So happy to hear that The Kids in the Hall is launching a comeback tour. Just sad that I am not in Canada or the U.S. to see them. Actually, I am a little disappointed that they are not going to Winnipeg, especially since Kevin McDonald is living there. They are only touring in Ontario, mainly Toronto, then off to five shows in the U.S. Fingers crossed that they do more shows and make their way to Winnipeg; but only when I’m back. lol
Teaching is a difficult profession. You are technically delivering a presentation to (un)willing participants, for how ever many hours of class that you have, day in and day out. Sometimes the presentation is a success, and sometimes it is not, yet you still must go back in to that same crowd and deliver another presentation the following class, hoping for different results. On occasion a presentation that you deliver is met with great success and you leave the room light on your feet with a symbolic first-place medal around your neck, only to use the same presentation with another group where it bombs and you fall flat on your face. Or the group that once loved you and your words, are now bored, withdrawn and checking the clock every 2 mins. Yet, every morning you wake up, dust the chalk off your nerve, and go right back in like a lamb to the slaughter; maybe this time you will be spared – or gutted – you just never know.
Generally I feel confident in my teaching abilities. I have never had a negative comment about my teaching skills. I have had critiques or suggestions, all which are to be expected. Especially with someone (me) who never went through the faculty of education. I received my CTESL (Certificate of Teaching English as a Second Language) – a quick part-time program consisting of 4 courses and 20 hours of teaching and observation. Everyone else who was in this program with me had a BEd; I have a BA. All-in-all I think I that I have done really well, and that my successes as a teacher are due to an inner talent and desire to teach. I’m good at it. Not just the profession / vocation of teaching, but the art of teaching in daily situations. I love to introduce people to new things, to share shortcuts that I have found, to show interested people how to do things – and in some cases, the uninterested. lol I love finding out new information, and what I love more than that is to share it.
Now, as in all professions and jobs, we have colleagues. They can present us with amazing opportunities to share ideas, stories, suggestions; they can give us advice; they can become friends, even lovers; they can become a team that rallies against the higher-ups for fairer wages and vacation time; they can share family recipes and baking; they can help with lesson planning, and offer support during particularly difficult times at work and at home. Or they can exist purely to make your professional life hell.
I happen to work with the latter. Now, hell is a misnomer, maybe purgatory or Hades would be better. But this is not a matter of semantics; this is a matter of human decency. I’m not saying that everyone I work with is a demon incarnate, just a few. And absolutely NONE of the Japanese. The Japanese are lovely little angels bowing their adorable little black-haired heads all around me. Kawaii desu! I hate to say it but…it’s the foreigners. The gaijins. The foreign devils. The not-like-us. This was something I absolutely did not expect. Knowing that Japan is a homogeneous society, I expected the foreigners to stick together; and coming from Canada – where the majority are not ethnically Canadian – I was certain that this would be the way it was. I. Was. Wrong. Not all the foreigners do not get along, The Others (as I will now refer to them), seem to be happy with one another. All was well…..and then along came me. Duh duh duh. Get ready for some Canadian craziness. This was not the case. I just came in at an unfortunate time. Apparently the school was not happy with the way English was being taught, nor were they happy with the students English results. The were looking for a way to shake things up, change things around a little bit; this is where I come in. And came in I did. My first day at the school (second in Japan, jet-lagged and exhausted) I was introduced to one of the foreign English teachers. I won’t tell you where he is from, as to offer some anonymity. What I will say is that he is from one of the Americas – and am the only Canadian and there is no one from Mexico – do your best. He seemed nice enough. Short, and on the small side – as many foreigners are here (I’ll talk more about that later),he also had/has a strange habit of not looking at you when he talks to you. It is quite unnerving. He said that he has picked it up while here, yet all of the Japanese that I have spoken to look me in the eyes. WTF? I was going to be working closely with him and my handlers (those who help me in Japan), let us get acquainted. He prefaced our first real conversation with: “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but,”. I thought “Great, here we go.” Then he proceeded to tell me that I was brought in as The Others’ new boss and I was supposed to change everything and maybe even have one of them fired. AND that in order for me to come to Japan for this position they need to get rid of two other teachers. AND that those teachers weren’t given any real notice; it all came out of the blue. AND that I’m supposed to show them how to teach as they are doing it all wrong. AND – my favorite – “We all talked and decided not to hate you since it isn’t really your fault.” Wow, I’m touched. How nice of them.
