Thank the asgardian gods above that this term is over. I just taught my last class of the term, and even though I am sitting in an un-airconditioned staffroom, I am content. This has been, hands down, the closest I’ve been to just wanting to jump ship and leave Japan.
Is it cultural problems? Nah, those are wearing on me but I can deal with it. It is homesick problems? To some degeree, but mostly I think I just miss being able to shop in English, buy food at reasonable prices, and see my friends and family back home.
Is it a coworker problem? Yes, but not a Japanese one. At the end of this term, I know that I got close to wanting to quit all because of one supremely awful human being. He’s rude, he’s condescending, and in giving “advice” he’ll just tear you down forever instead of actually giving advice to make your classes better.
It’s been years since I had a shitty worker and for that I consider myself blessed. A couple years back I worked at a regional airport and my boss there was a royal butthole. He’d never show up to work, had illusions of grandeur about what the Alamance Regional Airport could be (and spent company money to install things like wide screen TVs so, I dunno, the creepy old dudes that came through on Sunday could have something to watch?), he would say the company was too poor to help the BEST LADY THERE get life insurance (not even health insurance) so that her kids could be taken care of if something happened to her (she offered to pay most of it, even!), and he could complain about the economy while he went off in his PRIVATE PLANE to go to Barbados. Asshat. Also he was creepy.
Mostly I’ve been lucky to have good coworkers, and to be honest, after this horrible debacle, I now know that my coworkers at that school care for me far more than I realized and are willing to stick up for me and help me build up my confidence again after it got torn down week after week. Bless them. Did you know? No, you didn’t know because I didn’t tell you, but one day, after a particularly awful harangue, my vice principal showed up at my door with a box full of beautiful, meticulously decorated bakery cakes. And it wasn’t just that act of wonderful kindness. It’s like, now that this has happened, there is this bubble of sympathy, some unspoken rule that now that I have been crapped on as a teacher that I have reached this level of understanding, some level of “we’ve all been there, now have some blendy coffee with me” that puts me more in the in-group than I have been since I got here.
I wish I didn’t have to feel like UTTER SHIT to reach this point, but now that the wounds are fading (at least for now – the butthole is on vacation), and even though I am constantly worried that he’ll treat me like crap again next term, I feel okay and I like this ever-expanding realm of sympathy.
However, this term did have some wonderful upsides to it. My Filipino kids are freaking great to have around. It’s so awesome to have kids that I can talk to about any topic – not just little things that I can understand in Japanese. These kids can even ask me to be their friends on facebook. I won’t be their friend on facebook (I lie and say I couldn’t find them) because it crosses some creepy line, but I swear, having conversations that can go anywhere and always include vocabulary I can understand is a wonderful thing. (Side note: I asked them why a 4th grader would need a facebook, what they could possibly post on it. The answer was a good one, “anime pictures.” Naturally.)
I liked being able to be an English speaker for them if they needed it. You know, like when they have upset tummies and can’t tell the nurse. Or when they fall on the playground and come to get me. I was honored when they would come to get me. I was more than happy to say, “aw, it’s okay” and get to call someone “sweetie” until the nurse showed up.
And even though my 4th graders (all 3 classes of them) devolved into attitudes from hell, I am closer to the good ones now. I need to forever remember that at this point in time, summer 2012, I had an inside joke with a Japanese boy where we would, upon passing one another in the hall, would whisper or yell “persimmons” while flashing crazy eyes. Sometimes that boy is also referred to as “Mr. Persimmons.”
I also got to climb a mountain with my mountain school again this year. Last year I went up with the 2nd graders and had an awesome time. (Did I post about it? I bet I did. Too lazy to check. Best part was when the little ladies kept handing me weed-flowers and snake straberries and then we found some animal bones and we all screamed and screamed and screamedn.) This year I went up with this year’s 2nd graders. Besides being super hard (just like last year), it was epically fun. It was, especially, a time for me to hang out with my badly behaved boys and realize that I still like them as people. One bad boy gave me a cherry at lunch. Another walked most of the 2nd half of the hike by my side, just chit chatting about anything and everything. (At one point he drove the conversation to Michael Jackson of all things and I had to inform him that Michael Jackson had died which apparently surprised him so much that he had to tell all the other little boys his surprising news. Don’t worry; it didn’t make him sad.) I was also the absolute slowest down the mountain. That crap hurts my ancient knees, yo.
There’s a part of me that feels like this term got wasted because more than half of it was spent feeling horrible and having so-so classes because I was being overly critical of myself and had no confidence left. But then I remember that I had one more term of hanging out with my little ones and that makes me happy.
I have one more year left, but I will miss these kids like crazy when it’s time to go.