The days are long but the years (months) are short, so they say. Can you believe January 2021 is over? This post was supposed to have been published in late December but unfortunately, I have been having a writer’s block. Anyway, better late than never.
I write down my goals each year and 2021 is no different. This, of course, necessitated a reflection of the year 2020 and what a clusterf*ck of a year that was, huh? Not that 2021 will be any better but at least we are more prepared. Aren’t we?
Anyway, here is how 2020 went down for me.
Achievements in 2020
- I passed the AWS Solutions Architect (Associate) test in February and got certified. The cloud (and AI) is something I am really into.
- I took up running from around Feb and by June, I was able to run a (unofficial) half marathon.
- In September, I did the IELTS English Proficiency test and passed. Well, this really isn’t an achievement to brag about. I hate these English proficiency tests that we Africans are always subjected to but as an educated Kenyan, it would have been super embarrassing to get a low score.
- I made the decision to expand my family and made a baby, who is due March 2020.
- I traveled quite a bit (see further below)
Things I did not achieve
- One of my biggest goals of 2020 was to reunite with Jeremy, my 7 year old son currently living with my parents in Kenya. Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into my plans and we’ve had to endure a longer separation than I had hoped. This remains my top goal this year.
- Two publications: I had a goal of publishing my work. Sadly, my first paper got rejected and then coronavirus happened and I would say my productivity dipped a bit. But I don’t want to talk about my work on this blog. With my maternity leave starting in March, it seems like I won’t be publishing anything in 2021 as well. In research, it’s a game of publish or perish. (I hate the game, just saying.) I did submit a patent though, so all is not lost.
- I did not even get started on my goal of studying Japanese and sitting for the JLPT N1 as I lost all the enthusiasm I had for the language somewhere along the way. Life is like that sometimes.
- French? was a question on the list of goals for 2020, for which I have no answer.
- I did not read or write as much as I would have liked. I hope to improve that this year.
Places I traveled to in 2020
Looking back to last year, despite COVID-19, I did manage to get around quite a bit.
- 5 Days in Okinawa in July:
This trip happened after the initial lockdown in Japan was lifted. Suddenly, it seemed like everything was back to normal and in fact, the Japanese government was encouraging us to Go-To Travel. Other than the continuous use of masks in public, there was little else to indicate a pandemic was ongoing.
Initially, we had hoped to go to Okinawa during the Golden Week but that happened to be during the state of emergency. After six years of living in Japan, this happened to be my first (and perhaps only) chance to go to Okinawa.
This being our (my housemate and I) first time in Okinawa, we had to pay our visit to Naha, the main island, where we set up base. Our itinerary on the day after arrival included exploring the area around the American Village, North of Naha. It was easy to access it by bus. We walked around the near empty shops and in the afternoon, swam at the beach there.
On our morning there, we took a boat to Zamami Island where we stayed for one night at a friendly hostel. (Tip: do not take the fast boat (Queen Zamami), riding the waves wasn’t fun. Take the Ferry Zamami, a slower and more leisurely ride.) We had planned a hike to the Observatory Deck on top of the hill but it rained all afternoon. The rain finally stopped near twilight and we walked to Ama beach to see the turtles that frequent the beach. Unfortunately, they didn’t come that evening because of the rains and the water wasn’t too clear. We swam anyway.
On the fourth day in Okinawa, we finally had clear skies and we enjoyed the morning away at Furuzamami beach. We took the slow boat back to Naha in the late afternoon.
Day 5 in Okinawa was also a clear day. We had booked a snorkeling trip to the Blue Cave via Airbnb’s experiences. Swimming with the fishes was fun but I was grossed out touching them when we tried feeding them.
After the snorkeling, which barely lasted an hour, we went to a nearby beach to while away the afternoon and to catch the sunset as it was our last evening there.
2. Shizuoka in October
For a while, there were no more outings after coming back from Okinawa. The number of covid-19 cases was rising as more and more people heeded the Go-To-Travel campaign call. We were also becoming more conscious of our actions in spreading the event and were staying at home as much as possible. I personally, have been working from home since March 2020. Inevitably, cabin fever struck. By October, we could bear it no longer. We decided to avoid public transport, rent a car and enjoy a weekend away in a ryokan. At the ryokan, we had no interaction with other guests at all. (Unfortunately, we did have some interaction with the staff during checkin/checkout and when they served our meals.)
The drive to and from Nishiizu in Shizuoka was so nice, with lovely views of Mt. Fuji on the way. The views from the ryokan by the sea side were the best I’ve had from an onsen. We caught the sunset in the evening as we enjoyed the onsen, and enjoyed the sunlit ocean during the morning bath. 10/10 recommend. One thing I’ll definitely miss about Japan are the onsens.
3. Kenya in November
As mentioned in a previous blog post, the trip felt absolutely necessary for my mental health.
4. Takayama End of Year
The end of the year changed from sunsets to snowscapes. We again hired a car and drove to a ryokan to spend the last night of 2020 enjoying the onsen in snow. On the way back, we passed by Matsumoto Castle in Nagano.
Have a productive 2021! What do you hope to achieve this year? 2021 goals is going to be the theme of my next post. See you then.