A year & a half in Japan

Well, it's been an interesting 17 months thus far. I've gone from disliking my situation to loving my situation. When I arrived I didn't really know what I was getting into, because as the mantra goes 'every situation is different'. I felt very frustrated, confused, lonely, felt like I was melting from the heat, struggled to give up my independance, struggled to communicate etc. It took a long time to settle into a normal routine, and if it wasn't for certain people (you know who you are), I wonder if I would've made it through to the good part. I'm very pleased (this is not supposed to sound as cheesey as it probably does!) that I stuck through the first few months and learned to love it here. Japan is so different to what I've ever experienced, and there's just so much to learn. I made so many mistakes in the beginning and I believe it was both my fault AND my schools' fault. There are many things they neglected to tell me, (though I didn't think to ask) so I consequently made a complete bollox of myself. They never told me I had to get school lunch. Nor, did they tell me the start and finish times were different from the hours I'd been working at the BOE. Nor did they tell me I had to stay at school unless I was given permission to leave. Therefore, in the forst week I broke all the rules, and got told off in front of all the teachers at school. Not cool.

It has taken some students and teachers over a year to actually speak to me. I still swear there's one teacher who, even now, would cry if I walked up to him and said 'Hello!'. I must be scarier than I thought. I'm fully aware I have much less to do than the other teachers, but as Josh (I think) wrote, we're not here to teach English. So, I help where I can, and just get on with it. I volunteered this year to perform in the school culture day. I remember how bored I was last year, and understood very little as they did the play in Saga ben! So, knowing the students have very little time to spare, I asked the school if I could teach the kids a dance. They said yes, so I taught them The Macarena. Absolutely nothing to do with NZ culture, but at least it was fun, and something different. The teachers saw me at school for weeks on end, staying late to both coach for the speech competition, and teach the Macarena. So, I think I learnt a little more respect, which is always nice.

What I've learnt in 17 months can't really be put into words. Japanese culture is so far from my own, that I'm constantly learning. It's foreign to me to have a cold Xmas, as is living around snakes and enormous spiders. But, mostly foreign is the language and culture. I studied Japanese for 2 years, but it was hardly an insight to what life is truely like here. In my first week I accidently agreed to buy a TV and Microwave, cause all I wanted was a quote, and I refused to ask someone to help me. I thought I could do it myself. I thought I did it, until a week later when Mr Max called my school and asked where and when I want them delivered! Oops. I've also learnt that Mormons speak amazing English, so the whole 'wakarimasen' business doesn't work here! I've learnt to lock my door so Mormons, strange men, and children don't come into my house of their own free will! Yes, all have come in uninvited. The strange man was campaigning for a new mayor or something, and he had rung the bell and was standing in my lounge in seconds. I had just got out of the shower!!!!!!!!!!!! Luckily for me I was decent. I was not impressed. Also, my students live around my house, and take turns hanging outside my front door ringing the bell, knocking and hollering 'Sharon sensei!!!!! Sharon sensei!!!!!' at the top of their lungs.

Now, I learn to just let things go. I have a laugh with my students. I ignore the yelling from outside my door. I keep myself busy with friends, yoga, language exchange and satellite TV. I save up most of my swearing and bitching till the weekend, when it sometimes just comes pouring outta me.....

There have been, and still are, some amazing people in Saga. Without those people life would've been very dull indeed. I've decided that one year here is definately not enough. That just gives you time to actually appreciate being here. Two years to me seems perfect. My 'to do' list in life is too long to justify a third year, so two it is. I feel entirely happy though with what I've done thus far. Mud olympics, learning to make okonomiyaki, studying Japanese, climbing Mt Fuji, being buried in volcanic sand up to my neck, visited an onsen....and much more. It's been amazing, but more adventures await. Maybe someone should ring Ireland, and warn them I'm comin back......