My life in Japan so far

So, with today being my last full day in work, I am forced to reflect upon my time here. Despite not regretting my choice to come to Japan, and being so thankful I am here, It has not been as easy and smooth as I had expected.

Work ethic in Japan is so shockingly different from back home that it was a little hard to swallow at first, and if it had not been for my part-time Job before JET, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep my head above water – most of the time- as I have been. Having four schools, is honestly a blessing, giving me time to bond with many of my students and teachers. My time as a teacher has been one big loopdy loop roller coaster, and only now am I realising how much I enjoy it. When I started teaching back In September, I was filled with adrenaline, my nerves shot as I stood before my classes for the first time, boring them with a terribly made presentation of me and Wales, and hoping that my too big smile would compensate for the lack of interesting comments and lame jokes. Time continued to pass and I found my confidence fading into nothing, getting lost behind insecurity and home-sickness. If it had not been for my third years at my Inaka school I would have caved, I’m sure. They are, without a doubt, the greatest bunch of kids anyone has ever met! And while I kind of hated the second years in that school, they are slowly becoming the second  best group of kids ever. The children at my base school are a little more tricky to win over, and I’m still doing my best, determined to make them love me and enjoy English, even if it’s just for the days when I am there. My teachers are all pretty great, and I’ve been lucky with all the teachers I get put to sit beside.

At my base school I sit next to a teacher were going to call V Sensei, for the fact that his voice is a little more attractive than it should be. That, and the fact that on my first day he commented on how low and husky my voice was, reassuring me that it was cool when I began to worry I sound like a male when speaking Japanese. I’ve since learned to embrace the huskiness and take it as a compliment after realising that he’s a pretty shy guy and our conversations are rare. That and he is as busy as the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, constantly scurrying around and worrying about the time.

At my Inaka junior high, I sit next to the most wonderful JTE, a woman I have come to love dearly. She’s just so wonderful, and all I can say, is that if she leaves in the march shuffle, I am going to be deeply upset. She’s a great person, and a great person to teach with. I have been super lucky at my elementary schools too, even though I only spend half a day at each! I get to sit beside a funny 4th year teacher in one and a university student trainee-teacher in the other, of which I have become close friends with.

My personal life has not been so clearly mapped out, with bumps in more places than I would have liked. In the space of 5 months, I am facing my 3rd failed romantic relationship?? and It’s honestly destroying all confidence I had in my self. ( And I had very little to begin with). It’s the most romancing I’ve had in a LONG time, and yet, they may as well cease to be, perhaps then I would not be feeling so down.

I have, however, been more than lucky in the friend department. The other JETs of Nagasaki are wonderful, and I love spending my time with them! The people in Nagasaki are pretty friendly, with the Starbucks people always up for a chat, and the women in the niche little art cafe down the road from me knowing my name. Even the crazy-stylish man who works in this crazy-smooth bar near by house recognised me on instagram, and we now follow each-other. It’s something that may seem trivial, but when you are in a new place, miles away from home, even the little things make you feel more connected to everyday life.

That brings me to the topic of Japanese. In 5 months of being here, I have studied maybe twice? How awful is that? As a previous student of Japanese I am appalled with myself. However, as my fatalistic nature entails, I give up before I even begin, ruining any hopes I had at achieving anything out of a fear based on the foundations of years of being pushed aside by those who should have loved me most.

With the new year looming ever closer, and me being a 年女** , I am determined this year will be different. I’m going to look for the strength to make next year even more amazing than last. It will be hard to top getting JET and meeting all the amazing people who I have, But I’m determined to do it.

I can do this.

channeling this face for the new year

年女 (としおんな) Woman of the Year, referring to a woman born in a year with the same Chinese zodiac sign as the current year.

Ganbaranba! Part 2

So, as you all know, around two months ago, I went to watch a basketball match during Ganbaranba! It was amazing and I was SURE that the experience couldn’t be improved on. The high school kids were so talented and the buzz in the stadium was crazy!

I was lucky enough, one Sunday,  to get the opportunity to go for the second time, with both 1st and 2nd years this time! I ended up as part of the 2nd year group and slummed it with my, Ms T, Mr Yo, and Mrs K! Ms T and Mrs K are already teachers I really like, with Ms T being a JTE and Mrs K just being a babe, so it was already hitting off to a good start! So, I got to chat to my students, and go to see some more awesome sports; this time, it was wheelchair basketball.

Unlike the previous match, this would not be between young high school kids, but adults, and instead of using leg muscles they would be putting their arm muscles to the test. I was sooo excited to be able watch such an event. From the 56th tournament in 2001, the National Sports Festival for People with Disabilities was held, so this is still a relatively new occurrence, in comparison to the total age of the tournament itself, with the origins dating back to 1924.

