I Survived One Month!

Or Trash, School, and Banks OH MY!

Today marks the end of my first month in Japan. I am happy to report that in this short period of time I have learned to drive on the left side of the road, unpack my suitcases, and survive my first typhoon. While I am still acclimating to the heat and humidity, I can say with certainty that Karatsu is a great city and I am glad to call it home for the next year.

In honor of completing my first month I decided to share my day.

8 A.M. – Trash-capade

Let me start out by saying that I had seven large plastic bags full of recycling sitting in my kitchen waiting for today – Recycling Day. Once a month my trash schedule is marked with a green square which I had thought was for recycling. Tromping across the street to drop off my bags of PET (recyclable plastic – yes, there is a difference) bottles, cardboard, and papers, I found that the green on the calendar did not translate to the green writing on the recycling bags. Nope. It meant CANS! I didn’t have cans…

Japan’s notorious trash system had gotten the best of me.

Here is a simplified break down of Japan’s trash system. Cardboard, papers, and magazines are tied up into stacks and throw out on “paper” days – once a month. Burnable trash in  yellow bags are throw out twice a week. Cans are separated into their own recycling bags with green writing as are plastic bottles; and non-burnables like small appliances are sorted into clear bags with black writing. And all of these have their own once a month, separate day for appropriate disposal. For weeks I had looked forward to seeing my kitchen floor. Instead I stomped home and threw the bags into my genkan (entrance) and dashed to worked dreading the fact that I have to resort all of my trash.

9:30 A.M. – Meeting My Middle Schools

Despite the trash debacle today was an important day. I would go to my middle schools and meet my principal, vice-principal, JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) and possibly all of the teachers.

*Notice* Japan has strict laws regarding photos of school buildings, classrooms, teachers, and most importantly students. This also applies to information and names. So until I get express written, signed, and checked permission for my BOE, principal, vice-principal, supervising teacher, and anyone else involved I will not disclose the names of schools or pictures of said schools until further notice. I do not want to be fired and/or arrested. *Notice*

Haunted But Good:

When I first saw my first middle I swore it was haunted. It looked like it should be abandoned. Sitting by the sea has taking its toll of the concrete structure. However, inside it is clean and bright, with old wood floors and long stretches of open windows. This was an official first meeting and I was dressed my best. With me was my supervisor Mr. I and Jess a fellow ALT, Karatsu District Rep, and acting translator/security blanket.

The meeting itself was polite and short. The shortness was my fault because I blanked on my self introduction and went with the super short version. All of the teachers were nice and I found out the students are fairly well behaved and decently strong in academics. I am looking forward to meeting my classes and team teaching with my JTEs. I just wished I would have asked more questions so we did not have to leave early.

Energetic and Hilarious:

My predecessor warned me about my second school, rowdy and not really interested in academics let alone English. However, I had a lot of fun at my meeting and got to ask a lot of questions. This was due to my JTE being a good English speaker. It also helps that I had met the principal at the BOE last week. So the atmosphere was formal but less tense.

I did get a taste of what this year might look like though. During my meeting with the teachers and administration in the principal’s office a member of the baseball team detours unannounced into the office and heads for the teachers’ office.

For those not familiar with Japanese culture and etiquette this is a breech in conduct. Japan is made up of a strong hierarchy. The Principal is at the top of the school hierarchy and students are at the bottom. When students enter any office they are supposed to knock and say “Shitsureshimasu” which means ‘I’m sorry, please excuse me.’ And even more basic is – if you want to go to the teachers’ office then use their door.

The student was quickly reprimanded and ushered into the other office. However, not ten minutes later another member of the baseball team pops up at the outside window and starts to wave and make faces. The teacher sitting with us starts shooing the boy away which doesn’t deter him. When he sees me I return his wave with a smile and low and behold it works! He startles like he wasn’t expecting me to wave and remembers his manners enough to bow straight into the window. Needless to say he didn’t stick around after that.

Afternoon: Hours at the Post

With the morning meetings complete I was free to do what I please. Which turn out to be going to the post office. I had two goals: pick up a package and open a bank account. The first goal backfired when I found out that I had given the wrong address to my friend and their package got sent back to the US. The second went swimmingly but it took over two hours with all the forms, translating, and waiting.

My first month ended with friends and fellow ALTs taking advantage of West’s all you can eat Wednesday night salad and dessert bar and grilling our own meat at our tables. It was a great end to a frantic month and also foretold of what was to come at work and navigating everyday life in Japan.

I look forward to the beginning of fall semester here in Japan and getting to know my schools and students.

Until Next Time


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