But that’s not what I meant…

by Jan 27, 20040 comments

So, yes, I’m finally back. I hope to back for good now too. I’m not entirely sure why I took such an unusually long break from the site this time; I suspect it was a few factors. A big part of it was that I was simply running low on creative juices and really didn’t feel like creating much of anything when there’s perfectly good video games waiting just a few feet away. Probably the bigger part though was just a general being-sick-of-Japan state of malaise, which is really rare for me, but it struck nonetheless. All the crap I’ve been trying to stay on top of and not let me down finally caught up and kicked me square in the crotch.

I mean, I think ‘ganbaru’-ing for 2 1/2 years before being hit with the reality of how little these kids have actually learned from my being here is a pretty good track record. If I had left after the second year, like I should have, it never would have gotten to me. But I’m still here and seeing very disheartening things. Honestly, when a student who has been studying English for three years is asked “What day is it today?” there is NO reason I’m willing to accept, short of that he is terminally retarded, that answering it should involve a one-minute conference between him and the three kids sitting around him…. when then results in a wrong answer. AARGH!! WTF!?!?!

Then there’s the basic lack of anything resembling a desire of the staff to have me here, as I’ve mentioned before. No one talks to me, unless it’s to ask a question that confirms a stereotype they might have. The English teachers don’t like to have a meeting about a lesson until the day before and even then sometimes they suggest we put it off until the day of, by which time they’ve already created a lesson plan that has at best a 70% of involving me (the other 30% would be them saying something like, “Well, today is mostly just explanation of the grammar so I’ll just do it by myself.”) You’d think that at least the higher-ups would be interested in, ohhhhh, i don’t know, say for example me doing my job!! How sadly mistaken you’d be. I’ve asked no less than three times for something as insignificant as a space in the hallway to do a English bulletin board, only to be told over and over by the Vice-Principal to “remind him later.” Sorry, dude, I’ve stopped caring.

The students are just as bad! When I see kids the hallway, I’ll usually say, something like “Good morning, ladies!” or “How are you, boys?” I make a specific point of only using things they’ve learned (ha!) in class so they’re not discouraged by a bunch of random mutterances. Even doing this though, I’m lucky if I get a stock answer like “I’m-fine-thank-you-and-you.” Lately it’s even degraded beyond that. The guys will just look at each other and go, “eh?” and the girls will giggle amongst themselves saying, “What should I say?” and “Eigo wakannai!” before running off, never actually having said a word back to me.

The Town Office isn’t much help. They ship me off to Elementary schools on Mondays which is fine, but aside from that, none of the “Internationalization” that we’re (“we” being JET participants) supposedly here for is on their minds. I used to occasionally ask what kinds of things they’d like to see and they just kind of motion with their arms and say, “You know, stuff that shows…. internationalization.” The most International™ thing I’ve done in 2 1/2 years is provide a translation for these parking signs which appear in the Fukuma countryside, which I’m sure you’ll agree, is just teeming with English-speaking gaijin that need help figuring out that the large flat space full o’ gravel off to the side of the road is for parking your car.

I’ve known from the start that the schools haven’t really wanted or known what to do with a JET, but I’m starting to wonder if even the Town Office, my employer for crying out loud, has a clue! Since everyone in a government job is liable for a department transfer every April, it’s possible that whoever got the bright idea to bring JETs here and what to use them for is long gone and took his nefarious plans for Fukuma-domination with him. What a heartening thought. (note: I used the pronoun ‘him’ in this instance since even now, most government positions are held by crusty old men who usually only listen to the women under their command when they’re saying the words, “Here’s your tea, sir.”)

There is a silver lining to all this though. And that is that after having stewed in my discontent for a month or so now, I’ve emerged from the ashes supercharged with an impenetrable apathy known by few humans who have not experienced being a 3rd year JET participant. I’ve once again found the whimsy to just let whatever comes roll off my back, knowing that in the end, I’m making money, have a place to sleep and even if someone wanted to fire me, there’s so much bureaucracy involved in accomplishing even the smallest thing here, that by the time such a thing happened, my contract will be up and I’ll be back in the states collecting my fat pension-refund from the Japanese government.

As is with the entire film, most lines in The Big Lebowski are only apparently simple. I’m constantly surprised at how much wisdom is contained in the most seemingly innocuous lines. Having finally come out as the victor in the battle of JET disillusionment, I can now say that I finally understand the true meaning of the immortal words, “Fuck it, dude. Let’s go bowling.”

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