Wednesday, 11 June 2008

PostHeaderIcon Earache

Rice and Snakes

After I finished teaching at junior high school yesterday I headed off to elementary to get the green light for my holiday in August. That was surprisingly easy since I’ll be missing one or two meetings and classes at the start of September. On my way out I was greeted with teachers, pupils and University students all planting rice in the elementary paddy/garden. I was coerced by my boss and other B.O.E colleagues into getting my shoes off, rolling up my trousers and getting the hell into the manure smelling slop. I kind of wanted to join in anyway so it didn’t take me long to jump right in. As usual I made a few errors in my approach by a) walking across some planted crops and b) walking over already planted rice. On my way across the treacherous paddy I was greeted with an “Oh Hanta” by a few of my students and each time a frog was thrown into my hands. Eventually I made it to my destination and began planting my rice. I was terrible at it of course. I made fun of myself in Japanese which was a mistake because then everyone assumed I spoke the language and then asked me all these long questions. Coupled with the stress of planting rice and trying not to fall over I could only answer with a “Yes….?” I assume the whole experience has made me 33% more integrated into the culture as that is what Japan is/was all about.

I must have felt about 3 frogs in between my toes whilst I was doing it which didn’t bother me until I remembered what happened the previous week. As I was heading out to play football at playtime I noticed some 5th grade boys over by the rice field. Wondering what they were up to I walked over to see what all the fuss was about. It turned there was a pretty big snake swimming about in the muddy water and the kids were throwing rocks at it. I had seen a snake a few weeks before in Aki but this one was much bigger. It just looked like your average green/harmless snake and I was more curious than anything else. The snake then slithered out of the paddy field and was obviously angry by the arsenal of stones being thrown at it. That’s when I realised it was now directly in front of me and my students were legging it in the opposite direction. It went straight back into the rice field but for a few seconds I was thinking to myself “Oh dear”. The vice-principal came out in the end to give the kids into trouble and I then realised I was participating with them. I then waved my arms around whilst muttering “Aye yeah… come on kids… enough of that… terrible behaviour.”


When I got my third supervisor back in April I was sad to see my old one leave… just like I was back in September with my first. My new one was exceptionally timid and uncomfortable to get along with at first. I don’t actually need him for much apart from taking holidays so I just ask the office supervisor instead now. It was a rubbish relationship but I was quite content with making small talk and nodding politely when he approached me with a form to fill in or whatever. However, he recently returned from a meeting in Kochi City that was for JET supervisors. The people in charge had obviously talked to them about bonding with your ALTs and improving your relationship with them.

I’m about to get stuck into him a bit which makes me feel a bit guilty since he is obviously trying hard but instead I’m finding it all very irritating. If I was in his position then I would suggest a normal bonding activity like getting some dinner and a few beers after work. His proposal for Noah and I was to meet his mother on a Saturday afternoon. Now… at first I was not entirely opposed to this because I knew exactly what he was trying to do and I was giving him a chance. This then changed when the location of this meeting was not Tano but instead a 3 hour drive across the prefecture. The next day Noah and I agreed to let him down gently by saying it was just too far to drive as we had plans that evening. I thought that was the end of it until Saturday morning where the tale takes a weird turn. I was in the middle of my Indiana Jones marathon (an outstanding trilogy) when I got a phone call from Noah. He had been walking to the supermarket to get some lunch when he was approached by our supervisor. It turns out he had been waiting in his car for one of us to walk past. Yeah… just sitting in the car park near work until one of us was unfortunate enough to come into sight. He informed Noah that the location of the monumental meeting had been changed and that we should meet at 1pm. Then he drove off despite it being about 12:30pm and the place was about an hour drive away. I did not want to give up my Indiana Jones afternoon so I refused to go. In the end we phoned him to call it off but the whole experience was pretty grating on the nerves to say the least.

Although my job is a piece of cake, I think I’m the only JET I know who doesn’t really have a proper supervisor. Everyone else has someone who does all the problematic crap for them and even speaks English to a reasonable degree. I’m pretty much left to my own devices and need to struggle through with my appalling Japanese whenever I want something done. Although most of the time people don’t even make eye contact with me and just pass things on through Noah which is a pain in the arse for both of us.

