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?