Time to Say Goodbye

Living in Ibaraki for three years, I felt like a bit of a traitor for leaving. Itako gave me some amazing experiences, and showed me how to become a better person through those experiences. I gained so much from teaching my students, and I hope that what I taught them will somehow stick in their heads despite what may come. I am proud of them, every single one.

I look back with critical eyes when it comes to my teaching methods. This class was better than this class. How much did I do wrong? God, I hope he/she/them get into the high school they want. I messed up more than a few lessons. Will that matter? Did I do something completely wrong? Please, I hope if nothing else, I can’t be the reason they don’t English.

Ms. Nesaki, the English teacher I worked with in Itako 2nd, told me once, “That’s how a good teacher thinks. You worry about the students. You care. Sometimes that enough, deshou?”

I want her to be right. If my kids can think of me fondly, that’s great, but I’d rather them have the knowledge I tried to cram into their heads over memories of me. If even one of them can remember present-past or how to do future tense, I’ll consider it a job well done.

I know I couldn’t have stayed there, not another year. It’s not the students, teachers, or schools’ fault either. I just got worn down from the curriculum, the constant battle between what I knew was correct English and what the textbook told me to teach. I didn’t want to keep doing the same thing every single year, like an endless loop of hodgepodge “English.”

I’m going to miss the people the most, and I just know it. The friendships and other relationships I cultivated over this three year period were usually hard-won, requiring that I try to communicate with them however I can, whether through language or exaggerated gestures. Some were easy, usually with people who could speak English fluently, but even with Japanese on my side it felt like it took so long to discover little gems hidden within my co-workers. Even just thinking about the lady at the 7 Eleven who I saw every other day, who I talked with about this and that but nothing important. I’m sad to think I won’t see her again.

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My awesome Itako crew!

I keep trying to tell myself I’m not leaving Japan, so it’s not the same. Yet, I know that even being two hours away will mean that I can’t see these people every weekend or even once a month. I’ll have to just try and go back when I can, and enjoy that time in the moment.

I’m going to miss the Ibaraki JETs, too. The Drunken Duck memories; the trips to Gunma, Hokkaido, and Tokyo; to even the JET Meetings in Mito once a month. I met so many awesome people in such a short amount of time on the program, and they’ll always mean so much to me.

Now, I’m moving onto a bigger city, called Machida.  My new  job is teaching adults instead of kids at COCO JUKU in Yokohama. I’m a little nervous about it, but I hope that since they’re giving me a full five days of training I’ll be able to figure it out fast. Still, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Thank you for everything Itako, JET, and friends. I hope to see you again somewhere, someday soon. Take care!

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Thanks for the great memories, everyone!

 

 

 

Welcome to Japan!

Ibaraki Prefecture: Group A

Ibaraki Prefecture: Group A

I’ve heard it so many times and it never gets old. I’m still so excited to be here! Everyone in my city is so nice and helpful. I’m glad I ended up in a place that’s more rural than urban. I’m not a fan of big cities. I like looking out onto the rice fields and just feeling so relaxed. I couldn’t have ended up at a better place for me.

From left to right: Ikeda-san (my supervisor), me, and Lauren Parker

From left to right: Ikeda-san (my supervisor), me, and Lauren Parker

And I couldn’t have lucked out with a better predecessor. Lauren Parker lived in Itako for three years before I came along, and she got the apartment all prepared for me. She even put up pictures and things so the walls didn’t seem so bare. Since she and the Board of Education furnished the apartment, I didn’t have to buy anything when I arrived. Many of the other ALTs did, poor things, but I didn’t!

I also met my Japanese teacher, Yamada-sensei! She's between Lauren and me.

I also met my Japanese teacher, Yamada-sensei! She’s between Lauren and me.

The teachers I’ll be working with at Hinode and Itako 2nd Junior High School seem pretty cool. They’ve asked me to help out with activities during the summer, and I’m glad. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t help out. I find that I spend my free time just kind of being lonesome in my apartment, and that can’t be healthy. I’ve tried to be more outgoing after school, but it’s hard. I don’t know who to call, when it’s okay to call, or what the proper etiquette is over here. I don’t know. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Settling in has been pretty easy, all things considered. My shipped box came in earlier than I thought it would with everything intact. The apartment’s really starting to feel more like home. I want to add more things, like more bookshelves, but I have to wait and get a car first. I need a car for where I live. It’s just too spread out for me to bike everywhere. I enjoy biking, but the convenience of a car is nice, not to mention safer than biking on these broken roads.

The area specifically where I live in Hinode got hit hard by the earthquake. Hinode Junior High School, one of the two junior high schools where I will work for Monday through Friday, actually had the ground around it drop a few feet. The roads used to be smooth and flat, but now they’re bumpy and out of alignment. When I bike I have to be careful of the cracks and crevices, and also spiders. There are lots of spiders here and they are not afraid of putting their webs right a human face distance from the ground, unfortunately.

I’ve had communication issues. I came over with only the basic Japanese skills, enough to basically be an annoying tourist. When it comes to reading and writing, I know Hiragana and Katakana. It’s useful, but Kanji exists. Kanji and I are not friends. I want to learn all the characters so bad, but I can’t seem to keep anything in my head since I came over. I think I might just be out of practice, but it’s also probably got something to do with stress. I’m hoping that when I get more of a routine down things will start to stick.

Still, I think the language barrier is aptly named. Sometimes, not very often but often enough to make me feel dumb, this invisible wall comes up between me and other people. Nothing is getting through and I really need to say something important, but I can’t get the message sent out and then received. It sucks! I hate feeling helpless, and a language barrier can definitely make me feel very much so. It only lasts maybe about two minutes in a conversation, but it leaves a bad kind of aftertaste in my mouth, like the words I couldn’t say are bitter. I really hope that as my language skills increase, the barriers will decrease.

I don’t think the small town celebrity status will ever change. It’s odd to walk around and feel trapped in my own skin. I mean, I don’t want to change or anything, it’s just I’m really aware of the fact now that I’m Caucasian. When I get on the train, I hear the whispers of, “Gaijin!” and I see people pointing and staring at me as if I really am an alien. Also, I’ve never been winked at by so many guys until I came over here. I swear! I’m not that attractive, but apparently that doesn’t matter. It’s kind of nice, I mean, I’m flattered. But I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I’m here to work, not date.

Although, I’ve got to admit I love the Japanese business men. Not the shady ones, but you know the black suit with the black tie. I think it’s hot. I don’t know why, I just kind of do. Speaking of hot Japanese men, I’m apparently a fan of Jun Matsumoto. I really liked Shin Sawada in the drama Gokusen. For some reason, it never occurred to me that Matsumoto Jun is Matsu Jun from Arashi. I’ll go ahead and admit I’m not a huge Arashi fan or JPOP fan in general. Arashi is okay, but I really don’t love the music. I’ll listen to them, but they’re not my favorite. Still, I’ve got to admit I can see why girls just lose themselves over Jun-kun. He’s quite attractive (and a pretty good actor, in my opinion). So, yeah, something I discovered about myself I didn’t know. I’m apparently Team Jun.

Anyway, I think I’ve run out of steam. It’s my first blog post in a really long time. This time I hope I keep it up. I’m not very good at keeping blogs updated, so we’ll see how it goes. Hope you all enjoyed my ramblings!

TTYL!