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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunny Days

It’s Tuesday, September 17, 1991 and I feel better today, though with the lack of sleep I am still mentally and physically tired. Emotionally – ahhhh, pretty good.

It might be because today I get to go to work at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) here in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. After arriving here from Toronto nearly 14 months, I have been enjoying my time here as an assistant English English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, though I am unaware of what Canada got in exchange for me. Probably peace and quiet and a higher domestic IQ.

This school is the largest in Ohtawara – and while the kids aren’t necessarily the smartest or the nicest in Japan, they are rather smart and nice – and that’s good enough for me, especially since I spent last week at the what I have dubbed “The School From Hell” – one Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko (Kaneda North Junior High School). I might be wrong in that assessment, but it’s how I feel.

Here at Dai Chu (the nickname for Ohtawara Junior High School) the students come walking calmly up tp me with smiles on their faces to not only greet me, but to talk to me in English first, and then Japanese to see if I have increased my language skills. I have. Sadly not by a lot.

I haven’t seen these kids in a few months, and I have missed them even if I don’t know them by name, I know them by face and actions. They are great kids and hopefully will be great adults.

After lunch with a third-year class, I play some baseball and have a lot of fun.

The whole day is an exercise in Japan proving to me that all my fears about belonging here are unfounded... I mean, students put their hand up to volunteer answers – it might not really be a first here, but it seems like it.

After an enjoyable day with the kids, I go home and don’t really have to unwind or relax. I already feel that way. I go shopping for some food – dinner and Coca-Cola – I buy some pork tontatsu and rice already cooked and just need to heat it up in my convection oven/microwave.

I head over to my night school class – and while there are only six adults there – well... who cares? We have a great class. Shoko isn’t there – the young lady I like, and who likes me – and while I do wonder where she is, my class is probably better than ever as I can concentrate on teaching and having fun rather than trying not to stare into her beautiful brown eyes or get caught staring at her legs as she demurely shields her face from my hungry eyes.

After class, I ride my bicycle over to the local video rental store and get the 1953 movie The Hitch-hiker (intresting enough written by Robert Joseph - no relation) and try to watch it while doing my puzzle. I stop the movie and instead call up one of the newly arrived women on the JET Programme – Amanda Goodsell, a tall bubbly blonde who has zero to interest in me sexually, but I like her. She’s not only cute and smart but possesses a real sarcastic wit that is a complete turn-on for me. We exchange life stories over the course of two hours.

Why am I calling up new JET arrivals every night? Well, to be honest, I am only calling up new female JET arrivals every night... but I know what the first month was like for me in Japan. No, no one asked me to call up people, but aside from the possibility that I might get laid, I just want to make sure everybody survives unscathed. Helping people makes me feel more alive.

That first month in Japan while completely scary, was euphoric... but that next month... when we started work for the first time... that’s when I started to get stressed out a bit by the enormity of the challenge of trying to survive all day long where you may not be understood by a single person. Fortunately for me, my English teachers at the schools were all pretty damn good – and my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) were fantastic at keeping tabs on my general well-being without being snoopy.

Amanda, however, is surprisingly well adjusted. She will do well here.

When we finish talking and do my puzzle again and finish the movie and finally crash at 2:30AM?!

Japan has magically restored by faith in her. Or maybe I just feel happy knowing I don’t have to go back to Hell for a while.

Somewhere it’s a different day,
Andrew Joseph

Today’s blog is by Canadian group Lighthouse: WORKSOHARD

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