09.10.2011 35 °C
I recently moved to Japan as part of the Japan Exchange Teaching (“JET”) program and will spend the next year or two living in Nagasaki prefecture in the southernmost region of Japan, Kyushu. I live in a town called Ōmura (big village) of 90,000 which is considered to be in the inaka (countryside) and is bordered by a sheltered bay on one side and rolling hills on the other. The area is lush and green, and heavy with humidity. It’s small by Japanese standards but has all you need for comfortable living, and is ideally located between bigger centers nearby.
These first two months have been very challenging but immensely enjoyable as well. My current level in Japanese is pitiful, and life would naturally have been a lot easier if I could communicate more. But I have been extremely lucky in that there are not only two Assistant Language Teacher (“ALT”) coordinators in my town but also several others ALT’s can speak Japanese making my life infinitely easier in the last couple of weeks. My apartment was chosen for me by the Board Of Education in my town. It is a 3 roomed Japanese style apartment, with two tatami mat rooms and wooden floors for the rest of the house. It is plenty of room for one person, and I’m very happy with it. The house came with a refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine and gas cooker, I have had to supply everything else, including curtains and light fittings. It has meant the first month felt more like camping than living, but I have been adding bits and pieces as I go along. The process of setting up bank accounts, cell phones, health insurance, pension plans, alien registration cards, re-entry permits, car insurance etc has all been relatively painless. I have had to set up internet by myself, but I managed to find an English speaking company who could assist me with that, so I really can’t complain at all, I’ve been incredibly lucky.
New Car "Bricky"
I decided relatively quickly that I needed a car, although I live reasonably close to my base school I live up quite a big hill and it’s a bit of a mission to one of my schools (it’s about a 15 minute drive away). There is a bus that goes once every 4 hours or so, so it made it very difficult to get out and explore in my first few weeks, and I ended up being early to work by an hour every day and not able to hang out as much as I’d like with the other ALT’s. I ended up buying a car off a departing ALT and he gave me his couch, bed frame, table, chairs, printer, drawers, tent and cooler as a great start up package. The car, a Suzuki Wagon R is a Japanese ‘Kei’ plate, meaning it’s got a smaller engine and has a few restrictions on it, but is essentially cheaper to run and pay tax on. I love having my freedom back, and I think it opens up a whole other world of exploring opportunities.
Elementary School Kids
I am teaching mostly at a Junior High School but every two weeks I spend one day at an Elementary School. I have met all of the students and teachers now, and have lost count how many times I’ve had to do my self-introduction. Funnily enough my very first lesson at the Junior High School was on the movie “Whale Rider” which was filmed 30 minutes away from my hometown. It blew me away to hear Maori on the other side of the world. I am enjoying teaching, and particularly love my time at the Elementary school. The kids are very sweet and energetic, and I feel a bit like a rock star every time I go.
I haven’t been able to explore as much as I’d like to yet, as the car and security deposits on the apartment wiped me out financially, so I’ve really been only able to explore around my prefecture and town. Next month I’m off to Kyoto for the changing of the leaves and I’m looking forward to getting out and exploring further North.
I intend on writing my blog fairly regularly, and will cover different topics in more depth as I go but for now I just thought I’d ease you in gently, hope you come along for the ride.... subscribing takes a minute and only involves entering your email address :o)