In late October, I got a letter from my company asking that I inform them of my “intention” for next year: whether I wanted to continue teaching in The Village or do something else with my next twelve months. They wanted a reply by November 29th.
It was a matter I’d been constantly deliberating since the summer, and things kept coming up and preventing me from thinking it through clearly. After my speech in September, there was the madness of my Halloween lesson that ate up October and November, which was directly followed by mind-numbing study for the Japanese test on the first of December. I suppose if I’d ever had a moment to sit down and make up a list, it would have come out something like this:
- I loved many of my kids
- My classes were generally small and manageable
- My vacations were long, frequent, and reasonably well-paid
- I had low required working hours
- I had little interference from my superiors
- My apartment was finally furnished
- I would rather not deal with some of my kids for another year
- I was always too worried about the next day’s lesson to fully relax at home
- It was difficult to access other areas of Japan from The Village
- There was little opportunity to meet locals my age
- I felt wretched
I couldn’t be sure if the lattermost point was due to the test or work or both, but I knew something had to change. So I filled out my form with the word “relocation,” stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it off to my company on November 27th. The fact that it came back a day later with insufficient postage was either evidence that cosmic forces disapproved of my choice, or evidence that I didn’t buy the right stamp.
Three days later, I went up to Tokyo along with Alicia, one of the P. Rock ALTs, and we met up with The Toronto Girl, who’d called me sometime in November and had been quite offended that I’d considered coming to Tokyo without telling her, even if it was only to write a test.
We all crashed at The Toronto Girl’s place, which I stupidly forgot involves me sleeping on the carpet because she only has a single spare futon, and Alicia booted me up at 8:00 to begin our five-hour marathon of fun.
In the hordes of gaijin at the test, I somehow managed to run into my nervous-looking co-trainee from my first three days at Blight last September. He actually hadn’t quit yet, but he plans to go to language school in April.
As for the test, all I’m sure of is that I managed to request “a hotel that ‘suitables’ rooms to young people” through the wonders of multiple-guess answers, and the rest will be revealed in February.
When Alicia gave me a lift back to my place, Socks was waiting outside with birthday gifts—including, of all things, a dartboard, because he somehow believed I liked darts.
When my boss called two days later about my “relocation” intentions, she seemed pleased to learn that I was now wavering toward staying. The madness of Halloween had distanced me from my kids for a month, and when I finally had normal classes again, I started to remember what it was that I liked about this job. I was allowed to hold out until Wednesday before giving my final answer.
In the end, it all came down to a matter of bedding. I’d decided that I was sick of sleeping on the floor, and if I stayed another year, I’d want a bed. But there was no way I’d want to haul a bed along if I moved, so if I bought one, I was staying in The Village for another year.
This wasn’t exactly how I’d expected to make the decision, but I’d been getting nowhere trying to resolve all the minutiae in my head. I just needed something simple to latch onto to make it all manageable, something that would turn it all into a matter of cause and effect.
Then I found a perfect bed that was on sale until Sunday.
I am now sitting warmly in my new bed as I edit this missive for about the tenth time. It looks like I’ll be here until April 2004.
Amusingly, when I called and announced my decision the office staff, the girl on the phone immediately blurted out, “Oh! You’re a good teacher!” Yeah: staying meant they didn’t have to go through the trouble of finding someone else willing to work Two Hours South of Nowhere. But she mentioned that she’d been really impressed by the copy of The Halloween Book I’d sent in, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely disingenuous after all.
When the company sales rep came down to negotiate my new contract with the BOE, it sounded like the guys at the BOE sold me to him.
It’s Christmas Every Day In The Village
I had my kids do Christmas in two parts: first they made ornaments and told “Santa” which of my popular animal pictures they’d like, then a week later they decked the tree, put up stockings, set out milk and cookies, and removed to the music room to practice a Christmas carol while Santa did his surreptitious work. Then the kids got to come back and find candy in the stockings and discover their requested pictures in big, shiny boxes.
Back in Toronto, my dad used to distract me and my sister by taking us out to look for “reindeer tracks” on Christmas Eve.
When taking present request, I acted as Santa while the teachers were my scribes, typically writing down the animal names in easily-understandable phonetic Japanese. However, there was one brave teacher who wrote in English. The six little grade ones at Monday Elementary apparently wanted the following for Christmas:
“Right… who asked for the flogging?”
The kids got to choose instruments in the music room. I normally had a fairly pleasant chorus of bells, triangles and castanets to accompany the final performance of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” prior to opening presents. However, after my grade four teacher at Thursday Elementary chose a pair of cymbals right off the bat, we ended up with another set of cymbals, two xylophones and an accordion wishing everyone a Mangled and Wonkily Dirgey Christmas.