Travel Journal of my Time in Japan

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September 6, 2002

Something to write home about
Well, yesterday I caught myself saying, "that's something to write home about!" And so I shall. Yesterday afternoon, I was about 50 feet from the school when a Japanese man on the street stopped me and said "HI!". So I said "hello" thinking he might be a student. AEON encourages the foreign teachers to be friendly to students, even outside of class, and to encourage new students. (The Japanese economy isn't doing so well, and there is a lot of competition among English schools, so new students are always needed.) As he kept talking I was trying to remember if I'd met him or not. (Not to worry, my guard was also up.) He kept talking in English that I couldn't always understand. He asked which school I worked at (there are two on that block.) And he followed me into the school, so I began to think he was interested in taking English classes. But when we got in the school he didn't stop to talk to the manager in Japanese. He wanted to sit down and talk to me. Okay, he wants to know from me about classes. He began to tell me about how he was married to an Australian woman, but not anymore. I knew for sure at that point that he was not there to sign up for classes. Right then, the school manager Akiko "reminded" me that I had a meeting - which I didn't. And the man said okay and told Akiko that he would be back to talk some more. He was a very strange, but friendly man. When I got into the back room where the other Japanese teachers were, they were laughing and apologizing. "You have met your first weird Japanese person." They didn't seem too concerned about it, so I'm not either. But it was funny, and so that's when I said it was something to write home about! It made me feel good to know that the school manager was looking out for me. She's a very nice woman - very encouraging, professional, helpful and friendly. :-) Again, I am VERY lucky in the school assignment I got!

Something flying around my apartment!
Another story. last night I was watching television while I ate my dinner. Suddenly there was something flying around the room! It looked about the size of a small bird. But as I watched it fly all over the apartment, it didn't seem to fly like a bird. I decided it was a moth. So I opened the screen to let it out, but it couldn't find the open screen so I opened another one... some of you probably know where this story is going. Where there's one moth, there are probably more. Yes, eventually there were two moths flying all around the apartment. There was no way to catch them, or kill them, as if I could kill them. After about ten minutes of wondering what I was going to, I had a flash of brilliance. I would turn off all the lights in MY apartment and hope they sought out light outside the apartment. And it worked. Within only a few seconds I saw the silhouette of one fly out one of the open screens. After a few more seconds I didn't hear the flutter of any wings, hopefully the second got out too. It was very exciting!

Mailing Addresses
Hey, for those of you wanting to send letters you can send them to my apartment address:

Anne Marie Smith
#304 Sankanefusa
3-8-8 Kanefusa
Nagaoka-shi, Niigata-ken
JAPAN 940-0045

You can still send mail to my work address. In fact, if you send any packages you should send them to work because my home mailbox isn't very big:

Anne Marie Smith
1F Imai Building
2-749-11 Jounai-cho
Nagaoka-shi, Niigata-ken
JAPAN 940-0061

Still no phone number, but I should have one pretty soon! I pick up my alien registration card on Monday. I need that to get a cell phone or phone line.

Update on Teaching
Teaching is going very well. I'm getting the hang of it. Some lessons get a little rocky, others at the end the students are just talking away in English! It's fun to see them enjoy it so much. I'm a couple days ahead now in lesson planning, which is why I finally have time to send another update. In fact, I have so many letters and emails to write. I haven't been online for a week! Thanks for your patience, but I really had to focus on learning the job first. My students are really nice people, and the classes are expensive, so I wanted to get those going well first. Hopefully I won't have to bring home lesson planning work anymore. Hopefully I can do all my lesson planning during my planning time at the school. So I can get online more, and get out and see more of Japan. It's been ridiculously hot here, so I haven't missed all that much. Today is MUCH cooler, because it's cloudy. Whew!

Learning Japanese Names
I have plans Saturday evening to have dinner with a couple of my students - I'm embarrassed to say I'm not sure what their names are. And on Sunday I'm going to ride bicycles with one of the Japanese teachers, Sayuri. Japanese names are SO difficult. I mean not only do I have to remember the name with the face, remembering the name itself is a challenge. There is no reference point. Say you meet someone named Jon. I have a cousin named Jon, a frame of reference. Here in Japan the only names I seem to remember for sure are Seiko (like the watch company), Keiko (because it sounds very much like Seiko) and Midori (not sure why that one sticks...). But there's Hiroyuki, and Hirosuki, and Hiroshi, and Takashi, and Takayuki, etc. I just can't do it very easily. But I keep trying. They seem to enjoy watching me try. We all giggle at the beginning of each class when I attempt each one. My first goal is to learn how to pronounce them as I read them, then memorize that pronunciation, only THEN can I start to remember which one goes with which student. They are very patient. I try to get one or two names attached to a person each day. The problem is I have about 50 students that I see only once or twice a week! But when I do remember, they are very surprised and happy.

Learning Japanese Language
Learning Japanese is going slowly too, up to now, because, as I say, I've been focused on lesson planning. But hopefully now I can hit that pretty hard. Conor is doing very well. He can have simple conversations already, he can read some signs, and even write some of the simpler letter/characters. He is my inspiration!

My Apartment
The apartment is coming along. Today I might buy a blanket to cover the little couch thingy I have, and some pillows, maybe some curtains. I've decided on a soft blue and green palette for the apartment. I'm having fun decorating! I've taken some photos, but I'm not sure how to get digital files of the photos so I can put them on this site. I'm hoping maybe I can have a CD made when I drop off the film. It won't be easy to communicate, but we'll see what happens.

In Summary
To sum up, I am finding good times and happiness here in Japan. Although I've had lots of work to do, I still feel at peace here. Don't misunderstand though, I do miss you all very much. Keep the emails and cards coming! I promise I WILL be better about replies. And those who know me well, no that's no hollow promise. :-)

Dewa sono uchi ni
"See you in a little while"

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on to September 11, 2002