I had plans to write on Sunday, but I had a discouraging night so I didn’t feel like writing (more on that later.) But I wanted to post something before I leave for Kagoshima for a week of orientation, Japanese language and cultural lessons, and shenanigans. But no fireworks display because that pesky volcano decided to act up. I don’t lava you right now, Sakurajima.
For now, here are some happenings and mishappenings over the past week:
Wednesday, August 12:
-First day of school!
-Spend time debating with the English Club. As in I am helping them prepare for their prefectural debate. I wasn’t debating WITH them. :)
-Have keihan* ramen with a fellow teacher, student, and teacher`s little cousin. Guess who forgets to take her shoes off again?
-Learn to say arigasoma yota* and gambatte*
-Drive for the first time in Japan
-Share drinks with the owner of said yakitori restaurant and Jon
-Turn on my windshield wipers every time I go to use my blinker in the car
-Can`t figure out how to use the bike at the gym because the buttons are obviously only in Japanese. Peddle on the bike but am going nowhere
-Not really a mishappening, but it is really funny to sit with the owner of the yakitori place for a good half hour and listen to him talk to Jon in Japanese. I have no idea what he is saying, but he demonstrates for us what a habu would do if it would find me in the woods: jump from a tree and either bite my head or choke me. Cool beans.
Thursday, August 13
-Eikaiwa with lots of people tonight. Share coffee, candy, stories, and lots of laughs
-I am caught in the rain on my last five minutes of my bike commute to work. I manage to miss a turn and am now DRENCHED by the time I get to school. My dry cleaned pants are stiff the rest of the day.
-Forget my lunch at home and then don’t realize I am supposed to order lunch at school when that happens. I don’t eat for hours and I am so zombie hungry by the time I get home I could eat my own brain
Friday, August 14
-Not many happenings or mishappenings today. I work from home. I go out to dinner and there is chicken butt on the menu!
Saturday, August 15
-Paddle board for the first time on the ocean! I stand up for 20 seconds! Yatta!
-Attend the strangest parade I’ve ever been to in Koniya with some other ALTs (Islander love)
-Go to a Snoopy-themed coffee shop
-Eat Amami-Black-Sugar gelato (mmmmmm)
-Eat seaweed tempura and it is so oishii and reminds me of Rhode Island clamcakes for some reason
-A dreadfully windy, dark, and narrow ride from mountainous southern Amami. Next time we’ll take the tunnel!
Sunday, August 16
-DRAGON BOAT RACE with some co-teachers
-Japanese BBQ (amazing)
-Spend time with teachers, their families, and new friends. A great morning/afternoon
-After a mishap with my washer, I go out for the best meal I’ve had yet in Japan. Fresh shashimi, perfectly sliced grilled fish, beer so smooth it tastes like ice cream, the best fried shrimp (with eyes) I’ve ever tasted, and so much more. End the meal with the tiniest yet most delicious creme brulee in the world.
Present Day (Wednesday, August 19…my sister’s birthday!)
I guess I’m rambling again. But that’s okay, because some people tell me they like my ramblings. That makes me happy. But it will be exhausting to recount every day I’m living here, so instead, allow me to share with you something I realized today…
For me, living in a foreign country is like island rainfall. It seems to happen at least once a day, but never for very long. And it always happens when I least expect it. Like today, when I was biking home from work. But the sunshine and good times here (at least since I’ve been around–but I haven’t experienced a typhoon yet) seem to outweigh the rain clouds. And that’s exactly how I feel about the struggles of starting a new life in country where I only know a handful of words, and can understand even less.
And here’s an excerpt from my purple journal that I wrote at the end of school on Monday:
“Yesterday was hard. Sometimes not understanding Japanese gets to me. I can’t do the simplest things like change the setting on my washing machine or order water at a restaurant without confusing the server because my pronunciation is so broken. I came to school today discouraged, but being in this environment where people are looking out for me changed my mood entirely. I was shown so much kindness today. I didn’t have a proper lunch with me, so one of the english teachers brought me back her homemade onigiri* on her lunch break. My English Club students even helped me translate my welcome speech to all of the teachers from English to Japanese. And they even made me a hiragana* cheat sheet and signed all of their names in kanjii*. I actually feel like crying out of gratitude. Many people are doing everything they can to make me feel comfortable and at home. I still feel helpless, but I am so grateful for the people I’ve met.”
And with that, goodnight.
My obligatory “experience” pose at Katoku Beach
*Japanese translations (Out of order index of words because I am tired now!)
Hiragana: Japanese syllabary
Kanji: Chinese/Japanese characters
Yakitori: Chicken skewers
Gambatte: Do your best, good luck, or something like that
Argigasoma Yota: Amami for thank you