Monday, October 29, 2007

I suck

I suck. I will write a proper post in the next day or two. I swear. Stop doubting me.

In other exciting news, I am Alice in the Niigata charity musical! I'm really excited about it, it should be tons 'o fun, although I have a crapload of lines to learn, which sorta sucks. I already don't have much time for studying nihongo, and piling this on top of things isn't going to help that problem. I need to stop sleeping I think. Or become a hermit. Those are my only two options. I can sleep when I'm dead.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thriving on Kyuushoku and Sushi

At this point I can finally say that I'm settled into my new life here in Japan. This place feels more and more like home every day, and I'm beginning to wonder what on earth I would have done with myself had I not been accepted into the JET program. Now that I think about, I'd probably still be running western blots and searching endlessly for a Strad-beta antibody that actually works. No offense guys, I miss you all in the lab. I do NOT, however, miss taking out the biohazard trash every other day.

Weeks here are pretty regular and normal, weekends are always fun. Due to my awesome schedule, the work week flies by pretty fast, and the weekend is here in no time. I spend most weekends going to either Shibata (yo we gon' roll up in the shiiiiib) or Niigata city (then we bouncin' to the Niiiiiiig), where most of my friends reside and party. This next weekend I'll be heading to Joetsu which is in the southern part of the prefecture to audition for the Niigata ALT charity musical. For those of you who haven't heard about this, basically every year the ALTs in Niigata put on a charity musical all around the prefecture to raise money to build schools in Paupa New Guinea. What rocks about this, is that at the end of the musical run, everyone on the musical team actually goes to PNG for two weeks to build the schools. I've heard, though, that after only a day or two of building, the ALTs are usually so in the way of the contracted workers who actually know how to build a school, that they're usually asked to just play with the kids. What's more, my predecessor, Deccy, got to take "volunteer leave" to go for the two weeks, so he didn't have to use any of his paid vacation time! (We only get 20 days a year.) You can all expect me to play the same card...

So yeah, life in Japan rocks. Sorry I don't have any sweet pictures -- my camera is broken and I've already spent an assload of money on snowboarding gear, so I've got to wait a while before I purchase a new one. I look forward to getting one though, as Japan has some of the tiniest digital cameras the world has seen.

At the request of a few of my dear readers, I will now take some time to explain how life for me here is different from living back home. I will begin with school life, since its something I have to deal with every day. As you can probably imagine, schools in Japan are pretty different from schools in the states. First, the physical differences.

1. Students and teachers in Japan all wear indoor shoes inside the school, and separate shoes outside. Because of this, there is always a large genkan or entrance at the front of the school, full of cubby holes and lockers to store the students' and teachers' outdoor shoes. Students also remove their indoor shoes before going into certain rooms, including the computer lab. Japan is really funny about shoes -- no one wears shoes inside the home and often people wear separate slippers in the bathroom (you have house slippers and bathroom slippers). But at school, there is only a distinction between inside and outside footwear.

2. Nearly all kids ride their bikes or walk to school. There is no school bus -- I've only ever seen elementary school students riding in buses, and even then, I think they may have been going on a field trip. Most elementary school students walk to school in groups or go with mom by car. Which reminds me of another interesting difference between Japan and America -- Japan is a safe place. Parent's don't worry about their kids walking 15-20 minutes to go to school, cause they know nothing is gonna happen. I feel safer here than I ever did in the US.

3. JHS kids in Japan don't change classes. Instead they stay in the same room and the teachers move from room to room. There is also usually a lot of time between classes, so kids often goof around or go to the teachers room to talk to one of the teachers during that time. I'm not sure if this is also true of highschools or not.

4. There is no air conditioning in summer, and only space heaters in winter. This explains the pit stains I have in every picture of me at school.

5. There are no "janitors." Instead, the students clean the school for 15 minutes every day. There is a groundskeeper, who mows the grass and keeps things in working order, but you'll never see him with a broom or a trashcan.

6. All the students (and the teachers, including myself) eat Kyuushoku, or school lunch, every day. In Japan, school lunch is free (for the students) and surprisingly delicious and healthy. I only pay a mere 300 yen or something ridiculously cheap every day, so I save money AND get the vegetables that I badly need to eat more of.

7. Student interaction in class is really different here too. Students here DON'T ask questions during class. The teachers, always without fail, ask if the students have any questions, but the response is always the same -- dead silence. Also, there are some kids in Japan that are so debilitatingly shy that they literally NEVER speak. Making this even weirder is the fact that the teachers don't expect them to speak, so they don't have to say anything in class. There is one student in particular at Kanno JHS who just straight weirds me out. She will speak in a whisper to a few of the teachers, but not all of them, though she still comes to the teacher's room between every class and just sort of stands over different teacher's desks, watching them do whatever they're doing. She stares at me sometimes, but I just do my best to ignore her... Maybe I'm being closed-minded but this sort of behavior just doesn't make sense to me (nor do I feel the need to cater to it).

8. Sometimes random salesman come to school and try to sell things to the teachers. This one is particularly weird. It's not like random teachers pushing avon or tupperware, this is actual salesman, in suits, soliciting things in the teachers room. This is apparently normal. One day at Hirabayashi JHS a guy came with 3 racks of dressy clothes and was actually selling work attire in the teacher's room. It was soooo weird.

9. Japanese kids are weird. Period. Summer vacation is only 1 month long, but they will still show up at school every day at like 8 in the morning to hang out with friends or go to optional(ish) club activities. I've never seen anything like it.

10. Japanese kids are very close to their teachers. In fact, many of them are probably closer to their teachers than they are to their parents. A fellow ALT named Joel told me that his first year here he taught at a somewhat delinquint highschool in Niigata city. That year one of his students got arrested for shoplifting. Apparently, when the kid was given one phone call at the police station, he called his homeroom teacher, not his mom and dad. This, again, is completely normal.

Hmm, I'm pretty sure that's all I can think of for now. If I think of something else outstandingly weird, I'll be sure to add it. Or, if you have any questions, just post 'em in the comments section. Hannah OUT.