WTF, right? I’m in this crazy new country and not posting anything!? So many of you have been eager to hear all about my new life in Japan and new job teaching English. Sorry dudes.
Honestly – I kind of feel like I don’t have anything exciting enough to say. So I haven’t really said anything.
Japan is a cool country, but I don’t live in a place like you’re probably picturing. I live in a city of 60,000 people, which is straight up middle-of-nowhere by Japanese standards. There’s a train to a “big” city (300,000 people) once every hour or two, but for the most part you’ve gotta take a pretty serious drive on expensive toll roads to get anywhere else as there’s next to no train service. I’m also living on the smallest of the four main islands that make up Japan, with no bullet trains or anything like that to get to the main part of Japan where Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and places like that are. The infrastructure in my city (and the mindset of most of the people) is more like the 1970s than the futuristic Japan you might be thinking of. Most of the people in my town are like a hundred years old. Farms are prevalent. So are fishermen. It’s definitely not a tech hub. Fax is still the main mode of “online” communication, I can’t connect my laptop or iPhone to school internet networks because they’re afraid of viruses, and when it’s time to pay my rent the only way I can do it is to take a special piece of paper, walk into the bank, take money out of the ATM that’s INSIDE THE BANK because for some reason the teller can’t take it out of my account, go to the teller, give them my money and piece of paper, take a number, sit down, wait for them to call me back up, then they give me a receipt.
Does that sound complain-y? I hope not, because I fucking love it here.
The schools are also probably not what you’re thinking. When I pictured Japanese schools before I came here, I had visions of silent serious students studying furiously, producing stellar test scores and eager to join English clubs to excel on their high school entrance examinations. This won’t surprise any real teachers… what I found, especially being placed at extremely low-academic schools in the roughest area of town, was kids running in the classrooms, screaming profanities, constantly hitting/poking/slapping their seatmates, ignoring the teacher for the entire class and refusing to speak any English except swear words they learn from manga comics. Obviously this isn’t every class, but I was absolutely shocked at how little discipline (in my view) the Japanese teachers give to (in my view) egregiously misbehaving students during class. That kind of shit would NOT fly in any of the classrooms I was in when I was growing up. I expected them to be way more strict here, but it’s not the case at my schools and that makes it really difficult for me in a lot of classrooms when the teachers don’t control the students (as an assistant language teacher, I team-teach with the Japanese teachers and I am not allowed to discipline the students in any way).
Does that sound complain-y? I hope not, because I fucking love my schools.
Every day Japan smashes my expectations to bits, for better or for worse. The first day I went outside for recess at one of my elementary schools after the adorable first graders begged me to (I demurred until the end of October because of the intense heat), I walked out the door towards the playground and EVERY SINGLE STUDENT started screaming “RIKAAAA-SENSEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” and running towards me. They all wanted to hold my hand and cried out in Japanese “watch me watch me” as they rode their unicycles (for real), went swinging around on monkey bars, and flipped over tires. It’s been a long damn time since anyone was that excited to see me, so to have that kind of reception from hundreds of tiny kids who just know me as a giant foreigner who gives them high fives and tries to get them to say “how are you?” in English… well… my heart pretty much exploded.
I have discovered shrines, beautiful gardens, riverside gelato, farm honesty boxes, a deserted beach, and the best ramen I’ve ever eaten. But I also spend a lot of time at home. I love my apartment. It’s cozy and I’m slowly adding all the furniture I want to make it comfortable and my own. I like spending time there. I like having the leisure of all the free time I never had on Roatan. I have weekends off. I have holidays off. I have enough vacation, overtime in-lieu days, and easygoing schools that let me take a day off whenever I want. The power never goes out, I have air conditioning, a nice view, and quiet neighbors. My supervisors are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and the Japanese teachers are happy to work with me. Even the students who act rotten in English class still smile and say hello to me in the hallways. The people in this town who work service jobs try their best with my crap Japanese any time I go to a store, bank or restaurant. Time is passing quickly but easily here.
So really… I’ve just been working and living a regular life here. I don’t think it’s that interesting, so I haven’t been super inspired to write about it on here. But I’ve had a few little adventures here and there that I’ll write about in the coming weeks! See the end of this post for a little peek.
For now, let’s get onto the roundup.
1. My most liked photo on Instagram this month:
Well, this one blew all my other Insta photos out of the water. This is my most-liked Instagram photo of all time! People really dug my Maleficent costume. I think it went well with my personality. #MistressOfAllEvil in the houseeeeeeeee! I had to work on Halloween – the nametag was not part of my original costume.
Note: my personal policy is that Instagram is a give and take platform. My profile is private and if you don’t have any photos on yours or you’re selling crap, I won’t accept your request, sorry! There’s just too many scam/spam profiles out there, so I don’t accept anyone who doesn’t look like a legit user.
2. In case you missed it:
Uhhhh, not much in this department.
- Stop Calling It A Jamaican Accent: Dear Islanders, I’m Sorry
- The JET Programme: From Arrival to Tokyo Orientation
3. One second everyday – October:
I’m using a new app, 1 Second Everyday, to quickly chronicle my time here in Japan by taking a one second video every day. At the end of each month the app puts it together and you end up with a 30-second video of the month. I really like it because it shows what I’m really doing each day, not just all the highlights of super fun stuff once in a while. I think it gives a good insight to daily life. I’m planning to replace the “My Favorite Thing on the Internet” section of the roundups with this from now on. I hope you guys enjoy it! (Also, this isn’t sponsored or anything. I paid $6.99 for this app and I just like it a lot and got a lot of questions about it on Instagram so I wanted to share!)
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter … there’s lots of extras posted there that don’t make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I’m on Bloglovin’, so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there’s that.
It sounds like you’re settling in! I knew Shikoku was definitely old school but I didn’t know you couldn’t even pay rent via bank transfer. Huh. Also that Maleficent costume is amazing, did you teach in that? You’re probably everyone’s favorite teacher ;D
Rika - Cubicle Throwdown says
It’s suuuuuper old school here. I do love most of the quirks but the banking thing is rough. All my other bills I can either furikomi at the ATM or they come out of my account automatically. Just my damn rent I have to go in and pay in person!
And yep, I did teach in that costume ^-^ The kids loved it! The hat was a little uncomfortable but the rest was just a big comfy muumuu so I was happy 🙂
Joella // Paper Crane Stories says
I knew I was behind on my blog reading but I didn’t know I was this behind. I had no idea you were now in Japan (one of my favourite countries ever!). That’s fantastic. I’m glad you’re enjoying it and I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Rika - Cubicle Throwdown says
Haha yep, I left Roatan in April and got to Japan at the end of July! I’m loving it here. Very happy to be here (though I do miss the Caribbean!)