6:50 AM and my alarm goes off. I’m not outdoors in my sleeping bag meaning I am not okay being woken up this early.
Snooze for the next half hour.
Roll out of bed. Put on shirt. Put on pants. Brush teeth. No breakfast. Out the door in ten minutes.
Regretting this already.
Apparently it’s still summer vacation for Japan’s students, but for some reason the streets are filled with kids heading to school.
How do I know they are kids heading to school? Because they are all wearing matching uniforms and are equipped with uniform backpacks.
What kind of crazy world have I come to?
I arrive and my supervisor (my lifeline in terms of communication) abandons me with no instructions or real indication of what the hell it is I am supposed to be doing (I can see this is going to be a beautiful relationship).
Now, sitting at my desk, I discover that I can’t use my (school issued) computer due to my not yet having been added as a user. Now I can’t even browse my heavily filtered internet. It’s going to be a long day.
One of the English teachers comes over and hands me a piece of paper covered in Japanese, “for the meeting,” he says, “use it for Japanese practice, please.” Spoiler alert: this paper will not be used for practice (although it is nice of him to treat me as a member of the staff).
Precisely ten minutes after eight a bell chimes and everyone in the office stands up, bows, and sits back down. The morning meeting has begun (or as I like to call it, the ten minutes in the morning where I have no idea what’s being said (identical ten minute blocks immediately follow and last the entire day)).
So am I supposed to be pretending that I know what’s going on? Some of the teachers are still clamoring away at their keyboards and so I see no harm in me continuing to do the same (on my laptop – for anyone calling this out as conflicting information).
Today is special because I am being introduced to the students at an assembly in the gym (so all the students are at school today just for this? But there’s no class? I’m still confused).
Thankfully I am informed when the time for moving to the gym has arrived (setting a false expectation that I would be notified of future events as well). To the gym I go.
Entering the gym I am greeted with all the students seated neatly in rows on the floor, and they are completely silent – quite astonishing. Each one of my footsteps echoes through the room as I float towards a teacher-filled wall and wait for instructions.
At the front of the gym the principal is giving what I can only assume is my introduction, and eventually I am beckoned to the lonely podium across from the grid of students.
Not knowing what the hell I am expected to say (because I might as well be speaking gibberish), I say some less than interesting things about myself, attempt some untimely bows, and am then confronted with a student who delivers a speech to me (in English) welcoming me to the school.
More formalities and even more not-knowing-what’s-going-ons later and I retreat to my desk to resume the arduous task of occupying myself until it’s time to go do more of the same at my apartment.
Students come in and out of the teacher’s lounge seemingly at will, and they all announce themselves on both the way in and out.
I don’t think I ever saw the inside of a staff room as a student. The staff room was like the girl’s bathroom – I had no idea what was going on in there and I was fairly certain that there were couches inside.
The teacher next to me has just finished clipping his nails and is now brushing his teeth. Another directly across the room has mastered the art of sleeping upright in his chair. And yet another has been muttering “hai” and moaning into the phone for the last three minutes.
Arguably the most stimulating work environment I have ever found myself in.
If today is any indication of what life in Japan has in store for me, then I can only say that it’s going to be a long semester.
At least the lunch is good.