10.05.2006

For JMP

How I felt about being a woman in Japan, especially one who is part Japanese;
and
How my experience may have been better/worse/different than that of the poster boy white male ALT:

Being a woman, and interacting with Japanese women was quite possibly among the things that impacted me the most during the time I spent overseas.
*WARNING: The following is loaded with gross generalizations.
The first year I taught in Japan, I was surprised by how seemingly unhealthy the relationships between my male and female students were. It was like looking at a time warp back to when boys and girls had cooties, when to punish a student, all you had to do was force them to sit next to a member of the opposite sex. (I really did have to do that on occasion, only because it really did work.)

The second year I started to see how it affected the way women related to each other. There was much less of the cattiness and competition that I remember being a part of my own high school experience. I found an ease at making friendships with other women unlike ever before. I had always had an easier time befriending boys, or other girls who also had an easier time befriending boys. My theory, is that all those years of sticking together and telling each other how KAWAIIIIIII!!! everything is, raised many kind hearted women who understand the value of being a friend to other women.

My black hair, almond eyes and olive skin granted me anonymity. I was able to wander around undetected much easier than any of my gaijin counterparts. I wasn't stared at, or pointed out. But, I also never received home cooked meals at my doorstep, or a free bicycle because I look like one of those "Nice Mormon Boys". I had a harder time getting attention when I wanted it. Travelling alone, no one came up to me and asked if they could practice their English. I had to walk up to other foreigners and say, "Hey, how's it going?" and wait for their shock at my perfect pronunciation to wear off.

You win some, you loose some. My experience and that of my dear friend JMP in the end, will have been entirely different. At the same time, my experience and that of my dear, Japanese American friend Erika, will also be totally different. I really do believe that on both sides, the grass is truly green, it's just a little patchy.


What I think of the JET Programme/ Teaching English in Japan in general:

It was the most difficult easy thing I have ever done in my entire life. It felt unfair to have the respect that come with being a Teacher in Japan attached to myself. My days consisted of reading books, writing letters, talking to students and occasionally preparing a lesson and teaching it. For the first year, I lived in fear of the day when things at work would really start to become difficult. I expected the jig to be up, any day now. . . Only after I had gone through the whole year's cycle did I realize that the hardest part (at least at my schools) was just being there.

I allowed teaching English to really inhibit my Japanese studies the first year that I lived in Japan. All day, every day I focused on speaking English and English only with the students, and also with the teachers. I felt really selfish any time I tried to practice my Japanese. Even with my Japanese friends, that first year I'd find myself constantly in "Teacher Mode", concentrating on improving their speaking skills, ignoring the fact that my Japanese, more often than not, could use a LOT more work than their English.

Somewhere along the way I got over it. I started letting myself be taught, and practicing what I had learned. Then things started improving. . . and then I had to leave.


Top Three Reasons California is the best place on earth:

1.Family
2.Friends
3.Here, it is possible for anyone to become governor.


Top Three Reasons Japan is the best place on earth:

1.tomodachi
2.nihonjin
3.feeling doki doki


Why teleportation can't be a reality:

I blame J-Pop.

4 Comments:

Blogger myste said...

great insight. now lets encourage some quality female comraderie here by going to the spa!

3:49 AM  
Blogger Joshua Powell said...

This is great Melissa, thank you. I thought that the camaraderie amongst female students was just a strange phenomenon at my school, so i'm glad to hear it happens elswhere too. I have never seen my girl students do anything but support each other and be happy for each other: no making fun of others, no rolling their eyes at others, no jealousy. its great.

sometimes the "i want to practice my english with the foreigner" situation can get old, but its not so bad (except its hardly ever young people, always old weirdos). what was bad, was when i was in Nara at Horyu-ji and a university student stops me and asks me to proofread an essay. This was early into my first year so i was nice and did it. i would not be so kind now.

i agree, the fact that we ALTs are given the same respect as real nihonjin teachers is ridiculous. everytime someone acts impressed when i say i teach english i want to tell them, "no, no, no. you go t it all wrong - i am not a real teacher."

and you summed up the bitter irony of the JET program nicely with "...and then I had to leave."

finally, i know you secretly love j-pop and secretly miss it. don't try to pass that off as sarcasm.

p.s. i get doki doki when i think of CA.

12:12 PM  
Blogger ahdrew said...

good words. especially "doki doki." i have no idea what it means, but i have a feeling it's my new favorite phrase...

4:34 AM  
Blogger myste said...

my favorite new phrase is "nani nani"

i dont know how it is spelled but that is how it sounds when melissa says it. i think it is the equivalent to "blah blah blah". katie and i have already tried to start incorporating it into our regular vocabulary.

9:03 AM  

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