oh dear, it has been too long since i last wrote of my experiences here, but in my defense i have only just recently gotten full access to the Internet here and so i have had limited communication with almost everyone back home in the states. i will stick to my promise of keeping you all in the loop and blogging on a weekly basis, starting now. it may take a few posts to get you all up to speed on what's going on and what I'm doing, but i will be diligent!
i have now been here on the island of narujima for approximately three weeks. it is better and more spectacular than i ever could have dreamed island life could be and i am learning so much everyday from so many sources. i am one of i would say three or four english speakers on this island of 3,000 people. i say that there are three or four of us, but that is being generous in that no one else speaks fluent english and there are always lots of charades happening between us when we try to speak. the liquor store owner, yoshi and his wife chiaki, are the two best civilian speakers and both of the 'english' senseis at school speak fairly well too. it is forcing me to learn japanese very quickly and i am very grateful for that for sure. it is one of my big goals to speak with everyone here and there are so many old folks on this island with whom i will never have the chance if i don't learn some more japanese! it's a struggle everyday but loads of fun and well worth the waves of embarassment that i am beginning to ride with less and less self-consciousness.
i have met many of my students here on the island even though our first day of school is not officially until this tuesday. that said we have all been at school everyday since i have arrived anyhow as they are supposed to show up during summer vacation for extra study classes and for club practice (badmition, track and field, brass band and baseball). i have been there learning the ropes and trying to make sense of what is going to happen when classes resume. the teachers in my school are very nice, though as i mentioned before, not many of them speak english and so i have spent many days in confusion at my desk wondering what has happened as everyone has disappeared from the room and i am the only one who remains. (iriguchi sensei came running back in about ten minutes after they had all disappeared to let me know that they were in a meeting...ahhh!) it is fully entertaining thus far to just watch the innerworkings of the teacher's office and to see them all moving about like there are ten different fires somewhere and they all need to get to putting them out on their own. i swear that none of them really walk, they all more or less run/walk all day long, even across the room to the copy machine. i watch them all move around and take cover at my desk trying to look as busy as possible with little to do since my english senseis have no work for me yet and class has yet to commence. so work is really not work yet, but soon!
i live about a seven minute walk from my school (up one HUGE hill), a two minute walk from the grocery in either direction and a five minute walk to water in about five directions (which is very sweet thing for a girl who grew up so landlocked). i have a small apartment with a living/bedroom, kitchen and separate toilet (western style, not a japanese squat toilet! (seen here)) rooms and shower rooms. this all comes complete with an airconditioner and a washing machine so i am one happy girl! my neighbors are all teachers that i work with in the apartment building and the folks with houses around us are older people with gigantic, glorious gardens on either side as well. everyone in this place has been really warm and friendly and i've managed to meet them all with the little japanese i know and some great hand gestures.
i eat fish everyday now, at least a couple of times a day. i'm not complaining becauese here in nagasaki (the prefecture i live in) we boast having the best fish in the country due to our lovely location. i've eaten the most delicious fish raw and cooked in the most unusual and interesting ways and only wish that i could figure out what the names of them are in english...? though the food is excellent, most things as you could imagine are rather expensive because they are all shipped in and there are plenty of things that we don't have here at all. i, like many of my other american counterparts here i discovered, are missing mexican food most and would love tortilla anything already. oh the things that you did not anticipate on missing...
there are so many things about the people here in japan that make me laugh and smile daily. things that are just so different and quirky for me, but very normal for them and i find myself laughing out loud often because i just can't stand it and then there are even more eyes in the "gaijin" (non-japanese person) than there were before. i think my favorite of these things thus far has to be the t-shirts that every third or fourth japanese person is wearing. old and young, men and women, boys and girls, none are exempt from wanting a t-shirt with english sprawled all over it, no matter what it says. this is where the funny happens for an english speaker, because none (well maybe every 100th shirt) of them make any sense and they are just a combination of a bunch of words that maybe don't even have anything to do with each other and make absolutely no sense at all. folks proudly display these shirts and you can find them in every shopping mall from here to hokkaido. here is one of my favorites that i have been able to capture in the last few weeks (see how proud she looks of her shirt!?).
okay, that will have to be it for now because i'm getting too frusterated with the posting of pictures here...more to come dear readers very soon. i have loads to say so don't give up and thanks for keeping up with me if you are!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
there is no such thing as the same. everyone and everything is different, no matter how hard we may try at times to put things and people into boxes so that we can sort them neatly in our minds. this certainly holds true for what i have seen so far of tokyo and japan. i can admit that i came here expecting to see every businessman in the same black suit, every old woman with the same blank stare and every child with the same smile. the differences i have observed so far are inspiring and crushing stereotypes for me left and right. there are surprises at every turn here. the grey haired woman who runs across the street, the mohawks of men that are less than neat, the wonder in the eyes of the child who dares to wave at a gaijin (foreign people), the stares from women who slow their pace for a chance to look at eyes deeply set, the knee socks pulled up to there, the store clerk who speaks in english when you expect them not to care and the ease i've found in bowing to everyone at every interaction. these are things i did not expect to see or do or find in this place, but then again i guess i really didn't know what i'd find.
it is day three here and i am slowly becoming acquainted with customs anid closeness here. there is so much to take in and see and everyone and everything is blowing my mind. simplicity rules and smiling can get you everywhere. i saw shinjuku station last night (the busiest subway station in the world; more than 2 million people pass through it each day) and was blown away at the small pockets of peace that i found lingering around every corner that people were racing past, even at nearly midnight last night. peace is in us all and follows each of us in this world, and all we must do is slow our own pace, take a deep breathe, close our eyes and we will find it all around us. i am beginning to understand how people can live and work in places as huge as tokyo; it is simply by living inside their heads for moments of their days and daydreaming as i'm certain i have seen many people doing as they take part in this race pace of life.
i'm no doubt looking forward to island time very soon, as it has always appealed to me and now it will finally be my pace of life, but i am understanding much more about the ability that japanese people have to exsist as they do in huge numbers in small spaces. it's these daydreaming people i've witnessed that have surprised me the most so far about this country, though i know that the surprises have only just begun.
i will travel to nagasaki tomorrow and spend the day there with the other JET's that will teach in the prefecture around me. i will travel on the morning of the anniversay of the bombing to my island, naru, and begin to discover my new home there. it is very exciting to anticipate the extreme calm that will be there with the other 3,000 people on the island. but as sure as i am that it will be peaceful, i am sure that there will be plenty of times that i feel it is anything but calm. the adventure is really just beginning and i'm going to find things about life that i never knew exsisted. to be on the verge of this is fulfilling a life goal, it is watching the sun rise and set on the same island with hope for humanity and love for the world in my heart.
i have fun stories to tell about japanese toilets...more to come!