It’s all starting to sink in now

The initial rush is over and the reality has hit a little hard… living in a very small house with my elderly mother-in-law, working a job that has me singing Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes several times a day and several days a week is a big adjustment. It doesn’t help that the rainy season is here and we had 120 mm of rain in one hour last night. The sun came out a bit today and that seems to be making a difference.

Last Sunday morning Jiro pointed to a photo on the front page of the paper and asked me if I knew the person pictured. I flashed back to a really nice conversation that I had had with the woman who is the principal at one of the small coastal schools that I had visited the previous week. It turns out that she and three other school administrators were caught in a bribery scandal. It is quite competitive to be hired as a teacher; in this prefecture there are 100 applicants for every 11 positions. The principal that I had met paid about $40,000 to have two of her children get jobs in the prefecture and got caught. The continues to make the local news, although I expect things will quiet down soon. And of course, the local superintendent is held partially responsible because the people involved work under him.

In every principal office, there are photos of all the previous principals of the school. One principal told me he was inspired every time he looked up at their photos.

This school is known as the school of Totoro, the school of life.

It is so frustrating not being able to read with any fluency…I want to know the details, be able to scan the headlines without a dictionary, even just read the instructions for recycling without wondering if the words I skip are critical pieces of information. I have begin working on studying more kanji, but it seems like such a monumental task. Once our living space is done and I have a designated desk and chair, I am hoping that I’ll be more methodical in my approach. At this point, I am just looking up words and writing out kanji that I come across.

Everywhere I look there are signs, flyers, and notices that I can’t fully comprehend. I really hate taking so many guesses. I know the characters for about 1/3 of any text, but I get thrown when I see a road sign that says something like: “Caution! ####### ahead!” All I can do is slow down and keep alert to anything out of the ordinary. My office computer has a Japanese operating system…most of the time I can figure things out, but I am never 100% certain that things will turn out as I expect them too.

It doesn’t help that I finished reading Blindness by Jose Saramago yesterday. It’s pretty grim and dark….

Ryougoji, the temple at the end of our block.

The week was a long one, it’s supposed to be sunny & hot tomorrow, I’ll ride my bike. I took a walk with one of my Japanese nieces today when there was a break in the rain. We had a really nice chat walking along the river. It really is quite pretty here and life is pretty slow…. can’t wait for the rainy season to end.

There are so many river crabs running around here…

2 thoughts on “It’s all starting to sink in now

  1. Paula June 24, 2008 / 11:34 pm

    Wow Kate, it is so beautiful there. Sounds like you are really doing a great job of getting right to work…very impressive. The kids sound great. They sound very different from the stories I hear from my sister about her 2nd graders (and formerly about her 7th and 8th graders) who are not very motivated about school and whose parents aren’t very responsive to teacher concerns about the students. Best to you~ paula

  2. sue June 27, 2008 / 5:55 pm

    I read Blindness and if that is how it feels to you to be where you are only getting a part of the printed information it must be exhausting and nerve-wracking.

    I’m glad to see that you get some good visits with family and that there are beautiful things to feast your eyes on.. not just incomprehensible signs.

    Just so you know, head and shoulders, knees and toes is running through my head now.. Sue

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