I've lived in Japan for about 18 months in total, and I am a burden.

The temporary nature of this stay meant I decided not to invest in learning the language. It takes about that much time of full time study to reach conversational levels, meaning if I did, I would only be reaching the point where I could build meaningful relationships with people now. From the USA perspective, I'm the foreigner that doesn't speak English, and I am a burden.

I am courteous, clean, respectful, quiet, aware of the space around me, and I am a burden.

My terrible Japanese ability means I know only the basics: "no bag, please", "where is this train line", etc. While you may be surprised at how easily you can get buy on such minimal language ability, it is still a common occurrence that I don't understand something said to me. This burden is placed on the speaker: they must find some other way of communicating this information to me, perhaps with English, or hand signals. Given the amazing considerateness of Japanese culture, people will go to great lengths to get things across.

It was my decision to impose these burdens, and while my rationale still agrees with the choice, I often feel the weight that I am putting on others because of it.

I am a burden in other ways as well. Foreigners in Japan have a reputation: they are considered loud and inconsiderate, and at worst, violent and predatory. I've seen examples of all of them first hand while here, so its obvious why they are labeled that way. I look like those foreigners, and when I am sitting on the train, or walking home, I feel the burden I lay when people decide to stand instead of sitting next to me, when they decide to run to their door when I am walking down the same street at them.

Aside from a brief period, I have shed no tears over not belonging. I never had any illusion over how I would be seen here. What I have wanted most is simply not to be a burden, for others to feel safe and free around me.

Unfortunately, there is no plucky quip to end this - just the knowledge that life continues in spite of the circumstances for myself and those I burden, and the hope that in returning I am less of a burden to the society I am part of.