Monday, 7 July 2014

When Friends Eat Together God Smiles

It’s taken a while but things have started happening again, which is convenient because I’d run out of things to write about. I go to Japan in less than a month now. When I applied about eight months ago it was a kind of abstract “how cool would it be to live in Japan?”, but now it’s getting closer I am at some point going to have to come to terms with the fact that this really is going to happen. The problem is I can’t particularly imagine myself in this foreign place full of foreign things going about my life as normal.

How Low is Too Low?- a beginners guide to bowing

Help is on the way! This week I go down to London for my pre-departure orientation. Two days training and then I’m supposedly ready to be unleashed on a classroom of children who can’t understand what I’m saying. The itinerary looks to have a singular one hour workshop on how to teach, a whole bunch of introductions from people we will never hear from again, and a short course on how to avoid insulting Japanese people by putting your hands in your pockets. I'm pumped. To be honest though I'm more looking forward to meeting all the other ALTs in exactly the same situation as me. Charging into the unknown is fun as long as there is a bunch of you doing it. Otherwise it’s just me sat in a flat trying to get the wi-fi to work with nothing to help me but a manual in Japanese. This may still happen, but at least now it will become a witty anecdote I can tell my ALT friends at the local sake bar. Which is presumably a thing.

"I am in trouble now"

I have also received more news on both the housing situation and the schools I will be working at. I received a hilarious if not slightly worrying email from my supervisor on the Japan side in broken english which contained the line “I am in trouble now.” Turns out my predecessors building is being destroyed and they don't know where to put me. I have been given the option of either living in a private apartment in Joetsu City or living in Yasuzuka – a very small village that gets heavy snow in the winter, and is 45 minutes away from anything of note. I’m all for immersion, but have chickened out and taken the swanky bachelor pad in the slightly bigger city.

As for schools, I am based at Itakura Junior High School (12-15 year olds) as well as visits to four elementary schools (6-12 year olds) and another junior high School. I am tentative about the elementary schools, especially as I haven’t spoken to anyone under the age of 15 in about 5 years. I tried to do some scouting of Itakura JHS, but all I managed to find was this website that I can't read,

and this Google maps image of children outside the school. I think they are running because they love their school and their teachers and are well behaved and love to learn English. Everything is going to be fine.

Fish Egg Curry

On a side note, I have finished my volunteering. A strange part of teaching I had never thought about before is getting to know and befriend students who you are never going to meet again a term later. After my final lesson, my favourite Bangladeshi man invited me round for lunch – which turned out to be a banquet for one including a satkora curry, a fish egg curry, lentil soup, spicy side salad and all the rice I could eat. I had no option but to have seconds of everything. I then had to find a hole for two different desserts. The wife was very pleased with herself. To top it all off at the end of the meal he said something adorable like “In my religion, when friends eat together God smiles”. Stomach bulging, tears barely contained, we shook hands for the final time and hugged like men. His wife looked on disapprovingly.

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