So this past weekend was really productive and I also got to see a lot of my friends and meet new people. On Friday, I went to dinner with one of the Japanese teachers I sometimes work with at one of my schools. She is a private English teacher, and sometimes she comes and watches my lessons. She has a ton of international friends, so she and I decided to get dinner and she invited her Brazilian friend. It was a great night, and we ate good food (my first time eating gnocchi!) and had really deep conversations. We actually talked about the two topics you usually never want to bring up; religion and politics.
We had a very civil and interesting converation. All of us come from slightly different political standpoints and different religious beliefs. It was nice to be able to have intellectual conversations. Usually I sit at the school in silence, and when I do talk to my coworkers, it’s always about our students.
On Saturday, I planned on staying in all day. I cleaned my house, did two whole loads of laundry, and I got a lot of things done I had been meaning to for many weeks now. But around 2pm, I realized that I didn’t want to stay in ALL day because that’s what I do most weekends. So I talked to two of my JET friends who I hadn’t seen since before Christmas, and we met up in Hakata for dinner and Krispy Kreme. It was nice to see them and we had a lot of fun just hanging out at something that wasn’t a work related party or meeting. Because usually that’t the only time I ever see my fellow JETs anymore…
Sunday morning I woke up extra early and took almost a two hour train ride up to Yukuhashi where we had an International New Year’s party. My friend who is a CIR (coordinator for international relations) on JET is the one who put it together. It was very well organized and a great experience. I helped out as a staff member, but really there wasn’t much to it, and most of the time I felt more like a participant. We were grouped together with Japanese participants and we had a list of English instructions and we learned how to cook different dishes. My table made Texas cajun chicken with sweet potatoes and corn salsa. It was fantastic.
Other tables made Chinese food and Korean food and some minced stew and potatoes. All of the food was amazing, and it was really fun learning how to cook with people I had never met. We had some communication issues, not because of the language barrier but because of cultural and personality differences, but it was good for me to learn how to deal with people I had never met and learn how to cook a meal with them at the same time.
We also had a Thai dance demonstration, and we learned how to do it ourselves. We played a game together, and we also had a lucky draw. Everyone had a number on their nametag, and we pulled numbers and gave out prizes. Small prizes of curry or ramen were given out, while the best prizes were bottles of local beer and wine from other countries, a coffee/espresso machine, and a television.
Just try to guess which one I won.
You guessed it. The TV. I was number 77 and joked that I was the luckiest one, but it was no joke. I had to carry that thing home on my two trains and on my walk to my apartment. I am kind of torn with what to do with it because I already have a TV… So I will think it over for a while.
Anyway, so since I had such a great weekend, I was beginning to feel a lot better. I just signed my papers to recontract for another year here in Japan as a JET. Some things at school are stressful, but I know I am not done yet. I have a ton of things I want to do, and I know I want to keep trying as hard as I can.
However, today I had another one of those boring/annoying/frustrating classes. But during the break between that class and my next one, I decided to talk to my JTE about it. I let her know that I wanted to help out more with the class because in our first lesson, I basically stood there for 50 minutes. This is not something new, and to be honest I am getting sick of it.
So I told her how at my other schools, I am usually the main teacher and I conduct it all in English. I know that’s not the best way to do it, but I am working on getting my other teachers at those schools to work WITH me instead of stand there and watch me. She really understood what I was saying, and in our next class, she tried to give me more of a role in class. However, we had a horrible problem disciplining one of the students.
The students were reading the dialogue like zombies, so I told my teacher that, and she made them learn the phrase ‘They sound like zombies’ and we even wrote it on the board and made them repeat it. It worked really well, because they laughed but actually learned a new grammar point, and the student was disrupting was made to stand and repeat it alone. I am a firm believer that once you are embarrassed in front of people, you won’t make the same mistake again. The class repeated the dialogue with much more vigor the next time we made them do it. Baby steps, people.
Then, that kid who was being a little knucklehead lightly punched his neighbor on the head. I got so upset. That kid is always turning around, forgetting his books, not doing his work, and talking back to the teacher. My teacher tries, but she can never get him to shut up. But she didn’t see him hit the other kid, so I had to point it out. She yelled at him, thankfully. But most of the time, that’s how it is. I see something, they do nothing about it, I point it out, and something is done. I went to a school with little to no discipline problems, so I have no idea how ‘normal’ schools are supposed to be. But I will not tolerate hitting.
Anyway, she thanked me after class for pointing it out. It made me happy, and I think that I can always take something positive out of any situation, no matter how frustrating. I know that when I interview for my next job, and they ask about working in Japan, I will have countless stories of how I overcame communication barriers, tough situations, and a new environment where I was basically regarded as a tape recorder but eventually had the guts to yell at a kid to get something done.
Class is over for the day, but I am going to try to sit in on my third graders’ music class. They will graduate in a few weeks, and I have been begging the music teacher, who sits next to me, ever since I got here to let me go to her class. She actually made it seem like I can go today. Hoo-ha.
Hang in there, everyone.
I hope to blog every day this week, as I have a lot of topics to cover!
Let me know what kind of things are going on that frustrate you right now in your life, and let me know if you take the positive from it or how you deal with it otherwise.
Here is a good quote to end the post on: