Thursday, July 1, 2010


Well it’s July. I know that doesn’t mean the rain will stop, necessarily (it wasn’t, you know, in any way dry previous to June anyway); in fact, it probably just means it will get hotter and more uncomfortable. I was waiting to see giant fans appear in classrooms, twin counterparts to the big fiery heaters of winter.

They aren’t coming. And in a way that makes sense. I imagined the awesome whirlwind of flying paper that every room would become if we put fans all over the place. So instead imagine for me the kind of sweltering sauna that will exist if we don’t; I don’t have to imagine it, because I will be experiencing it myself.

June was kind of a rough month, which is unfortunate because I like the way it sounds. Early summer, so full of promise. But the promises kept were bugs, rain, humidity, mold, and summer colds (TWO in one month—coming in pairs I suppose, like the dreaded mukade)… two failed driving tests, too. My first real bout of full-on cultural fatigue!

And let me tell you. I like Japan. I’m glad I’m here. But this week? I HATE JAPAN AND WANT IT TO LEAVE ME THE EF ALONE! It’s too hot. It’s too humid. It lacks proper air conditioning. It hates me because I’m white. Its policies make no damn sense. Its children see no need to learn English and so scoff at my endeavors.

It is weird to me to see the summer arrive in full force like this. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year almost, since I arrived. It’s flown by, really, and yet I know I’m a totally different person (yadda yadda…) both in work and just life in general. I think that’s what made my snap of culture shock so bad. About now, lots of new JETs-to-be are trying to pack and daydreaming about the mysterious far eastern country they are about to invade. And lots of ex-JETs-to-be (that is, the leavers) are packing their stuff, puzzling over shipping rates, and thinking about the stuff they will miss when they have to go.

And I, for eleven months, have enjoyed this place, and mentally defended it against those who would naysay its ways, and found reasonableness in its ridiculous. I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back. I defended you, Japan. And you betrayed me. I bore the sick cold of your winter, and you repay me with a hundred percent humidity and dishes STILL WET in the drying rack after I get home at the end of the day. I dotted every i and crossed every t (figuratively, of course) and took lessons and studied hard for your damn driving test and the “advice” at the end of the second failed attempt was “Winker, Eye, Hand – you are/were (the beauty of Japanese being that you can just leave out the verb) very skilled at this.” (So, why did I fail?) –--“Winker first, then eye, then hand.”

WNFjet said after his first failed test that it was just because they wanted him to fail, they found a reason to fail him. I shook my head, certain that there must have been a reason, no matter how much he didn’t want to admit it. Because I knew I screwed up mine, so I mean, own it when you make a mistake and don’t act like people are out to get you. But maybe they ARE. (I would be, if I were testing WNF; I would be like, ‘you failed because your smarminess level was too high’) I’m totally up for saying “my bad” and “doing my best next time” when I have messed up; this time was really hard because I did a damn good job and still failed. Upsetting.

Pronounced once again unworthy to drive, I hung my head in anger and shame, got into my car, and drove the two hours home. Please tell me the irony hurts you too.

What hurts more is looking at my carefully weighed and considered vacation days and knowing I have to spend another one on this horrible endeavor. I’m hoping I can get out of this.. my VP laughed at me at first when I told him I’d failed, and I gave my It’s Not Funny face. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled that face in this entire good-humored year. He assured me that it’s okay to take vacation days during August since it is summer vacation. I vehemently expressed my desire not to. I asked about last year’s random Obon festival days off. Whether we’d get such days this year, and when, and if I could have him help me reschedule my test (since the instructions for doing so are all in Japanese) for such days off. He told me not to think about it so seriously. “The summer vacation is.. you know. Summer vacation.” This cryptic statement gives me hope.

So I’m scheduled for my THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM test after I get back from MY summer vacation (literally, “getting out of someplace” – I’ll be going to the US. Also, after the 1st of August I cannot legally drive and will be taking buses/trains to the test)… and I’m rather looking forward to the break. I also envy the kids their POOL class period when they have it. Damn.

Also, June is maybe the only unfortunate month in this country without a national holiday. Bring on July! Except the part where half my town’s JETs leave and get replaced with who knows what kind of riffraff. Leave off that part.

Addendum: while I was finishing up writing this, the principal of Big Elementary shut the windows and turned on the AC. I guess it becomes acceptable in July to do that. Someone tell the bus driver from this morning. JULY = HOT. YOU CAN USE AC. IT’S OKAY.

Second addendum: when I got home, the umbrella I bought this morning and then left leaning against a pole at the bus stop was still there, just chillin by the pole. I’m sure if it had been raining, someone would have stolen it. But I guess since it wasn’t, they didn’t. And this country ain’t so bad. Maybe.

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