Friday, March 25, 2011

Though our dramas shrink to nothing when placed on the world stage.

It's been a whirlwind.

Yesterday was weird.

First, we had closing ceremony. There was an earthquake in the middle of it, nothing big, just little rumblings in the mountains. After ceremony, there were club activities.

Then, at noon, we had a meeting. For some reason, the meeting memos were not on my desk. I don’t know why I get all these other memos, but not the ones for this meeting, or like.. where the 3rd years all ended up going to high school. I get a lot of stuff I hardly bother to glance over, but stuff I want to see I end up leaning over to look at other people’s desks.

So I was leaning over pre-meeting to see the floor plan of the new school. Big Brother had told me that when they built the new Ichi-Kita, he and the tea lady were like separated from the rest of the staff room by some kind of partition and that for morning meetings and such, he had to crane around it to see anything. I kind of expected something like that on our new floor plan too (building to open summer 2011?).

But no, they went Kita one better. There is a plan of the staff room, with all the important desks at the front (principal, vp, head teacher, and secretary), then the desk clusters which are much smaller.. our current plan has three desk clusters of six desks each. The tea lady, nurse, ALT, etc are just kind of glommed on to different clusters. I sit with the 1st year teachers, the 2nd year has the tea lady and nurse, and the head teacher is with the 3rd year teachers. I always get put with the first year cluster (last year I was by the tea lady), so I figured that next year I might get moved over to what is currently the 3rd year, as we turn over.

But in the new school, as I mentioned, 4 smaller clusters, 4 desks each. One cluster is tea lady plus one teacher from each year, and then each cluster is a year group.

And my desk? Oh well. There’s the staff room, then there’s this hallway, then there’s a sort of meeting room with a big table, and one desk cluster. Two empty desks, the school counselor, and me.

Sabishii, naaa!

When I saw this I didn’t initially realize that I was in another room across the hall. I was looking at it as one big room where I was far away. Even then, the school counselor is rarely at our school. I don’t know her at all. Even though I am gone twice a week to elementary, this is still my base school and I’m still here 3 days a week. Most of the time, I’d be alone in that extra room.

Which isn’t the end of the world, I mean, think of all the space! I could (shouldn’t, but would) slowly spread out and use both extra desks as well as my own. I would claim as much storage space as I liked. I could work furiously on HT, blogging, and studying Japanese, et al to my lonely heart’s content. I would probably sit and work at the big table. And I would never be part of the team again.

When they got to the floor plan in the meeting, though, Mikan-sensei stood up for me. I don’t know if anyone expected me to say anything, but a few people looked at me when we turned to the plan, with expressions reading “that’s kinda effed up, isn’t it?” I understand a lot more than I can say, though, so I was so grateful it brought tears to my eyes when Mikan-sensei said “You know, it’s really lame to put her over there all by herself, when she came all the way here to be a teacher for us and she’s trying to get better at Japanese,” in polite eloquence. Have I mentioned that I <3 Mikan-sensei?

I had written a post yesterday, just giving an overview of last weekend. Not too long after writing it, and working madly on HyogoTimes (April now live) all afternoon, and formulating a real schedule for studying Japanese, I packed up my crap and headed out. But the bus roared by when I was still halfway up the path to the road. I sighed, watched the elementary kids play soccer with graduated 3rd-years (one of whom had the audacity to ask if I remembered his name—goodness, how could I have forgotten?) for a minute, then trudged back up to school to await the next bus, or someone heading home after clubs finished at like 4:30. I wanted to get back in good time so I could turn around in my car and come back up to Ichi for adult conversation class. Into the staff room again. But everyone was still there.

There was ANOTHER meeting, at 5:15. And this one was a bigger deal.

I didn’t know what was going on until it was. It was the official presentation of who is leaving, where they are going, and who is coming, and from where. I obsessed about this a lot last year, and all the ALTs were abuzz, wondering about the ways we would all swap English teachers, or not, who got to keep whom, and who was good, and who we were losing.

This year, I knew Newbie-sensei was going, she already got her info about elementary in Asago like two weeks ago. I knew that Mikan-sensei was staying. And I knew that Miss-Piggy-sensei was probably going; as a part-timer, she cleaned out her desk yesterday while I e-mailed and edited and waited for photos. I knew that Westerly-sensei was probably leaving (he’s the guy that’s a year younger than me, who arrived and occupied “that extra desk” around summertime; I like him, and we hang out sometimes). I was prepared for those things, although hearing them announced wasn’t my favorite afternoon plan. But there were some other surprises.

The VP, whom I just love, who is lenient with nenkyuu rules, who is good with the special needs kids and takes me along to English class with them, who always talks to me in English, and asks questions about stuff he hears in “video movies,” and who told me, on a New-Year’s card that I’m the “most excellent ALT [he’s] ever met” is getting promoted. He’ll be a principal at some other school. While I was still absorbing this surprise, they went on to announce that the math teacher (also a painter, and at whose home I recently sat for a portrait) was being moved to another school. Which was upsetting because I feel like we just became good. A few other teachers that I don’t ever work with but whom I like from afar, because they are solid and all the kids fear/love/respect them, are going too. I hardly heard the names of who is replacing all these people; I listened to make sure that one English teacher everyone is scared to have to work with was not among them, then I checked out into my own little emo haze about how life’s not fair.

Yep. My life is hard. Safe and sound in Shiso when one could have been anywhere, one could have been in Ishinomaki. One could have been anywhere in Tohoku, really, and have no more routine to be annoyed to disrupt..

And it’s really sad and scary, but in a much more distant way, that deaths are at 9737 with an additional 16501 missing (.. don’t look at that, even if you were able to stomach my Jermaine photos last year). But it’s different when they turn up someone just like you. Yeah, there have to be lots of people just like you among the missing, but Taylor Anderson was living a life just like mine at the same time as me. Tell me she was a JET and I can immediately know (or assume with a good deal of safety) that she taught English and didn’t teach English, that elementary kids worshipped her, that she was frustrated by the system, and loved Japan. I know nothing about her but I can see her at enkais, at hanamis, and under momiji. I can imagine her Japanese friends and her spring break plans. My reckless imagination insists that without knowing her at all, I know her quite well. And maybe that’s why this one person in ten-thousand hits me, and I’m sure all JETs, harder than numbers do. It’s quite a different thing to hear this kind of news about someone you know.

So yesterday I didn’t get home until 9:40 at night, having spent the whole day up around work. I was meccha tired. The attitude maybe has been, we do what we can, and keep doing what we can, but we keep living our lives too, which means we wish we could go to hanami, and we're going to go on spring break, and the school trip will be moved to Okinawa or Hokkaido instead of Tokyo. Because out here in unaffected Japan, we have to balance between the fact that life goes on, but not everywhere. That no one is making a big enough deal of it, but that it’s overtalked. So it's strange because life around here is about the earthquake, but it's not.. we do what we always did, out here in unaffected Japan, but we also do more than that because we have to donate and worry and hope and mourn too.

1 comment:

  1. This post is very moving to me for obvious reasons. You are a powerful writer, and your craft is becoming more skilled and sensitive as time goes on. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us cannot.