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Thursday, June 4, 2015


I think I'm just going to start writing and see what comes out today.

Bottling up depression is dangerous and quite different than when someone bottles up anger. When one bottles up anger, it's apt to explode like a can of soda opening after rigorous agitation. Depression, is like putting a hole in the can first. And every time one feels like they can't tell someone about it for fear of coming across as a downer, whiny, or otherwise annoying, it puts another hole in the can.

I was driving with Mitsuko over the weekend and out of nowhere I unloaded. A lot.

I didn't shout or get mad at her, mind you. Nothing like that at all. I had a breakdown after another couple months worth of trying to repress what I'm thinking might be a deep-seated depression at my ineffectiveness and inability to do anything related to the reason I came to Japan on JET in the first place.

Every time I start to talk about how frustrating my placement is, it seems that someone will almost always inadvertently talk about how maybe "culture shock" has finally hit me. That's bullshit. It hasn't. I'm going to go on a limb here and expand this following point to more than just my current situation. The worst thing people can do is tell someone it's their fault when a given person is having problems. It makes them not want to speak up. What might have been handled in one conversation gets dragged out and repressed over an agonizing course of time. It takes a lot of gall to assume (and you are assuming) you know what someone is dealing with in their life, or in their workplace. So, stop it.

I love Japan. I have the best time on the rare occasion when I get to do a bit of traveling, exploring, and interacting with people who want to talk to me. It's my work environment that's destroying me.

I looked through my journal and for the past couple of weeks, every entry has opened with the following words:



Not today.

Or today.

I think you get the point.

Nearly every other day, while I was sitting here with little to do but collect my thoughts, there would be a phone call to the office. It came from the 2nd year teacher asking for help because the class was too out of control or there would be some kind of fighting that required all available (2nd year) teachers to run up and help.

I have been informally uninvited to these classes after several incidents (including an altercation with a student) wherein the teacher apologized to me once class was over and the students were dismissed.

So that's a third of the potential classes I can't go to. I wouldn't want to go anyway as it stands. I don't need to be insulted, have obscenities shouted, or be the target for paper airplanes, paper wads, etc - while I'm trying to talk. Unless they fix this I won't be making an appearance. I make use of the indefinite pronoun in this case only to point out that I don't care who corrects their behavior, just that someone does. I've had talks with the principal of the school about this, as well as the 2nd year staff. Everyone unabashedly agrees that something is truly wrong. But that is as far as the conversation ever goes.

Those who would teach these children are holding them under a faucet, waiting for the water so that they may wash their hands of the whole affair.

That's just one thing.

The former English teacher still haunts these halls. I don't know what she does other than tell me things I already know. Every time she walks near me I start to become a little bit annoyed at the possibility that I'll be dragged into a conversation I don't want to have. She'll say something in English that I don't understand - which is entirely not a problem. The problem is that she will phrase it in a way that sounds as though it's a new thing she's referring to. This causes me to ask, "What?" or state that I'm not aware of the thing she's just mentioned. Then when I find out what it is in Japanese I come to realize that there's nothing new and I'm on task, on schedule as always. She's just always trying to be on my case.  Let's have an example.

We have an assembly once a week. Every Wednesday morning in the gym the student council will go over any important news, and then any teachers wishing to make announcements will do much the same. She frequently reminds me about this - two years into doing it. It's not a friendly reminder though as she laments the information unto me with an elongated (mis)pronunciation of my name. She'll follow that up with a prolonged drawl oozing instructions out of her mouth to me as though I require it so. I have to hand it to her though, she knows how to sound like a complete asshole when she's trying.



"The meeting is todaaaaaaaaay." She will say with a rising intonation of impatience, sounding thoroughly annoyed.

"What?" I'm alarmed because she's expressing this to me as though it's something I am late or not prepared for.

"School meeeeeeeeeeeting.... in the gyyyyyyyym." I know you're thinking that maybe she just pronounces things like this and it's a complete misunderstanding. I'll put that to rest right now. She doesn't speak English like that to anyone else. I've heard her in and outside of class.

