In Japan the fiscal year begins on April 1st, the school calendar also begins on April 1st. After a two week break for the kids, they begin the new school year. At the beginning of each school year, the principal assigns the teachers with new grades and in some cases new roles. Also, the district board moves the teachers to different schools. Usually the principal and the vice principal change schools every two years and the homeroom teachers change every 6 or 7 years. Considering the changes within the City's English program as well, which will see eleven of the thirty-nine teachers come and go, March and April is a period marked with transitions.
Earlier this month, one of my schools had it's party for the departing teachers. After the dinner, we had a second party at a karaoke location. (Karaoke, with it's origins in Japan is done very differently in Japan. It's usually a small room and a much more intimate setting). But instead of singing, our group, consisting of all women, mostly middle aged, just had some really fun conversation and ate some more. I left the party just really thankful for the friends I have made in these two years at school. Friends who are incredibly gracious, incredibly gifted, incredibly humble and also so different than I; we don't even have a common language to base our relationship upon (some of these teachers do speak some English, some at rather impressive levels).
A week after this school's enkai (Japanese party), my other school had it's enkai. I was honestly just so tired. Tired due to not sleeping enough. Tired of spending so much time with people who don't speak my language and don't really understand me. (In fact, when I arrived at work Friday morning, a new teacher who speaks the best English in the school and sits across from me kindly simply stated, "you look tired", after which I went to the bathroom mirror to have a look and to my chagrin, discovered he was spot on.) But the dinner Friday night was delicious, I got to visit with many teachers I don't often speak a lot to as well as those I am closer with. Sitting down and talking with the departing cook, Anzo san, who has been at my school for 12 years, was one of the highlights. These parties can be awkward as I often feel like an outsider and am dependent upon their willingness to welcome me. But this night was a lot of fun. After the first party, 7 or 8 of the men went to karaoke and this time we sang a lot. (I sang "Wonderwall" by Oasis, much to their delight).
Even with all of the transitions, when I was told which teachers would be departing, I was also happily surprised to discover a few of my favorite teachers would be staying. I even get to sit in the teachers room next to one of these favorite teachers, an amazing teacher, Saito Sensei.
It can be difficult on a day to day basis not possessing the ability to communicate well with coworkers, or anyone else for that matter. It's even more difficult when there is something deeper you want to communicate, when you're not sure how to show your appreciation or sadness. And such has been the case concerning departing teachers. A few teachers leaving I will miss dearly, but it's hard to explain because, at best, my communication skills are broken. While you may be reading, and imagining my life being one crazy adventure to the next, sometimes internally, I have wondered if this is the best place to spend my mid 20's.
New teachers and staff coming in has also been taxing on me because, as I talked about in my sermon, I put too much energy into each new encounter wanting each person to like me, despite my differences. It wears me out. I could benefit from making much more time for prayer and meditation, to help find my deepest identity, instead of the little, fabricated identities I chase after.
The NBA playoffs begin tomorrow. This will be the first year since coming to Japan that my Portland Trailblazers will be playing in the playoffs. I've probably been listening to way too many NBA podcasts. Last night I was told at our welcoming party (there have been a lot of parties this month, there was actually another one last night at my other school that I won't be going to because they can be pretty expensive, usually about $80) that next Sunday there is a special day of work I must attend (it sounds like a PTA day, in which the parents come to observe classes, not really sure at this point), but immediately I became elated because it meant I'd get Monday off and I knew Portland would be playing Sunday night in America (Monday morning here), so I'll be able to watch that game along with a few others on the weekends via the NBA league pass on my laptop. The little things...
A few weeks ago, I went to Tokyo for a day trip with one of my best friends, Mason Drumm. Below are a couple great shots he took playing frisbee in one of my favorite places in Japan: Yoyogi Park. It feels great to have a couple of my closest friends in Japan. There are a lot of really good people here.
|(some of) The gorgeous, delicious food. Tanemura loved that I loved it, saying I was the first foreigner to really like some of the many dishes (fish guts and such)|
|I went road biking last week. This is a golf course just west of me. The Sakura trees are in bloom and will likely only last another week before their fickle nature prevails over their beauty.|
|Kasama, the town west of my town.|