Sunday, 18 August 2013

J-Day +14

Kagoshima is hot. HOT. The wall of brimstone that greets the weary traveler on leaving the relative comfort of an aeroplane can simply not be anticipated, nor do adequate countermeasures exist. The balmy climes of southern Europe pale in comparison. The life sapping human hot plate that is the Thar desert offers its pocket money and retreats in fear from the brutish Kyushu summer. It`s hot. Hourly-ice-cream hot. Obligatory-6am-sweat-rag hot. Change-your-shirt-after-20-minutes hot. Smother-yourself-in-toothpaste-in-the-vague-hope-that-the-menthol-will-save-you hot. Hot. Hooooooooooot.

Phew… Now that that is out of the way I`ll try to fill you in on some of what has happened since I arrived in Japan, hopefully without mentioning ice-cream, sweat, or toothpaste again. In short, it`s been one of the more interesting, challenging and exhausting times I can remember. Traditional jet-lag has combined with more recently discovered JET-lag (brought on by excessive genki-ness and a lack of acknowledgement of one’s limits), making the whole affair rather a blur, or a heat-haze at least. It`s hot here. Perhaps in writing, some will re-surface.

Tokyo orientation largely consisted of a stream of speeches, seminars and ceremonies, which, depending on the individual JET`s powers of self-regulation, fell somewhere within the utterly pointless to utterly unmissable spectrum. The delights of Tokyo, just beyond the hotel walls, were quite a draw. I chose to attend most events and focused on elementary school teaching (Apples! Apples! I like apples!), workplace etiquette and driving in Japan. Generally valuable information. Outside, bonding with both the JETs and Japanese was considerably more stimulating, if arguably less useful. A yosakoi festival in Saitama was the highlight, revealing a little of the history of the country, and the generosity of my contemporaries.


Eventually we donned our fancy claps (far less fancy once sweat has its way with them; it`s hot here) and moved on to our respective prefectures. In Kagoshima I was met by my supervisors and two existing ALTs, without whom I can only imagine the trouble the last week of administration could have caused. I couldn`t be more grateful. The language barrier between my supervisors and I was immediately apparent, but my nod of assent when asked tentatively “… like … beer …?” brought about a sigh of relief from all present. It was comforting to find common ground so quickly, and the list of vague commonalities between British and Japanese cultures is slowly growing. We both enjoy tea, drink alcohol to loosen our tongues, and have a strange tendency to talk about the weather with everyone who will listen. Did I mention that it`s hot here?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Japan - The Prequel

Last summer I had the pleasure of working as a summer camp counselor for Guy Healy, Japan, spending time with children from lower Elementary school ("HELLO!!!!! HELLO!!!!! HELLO!!!!!") right through to playing patient with students from Aichi Medical University. It was a great opportunity to get to know a little about the Japanese education system, but more importantly I spent some time with students not unlike those I'll be teaching this coming year. It was a crash course, an invaluable immersion into Japanese youth culture, mostly the stalwarts Doraemon, AKB48, and Chunichi Dragons.

Meoto Iwa, Mie Prefecture
I look back on the experience through wildly positive memories. Even beyond the flattery of the campers' affection, the job had many unforgettable aspects. Each camp was in a different prefecture, and the loooooooong (looooooooong) bus journeys allowed us to visit a variety of the most beautiful areas of Japan, including the wedded rocks of Mie and the gorgeous Fukui coast. The team of counselors was a rag-tag band of ~twenty like-minded individuals, and together we worked incredibly hard to make small Japanese children smile, laugh, and talk; usually in that order. It was extremely hard saying goodbye to these friends, natives of the US and Japan, but happily, we still keep in touch.

Fort Smile, with my fellow pillow masons - Nagano Prefecture
In downtime I was able to travel around and catch up with old friends and new, and also spent some time with a host family. My host parents were wonderful, offering my host-brother and I embarrassing levels of generosity. They showed us a side of Japanese life that is so often denied of visitors, as well as sharing experiences that we couldn't have hoped to find without their guidance, perhaps most memorably meeting the Japanese Elvis.

A little less conversation...
There were a million reasons for me to apply for JET, but my time at USA Summer Camp was undoubtedly a key factor in my decision to return to Japan. If my time in Kagoshima lives up to the promises made by my time in Japan last summer, I can't wait...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


The year is 1998. The setting: an innocuous living room in the midlands. A young Tom Brotherhood, still with tears in his eyes following England's departure from the football world cup, finally comprehends his mother's roots in the Welsh valleys. He mutters: 'Wales?' in a low voice, and pauses for a moment in contemplation. Then, tentatively, he utters the immortal question: 'Does that make me half a whale?'

Present day. The setting remains the same. The mere mention of the tremendous enemy-of-krill evokes embarrassment and merriment in equal measure, and its continuing prominence in Brotherhood household folklore provides the name for this blog. I remain half a whale, but I fear that it is time to leave the pod and venture to the more tropical waters of Kagoshima, Japan. For the foreseeable future I will be working as an assistant language teacher on the JET Programme, half a world away from the home in which I was raised on brown bread and roast dinners. It is this: being borne across the world, that will, hopefully, provide the content for this fledgling blog.

You flatter me in finding it amidst the innumerable other blogs that could rightfully have attracted your attention in its place. Admittedly, it is sparse at present, but will soon be host to my experiences as a JET: my first post-institution job. Though the written diary of my formative years anticipates a sporadic, short-lived affair, (~5 entries, October 2001 - September 2010), I intend to write here whenever I encounter anything of general interest, but will, nevertheless, endeavour to keep my own uninformed ramblings to a minimum. Hopefully, I can fulfill these good intentions, and if so, I do hope that you look around for a while.