Sunday, January 20, 2008

In a rut and feeling bored

My life in Vegas is definitely in a rut. I go to work, come home and work on my lesson plans for several hours, read a few of my favorite blogs or latest news, fix dinner with J., watch a little TV, write some email, and go to bed. So, what's the big deal? What seems so different from my life in Tokyo where I did almost the same thing, with the exception of fixing dinner with J. and watching a little TV?

I've been mulling that over for quite a while now, and still don't know for sure what the difference is. All I seem to come up with are a couple of things. The first is that in Tokyo I taught many more lessons a day than I'm teaching now, and there was so much more interaction with students and other teachers. In our tiny teachers' room (about 4 feet by 12 feet and filled with lockers, bookcases, 2 miniature tables and stools, and 2 very small sofas) usually anywhere from 5 to 20 teachers were climbing over each other to get to their lockers, books, or fridge and catching up on the latest gossip or discussing politics, books, students, restaurants, travels, expiring visas, Japanese bureaucracy, and a million other subjects. It was amazing how much could be discussed during those meager 5-minute breaks. I miss all that chatter and laughter. 

No topic seemed taboo, which may or may not have been such a good thing. Nevertheless, with so many personalities, there was always something interesting going on and I usually went home chuckling to myself about something funny that had happened at work that day.

Not so much in Vegas. Even though we now have 5 teachers (all women), we have very little interaction. Usually the teachers just stay in their classrooms during their breaks or make a quick dash to another building to use the restroom (yeah, it's a bummer that we don't even have a restroom in our building) or have a smoke.

Another strange thing is that, while so many people come to Vegas because it's "such an exciting place," I find it all very boring. I mean, after you've hit the strip, done a little gambling, seen a few shows, the "real" life here is just about making it from one day to the next--putting up with the rude people, horrible traffic and even worse drivers.

Rant alert. This is just one of the many things I see almost every day: Picture 3 lanes of traffic in one direction, I'm driving in the far left lane, a school bus is in the right lane. The school bus puts on its flashing lights, extends its "stop" sign and stops. I stop in the far left lane (as is required by law) and suddenly this car in the middle lane blows past me--and the school bus--doing at least 50 mph! But wait, there's more! By the time I approach a very busy intersection up ahead, where the light has just changed to green, I see the same car that had just blown past me in the MIDDLE lane cut another car off at the intersection to pull a RIGHT TURN right in front of the car that was just starting to accelerate from the green light! Fortunately, the driver in the right lane hit his brakes in time to avoid hitting the car. This is the way people drive in Vegas! End of rant.

So, aside from trying to stay alive while driving, another realization about the rut of living here is that this city sucks. There are no interesting or quaint streets to meander through on foot. There are no tiny bakeries where you can catch a whiff of something wonderful baking, no chocolate shops, no corner flower vendors, no cute, hole-in-the-wall places to explore, no sidewalk cafes, no open-air markets filled with today's fresh produce, no independent bookstores to wander through, no cute park benches from which to people watch while eating a freshly-baked croissant and sipping coffee, no street vendors selling quick and inexpensive yet delicious and nutritious meals for office workers. Everything here requires a car (which my international students complain about) and miles of driving down seven-lane-wide boulevards to go to large chain-stores located in even larger strip malls that all look alike and include at least one fast-food franchise. This is the heartless, soulless look of modern America in a so-called modern city. What an empty, empty place. 

I think living in such a place is an assault on the senses and can easily make one jaded and bitter. I already see it happening to me and I don't like it. In just a few short months, work has become drudgery, and I think it's because there aren't the things here that can smooth the rough edges off life, like those things I mentioned above. It's those little, seemingly meaningless, things that soothe and enrich our lives.

Even though I have the wonderful and often hysterically funny companionship of J&T, two adorable cats to get my critter-fix, a lovely home in which to live, my own flat-screen TV (a very generous Christmas gift from J&T), I feel a longing for a city that offers much, much more to stimulate the mind and nourish the soul.