Home > Japan, Trips > Some more catching up to do

Some more catching up to do

Thursday was my first day going to schools in Japan. Having arrived just Wednesday, I was quite nervous. I hadn’t settled in at all, and was just being carted off to class right away. Luckily, I only had to do introductions. I teach at four schools in Nakatsu city, Wada middle school, Okidai middle school, Jyosui middle school, and Miho middle school. The farthest from my apartment, Miho, will take me about 40 minutes to bike to, and the closest (Okidai) will probably take me about ten. Thursday, as it turns out, is Memorial day in Japan. Memorial day of the U.S. Dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima, that is. What a great day to be introduced as the new Assistant Language Teacher from America! Since I didn’t know the way to school yet, my supervisor Kusano-san was nice enough to drive me to them, showing me the way. He first took me to Wada, where they were in the middle of an assembly. Although it is summer vacation here in Japan, the children still come to school fairly often, doing random things Japanese school children do. Since the teachers are there year round, vacation is never really vacation at school. As I entered the assembly, everyone started clapping. If I wasn’t nervous enough already, that sealed the deal. I gave a little speech about where I was from (jikoshyoukai – self introduction) and all the kids yelled, in unison: “Harro Mista Dashie—ru” They didn’t get it quite right the first time, so the Principal made them do it again. I didn’t get to meet the students at any of the other schools, but I did meet a number of the teachers, whose names I immediately forgot after they told me. I’m bad enough with American names as it is, Japanese names are about ten times worse for me, because I have no reference with which to remember them. I can’t use a bridge because I have no idea what the names mean. I really wish everyone in Japan was just called “Tanaka” or “Toyota.”

After my self introductions at school, Kusano-san took me to get a bike! He took me to the municipal recycle station, where apparently they were working on repairing a bicycle I could use, for free. It wasn’t ready, but I would get it later in the day. It’s tiny, squeeky, old, but mine! Once I get paid (21st of every month) I will probably buy a new one, because I don’t think my behind can handle many more bumps on this bike. Also, I look more like a freak than I already do in this country riding it. The rest of the day was taken up by Natalie and I getting a bank account, and cell phones. We got the most basic cell phones possible in Japan. In fact, they are not even made in Japan, they are Korean, which means that they don’t have any of the cool stuff most Japanese phones have. I think I will be upgrading my phone once I get a little more settled in. There was a phone I could buy for $300-ish that had a (wait for it…) 10 Mega pixel camera. How many mega pixels does your actual digital camera have?! Mine has 7.2. The sales woman seemed truly miffed that we wanted these cheap phones, and she at one point asked my supervisor whether he was sure we didn’t want to be able to find our house on our phones. It’s quite an experience. At the moment, we are paying about 3,800 yen for the monthly plan, but it includes pretty much only calling and e-mail. Once my finances are in order I might just get everything humanly possible. I might pay $80-$100 for it, but you just can’t beat internet, GPS and digital TV on your PHONE!

Friday was my first actual day of work. My official workday starts at 8:10, and not knowing entirely how long it would take to bike, I left at 7:30 AM. I arrived at around 7:50 AM and the janitor was outside sweeping. He gave me a funny look, and after I introduced myself told me that there was no one there yet, but I was welcome to come inside. Even Japanese people get fairly lax during the summer. A lot of people take vacation, and it’s generally pretty chill. I went in and met the Vice Principal, who seemed genuinely surprised to see me at school. I explained that my supervisor had told me to please go to school, so I did. He contemplated this for a bit, before saying: “Well, there really isn’t much of anything for you to do, it’s summer vacation. Please, use the computer at your desk and study.” I didn’t dare ask what the hell I should study, since I don’t have anything to actually study. For the next hour or so, I did my best keeping myself busy while all the other teachers came in. Every time a new one would come in, I’d stand up and introduce myself. Besides the introductions, however, no one talked to me. The Vice Principal left around 9:00 AM to go to a meeting, and I was left sitting at my desk, wondering if they would notice if I just ran away. I really did start to wonder what the hell I got myself into. Even with my decent Japanese, I was having a hard time coping with being in a Japanese school. However, at around 11:30 one of the teachers came over to me and gave me a little Omiyage from her trip to Osaka. It was some takoyaki sauce. This got us talking about my stay in Osaka three years ago, and the mood definitely seemed to lighten after that. I talked to a few of the other teachers, and then they invited me to go to lunch with them, where I had melon soda for the first time in three years. I was instantly back at the cafeteria in Kansai Gaidai. Oh how I have missed thee, ye green nectar of the Gods. I was at lunch with two female teachers, and one male teacher. They did a good job of keeping me in the conversations, but when they began talking to themselves I understood maybe 10% of it. I do have a lot to learn. Going up to pay, my male lunch companion gave the female teacher who was paying a 1,000 yen bill and said he was paying for himself and me. I objected, but it’s really a futile process. The problem was, our meals cost 650 yen, so he was really only paying for like two-thirds of my meal. After handing the money over he had walked out of the restaurant. The two female teachers were then left to pay the difference out of their pockets. The entire experience was really quite Japanese.

After lunch, I did some more work, writing up a bunch of games and such to use in class (which starts in September.) After a while, one of the teachers I went to lunch with came up to me and said: “Dashie-ru-san, let’s go drive.” I asked where we were going, but he just said: “Let’s go drive!” His English was not great at all, so I think he just didn’t know how to explain it to me. He and the other male teacher at the school took me along and showed me some of his favorite sights in the city. We went to the harbor where, when the tide is out, you can come and get tons of shellfish and shrimp. You can walk out nearly a mile before hitting the water, and there are clams and things all over the place! It’s totally free, and the only stipulation is that you don’t take too many. The “leave some for the rest of us” rule applies. He also showed me his favorite fishing spot, where he comes at times in the morning to fish. Apparently the sunrises are gorgeous from that spot on the harbor. The day started off pretty scary, with me wondering if I’d ever enjoy my life again, but it took a huge turn, and I ended up loving it. At night we met up with my predecessor Kevin and he showed us some of his favorite places in Nakatsu. We then checked out some bars, and met up with most of the rest of the foreign population in Nakatsu. There are three other JETs in Nakatsu besides Natalie and I, as well as some English teachers from another company called Keio, which is a cram school. It was nice seeing other English speakers after two days of doing my best to speak Japanese, and translate for Natalie. If every day is like this, I could get used to it!


Categories: Japan, Trips Tags: ,
  1. elise
    August 11, 2009 at 8:53 am

    i’m glad you’re beginning to get settled. do you really need all of that on your phone?!

    also the lunch payment thing makes me laugh…

    hope all is well!

  2. August 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Hi Dash,

    I really enjoyed reading this…made me lol 🙂 Sounds like a big culture shock but glad to hear your getting adjusted, your a natural in the classroom so I have complete faith in your ability. I forgot, are you there for 1 year or 6 months?

    Love the idea of biking to school everyday!

    Have a great time! Looking forward to pictures!


  3. Jessica
    August 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Can’t wait to follow your adventures li’l cuz. I laughed several times whole reading this. Keep the updates coming! Love, Jessica

  4. Tao, australia
    August 12, 2009 at 3:39 am

    that sounds wonderful what u’r up to, hope you will settle in and get used to their habits. should not be a problem with an open mind like u’rs. See ya

  5. Winnie
    August 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Dash u are too funny 🙂 Good thing u have curtains otherwise ur neighbors might speculate big foot just moved in and start taking pitures j/k Glad ur settled in and japan is treating u well 😀

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