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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Teaching In Japan - The State Of Boredom

If there's one thing people going to Japan will experience at some point in time, it's going to be boredom.

How can you be bored in a foreign country with such beauty, interesting customs, alien language, fascinating people, a new job, new old apartment, a bicycle for your transportation pleasure, foods packaged strangely?

It's called complacency... and if it's March when you are reading this as a new comer to the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, regardless of your demeanor, you are hitting the lull... that time of the contract when you have said  "no, that's it I'm going home"... and time ticks slowly until you can go home' OR you have said "yes, I would like to stay for another year"... and you are suddenly having second thoughts because it's exam time at school and there is nothing for you to do... in Japan, the new school year begins in April... so that's when you get to do all those self-introductions again to a new set of first-year students at whatever school you are teaching at.

Won't that be fun?

Despite the headache it brings... surely it will be better than the mind-numbing boredom you are currently experiencing because you aren't teaching much at this time... or simply (hello Maia) you are not being used to the best of your abilities.

Here is a story I wrote back in 1991... it's not a diary entry, but it is something I wrote it sitting in teacher's room of one of my junior high schools... it might be a tad gross, but it's a decent representation of what was going on in my mind one mid-morning.

BORED
I'm not sure how long I've actually been in this state. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, generations, lifetimes, eons, forever, forever plus one. I suppose it really doesn't matter. At least it doesn't matter much to me. I don't know why, otherwise I might try and do something about it. Work is dull and uninspiring. It's a real brain drain. It's Melvin. I set about to try and remove as much ear wax as possible from the actual ear. Rather than use the pen when I swirl it about the aural cavity, I use the nail on my index finger. It's not as much fun as a pen, so I forget about it. I wipe my finger on a piece of paper nearby and then sniff my finger. It smells like it always smells. Like melted wax. God. It even smells boring. The fingernail looks a tad long, so I begin to chew on it. Once I chew through a corner of the nail, I begin to gnaw and rend my way through the rest of the calcium scale. It takes me about four minutes of chewing from start to finish to do all of my fingers. I carefully place all of the nails on that same piece of paper as the ear wax. Not together, mind you, but beside each other. Of course, chewing and pulling the nails is only part of the job. With a fingernail placed vertically to my front teeth, I begin to bite away any rough spots. If there is one thing I hate its catching my fingernails on my clothing. That and being bored. I sigh long and loud hoping that someone will hear me and take pity on me and shoot me to put me out of my misery. Instead, a woman asks me if I want some coffee. I guess she thought my slumping of the head against my chest was an affirmative answer. She brought it to me scalding hot, black with no sugar. I would tell her that I like with milk and sugar, but figure it's a moot point because I really don't like coffee all that much, anyways. I wonder what video I should rent tonight. Maybe Police Academy. It's been awhile since I've seen that one. Maybe I can get a bottle of coke and some popcorn to help digest the day's events. Work always tires me out. I hate work. Hey. If you look at the bits of fingernail and ear wax on the paper from an angle that could be 45 degrees or it could be 112. Ah, what's the difference? Anyhow, it looks like a face. A face made out of ear wax and chewed fingernail pieces. It doesn't have a nose, though. Maybe if I sneeze, I'd get a nose. I don't feel like sneezing, though. Geez, time just crawls at the office. I wish it would hurry up so I can get out of here, It's boring. Maybe there's more wax in my ear. Busy, busy, busy.

The End.

I wrote it so that it could be anywhere... but the fact that some woman brought me a drink... you know it's Japan.

I also smashed all of the words together into one huge paragraph denoting one huge thought. I had thought about making it a story without sentences, but that would imply manic thoughts - fast-moving - and you can tell that I am not.

The single paragraph, in my opinion, shows that it is one huge idea... one fast little segment where so much happens and nothing happens at all... and still... because it is only a mere paragraph there is still more to come... more time...  

I suppose nowadays people can use a smart phone or tablet to amuse themselves at work... I had my newspaper - Daily Yomiuri - crossword puzzle, Japanese language texts to study and a novel to read... and god help you if you forgot one or more of those items... but sometimes... after a few hours... you need to do something else...

Again... this was not a typical misuse of an AET's time. I usually had about three to four classes a day... sometimes five... sometimes two or shoot me in the head just one... but that's because of exams, club activities... something... I never took it personally. I was NOT a professional English teacher so I had no ego. I was a journalist, whose experiences differed tremendously from most of what you will experience.

That doesn't mean you won't have the same experiences - or better - it's just that you will have experiences.

But you will be bored in Japan.

Give your head a shake and remember where you are.

And then try and make the best of it.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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