Therapy over coffee

So there’s some kind of cold going around that’s wiped Ashley out and has kept me sneezing, and my face is like a volcano–it just keeps erupting. (Oh, me and my volcano references…) I haven’t had acne this bad in years. I wash my face several times a day while at my different schools, but to no avail–every day I wake up and it’s worse than it was the day before.

I’m finding it a bit tough to keep Caitlin posted, just because I think she has really limited internet and can only manage to send me quick e-mails/IMs, and it’d be a lot easier for me to figure out what to tell her and how to sum this all up in a way that’s cohesive and concise and not overwhelming. I think getting the package from Tokushima with the welcome flyer will help.

This afternoon I got to be witness to the opening ceremony marking the start of the kids being able to swim at this particular shougakkou (and yes, there was an actual ceremony for this–speeches, bowing, and everything!). It was really nice, though, getting out of the building for almost an hour and dipping my feet into the water and having kids swim by and shriek, “SUMISA-SENSEEEEIIII!” and high-five me from the water. I’ll be sure to bring a more outdoorsy change of clothes with me on Thursdays from now on.

Tonight was my first chance this week to hang out with English speakers. I started feeling pretty burned out last week, after breaking up a potentially ugly fight between two shougakkou kids when the homeroom teacher wasn’t present and keeping the class occupied simultaneously, and haven’t really had a good rein on my classes since then. Ange decided she needed a break, so she decided to come out to Paparagi, and Ashley, Brian, and Julie came out for varying amounts of time as well. Eventually, Ange and I were the only ones left, and we chatted for about an hour.

Our meetup tonight was…really therapeutic. I think this is just that time in the JET “cycle,” where ALTs feel the culture shock and frustration in a very real way. It ended up being a nice impromptu group therapy session, with talking about frustrations with managing unruly kids and with occasionally being singled out as “The Foreigner” in some staffrooms, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in more blatant and offensive ways (not me so much, though I definitely am getting sick of being asked, “Can you use chopsticks?” enough times to more than make up for never getting that during my first year) and being seen as a special guest instead of as an integrated member of the staff, which we would really love. We don’t want to be singled out or treated differently or be spoken to in mocking English when we’re putting forth so much effort to speak good Japanese and integrate ourselves into Japanese society! All of these schools have had enough ALTs that they should be able to just accept us as regular fixtures by now…in theory, anyway.

And again, I really am fortunate–while I do feel frustrations the same way every single ALT does, my situations are very mild in comparison to others’. Both my JTE and my boss have traveled abroad fairly recently, and I know my JTE understands culture shock and various international lifestyles firsthand, after having spent 2 months in England last summer through MEXT’s exchange program. My boss is just sympathetic, period, and ended up being the one trying to console me when I would be depressed to the point of tears on numerous occasions at my board of education last spring. But still, having people to talk to doesn’t mean it’s easy to find solutions to these issues.

Anyway, the weekend is almost here. I just need to muddle through 2 eikaiwa classes and 1 elementary school English class, and then I’m home free for the weekend. Genna’s getting a small group together tomorrow night while her sister and friend are in town, and Saturday’s the musical viewing party. There may be frisbee or a trip to Kanonji Temple Sunday, too. And interspersed in all that is applying to jobs and packing, always.

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