It’s a love-hate relationship


When talking about Japan, I’ve been known to start a conversation with “I freaking love this country” and end it with “I hate this damn place.”

Love: Everyone’s so darn helpful. I told my landlord the toilet in my new (at the time) apartment was broken, and he immediately came over to take a look, then called a friend who was over in 10 minutes to check it, and they repaired it a few days later. That same friend also helped us move my old fridge to the new place out of the goodness of his heart.

Hate: The pettiness in the workplace. By not understanding the language well, I avoid a lot of it. But I-sensei, for example, is a 7th year teacher, and Poor Hygiene-sensei is a first year teacher. But he’s a year older than I-sensei, so he automatically gets paid more and garners more respect. If someone were to come in at 50 years old and start their very first year as a teacher, they would immediately have a higher salary and their opinions would automatically have more weight than a 30 year old but 7th year teacher, solely because of age. In fact, it’s acceptable to pick on I-sensei just for being the youngest. It’s also totally ok to accuse her of being a terrible teacher for having ideas that would slightly modernize things, or to say she’s a lazy good-for-nothing because she was assigned less work by the higher ups than some of the other teachers were.

Love: Grown men getting drunk and wailing karaoke at the top of their lungs while waving handkerchiefs around.

Hate: The fact that besides gossip and hurtful remarks, the above-mentioned karaoke weirdness/binge drinking is really the only acceptable way to release stress.

Love: Everyone’s quite proud of their work.

Hate: The overwork. This is a country that quite literally drives its workers to suicide. A city hall worker in FU-town threw himself off his office building, and it seems that’s not too rare. He did it early in the morning so nobody would be around, but of course people were already there and heard it. I-sensei’s husband regularly works until midnight or later. Many times their meetings are scheduled for 11PM. And if a worker files for overtime pay for the 8 hours overtime they worked in one single night, the accounting department will bully them into only claiming 1-2 hours extra pay. Otherwise they’d go bankrupt in a heartbeat from all the overtime they’d have to pay.

Love: I get to go home at lunchtime on Friday afternoons, and I’m able to leave at 5PM Mon-Thurs because I’m a part-time worker. And I don’t have to manage a club, a homeroom, a section of the student council, and be the head of cleaning/kerosene heaters/uniforms/proper bike parking/the buses/insert-inane-thing-that-someone-besides-the-teachers-should-be-doing on top of all that. When I’m done with my stuff, I’m done. End of story. And I get breaks off, which even the students don’t get.

Hate: I’m a part-time worker, which means I ONLY have to work 40 hours minimum a week. That’s part-time. Neither students nor teachers get spring, summer, or winter vacation off. They just don’t have regular classes during that time.

Love: I’m an outsider, so I get leeway to be myself. Plus the teachers (particularly I-sensei and S-sensei) are willing to let me know how they really feel instead of always putting on a smiling face for the jack***es who treat them like crud.

Hate: I’m an outsider, and I’m constantly reminded of that.


In spite of all that, I do get some perks, such as reading some weird stuff. It’s my entertainment. Here are strange things my students wrote.

“I went to Tokyo on a school trip. I was eaten by Dango and Senbei.”

If there are cockroaches in my town, I’m snot happy.”

From 7th grade self-introductions:
“I don’t speak Chinanese.
I come by dike.”

“I don’t speak Canada.”

“I play badminton. I want an ipot. I have a life.”

In a comic, with hand-drawn pictures:
(picture 1: a face) “It is a match!!”
(picture 2: different face) “It does though it doesn’t become another party.”
(picture 3: arms on a desk) “It does very excrement.”

(Where you want to go this summer and what you’ll do there:)
“I went to visit America. I’m going to see a cat.”

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