Saturday, September 18, 2004

Greetings everybody! Well it has been a while since I have written. As you may have guessed the process of moving house and starting a new job has taken a lot of time out of my schedule. I have also been stepping up the number of Japanese classes which I have been taking. You would assume that my Japanese would be improving, however, unfortunately I seem to be similar to many of my students and without a concentrated effort outside the classroom is almost impossible to improve!
Almost two weeks ago I had my first day at the junior high school which I am working as an assistant English teacher. After making my way to the school I donned my best slippers and headed off to the classroom. Keeping with par for the course in Japan I managed to get lost and ended up in what might have been a wood working room, or possibly the school kitchen. I eventually found my way to the teachers staff room. I was met by Yusa-sensei. Sensei is the title given to a person of some authority, such as a teacher or a lawyer etc. Of course in Japan is usual practice two give your family name first to introduce yourself, however this is not usually expected of foreigners.
The inevitable happened and initially I was called Chris-sensei. After a short time this was resolved and I was known as Grenfuru – sensei, a vast improvement! Yusa-sensei is a very nice middle-aged man his hobby would appear to be birdwatching, not the traditional Japanese male type, but actual ornithology. When I told him I came from New Zealand he was very interested in the Kakapo, and Kiwi.

my first involvement with the class was to introduce myself. I was told that there would be four classes during the day. All of them were grade eight, grade eight is approximately 12 to 14-year-old students. So it would be four action replays of my stunning introduction followed by the exciting trivia contest. My introduction went smoothly however the teacher decided that he would call on the children to ask me questions in English. This posed a problem as I could not understand the questions.

The questions I read to the class were a ‘who am I’ type and the children had to choose from a list of names. I realised that they found it difficult when this piece of dialogue occurred:-
Me: Who am I? …. "I was a German, I killed 6 million Jews, I was the leader of the Nazi empire…."
Student at back of class (of course): "ummm…..OH! Beethoven!"…(followed by nods of agreement and mutters of ‘ah so’ by other students)
Although I was scheduled to be involved in four lessons one was cancelled. I had a little bit of difficulty understanding exactly why my lesson was cancelled, however, as far as I can tell, it had something to do with some children pressing a button in the kitchen. I was informed that it was a very serious safety risk and that caused the lunches for the day to be stopped. I was told that the children who pressed the button attempted to run away and hide. However, I was informed that "now the children are weeping." My mind boggled as to what heinous machinery was kept in the kitchen. However, if the kitchen was the woodworking room which I first entered I can understand the possibility of a serious workplace accident. I was informed however that I would still be paid for my lesson which I did not teach.
The school I was teaching at is quite a way out from Tokyo. Many of the children have not been much further than the outskirts of Tokyo. Therefore a foreigner is a very rare sight. Following my final class many of the girls in the school made their way up to the corridor outside my classroom and nervously peaked in waived and giggled at me. This of course is not too dissimilar to the reaction I receive in a New Zealand bar.
My new digs are excellent. Of course I missed Mike and Dave helping the move but I’ll let them off this once. The only problem with my place is the number of cockroaches. I have so far had to chase three of them outside of my room. One chased me out of my room(……..make that four cockroaches). If anybody has a good recipe for getting rid of cockroaches please advise me.
It is very quiet and much more spacious than my previous room. And I have to admit that sleeping on a bed is a luxury which I have always taken for granted. It did take some getting used to again as I discovered that when you roll over three times on a futon you might roll into the wall, however, on a bed if you roll over 1 ½ times you are suddenly landing on a cockroach party on the floor.
Work is quite quiet at the moment and I am finding that the work is becoming extremely easy. They are introducing a new textbook which provides complete lesson management plans for us. This means that we are required to even less thinking about the lessons that we prepare.
The only its excitement to work recently was when one of the teachers had an argument with one of the Japanese staff. The young Japanese girl ended up crying and the teacher wrote a protest letter to Nova’s head office. It was an example of one person not following the rules and another person taking their job much too seriously.
I’m quite excited as I have almost reached the corner in my financial situation. Due to the way that Nova provides an advance on salary I have almost paid back my loan and have finished my probationary period. Hopefully, my days of eating spag bol for lunch and dinner are almost over. I might be able to afford something really classy such as lasagne.
Well I had better go and I need to meet with the representative of the cockroaches. They are very difficult to negotiate with.
Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail and I look forward to receiving all the exciting news from your place!
The exterminator