Nagasaki wheelchair basketball was to play the same time we were to be there, however, we were sadly the wrong side of the court, so our view wasn’t as great as it could have been! Like a basketball flying from one strong handed playing to the other, my attention was constantly tossed back and forth between the two ongoing games. It was simply amazing.

At first I would wince, nervous that when they got knocked over or tumbled, their seats coming with them, that they would hurt themselves. I soon realized quickly how wrong, and just simply disrespectful it was to have felt such a thing. These men ( and I’m sure a few women) were strong and quick, their arms propelling them forward, their bodies twisting any way they could to reach for the ball. I was mesmerized and found myself inspired by their sheer talent. I was glad my students got to see this. I was glad that my students got to witness first hand just how much someone can achieve if they work hard, regardless of whatever disability he or she may have.

Sadly, Nagasaki lost by a hairs breath, but it was a good game. Yes, it was a fantastic game, but more importantly, it was an even better experience.

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Ganbaranba! Part 1#

Every year in Japan, a national premier sporting event known as the, National Sports Festival of Japan or the 国民体育大会 (Kokumin Taiiku Taikai) In Japanese, (or often abbreviated as 国体(Kokutai) is held. It is a competition in which anyone over the age of third year junior high student can enter. Even foreigners are now able to enter the competition if they are permanent residents of Japan (Although the final decision still comes down to the chairman of each sport). The competition started in 1946, hosted by Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, and is held in a different prefecture every year. It is an event which is much looked forward to and in which many participate and attend. The hosting prefecture that year is even left in charge of choosing a name for the competition. The first time Nagasaki ever hosted the Kokutai was in 1969, during its 24th years running. They called it the創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) and gave it the slogan あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai).

24 1969 Nagasaki 創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai)

More than 40 years has passed since Nagasaki hosted this National event, and be it fate or just dumb luck, I happen to move here the year we are hosting it again. Ever since I arrived, the pictures of the mascots have been plastered on every surface possible, the name written on every buildbord, and everyone just going crazy about it. A few weeks ago, the athletes’ started arriving, and let me tell you, it is not unpleasant. Everywhere I look there are people dressed up in their sports outfit, the name of their prefecture plastered across their back or arms. I always feel energized when I see them, and then a little jealous. Why didn’t I try harder at anything when I was younger. Oh well, too late to dwell on that now; that’s a post for another time.

With time ticking on, I was a little worried that I would not be able to see any matches, and I began to wonder how I could go about getting tickets. I then found out that the first and second years of my base school were going to watch a basketball match. This was my chance! With only one class on that day anyway, I went to one of my JTE’s and asked if I could join. They would be leaving during second period and my only class was first period anyway! She agreed it would be a good experience and convinced the Kouchou Sensei to let me go! YES! I was in, and about to experience Nagasaki’s second time holding the kokutai.

This year, the event is called 長崎がんばらんば国体 (Nagasaki Ganbaranba Kokutai), Ganbaranba being the Nagasaki Dialect for “Ganbatte”. It will be the 69th year of the competition and I am sooo stoked to be apart of it.

Ganba-kun and Ranba-chan

I had never seen a Basketball game before, seeing as its not a national sport in Britain, so I was really excited to be able to see something new for me. There were two games in the hall in which we were sitting, but we got seated right in-front of the Okinawa v. Yamagata game. Despite their height, they were in fact High schoolers, which I think made the girls a little more eager to watch the sports. At the start I really wanted Yamagata to win, deciding I liked the simple white of their uniform. That is, however, until I was told that Okinawa was a part of Kyushu. Up until then, for some reason, I had always disassociated Okinawa with Kyushu, seeing it as its own area, but this new piece of information changed things for me. I suddenly wanted Okinawa to win with a burning passion, and soon I was sucked into the world of Basketball. My heart was pounding the entire time, my butt precariously situated on the edge of my seat. I wanted nothing more than for Okinawa to win, and I felt I would die if they didn’t. Sadly they didn’t win, but luckily, I didn’t die. The game was close until the very end, and it  made me realize just how precious each second was in the world of sports. I guess that applies for other areas of life too, but that’s getting o deep for a post about sports. Both teams played amazingly, and I wish both could have one.

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The day was also a great chance for me to speak with Teachers I had not yet had much change to speak to, bond better with some, and have a more of a casual chat with my students. I found that some of them actually spoke to me more. I had been hopeful that this would make them more confident to speak to me during school time, but sadly that’s not the case. Its as if the grounds of the school contain a confidence draining property, that leaves my students shy- for the most part.