it’s your friendly neighbourhood Gaijin here. Today marks a 1 year anniversary that I have arrived at my placement location and began teaching at my Junior High School. I was speaking with my other Canadian JET who arrived with me and we were both reminiscing on everything that happened to us within this year. From not receiving our Zairyuu cards at the airport, to not catching the proper bus to an orientation session – our Gaijin Moments. So, today’s writing will be about reminiscing on a letter I wrote to myself before leaving for Japan (written for the JET Alumni Association).
Hold up though, I wanted to touch slightly on my difficulty with greetings in the past. I wrote about it here. So as it turns out, most of my discomfort that came along with the Japanese greeting system was primarily due to unfamiliarity. One of my biggest concerns was that people were always saying, ごくろさまです/ Gokurousamadesu, to me. This is a greeting that is generally used to individuals who are lower in position than you in the work place, but my school actually uses it normally between one another. In my mind I felt that people were actively acknowledging that I am below them in position (which I am), however that wasn’t the case. Being acknowledges as below everyone just made me feel awkward at times, even though it is the truth. Slowly as I got more comfortable with my co-workers and asked them these questions – they cleared it up for me, and I stopped worrying. Now I can use greetings more comfortably like I do in English, they’re actually great indicators of determining how people are feeling.
What is the most exciting thing about Japan?
“The opportunity to finally be in Japan after all these years and the hard work you put into it. The people and culture that I will observe.” (June 2018 Answer)
I think now that I’ve settled in more, the most exciting thing about Japan is learning the language. It’s very frustrating being unable to communicate exactly what I want to say to Japanese people despite studying the language in University. At times, the way I would translate a sentence is not the way a fluent Japanese speaking person would have phrased it. Nevertheless I learn day by day, and recently what gives me joy is reaching a point in my Japanese Language studies that shows I’ve progressed ever so slightly.
What are you most nervous about when it comes to Japan?
“Actually arriving, it feels like the world won’t let me get there. I’m so excited.”
Well, I was super excited to arrive to Japan that I kind of went running head first. As always, I didn’t expect a few road bumps along the way, but that’s okay. In all honestly, I’m nervous about reaching the point when I will have to concretely decide between my choice to move back to Canada or stay in Japan. I enjoy both areas, but I truly love Canada now. Not because of all the landmarks or the food, but the people who are there. I try not to think as though I’ve abandoned them to follow my dream in Japan, but to a certain degree one can feel that way at times. Japan is a lovely place where I can grow as a person and experience once in a lifetime opportunities, not to mention the job market isn’t that poor either. That day will come when I must decide though and all I can do is prepare myself to make the best possible decision.
Which Japanese food do you expect to eat most frequently?
“Ramen + Health food”
Hmmm, so generally I cook my own dinners. However, I find that when I go out for dinner it is normally to conveyor belt sushi places or ramen restaurants. I cook pretty healthily, but to be honest I could cut out more carbs if I wanted. I already get a full bowl of rice for Kyuushoku (school lunch) with my school, so I’ll consider. I just had my health check anyway.
Which Japanese food are you never going to touch?
Nope, not doing it. Sorry, not sorry.
Who and/or what do you think you’ll miss the most?
“My family (stay on the Watsapp)”
I would say that I miss my family most every day. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for most of my family living in Canada, my decision to stay in Japan may be a bit easier. I do miss my friends as well, so I’m hoping I can visit back home for either a longer period of time or just more frequently. My Grams is getting older y’know?
How long do you expect to stay in Japan?
Till 2020 at least.
Yep, I definitely made the correct decision staying in Japan until the Olympics. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the Olympics as a volunteer because they want their volunteers to work 10 consecutive days and that would be 6 days that I need to take paid vacation. It is a great opportunity to volunteer at the Olympics, but paying for my own accommodation, transport and food is a bit inconvenient. I’m still happy to be in Japan during the Olympics though.
What do you expect your students to be like?
“I expect that my students will be nice, but not grown-ups yet and they will still need to learn day by day.”
I really screwed the pooch with this description. It’s so general and describes any student around the world. Nonetheless, my students are extremely nice, but are sometimes very touchy which I would never expect from 13/14 year-old students. I feel that I am able to teach them a lot about English and life, but they are still teenagers who will have to learn a lot on their own.
What Japanese experience do you want to have before receiving this?
“Learn piano and two Japanese dishes.”
Well, I have started learning piano. I bought it when I arrived for around $900 CAD, while taking lessons from a piano teacher in the next town. A funny difference between English and Japanese music is that students learn by using the sounds of the notes (Do/re/mi), instead of the names of the notes (C/D/E). Learning piano was something I gave up when I was a kid due to my lack of discipline and resilience, so I had a hard time learning it from my parent. Secondly, I have learned to cook multiple Japanese dishes. If I forget them, luckily I have all of the recipes on sheets in Japan. I’m very happy that coming to Japan has given me the means to experience these moments, and I hope to learn many more things while I’m here.
Now, I can’t say that my life in Japan is perfect because we all know life is never perfect. However, it is every bit of an adventure that I’d hoped it would be. The bad times are balanced with the good, the people I’ve met are kind and I try my utmost best every day. Plus, I have the opportunity to take some sick photos. Overall, I have so much to learn from Japan and much more to teach my students – and that’s one thing that makes the JET Programme, fantastic.