That’s right folks, this Friday the long hiatus of Internet browsing and general time-wasting ends and I am thrust once again into a classroom filled with fresh recruits straight out of Junior High; and that’s not all. This year we have three, count them, three new JTEs and one of them is “totemo furesshu” out of University. You know what that makes me? A senpai, that’s what. As if my head hadn’t expanded enough when I started getting called sensei on a regular basis, I now have trouble walking through doorways without soaping up the sides of my face first. Eight months into a teaching job in Japan when I’d never taught or spoken Japanese before and now I’m looking after new recruits and showing them the way; the yin to their yang; the senpai to their kouhai. The mind boggles.
The new female JTE came to speak to me yesterday and we got to talking about where she lived:
“Near the station,” she says.
“Wow that’s convenient.”
“Yes it means I can drink and not have to get taxis or worry about last trains.” My sentiments exactly.
“I loooooove beer,” she says, “I have a beer every day after a shower… It makes me fart a lot though.”
Well that was the last thing I expected. I burst into a kind of nervous laughter but she remained serious and continued to tell me how many kilograms she’d gained in the last 10 years.
I’ve heard about this behaviour before from my friends; not the farting, but the propensity of some Japanese people to say things as they are, without smiling OR straight-faced irony; just in a “that’s-how-it-is” kind of way. Maria was once asked, while sitting in the office writing lesson plans, about lube by one of her female JTEs. As if that was a perfectly normal thing to talk about over a green tea and a Telling The Time worksheet. Maria is not someone who embarrasses easily, but talking about such things in England is taboo unless you do so with a smirk or a kind of fake-serious irony (in much the same way as we talk about everything else in fact). That is unless you happen to be a presenter on Embarrassing Bodies, then you can skip along a beach in a pair of Speedos and talk about Syphilis to strangers over a piña colada and a game of volleyball using a pair of fake testicles instead of a ball. “Make sure you cop a good feel! Be sure to find the lump! And you girls, don’t just sit there! Start feeling your tits up in case you’ve got cancer! And put some bloody sun cream on before you get burnt; do you want me to come over there and show you those pictures of sun-cysts again?”
I’m really, really looking forward to teaching again. I’ve hand-picked all the best lessons from the previous two terms and discarded all the rest, which means I only have to prepare two or three lessons in the next 4 months. Not only that but I now know what works and what doesn’t, what is required of me, what the students can do, I’m more respected by my JTEs and the weather is finally getting warmer. Yes folks, I’m as happy as this baby: