Tagged: Crossing Mountains

Crossing Mountains: Surviving the Holidays

Crossing Mountains

Crossing Mountains serves to create a community and discussion between people who have moved from their homes and seek advice on how to cope with everyday and major hurdles they may face.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit down.  The holidays are probably somewhat at fault; Thanksgiving just passed and with December beginning, Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s will all come and go with more missed family gatherings.  Other reasons may be that I’m on that downwards slope on that culture shock chart  because of little frustrations that have been building up after a while.

This Thanksgiving was the first family get together I’ve ever missed.  I was lucky enough to have gone to college 30 minutes from my hometown, so I was always able to go home and spend time with my family during the holidays and in between.  My dad sent me a video of my family members saying hello to me and which made me happy and sad at the same time.  I wanted to be there with them, eating turkey, and playing with my cousins.  I felt bad, for not being there.  I felt bad for taking our previous family gatherings for granted.  I sometimes thought: I wish we had a bigger family so our gatherings wouldn’t be as quiet or I wish we did this and that… Why didn’t I just completely enjoy our gatherings for that they were?  Don’t get me wrong, I always loved being with my family, but those thoughts were in the back of my mind.  Now that I’m not with them, I want to go back to those quiet family gatherings.  It was tough, not having Thanksgiving, but it did open my eyes to some things I need to change about my thoughts.  I won’t ever take my family gatherings for granted ever again.  Everyone’s families are different.  Each family has something special.  I didn’t cope with a Thanksgiving by myself very well (I sat under my kotatsu and watched dramas), but I’m glad that I learned to be more appreciative of my family.

I’ve also been feeling exhausted lately.  I’m not sure why… maybe I’m getting burned out from work or from just living in another country, but I’m about ready to go on a vacation and rest.  I have three more weeks until winter vacation, so I need to finish these weeks off strong.  I’m excited for my trip to Seoul.  My vacation means food, shopping, kpop, and more food.  I miss Seoul and I can’t wait to go back.  Then after I get back, Mark will arrive in Japan on the first day of the new year!  What a great way to start 2014.  I can’t wait to show him around and be able to go back to how it was before I left (lots of cutesy barf worthy moments, eating new food, cooking together, walking around together, and the list goes on and on), but experiencing it in another country.

But the thought of having to go through three big events without my family by my side, celebrating without me, is something I will have to be strong and push through.  I’m glad that I will be spending Christmas and my birthday with some friends in an awesome city, but it still doesn’t compare to opening presents with your family.  I will also be doing the countdown by myself… Oh well, I will celebrate Mallory-style (lots of dessert and dancing around)!  Actually that would be a great time to Skype with my parents.  Bring in the New Year with them.

Let’s hear from you!  A lot of you have gone through more holidays away from your families than I have, I would love to hear how you deal with these times:  How do you cope when you’re thousands of miles away from your loved ones during the holidays?  How do you find energy and motivation to keep going when you’re culturally fatigued?

Previously on Crossing Mountains: Loneliness // Language Barriers


Crossing Mountains: Language Barriers

Crossing Mountains - Language Barrier

Welcome to the second chapter of Crossing Mountains!  I was so humbled and surprised by all the comments and support that people were giving in my first post.  I was so excited to see people participating, giving their insights on how to overcome loneliness.  My goal is to create a community of people who are able to help those who are finding it difficult to handle certain hurdles they face in their new homes.  It’s always a great feeling to know that there are people you can go to when you’re in need and I would love for everyone to find someone they can turn to.

This week, I wanted to keep the topic a little lighter.  I’m bringing up something I encounter for about 90% of my day: the language barrier.  Even if you’re in a country that speaks the same language as you do, there are still differences because of slang and accents.  I only took Japanese for a year and three months during university, about three years ago.  You can probably imagine how much I learned and how much I retained, which is not very much.  I can only make simple sentences and my vocabulary, is probably on the same level as a kindergartener’s.  There are times when I’m too tired or don’t have the motivation to study, once I get home from work.  Most of my studying ends up being done during my breaks at work.  There are times I feel unmotivated to continue studying because I’m not sure if I’m progressing or what I’m learning will ever get to the level I would like it to be at.  I know with that attitude, I’m DEFINITELY not going to get anywhere.  I need to be focus and keep pushing myself, because I am improving and my co-workers are so happy to see me trying to speak their language.

Most of my day consists of attempting to figure out what everyone is saying.  I usually say yes to any question that someone asks me.  I feel like one day that will bite me in the butt, but I won’t know what I’m saying yes to, so I guess that’s a plus…?  Sometimes I wish that I’ll wake up one day and I’ll understand everything that people are saying around me, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that.  My first week here, when I was even more clueless than I am right now, I went to a bakery and the cashier started asking me something.  I looked at him with round eyes and a blank stare and slowly shook my head ‘no.’  I then realized later that he was asking if I wanted a stamp card…  Sometimes I feel like people are asking me for the answers to life’s biggest questions, when in reality, they’re only asking me if I want a stamp card.  Note to self:  no one will ever ask you for answers to life’s biggest questions here.

