Tuesday, January 19, 2010


That's a Japanese word which literally means "longed for" or "missed". For example, if someone was talking about the good old days in school, they might say, "Aah, natsukashii!"

Today was my first day back at school. In Japan, teachers don't technically get school vacations off. So we still have to go to work. On my program, JET, people who teach in Junior High and elementary school are based in the Board of Education, so we spend our school vacations, sitting in the board, doing a lot of nothing.

Yesterday, on my last day at the BOE, I was really not looking forward to going back to school. Even though, it's the short term, it would mean that I would actually have to work, instead of sitting in an office working on my novel all day.

So I was rather surprised to find that I was happy as I turned into the school's parking lot. As per usual, the school's only special education student was standing out front. She shrieked "HELLO" across the lot, and in that instant I realised how much I'd missed my babies, all 440 of them (among 4 schools- 1 JHS, 2 elementaries and a kindergarten). I missed the crazy JHS third grader who bursts into giggles every single time he sees me. I missed my 4th graders from the big elementary, who learn lines like "Hey Baby!" from movies, so they can greet me with them. I missed the crazy teacher at that same elementary who speaks fantastic English, because that's what he studied in university, but who refuses to be an English teacher, because he, "hates grammar". I missed my itty-bitty elementary (31 kids) and all the crazy antics.

And then I realised it's term 3. In Japan the terms are pretty much the same as in the West, but the school year starts in April. My kids will be graduating in March. Graduation always turns me into a faucet. Even at the elementary schools, and the kindergarten, where the kids feed into my other schools, so it's not really goodbye.

Apart from back to school, January is also another important landmark for us JETs. In early February, we have to decide whether we will recontract for the next year, starting in August. It's a difficult choice, because from February to July the following year, is essentially signing away 18 months of your life.

I have a lot of practical reasons to stay.

1. It's a stable job, which you pretty much can't be fired from, or have a pay cut.
2. I need to raise money for my Masters.
3. I have lots of free time to write and study.

But today, I realised what might be the greatest reason of all, even though I hadn't considered it before. There's really no way to describe it in English, so I'll just use the Japanese.


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