What a whirlwind adventure thus far! The downside to all of the panic and sheer loneliness is that I want to go home. I have sunk into this funk that has made me rather depressed. In the States, I wasn’t so uncomfortable being around people I didn’t know. Now, not only do I not know the people, but I feel like a true outsider. I felt this keenly when, yesterday, the children were practicing for Sports Day. I was interested to see how this all went down so I slapped on my shoes and ventured outside. What makes me frustrated is that I’m noticing Japan has double standards. The day before the conversation went a little like this:
Me: “What’s Sports Day?”
Teacher: “The school has sport activities. It’s a competition and it’s fun. You should wear a T-shirt.”
Me: “I think I have one. Is it really okay for me wear it?”
After the attempt to include me in school matters on that day, yesterday was the wake-up call alerting me to my foreign-ness. As soon as the teachers saw me, I was promptly redirected back into the teacher’s lounge and advised to watch from there. I was very much left alone and it hurt. It takes a lot to discourage me and that about hit the nail on the head. I’m sure it would help if there was someone I could hang out with on a regular basis; someone I could direct my love and attention towards so I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Even my frog buddy has left the sanctity of my air conditioning unit (more about this later).
Backtracking, I left Hamamatsu on the 19th to visit my Board of Education (BOE) in Gotemba and make the required introductions. I was presented to the US equivalent of a superintendent and was promptly asked about how long I’ve been “studying” Japanese. I say “studying” because there have been times I could’ve applied myself better (like right now instead of writing this). Soon afterward, it was requested I do a 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai). This took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it. My assumption was to only sit there, smile and nod. Apparently this went well according to my manager. He acted as the liaison between me and my Japanese superiors.
My last night in Hamamatsu was spent relatively in peace. I walked around with a few more trainees from my incoming class visiting popular sites and eating good food. The portion sizes are another thing I’ve noticed that is one of those expectations vs. reality issues. All this time, I thought Japanese food came in tiny portions that were easily manageable. If one was still hungry, they’d go get second helpings. Tiny portions my butt! There have been several times I’ve been served magnificent dishes that I just couldn’t finish. Soon, however, it was time for me to depart.
Hamamatsu was definitely more exciting in terms of things to do than Gotemba is. On a bright and hot morning, I made my journey out into the spider-infested country. Already my attempts to impress everyone with my habit of showing up early failed miserably. Not only did I take the wrong train into Mishima Station, I boarded at the wrong time. I honestly thought all would be well because it was headed towards Tokyo. I ended up meeting my Independent Contractor (IC) over an hour later. The next few days after that were a whirlwind of legal papers, shopping and apartment inspection. Let the spider hunting begin! (Anecdote time! When I opened the window to my apartment, I heard something drop and hit the sill. Not finding anything immediately, I continued to push the window home. This time I was officially welcomed by a small green frog that dropped from… somewhere. I screamed and upset the gas man.)
Amongst the blur of activity, I was escorted to the two schools I would be taking over. The self-introductions were repeated while the previous ALT flew off back to England and I was left with worksheets and flash cards only she understood. Coming back to the present, the last two days have been a struggle. Working with children demands I have a magician’s bag of games and activities at the ready. I questioned the ALT about the resources my company has available online and she said they were worthless. Maybe to her; I’m tempted to look to them for ideas. Never have I felt so worthless and strange. At one of the schools in particular, I have 21 classes I need to present my self-introduction lesson to. In my downtime, I’m expected to work on next week’s lesson planning. Lord, help me. Now I know how new hires faced with an impossible situation feel and I can’t quit.
In the meantime, I sit here listening to the soap operas on the TV and the rain-soaked crows cry on the power line.