That’s a lot to swallow on a jet-lagged, exhausted, new country, new job, year-away-from-home brain. My first thoughts were. Nice. To. Meet. You? When I met more of The Others (there are 4 in total) I was a bit relieved, two of them are harmless. They stick mostly to themselves and don’t say too much; they never engage in the school/student/Japan bashing and are pleasant enough. Now the guy from one of the Americas, and a woman from an eastern European country which suffered under a horrible dictator, were the troublemakers. Strangely enough they were the ones most likely to be ‘fired’ – if any of that is even true. They both are so true to their cultural stereotypes that when I look at them I picture them as their countries with legs and arms, and giant mouths that won’t shut up. The man is so negative, and into himself and his individual rights that it makes me scream – again, take your best guess – and the woman seems hell bent on using her voice to contest any and everything that I almost wish Japan was a totalitarian dictatorship. Okay, that’s not true. I just wish that she’d shut up. Some positivity people!!!!!!!
It may sound like I am not enjoying myself here or that I do not like where I work. That is not the case. I really enjoy my job, I really like my colleagues, just not The Others. And this is not new; I’ve worked at other places where I wasn’t the best of friends with all of my colleagues. That’s professional life; hell, that’s LIFE. You aren’t always meant to like everyone. That would make for a dull world – you should be pleasant to everyone – but you don’t have to like them. I wish I could make The Others follow that mantra. But their mantra seems to be: “Dislike everyone; complain about everything; be negative ALL THE TIME.” Argh! I feel as if it has rubbed off on me now – sorry for this diatribe. After one year of this I finally lost my cool, I finally had it. I just wish that I could say something to them, tell The Others how THEIR behaviour is affecting me, how THEIR words are hurting me and my job – their jobs- but I can’t. I don’t know how. Why? See above, they’re friggin’ scary. lol So I write about it in here. Let it all out of my brain. Let the rest of the world take on some of this negativity, so that if each person only has a sliver, it won’t way them down as much as the huge boulder I was carrying.
I’ve been so busy. I’ve done so much, it’s been great! I miss the comforts of home, but I’ve also created a new home here.
What I’ve been up to
– I made my own yukata with a Japanese women’s group. We had the privilege of being taught by a master seamstress and 5 of her past students. They gathered together for this event; the first time in 20 years that they had seen each other! There were only six of us students invited to this event which took place over the course of 4 sessions. We were allowed to shop for our fabric in a wholesale venue – which normally does not allow the general public – and for the sewing sessions we were invited to the Master-Sensei’s home. I must admit, the amount of sewing I actually did was minimal, but I was still very involved in the whole process; it was the same with all of us. I think if they actually left us with all of the sewing it would have taken us double, or triple the time. I had picked the most expensive fabric, of course, ￥136,00 , but I fell in love and it is beautiful. Later I found out that the flower on the fabric is the official flower of the Emperor! The fabric came in 12 meter bundles and I used all of it except for one 1/2 inch strip. The sensei’s were laughing because they could not believe how tall I am: “You’re so high!” they kept on saying. Yukata can be difficult to wear so they decided to do us a favour and stitch some of the pieces that you generally fold; and stitch a waist band so that we know where to tie it. When they got to me they were laughing so hard because my waist was at shoulder height for some of the women! Again, they couldn’t believe how ‘high’ I am. Tall, tall, it’s tall!! They had some pretty cute laughing fits due to my gargantuan size. I told them I was Girlzilla. Not finished yet: when it came time to wrap the yukata, uh oh!, they need more fabric because my bust is so big. More laughing insued. It is true – I feel like a giant in Japan. So they let out some and then, Ha!, it was too big elsewhere. They had to take it in. FINALLY! I feel normal again. Whew! The end result is beautiful. I am so happy that I decided to join this event. I get to go home with beautiful, traditional Japanese clothing that I had a hand – or thumb – in making, and I will have the opportunity to wear it several times in Japan. And in Canada, I’ll have The Best Halloween costume out there!
