I realize that I haven`t really spoken too much about my life here in Japan. And seeing as how I have signed on for another year, it would be a big chunk of time and a big chunk of my life if it goes unmentioned. So here goes:
645AM get out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth. Make some yerba mate. Get dressed and make myself presentable. Open up the rice cooker and pack up my lunch for the day. Eat breakfast (simple today: brown rice, flax oil, dulse, a few sunflower seeds). Oh shit, today is plastic garbage day. Every day there is a different garbage that is picked up. It is a very complicated system, with many charts and schedules. After breakfast I pack up our plastic garbage.
750Am: I chug down the rest of my yerba mate, run out the door, thrown the garbage bag in its spot, and hop onto my trusty one speed bike. I race through the Junior High School gates, park my bike, run inside, manage to change my shoes, straighten out my skirt, and get to my desk…all within 10 minutes of leaving. Phew. Not the last one in the teacher`s room.
8:15 Am: The morning teachers meeting has just ended, but to me it felt like it never even started because it is all in Japanese, and is very difficult to understand. All I know, is that at 8AM everyone stands up, says good morning, bows, sits down, then the daily announcements are made, and everyone mutters “thank you.” I have no classes scheduled today, and it is Thursday (almost the weekend). Finally, after a long week of visiting elementary schools, I can relax and just veg out.
8:40 AM I take the opportunity of a whole-day of desk sitting (which is getting boring already), to email friends back home, sort out online banking and money transferring, look up things on Wikipedia, and think about blog topics. I am not really allowed to “surf” the internet, but the ALT (assistant language teacher) before me snuck firefox portable onto the computer, which allows me to access my email when no one is looking (thank god).
10:00 AM Green tea refill time. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the selection of teas here in Japan. My staffroom is decently stocked with instant coffee (so many people drink it here!), and luckily for me, green tea. Ahh...tea.
12: 20 pm It`s lunch time now, so I head to the teachers table. Homeroom teachers eat in the class with their students, but I eat in the staff room because I do not get the school lunch (that every single child and teacher eats) as I have food allergies. School lunch is a bit of a legend here in Japan. They are quite calorie dense (usually 600-800 calories), but are filled with super healthy ingredients. Everyone gets a tray filled with usually a soup, some pickled veggies, rice, stew or curry or fish, and something else. Sometimes instead of a giant bowl of rice, they get a giant white bun. And they get a carton of milk too, everyday. One thing you pretty much never see is dessert, spare for an occasional orange or 1 piece of apple.
Today it was a big bowl of noodles with lots of veggies and chicken. There was a giant raisin bun, an orange, milk, and some sort of friend meat with green peppers. I brought bento (packed lunch), and today it was brown rice mixed with buckwheat groats, lentils, and kelp.
At first I felt a bit awkward bringing my lunch to school. I was a constant source of curiosity for the other teachers. “Jeshika-sensei, what do you eat today?” But they are almost always impressed, even laughing that I am more Japanese than they are because I eat rice (brown rice), and vegetables almost everyday. Sometimes I bring Natto and they all get a kick out of that – people here either love natto or hate it.
I make a tiny bit of small talk (communication is still difficult), finish my lunch by saying “gochisosama deshita” (thank you for delicious meal, or something like that), and make my way back to my desk.
1:20 pm I zone out of the office chatter, letting the Japanese float to the back of my mind, and I think about my life here.
All in all, I am really happy here. In fact, my life in Canada seems like a far away dream. Having a 40 hour work week makes time just fly (which is good and bad). I wake up, bicycle to work, bicycle home, and before I know it the alarm is going off again.
I spend my evenings doing yoga, now teaching some yoga, cooking with my guy, catching up on things back home via the internet, biking to the beach to try catch the sunset, and vegging with a bit of LOST and whatever else we feel like. We try to study Japanese as much as we can – but I am bad, and really should do it more.
2:30pm Maybe I will study some Japanese, I really really should.
240pm ...ahh, nevermind, daydreaming about life in Japan is much better and less taxing on my brain. On weekends we usually head into the city (~30mins on the train), and meet up with some friends, go out to restaurants, walk around parks, and check out some of the cool shopping places. We also like to stay right here in the country and go for long bike rides. Last weekend we biked all the way into the city (40km!).
The weather here is much different than what I am used to back home. The seasons all kind of blur. It is becoming more green now that summer is approaching, but it is definitely less hot than in the summer. There was no snow this winter. The weather was much warmer than in Canada, but because there is no heating indoors, I froze my ass off!! They don`t heat the rooms in Japan, and in fact open the windows in winter to make the children "heartier." The saving grace from my cold winter days, was that brightly coloured flowers bloom outside all year round. So despite being so cold at my desk, that my nails turned purplish somedays, I could ride past pink flowers outside in January. And I am surrounded by farms here, so I always see beautiful orange trees, vegetable patches, and strawberry fields wherever I go. Cherry blossoms are out now, and soon I will go to hanami.
There are so many things I want to do here, like take a cooking class, learn how to do a Japanese tea ceremony, practice kimono wrapping, not to mention travel. But I find that time is short, so things need to be planned far in advance. I guess it`s good that I am staying another year.
3:20pm Well, it is school cleaning time now. The announcement goes off (which is an endearing little song they play over the intercom), and all students change into their gym clothes. Teachers and students clean the schools here. There are no janitors. Some students sweep. Others clean the bathrooms. Some sort garbage. Others rake leaves. I usually sweep around the teachers room. Well, be back soon: I`m off to find my broomstick!
345pm Time to go home! Yipee! I leave before all the other teachers, because they stay to do club activities with the students until 5or 6pm, everyday. Some English teachers join in on the clubs, but I would prefer to have some time to practice yoga. Before I leave the staffroom, I turn to everyone, bow, and say “osaki ni shitsureshimau” (sorry for leaving before you). They usually respond by saying “otsukarasamadeshita” (thanks for your hard work). Then I make my escape on my red bike.
545pm Got home by 4pm, had a piece of chocolate and some tea. Catch up with my guy about his day. Then did some yoga for a bit, and am now ready to make dinner.
630pm Rice cooker went off at 615pm. Today was brown rice with buckwheat. I made a quick stir fry of cabbage, some other greens, and a whack of mushrooms. I used a bit of sesame oil and shoyu to season. We also quickly fried up some local fish.
8pm finish dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting my bag of teaching materials for tomorrow at elementary school ready.
9pm Quick shower, then chill time...we might watch some tv on the internet, or just have some tea and talk?? Hope to be in bed and asleep by 11pm, because teaching at elementary schools is a totally different job requiring lots and lots of energy. In fact, it is a whole different story for an entirely different blog post.