近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Expectravaganza Part 2: My Ordinary Life

Read part one of Expectravaganza here.

Hey, if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been having a blast with a case of the stomach flu. So here’s your Japanese word of the day: 胃腸炎/いちょうえん or gastroenteritis as WebMD was so eager to correct readers on. Anyway, we’re “back on schedule” now.

This part will mainly consist of things outside of the workplace, so let’s GGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

1) Expectation: I would be able to visit the nearby cities conveniently.
Reality: I can, but the costs add up.

The only way I can get off my island is by taking a bus. Except for when the bridge closes due to bad weather. Then I have to drive really far north and take a ferry. Otherwise, I’m trapped.

Luckily the bridge has only closed once, but one really disappointing aspect of living here is the general lack of public transit. I have to drive anywhere I want to go, but I guess in that way it’s very reminiscent of the states. Besides the tools needed to get places, the costs of going anywhere else on any given weekend easily adds up. Although, as a single dude right out of college, my salary is very healthy and I have no real room to complain, but my bank account makes it very apparent when I decide to go out. While I am capable of playing weekend warrior, my future financial responsibilities still loom over me and because of that, I’m starting to make sure there’s at least a weekend at home every month.

2) Expectation: I would strive to learn as much Japanese as possible, studying at least a little bit each day.
Reality: Kind of? Depending on how you look at it.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned about myself and studying the language here. Yes, I could be an awesome scholar and study intensely during work. I could use practice sites or translate the millions of papers that come across your desk. I could do a multitude of things that would always have me be “studying.” I have met people like this, so I know it is possible! But for me, at some point, it just becomes too much and a little exhausting.

When a then-leaving JET told me before I came “The last thing I wanted to do after struggling to communicate all day was study Japanese. I did, but it was the furthest thing from fun,” I didn’t quite agree with the sentiment. “Of course I’ll study as much as I can! It’s part of the reason why I’m going there!” I thought. While I’m not having a major struggle communicating, I have found the last thing I want to do all day after listening to/reading a particular language is study it. Yes, I have JLPT study books at my desk and I do look at them. And yes, whenever I hear a word I don’t understand I immediately take out my phone and search for it, but I have yet to find myself actually studying at my home after I get off work.

My slightly twisted justification is that I’m studying just by being: I’m “studying” as I listen to people, talk to the kids or look around the boards in the office. Every encounter is “studying” as I’m forced to use the language in some capacity. As such, I have found my listening and comprehension skills have gotten significantly better since I’ve arrived. I do want to practice my speaking more, but there’s only so much small talk one can do day to day (it also really does not help that people repeat everything I say and then laugh). I do really need to work on my reading skills though. The internship is helping with that, however!

As I play games/read articles/watch TV in Japanese and find myself not reaching for my cellphone for translation as much, I believe I have at least made some progress even if I didn’t force myself to study an X amount of hours out of a book every day. When I studied abroad, a friend of mine had a good mentality that even by saying the most basic of phrases over and over again was still “practicing.” I find that in the same way simply being around the language on a daily basis has helped. Though, studying more definitely wouldn’t hurt.

3) Expectation: KILLER BUUGGGSSSS EVERYWHERE
Reality: Everywhere except near me

I did not hear about Mukade until the night before I flew out of Chicago. An ex-Awaji JET was actually the one who informed me of her encounter with the savage beast, the pain, the hospital visit and the steps at protecting herself afterwards. When I first arrived here, one of the first questions I asked the board of education staff was “Are there Mukade here?” They laughed at my ignorance.

Luckily I live pretty high up in my apartment complex, so the prospect of a Mukade stopping by my house for a visit is low. However, when the night falls in the summer, the bugs make the outdoor hallways their own domain.

The ex-Awaji JET recommended to buy a particular powder and spread it around my house to prevent any critters from coming in. My supervisor in particular has made fun of this precaution, but I do just as the ex-JET said. Supposedly the powder remains “active” for one month and will completely keep out any large insects. I’ve been lucky in that I have not seen any creature of the sort, except for the one random cockroach I found which had died at my bedside one morning. There are other things one can buy to prevent bugs from entering the home, but I’ve found the powder to be pretty effective. I’ve just made sure to spray it along any and all openings (WHICH THERE ARE A LOT).

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But I have seen plenty of Mukade out in the wild! Especially at my schools! While I do appreciate the “keep the doors and windows open when the weather is nice” mentality here, it is basically an open invitation for any non-bro bugs to enter the scene. The two Mukade I have seen were randomly roaming the halls during the school day (though I say this like they have some sort of schedule). I can’t speak much for those in east/northeast Japan, but for anyone in my area and westbound: the stories are known, they are here and you have been warned.

If you do happen across one, send it to the deepest depths of hell for me. It’ll be much appreciated.

The new JETs arrive on the island within the next week, so I’m curious as to what their expectations coming into the program are as well. Certainly expectations are not a bad thing; They come with the territory. Rather people seem to be so crushed by the realities they find that sometimes it makes a pretty alright situation (in my opinion) feel a lot worse. It’s the management of these ideas that we all need to take care of, for better or worse.

Now excuse me while I go spray some more powder around my house.

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