"Oh, the zenkouchoukai." I quickly respond both at ease and frustrated. First, she's not at the meeting. So I'm not late. I look at the clock to confirm it doesn't happen for 10 more minutes. Then, I looked at the rest of the staff room. Everyone else is still here so it's not as if I'm supposed to be there early.

Anyway, that's just one of many stories involving her. She never speaks Japanese to me, nor do I to her. Not since she made fun of it. The third volume of journals should really list her somewhere in the credits because she's got more screen time than anyone else in it.

Despite knowing there would be fallout I also canceled my school lunch recently.

Doing that itself was a process and required talking to multiple parties. One instance I remember quite well. It started when I talked to the quite nice JTE (with whom I get along splendidly) that sits next to me and it came up in conversation that I might be able to cancel my school lunch. I left it at that for a while, but eventually I truly wanted to cancel the lunch because of dietary reasons. I have to say first that I don't mind kyuushoku at all, and I almost always enjoyed it - Natto isn't food. I didn't drink the milk however, because who does, and I didn't want to eat the rice because I'm trying to lose weight and that amount of empty carb loading just wasn't doing me any favors. It's a lot of rice for those not in the know and wasting food (throwing it back in the bin to be later tossed) is unacceptable to me.

Eventually I talked with the office lady because she was in charge of collecting the lunch money every month. The former JTE, y, was there as well. I wasn't going to ask about canceling the school lunch on that occasion. Originally I was double checking how much I was required to pay for it. An important point for later: It's been a well known fact since I arrived that I don't drink milk, and as a result I don't receive any for lunch. Irrelevant to the milk issue, I found out a year later that I was being overcharged because I have a half day on Wednesday and thus don't eat at the school. This being the second year, I asked the office lady if the amount on my payment envelope was correct. It showed 5000 yen, which is the same it always was. She said it was right. I paused then explained the whole overcharged scenario to her, but I made a mistake. I had forgotten it was because of Wednesdays, and I mentioned milk.

She was confused then looked past me towards y, made a face, then explained it was because of not eating on Wednesday. Immediately I felt stupid. Of course that's what I meant to say, I just slipped up. She looks at me and says, (in Japanese, she doesn't speak any English) "Do you understand?" She looks past me at y again and repeats, "Does he understand?" Now of course I'm feeling a bit annoyed because I do understand, and now y has been brought into this discussion as well - something I did not want.

The office lady explains that she'll give me my refund at the end of next year rather than adjusting how much I have to pay now, which is ridiculous.

I say to the office lady that I understand, but we again go through this song and dance at which point y gets up and says, "Do you understand?"

Or at least she would have. As she got up I turned around and said, "No." She sat right back down.

If we weren't friends before, we sure are now.

A week after that I just told her (office lady) that I wanted to cancel it outright. I was done with it. It took a couple weeks before another person talked to me about it, because it somehow involved him. He said that they would look it but that it would require some phone calling and double checking to make sure I could be removed. His explanation was that there are people who work for the town that carefully balance - that word comes up so often - each meal and he worried that I wouldn't be eating enough, or eating a balanced meal.

That might sound sweet to you, but this is a person who made fun of my weight for quite some time after I arrived, and poked fun at myself and the other ALT in Kotoura-cho at our welcome dinner with the BOE people. After that dinner, I thanked him for his "kind words," and he respond thus:

"Those weren't kind words." Anyway, moving on.

They eventually picked a day when the lunch would stop for me, and now I bring a salad I make at home. Every once in a while though he'll stop by and ask if I'm eating enough.

Yes, I am. Thank you.

This is of course annoying because that same person will equally ask what I'm eating for dinner. I'm honest, and there's no shame in what I'm cooking. I don't eat unhealthy. Despite this, I've always received a warning to "not eat too much".

I won't. Thank you. 

I have plenty more to say, but I guess I should stop here.


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