Memoirs of a Gaijin

My Travels as an Expatriot

記憶の威勢 – The Power of Memory

In Japanese schools, the School Sports Festival is always a big deal. For many students, it is the best day of the year. It’s a day when they can escape from the monotonous tedium of everyday class, and instead spend the time outside, running around, having a fun time with their friends and fellow classmates. This annual event occurs at every school in Japan, and in seeing it in person for the first time provided a unique opportunity to compare my own middle school experience with that of my own students. However, upon the conclusion of the festival, the commonality that I found to be the most potent was the poignant sense of heartache that I perceived in the faces of some third years as they finished their final sports festival. A sense that I too experienced last May, as I neared the day of my Graduation from Geneseo. Continue reading

くずの美容 – The Beauty of Garbage

If I had to say the thing I miss most about home, besides the standard answer of friends and family, it would have to be the food of Rochester. Sure, I really do love to eat new foods, and living here in Japan has given me the opportunities to try some incredible food so far, but, as with all places, there are special dishes that I can only get back home. I can always make them here in Japan, but there is a magic that is lost when they are made so far from home. I finally came to realize this earlier this week as I told my classes all about my home, and I described to them the piece of cuisine that is truly unique to Rochester and my personal favorite food: The Garbage Plate

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姉妹都市 – Sister City

For the last two weeks, I have been in an incredibly good mood. I’m not sure if it is finally starting to teach in the classroom, feeling Kiryu become more and more like home, or just the extant jubilation I felt when I first arrived and realized I had finally accomplished my goal. Regardless, my outlook and demeanor have been especially high-spirited, and this effect was even further compounded today when I received my first care package from my parents back in Rochester. There was nothing of incredible value in the parcel, just a few books and smaller momentos from home that I asked my parents to send my way, and it was great to feel that connection with home as I continue to make my new one here. The concept of a truly global connection is one that I have learned much about this week, specifically as I have learned more about the concept of Sister Cities.

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地力 – One’s Own Potential

As I touched upon in an earlier post,daily routines have become a key part of my life here over the past five weeks. I have always liked to have a certain amount of structure in my life, even if that structure is as vague as a general plan for how I may think or want things to proceed.  On the Tuesday of last week, I finished my final round of self-introductions, and on Thursday my speech buddy competed in her speech competition, as she delivered a fully memorized, five minute, English speech about the benefits of Japanese volunteerism. With each of these milestones passed, it truly felt like i was settled into the rhythm of my daily life.

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授業の技能 – The Art of Teaching

After being in Japan for a whole month, I finally began to work as a teacher at my Middle and Elementary Schools. As is common with each and every new ALT in my program, the first time with a new class is used to introduce yourself, and there is even a special term for it in Japanese: 自己紹介, pronounced “jee-ko-sho-kai.” This is the first time most of the students will interact with me, and I wanted to make this a fun occasion for both parties. If I am going to help these students learn English, and if I am in turn going to learn more Japanese from them, then I want to make the process of learning English as fun as learning Japanese is for me.

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山の自分 – Myself on the Mountain

Earlier this week, I finished my first book in Japan, and though I started it in America before my departure, I read the lion’s share of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore here in Japan. As I did with the protagonist of his 2013 novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I find that I relate very strongly to Murakami’s protagonist in this novel: Kafka Tamura. Kafka, in the interest of distancing himself from his former life as well as finding some a sense of meaning for his life, runs away from home, and, though my own reasons may not be as dramatic or profound, I feel a sense of affinity with Kafka. In the same way that Kafka is on the shore looking out at the ocean trying to find answers about himself, I too am looking out as I also look inward to make determinations about myself; though my perspective is framed by the forested mountains of Gunma rather than the Pacific Ocean shore of Shikoku.

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文化的な交流の永久 – The Permanence of Cultural Exchange

In my new job, I have many responsibilities, but the most important one is at once both simple and complex: I am mean to be a cultural ambassador from America. What this entails, I do not yet fully comprehend, and I doubt that I will ever be able to fully understand what this position means. On a mechanical level, in the classroom I am to function as something analogous to a recording device, and I am to help the students understand how and why certain English words or grammatical structures work the way they do; however, to limit the position to that would be a waste of time for each party involved. The JET in JET Programme stands for “Japanese Exchange & Teaching,” and what I have realized in my first two weeks here is the significance and intent of that first part: Exchange.

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自転車の日記 – The Bicycle Diaries

Since last week’s post was all about the realization of a new life here, it is only fitting that this weeks post is concerned with the nature of that new life and all of the new adventures it brings. Naturally, the experience, as with every one, has not been an incredible, paradigm-shifting one, but just a general slice of life. I have work at 8:20 every morning, and I normally wake up two hours to an hour-and-a-half beforehand. In that time, I shower, make breakfast, brush my teeth, dress myself and hop on my bike to make the five minute commute to work, and when the day is done I ride my bike around Kiryu before eventually making my way home. However, though this may sound mundane, it has been a rather interesting week of discovery in more ways than one.

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