Are you noticing a trend here? The last post was called “October in Japan”, now I’m writing a post called “November in Japan”. The creativity is just pouring out of me!
October 31 and November 1 was the Saitama JET Mid-Year conference. Now, if you were to ask me, “Lauren, when do you think the Mid-Year conference is?” I would answer, “Well, by virtue of it being called the ‘Mid Year’ conference, I would say it would be roughly 5 or 6 months after I get to Japan.” “Sorry, Lauren, it’s actually going to be 2 months after you get to Japan.” “Blerg!”
After I got over the fact that the Mid Year conference wasn’t mid year at all, I headed to Omiya and followed the trail of foreigners to Sonic City. We sat through an interesting but essentially useless lecture about using poetry in the class room. I say useless because I think native English speakers would have had trouble with the activity, much less Japanese junior high schoolers. After lunch, we had a workshop about the “expectations” and the “realities” of being an ALT in Japan. In other words, “Bitch Session.” I feel a little guilty, however, because compared to most of the other JETs I met, I have to say I have it pretty good. ALTs were telling stories about teachers not telling them when and where Sports Day or festivals were, about their kids reading and walking out of class, about teachers being mean to them, or not using them in the classroom at all. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there thinking, “I don’t have anything to complain about.”
At the end of Day 1, we went drinking at The Hub. It seems that whenever I go out with foreigners, I end up at the most Western-style place around. This particular bar was a “pub” that was airing a rugby game and having a Jack Daniel’s happy hour. The JTE from East Junior High, Mr. Aizawa, came with us, and he could not get over the fact that he was out drinking at a time when he would normally be at school. So we watched Rugby, I met some JETs that lived near me, it was good times.
Day 2, the day started off with another lecture about how to be a good ALT and how to be a bad one. Then a Japanese man who was a coordinator of something or another came in and said in the extremely solemn tone. “I guess you haven’t heard what happened, I will tell you.” We were all at the edge of our seat, waiting to hear about an accident or a train derailment or something. “10 ALTs check in this morning and . . .” The tension was thick, were they in a terrible accident, were they hospitalized? “. . . And then left.” Man, here we thought someone had died or something, and it turned out they just skipped out on a lecture. After a couple workshops, I went and had Okonomiyaki, which is awesome btw, and then I ended up at The Hub again! In Japan, whenever you enter any kind of shop, they shout, “Irashaimase!” which is just a set phrase meaning “welcome, coming in, please buy something”, so the Hub Worker was saying that to everyone, then saw me and said, “Irashaima–he-hey” like I was some kind of regular.
So I met a bunch of ALTs, and had good conversations with some of them. I feel the need to explain here that my romantic expectations here on JET are kind of low since I’ve been told repeatedly that Japanese guys are intimidated by foreign women, meanwhile, the foreign guys here are generally trying to hook up with Japanese girls. One of the best examples of this is one of the ALTs I met from Canada. He lives near me and and we had a pretty good conversation, then he saw some Japanese girls and hit me with this nugget: “Hey, looks like I have an opportunity to practice my Japanese, I’ll talk to you later.” Nice; subtle, really.
I hung out at The Hub for a while longer (with some rowdy ALTs, by the way) but it was a Thursday night so I headed home at about 10pm. It’s fun to travel to my town because the trains are pretty full when I get on in Omiya, then by the time it reaches my machi, it’s significantly lower. So I was sitting on the train with a little bit of a beer buzz when I looked up. This younger Japanese businessman (we’ll just call him a salaryman) with a pink tie was sitting across from me and he looked at me. I smiled since that’s just what my reaction is to anyone making eye contact with me, and went back to listening to my iPod in my beer haze.
We reached my machi and I walked along the platform to the escalator. The salaryman was in front of me, then turned around and smiled and said hi. I said hi back, and he told me his name was Takeshi. I told him that I don’t speak Japanese well, but he kept asking me questions and I attempted to answer in my broken Japanese. We walked through the gates and down the stairs to the street when he noticed it was raining outside and said to me “kasa ga nai?” (no umbrella?). I said I was okay, then he said “Isshou ni tabetai?” (want to eat together?). It took a few seconds for my tipsy brain to process that Takeshi the very cute salaryman was asking me out. But cute as he was, he had a pink tie on! And didn’t speak English, so I declined (which means I said “Daijoubu” a few times and walked to my bike).
There is more to tell about my November, but this post is way too long, so I think I’ll save it for “Part 2″. Stay tuned!