Now let’s talk about your story!  If you have any experiences in overcoming language barriers or have any silly stories you want to share, please do!  Other expats and I would love to hear your stories and receive any advice.

What have you done to overcome a language barrier?  Do you have any tips on how to become a better language learner?  Do you have any funny miscommunication stories to tell?


If you’ve written a post about language barriers, feel free to link it in the comments!  We’ll be more than happy to read posts that will help us combat this obstacle.

Crossing Mountains serves to create a community and discussion between people who have moved from their homes and seek advice on how to cope with everyday and major hurdles they may face.  If you have any suggestions on what topics to discuss, feel free to let me know in the comments or email me.

Previously on Crossing Mountains: Loneliness

Crossing Mountains: Loneliness

Crossing Mountains

Honestly, I had a tough weekend.  This was the loneliest I’ve felt since I got here and I didn’t have very many people to turn to.  Mark doesn’t have internet at the moment, so I haven’t been able to talk to him very much and people here?  Well… I’ll mention that soon.  This lonely weekend got me thinking though.  There is a great group of expats out there on the web and why not reach out to them somehow?  I’m not close with many bloggers, so I feel hesitant to contact anyone.  That’s when I came up with this new project: Crossing Mountains.

At first I was thinking about naming this post: Expat Problems, but then I though, “You know what, that sounds like a ‘complaining post,’ and I definitely don’t want that.”  This bump is something I know will seize and overcome.  I see this more as a hurdle, than a problem.  The next thing I thought about was that maybe, this could turn into a monthly thing; I post about something difficult that as an expat, we have to deal with at times.  I know there are a ton of expats out there who seek advice on how to conquer these hurdles.  I know I’m always looking for a community to help me get through these tough times and that’s what I would like to build here.  This new project is not for me to give advice (personally, I think I’m terrible at that), but to seek advice and to spread this help, support, and encouragement to other expats.  This doesn’t just have to be for expats, because moving to any place away from your home is tough.  This is open to anyone who has ever had to move away from home, be it for college that’s an hour away from home or for a job that’s half way across the world.  We all have those lonely moments, those tough times when we don’t know what to do.

This weekend, I’ve felt exceptionally lonely.  I love living in Japan, I love my job, I love my co-workers and students, but sometimes, it’s can be extremely lonely.  I’m living in a town that has only one other English teacher living here.  There are a ton of other English teachers in the program living in my prefecture though.  I’ve gone to some of the get togethers they have, but I’m having a hard time making a connection with anyone.  I don’t know if it’s because we have different interests or because they’ve all known each other for a long time, but I feel invisible when I’m with them.  Sometimes, I barely say anything because I honestly don’t know what they’re talking about.  I’m also not an outgoing person, so I can get lost in large groups.  Even when I meet people at these get togethers, I still feel like I don’t know anyone.  The furthest we’ve gone is to introduce ourselves.  So right now, at this point in time, I can say that I have three friends.  People that I could text and be like, “Hey!  Want to get dinner?”  That’s about it, but they also have their own lives.  I know it’s going to take time for me to get to know people and become closer with them.

I would also love to have friends in my host country, but it’s extremely hard when you barely know their language.  I would love to be able to talk with them, but I have a lot more studying to do.  Sometimes, the amount that I need to learn is so overwhelming that I feel discouraged to continue.  It feels like what I’m studying isn’t being put to use.  But there are moments when I realize, “Hey, you really are learning a new word everyday.  Every time you try and talk to someone is good practice for you.”  I’m proud of myself every time someone can understand the point I’m trying to make, which gives me that extra boost to keep on going.  Language barrier will definitely have to be an upcoming topic, since it’s a huge one for me and I’m sure for many other people.

I hope that you’ll be able to join in the discussion below, help myself and others feel more comfortable and at home in their new country/place, and meet a friend or two.  I would love for a community of positivity and support to develop and that people will have a blog friend they can turn to when they’re feeling down about being an expat.

Let us know your story.  Have you ever felt so lonely that you didn’t know what to do?  What did you do to overcome it?  Do you have any advice for expats feeling lonely?

If you’ve written a post about feeling lonely or advice on how to combat loneliness, feel free to link it in the comments!  We’ll be more than happy to read posts that will help us combat these obstacles.

Crossing Mountains serves to create a community and discussion between people who have moved from their homes and seek advice on how to cope with everyday and major hurdles they may face.  If you have any suggestions on what topics to discuss, feel free to let me know in the comments or email me.