

    Loved this (and love you too!)


  2. Leda says:

    Wow! I figured I’d recommend a library with English language books, but then I googled it, and it’s UNBELIEVABLY hard to find a lending library in Tokyo! It was pretty interesting to read about the foreign language holdings the libraries have, and the complicated process of completing a request for a book, but then they tell you it’s all just for reference or for reading there. Even the novels! I feel your pain!
    Live, Leda


  3. Leda says:

    Er, LOVE, Leda


    • owegami says:

      Yeah, I haven’t even seen a library since coming here and many bookstores lack an english section that strays from instruction books for learning English. But, thankfully, the internet provides.


  4. Robert Gildfarb says:

    I can feel your need to hug a book. I love going to the library and hurrying home with books that have weight of all sorts. As a soldier–you were your own moving van–I carried a paperback. Except when “From Here to Eternity” came out only in hard cover. It was worth the weight, pun intended. You write wonderfull and one of these days I hope to buy one of your books in hard cover. Popop


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