I now sit on my second shinkansen ride within this week. On Monday, I took one from Kagoshima back up to Himeji. Today, I take one from Osaka to Tokyo. Then, I was dressed in the ragged remains to be expected from one who just went hiking in the pristine natural wonders of the island of Yakushima, and today I sport the business suit look appropriate for a young professional on her way to a smart-looking conference.
Sometimes I like to step back and imagine myself from the outside looking in. What does it look like, the foreigner in the brown business suit who could not be older than 20?
I am older than 20, of course, and I suppose by Japanese standards, I do look it. In the US, I still get asked if I’m alright taking such long flights by myself, and I will be carded until I’m 35, but I’m alright with that. The business suit is mostly a ruse; I’m faking it, right now. A glance at my luggage will tell you that much. Where the men (it is mostly men, in their business attire) around me have their sleek black briefcases and tiny travel rollerbags, I am hauling the same stuff I dragged around Kagoshima last weekend: my tattered (what do you want, it was ten dollars two years ago) black backpack that gets my crap to school every day, and the weekend bag I recently inherited from Caito that has a picture of a lion on one side (“It will be dressed up with a ribbon”), and Sakurajima ash stains on the bottom. I like the lion bag because it’s just the right size for the kind of weekend trips I’ve been taking, and it doesn’t have a lot of confusing compartments. I have tried to be organized and sort things into pockets here and pockets there, but in the end, I can’t help it: I’m a throw it all in there kind of kid.
My hair is different too; got it cut in a sort of bob which it seems to be handling rather well (although one of those 5th graders called me Mr. Willy Wonka the other day and now they’re all doing it), and I have the straigtening to thank for that. The elementary teachers like to compliment my cute new styles, and it seems like I’ve been changing them a lot lately. I got my hair straightened in early June, and wore it like that to work for one day enjoying the attention it garnered, before much worse news came down—after that, every compliment seemed a mockery because I wanted to be invisible, and wondered how I, how anyone, could be expected to give one single goddamn about whether or not I changed my hair. It’s too easy, though, to say something about a changed look, even to someone to whom you can rarely find anything else to say. The bob, though, it’s still easier to control than the curls, though the old ways are coming back.
The business suit I bought in Hong Kong, very cheaply of course, but it does the trick.
The conference I’m headed to at the moment is the PA (Prefectural Advisor) conference. We PSG (peer support group) members get to attend because there is a lot of counseling training offered at this conference. I attended last year, and I remember really liking the learning feeling, and also the chance to meet the other members of our otherwise phone/skype/email-only group.
I tear myself away from my hectic ALT life to attend.
And while that normally would be just me, being sarcastic, I do mean it this time. Yesterday, we finished speech practice early. As usual, I’m very proud of my kids, and pleased with their progress. As usual, I think we have a fighting shot at first and second place, but I’ve been wrong so far.
Since we finished early, I knew it was my chance to memorize the second half of my model speech, an oration which is approximately twice as long as the student speeches. I took it outside so I could pace up and down by the river, muttering and proclaiming to the trees and clouds. I had initially planned to memorize it a paragraph a day, but that pretty much failed. I had to really buckle down, and walk laps around the elementary school during my free period to memorize the first half.
Now the whole speech is safely stored in my head, but if I know myself (and I do, better now than before at least), it will have a tendency to fly me when faced with a distraction as large as someone watching me. The other teachers don’t seem concerned. Of course you can memorize this much; it’s English, your native language. Why should you feel nervous? It’s English, your native language.
Having nothing to do with the language, I color red whenever I am placed in front of a large group of people. I can prepare and prepare, but I will still get flustered, if only for a moment. The key is to not allow that moment to snowball!
But I digress. Speech contest preparation, planning the skit to entertain my students while the judges deliberate, memorizing my own shit, and weekend travel are just set atop the usual go-round of planning elementary, and putting together entertaining (educational!!) activities for the daily grind. Oh and October, so kempo tourney, Halloween, and my birthday are coming up, not to mention tis the season to go festival-ing!
Immediately following this PA conference is the Japan Writers Conference, in Kobe (conveniently on the way home from Tokyo, for me). I’m not fully decided on how long I’ll stay, since Sunday (the 16th) is also Iwa Jinja’s major autumn festival and it is my last year, after all.
Until just now, I hadn’t considered how this week has neatly lined up the three different futures I still hold possible for myself: counseling, writing, teaching. The big three.
Anyway, I just wanted to check in with this before going on to write of a few long-weekend adventures: Kansai By the Seat of my Pants, and Kagoshima By the Skin of my Teeth. To complete the image of a young lady on a busy schedule, I will continue to get to work!