More irritating things

Speaking of my wish to be left alone… I need to go on a trip this upcoming weekend with my eikaiwa class. They pretty much told me that I was coming because “we go on a trip once a year”. So now I get to spend my weekend on two 5 hour train rides with a couple of old Japanese women. They’re very nice and everything but lately I’ve found it quite intrusive by how much say they think they can have in my life. I’m a terrible person really because I’m all smiles and “oh yes that sounds wonderful” and they have organised the whole thing. It doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to it though. I’d rather be getting drunk with their granddaughters and watching the football in a bar somewhere. Noah and David are coming along as well so not all is lost. I’m going to start refusing things that I don’t want to do from now on. For starters I’m not going to a junior high school enkai coming up and I’m not going to some depressing little function after work this evening.

I had a bit of a failure at life yesterday when I made the mistake of thinking I could perform simple tasks in this country. I had to pay the deposit for my plane tickets so I went to the post office because I did my last money transfer there. I was a bit unsure if I could do the same thing so I asked if it was alright. That turned into a 15 minute nightmare when they could just have said "no" to begin with. Instead... right... they insist on trying to call my work every time I walk into the post office. I nearly had to wrestle the manager's walkie talkie thing out of his hand this time. It's not even as if he had tried to explain it to me... he took one look at the sheet and tried to call. If he tries it again then I might... raise my voice.

After that I went to the drugstore (it's not really a pharmacy, hence the Americanism) where I wanted to buy some ear drops as I was struggling to hear. Considering the place is like a warehouse and has a whole wall dedicated to eye drops, I assumed there would be some ear stuff somewhere. So I went up to a member of staff and asked 耳の薬はどこですか which I'm pretty sure just means "Where is the ear medicine?" Now, it's probably not the most natural way to ask for it but it's pretty damn obvious what I'm after. If I worked in a pharmacy and some non-native speaker came up to me and barked EAR... WHEN..... MEDICINE.... NOW then I'd use my non-retarded brain to assume they wanted some ear drops. This is where nobody in this country gives me a chance with my Japanese. They just bark their local gutter speak at me at a 100mph and then grimace when I say something which I know is correct. Even when someone tries to speak the most bastardised version of English (which they were taught for at least 6 years) I am friendly about it and can decipher what they mean. People are just constantly looking at me like a retard no matter what I do. For example, I'm in a cafe for lunch with about 8 things on the menu. I order something which I think sounds fine but maybe my accent obscures it slightly. However, there is nothing else that sounds like it so you'd think the woman would take the initiative. Nah nah... she just stares at me and I repeat it about 4 times until it clicks in her head. Anyway, the staff member in the drugstore looked at me like I'd just tried to communicate with her through the language of naked dancing. Immediately she ran away to get her boss who then quickly scuffled over before I could "It doesn't matter" my way out of the situation. I repeat my question as politely as I can but then they both start to panic and tell me a lot of things... none of which sound like ear or medicine. I bought some cotton buds in the end.

You may have noticed that this entry has gone from content ramblings to a bit of a moan about other things. I’ve been writing this gradually all week and it pretty much sums up how it has developed. I was in a good mood at the start of the week and was on fine ALT form at school on Monday and Tuesday. It’s the same old story every week really. It starts off alright but then come the long afternoons of sitting at my desk in my damp clothes. Then there is the usual funeral march that is eikaiwa… followed by going straight to bed. Recently there has been the constant mourning of missing out on that fuzzy feeling of watching the summer football in the pub. Then it's time to wake up and go back to work… where I spend my time writing this. I'm still in a pretty good mood but I do like to moan occasionally.

Other things this week

My little brother left Scotland for California yesterday to work as a football coach for 2 months. I failed to phone home twice because of the time difference so good luck to him. I’m dead jealous actually.

I have finally been accepted by the P.E coach at junior high school after I started a conversation with him about Euro 2008. He even apologies now when he dumps his stuff all over my seat when I go off to teach.

There are three new student teachers at junior high school this month. I scared the Music and Social Studies students by approaching them in a rare moment of being sociable. I think they are the only people in about 10 months who have complimented me on my Japanese. I mean, they were patronising me but I don't care. The other one is an English teacher who I have fallen in love with. By that I mean she ticks all the crucial boxes of a)Not being 80 years old and b)Her English is better than my Japanese. I must have talked to her for... 6 minutes.

A 14 year old student asked me where Scotland was. I took the easy way out and told him it was Britain. They asked me where Britain was. I said it was in Europe. They asked me if that was near America.

Tuesday witnessed the best school lunch in recent memory. Meeto Soosu Supagetti, Sarada and Keki. "Kids KIDS... we have cake... everyone look at the cake... everyone tell me how delicious the cake is"


Anonymous said...

You are doing great Craig!

Ahoy hoy said...

Thanks very much anonymous

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.