– I took part in a Tea Ceremony class. We learned all about the materials needed, the proper way to make, pour and serve tea. It was fun! I love learning about Japanese culture and tradition as it has been around so much longer than my own. Canada is a beautiful hodge podge of different cultures and religions, but Japan is largely homogeneous. 98.5% of the population is ethnically Japanese, the other 1.5% is comprised of Koreans, Chinese and other (like myself!). Many of their traditions have been passed down for centuries and have changed very little. The Tea Ceremony is a very important part of Japanese culture and has been around since the 8th century. I have yet to attend the actual ceremony, we have one more class and then we will be participating in traditional ceremony with a Tea Master!
– I was here for the largest earthquake Japan has felt since the earthquake of March 2011, which caused the devastating tsunami. It woke me up around 5:20 am. It took about a minute for me to realize what was happening. I texted my mom right away and then received texts and e-mails from Japanese co-workers making sure I was ok and not scared. I wasn’t. I definitely don’t scare easily. I was more interested. Intrigued. It was the second earthquake I had felt in Japan, and most certainly the biggest. Thankfully, there were only minor injuries, no deaths, and only minor damage.
– I was lucky enough to be here for the annual Medicom Toy Event. Yay!!! For those of you who don’t know what Medicom is, get with the times. Just kidding! Medicom is a Japanese toy maker who specializes in adult collectibles. The most well-know of their toys are the Kubricks and the Be@rbricks; they are considered designer toys. I happen to like Be@rbricks, and have started collecting them since I arrived in Japan. This is THE best place to get them as they are made here, and different Japanese companies offer various Be@rbrick promotions throughout the year. 7-11 had a Japan soccer player Be@rbrick out recently for the 2014 World Cup. Be@rbricks are great as they come in tons of different patterns and styles; numerous brands, designers and artists put out versions (Anna Sui, Chanel, Daft Punk, Star Wars, Gucci, Andy Warhol); and they increase in value quite quickly. I have one that I bought for approx. ￥399 and it is selling online for ￥1,500. People go crazy for Be@rbricks. They’re a way for adults to indulge their inner child.
– I went to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. Ghibli Museum is dedicated to the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. They are the studio responsible for such children’s classics as My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Now I say this quite sarcasticly; the majority of people (that I know) in Canada have never heard of any of these movies, let alone Studio Ghibli. I only became familiar due to my proximity to Japanese students. Before I even taught, I had heard stories about, and saw drawings and student-made posters of, Totoro and the Catbus.
The museum was great! It would have been better if I was a (chronological) kid, and if you were allowed to take pictures INSIDE the museum. Oh well, some copyright issue with the artists. Boo!
-And currently, I am here for the strongest typhoon Japan has experienced in 50 years. Wow! So far it is just really windy. Like KA-RAY-ZEE windy. Hold onto your hats and chihuahuas people, a storm’s a-brewing. Well, at least I get to wear my super cute rain boots and poncho. Watashi wa kawaii desu!!
– Oh, yeah! I’m going to Bali in August for 16 days. Just me, the sun, the ocean right outside my rented studio apartment, and an elephant. Yup, I’m going to ride an elephant.
I know I haven’t written for a long while. I have been extremely busy. But I have been using Instagram. Check me out at: kanagawa_kyary you don’t have to be a member to view the photos online. Just google: ‘Instagram kanagawa_kyary’ and there I am! You can also use the link on the left of this blog.
