Friday, June 29, 2012

Not so much of a rude awakening…but kinda

I’m trying to think how to phrase this in the most PC way possible…Grow up!

There I said it…now on to more important points of business. Some people ask me questions about why I decided to move to Japan. Why would someone leave everything that is comfortable and trade it in for something unknown? Honestly, it`s a pretty valid question and I honestly can say that it`s pretty crazy. But, you know me, you know why I`m here. I don`t need to explain the need for me to be in Japan.

There have been some along the way that wanted to change that dream, they wanted to alter my vision of being a teacher in Japan. Thankfully they did not succeed and I can write this from the comfort of my desk…in Japan.

Now days, I face different kind of challenge. There is a new way of thinking and new insight into this world of teaching in Japan. Not without reason it has caused me to look carefully at my decisions, question those I trust, and to some existent has caused me to be on guard. It`s not like a rude awakening it`s more of a gentle shaking. It`s a reminder to who I am and why I teach. I teach for many reasons but I feel that there is maybe one main reason…along with several other important factors.

The main reason I teach? The kids, plain and simple. I am their gateway to a new world (please bear with me…I know this is going to sound cliché!), a new way of looking at the world. Just as I have a new perspective on life these kids are finding out that their world reaches far beyond the Pacific Ocean.

Please don`t read into that last statement too much. I`m far from the best NLT to step off the plane, but I know the tremendous responsibility of being a teacher. Is everyday Sakura blossoms and tiny chocolates shaped like mushrooms? No! I`m not going to sit here and say I don`t have my share of issues. Sometimes it`s a class that just won`t react to a lesson. Other times it can be a breakdown in communication between any number of people. At the end of the day, I`m teaching English for one reason, the kids. I know that all sounds very recycled and generic but it`s honestly the truth. Do I teach for a paycheck? Sure. Did I take a teaching job so I could live in Japan…of course. But, when I step into that classroom there is one thing on my mind. `I need to get these kids using English`.

I would hope that this is the desire of every NLT here in Japan. I would be a fool to think that is the case. Culture shock can suck sometimes…pretty much most of the time. Being separated from your friends and family is not a decision some people can make. I don`t want to say it was easy but I knew that I was supposed to be teaching in Japan. I`m also not going to try and say that culture shock is something easy to overcome. The thing is for me, I`ve wanted to live in Japan for such a long time, culture shock either hasn`t hit me yet, or it`s not going to.

This all leads me back to my opening statement. I know I`m older than a lot of people here in Japan. I also know that saying this is going to make me sound even older. But, grow up! Really think about why you are here in Japan. Is it to get hammered drunk every night after work? Is it to take teaching lightly? Is it to be selfish and put yourself before your students needs? Are you really too cool for school? Because, if you are, we probably should never talk about…anything…ever. I know why I`m here. If you don`t know why you are teaching in Japan you are truly in for a rude awakening.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Sing Along With the Water Heater

I often find myself in strange situations in Japan. It`s becoming quite the normal habit for people around me to have conversations in Japanese and not explain what they are saying.

The grounds keeper at school in one such person. He will often say hello to me (which is normal when passing other teachers in the hall) but then he will go into long detailed descriptions of what I can only imagine are stories about fishing trips or the good ole days with him and his friends. Most of his conversations consist of laughing and joking with me. So, I laugh and joke back, shaking my head in agreement. This is quickly followed by me walking away not having the slightest clue as to what just happened or what I might have agreed to do.

Other times it will be completely random people I`ve never met before. About a month ago I was at the cherry blossom festival with some of my friends. There were many booths set up and vendors selling everything from cotton candy to okonomiyaki (my favorite!). I approached one booth and saw they were selling some sort of bbq meat on a stick. It looked good and was cheap so I decided to buy some. Without warning a little old Japanese lady jumped out from behind the booth.

Little Old Lady `Hello!` she shouted
Me `Oh, hello.`
LOL `Where are you from!` still shouting
Me `America, I`m from...
LOL `Great!` still shouting `You like cow?`
Me `Sure, I`ll take 3`
LOL `This is cow knee!` still shouting and now hitting me in the leg
Me `What?!`
LOL `Cow knee!` again hitting me in the leg
Me `OK, why are you hitting me?`
LOL `Cow knee` Hitting me again

I`m pretty sure she would have kept hitting me if I wouldn`t have bought my cow knee and walked away! By the way, the cow knee was pretty good!

Finally, and certainly not by far the strangest thing that happens to me on a daily basis. I sing along with the water heater when it finishes heating up the water. Just a little clarification, everyone owns a water heater here in Japan. It`s a great device for heating up water for tea, soup, coffee, or whatever you might need scolding hot water for. And, because it was made in Japan it plays music when it is full of hot water. The first few times I though someone had just left their phone on and I had no idea where it was coming from. Then, one day, I was washing my hands and I heard it again. This time I was close enough to figure out where the sound was coming from.

These are my adventures in Japan. Most people aren`t going to think that there is anything out of the ordinary with what goes on here. But it`s the little things that stick out to me and make me laugh.