My coworkers are really nice to me. This entry is going to be all about how awesome the people at my school are. They are really taking care of me.
Our school has maybe 45 teachers and 10 office staff. I cannot speak to the vast majority of them, because they either do not speak or are very uncomfortable speaking English. I, unfortunately, do not speak Japanese. Here are some of the exchanges I have had with my coworkers, despite our language gap:
– My supervisor helped me get my foreign residency card, open my bank account, and file my documents so I won’t have to pay taxes. He is also filling out all the school paperwork I should be doing but can’t because I don’t speak Japanese. Some of my friends in the jutaku are not getting any assistance from their schools in these areas.
– An English teacher drove to my apartment at 6:30 in the morning on my first day of school, so he could ride the bus with me. He researched the different bus passes I could buy and helped me understand my daily commute.
– Later that same day, since that teacher was staying late at school, two office ladies, Nakano-san, and an English teacher walked me to the bus stop and talked to the bus driver to make sure I got on the right bus home, and got off at the right stop.
– The school’s handyman, Riki-san, fixed up my apartment since it’s been neglected for years, and scoured the school’s storage rooms to find me a bed, dresser, kitchen cupboard, television, and rice-cooker. He then delivered them all to my house and, with the help of two teachers, moved everything into my apartment and put all the furniture together. Nakano-san came along and showed me how to use the rice-cooker and washing machine.
– An English teacher drove me to and from our nomikai in Kurume, dropping me off at my home that night before returning home himself in a different city. He speaks perfectly fluent English and was very kind to me.
There are countless other, smaller things that people have done for me here. Anytime I get bummed about my job or get grumpy, I will read this entry and remind myself of how good the school has been to me, and how much I want to give back in return.
That is, as I’m learning, the Japanese way. It has always been their way. You give your loyalty and the sweat of your brow to the company, or to the landowner or what have you, and in return they take care of you. I have noticed that Japanese companies are a lot more present in everyday life, and although I don’t speak the language, I get the impression that there isn’t a lot of resentment towards them, the way there is in the US. At the enormous fireworks festival I attended last week, each segment of the fireworks was sponsored by a different private company. It seemed normal that they would be actively involved in a public celebration, and because there were so many of them it wasn’t like they owned the event, the way Macy’s does in NYC. They were just like patrons that everyone was familiar with.
The Japanese working culture seems insane to me. But I’m learning to see the good side in it, too.