This is where I work. Life’s tough, eh? Better than the dungeon I came from (seriously, I worked in a basement: no windows, no circulation, no emergency lights, strange sewer smell and sporadic ceiling leaks)
It’s been an amazing past few weeks. It feels as if I’ve been here forever. I’ve really taken to Japanese life. No culture shock yet, hopefully I’ll never have to experience it. However, I’m betting that it’ll come closer to holidays or my birthday…or maybe never. I’ve been here before, in Dec 2012-Jan 2013 so I knew what to expect; I did so much research prior to my first trip and even more so before I moved here, so I knew what to expect; I worked with international students in various capacities over the past 7 1/2 year, so I knew what to expect. Case in point: educate yourselves people!! I’ve read so many blogs and heard so many stories about people being stopped at the airport with a product containing pseudo-ephedrine (illegal in Japan), or getting rude stares while wearing that cute low-cut strapless dress (bare shoulders and cleavage = no no), or being shoved and yelled at while walking on the right of the sidewalk (it’s on the left in Japan, except Osaka), ad nauseum.
What kind of idiot moves halfway across the world without informing themselves? Apparently, plenty. But there’s no excuse – it’s called the Internet. I found out nearly everything I needed through Google and simple search terms. Nothing extraordinary. “living abroad Japan” Boom! Information. Ok, so this stuff may be common sense to me but some people just don’t think this way. They prefer spontaneity and adventure, so do I but not at the expense of my health, financial security or freedom. No Japanese jails for me, thank you very much. They still have capital punishment!!
THINGS THAT I INFORMED MYSELF ON PRIOR TO MOVING TO JAPAN
gluten-free food options (not always applicable, but if you have any food allergies this is a MUST. And if you don’t speak the language familiarize yourself with the characters, symbols or words related to your specific allergy.)
health insurance for ex-pats
Canadian pension vs. Japanese pension
how/if/when to pay taxes while living abroad
Japanese popular culture
taboos (it’s helpful to know if a friendly gesture in your culture could be seen as extremely rude, or even a threat in another )
laws and restrictions (again, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT)
workplace culture (most Japanese stay at the office waaaaaaaay past their official end time. Every. Single. Day. This also means weekends. )
appropriate vs inappropriate male-female conduct
attitudes towards females: in the workplace, in the home, in business, at school
knowledge and image of Canadians and foreigners in general
fashion and style rules and restrictions
banking in Japan
access to Canadian bank account
This may seem like a lot but it’s not. Everyone and their dog (including me) has a blog; ex-pat blogs are over-saturating the blogoshpere. I dare you to NOT find one about a country you are moving to (see). I also learned a lot about Japan from Japanese friends, colleagues, students and language partners while I was in Canada. I had/have a genuine interest in Japan and this has helped me feel comfortable here and make myself at home. I stand out for different reasons (tall, blonde) and not because I’m trying to live a Canadian life in Japan.
A colleague took me to Shinjyuku-Goen last Wednesday and it was amazing. The colours were gorgeous! Different shades of pink, white and rose. There were so many people out for Ohanami: Kids running around, couples lounging, people taking photographs, artists with sketch pads and easel’s, and everyone eating Sakura flavoured treats.
Well, I’m living in Japan. It’s been just under two weeks and I’m making myself right at home. There’s so much to tell, but right now I am exhausted and must wake up early to catch the Romance Car to Shinjuku (more on that later). So right now pictures will have to do.
One thing I can’t get over here is the food. All of the amazing food. And I’m not talking about sushi or ramen or yakitori. I’m talking about all of the typically ‘western’ foods that are available. I was in awe of them on my last trip and this time I am mildly obsessed. Obviously I cannot eat ANY of it (boo on you celiac disease), but I can dream.
I finally found something I could eat. Sakura cookies!! Yay!! Too bad I crushed them in my backpack on the train ride home. Oh well, they still tasted awesome.
And then there’s this: McDonald’s Sakura Teritama Burger. Teriyaki egg burger with sakura sauce (daikon mayo) and pink bun. Ummmm…..?
My friend Kaleigh threw me a going away party this past Saturday. Japanese themed and all gluten free. Ahhhhhhh, my kind of party. We talked, drank, laughed, took silly Polaroids, ate sushi and reminisced. It was a blast!! There were some shenanigans and some Polaroids that will be hidden never to see the light of day (mostly by me, lol). It was a very nice send off. Ahhhhhhh, I’ll miss these guys.