Wednesday, 14 August 2013

living in the 'jo

One week into living in my new hometown Miyakonojo, and I’m starting to fall into a new mode of living. My students won’t be back in school until the 19th, but till then I’ll be going into school to plan lessons and activities, study Japanese and help with some high schoolers with their speech contest entries (which seem to be mainly concerning noodles). Even though it's a cliche, the students do seem to work extremely hard. Generally they choose just one or two club activities and practice for hours every day, including the holidays. Already I've heard some amazing band practice and seen them play table tennis, basketball and badminton, and it's pretty impressive how good they are. 

After our last night in Tokyo, our party split into prefectural groups, and us Miyazaki-ites excitedly boarded a domestic flight early the next morning. This is what greeted us at the other end! 

Miyazaki is one of the hottest, most sunny places in Japan. I knew this but wasn’t prepared for the humidity – the 38 degree heat is completely solid and even the small breezes are hot! I’m still working out tactics (they include strategically placed fans and a sweat towel. Yes. Not even kidding) to deal with it and avoid looking like a red-faced gaijin the whole time. 

Before another mini-orientation over lunch, we indulged in some last touristic behaviour on the airport deck.

My first few days were taken up with going around town with the other ALT at my school, who is from Jamaica, and my supervisor, setting up bank accounts, phones, residence cards and the like. My apartment is pretty basic but is on the large side as they go here, and is less than a quarter of the rent I paid in St Andrews, so I’m pretty happy. Since then, I’ve been going to school and slowly exploring this little city with the other JETs, as far as the heat and my little bike will allow.

BUT I thought I’d just share some everyday pictures with you to give a feel for how a typical day goes as an ALT in Miyazaki! I always find it’s so much easier to keep up with faraway friends when you have a mental image of their surroundings, so hopefully this will do the trick. 

First things first: I wake up to the sound of my neighbours in the park at 6.30ish each morning as they do exercises to music and instructions on the national radio every day. This is the view of the park from my room! 

At first I slept in my Western bed. Pepe fans, the bad boy can be spotted here. 

but I quickly realised the heat was too much and relocated to a Japanese futon in the tatami room with air con! It is rolled up and put into the cupboards during the day. 

I then take a shower, which is different too – you change into bathroom slippers and either fill up the little sitting bath or use the hose, brushing the water away when you’re done. 

My toilet is a little different also – a flush will fill up the sink, which drains down into the cistern. 

I make breakfast in the kitchen…

and eat it in one of the two tatami rooms

depending on which view I want to look at! 

I then change my indoor slipper for outdoor shoes in the hall. The tiled area is kind of regarded as public space in Japan - post men and other visitors will start talking to you from there when they visit! - so JETs are advised to keep the door locked unless they like surprises!

I make my way down the stairwell to the bike shed, swinging something in front of me to scare off the spiders – this guy is a prime example.

I pass this interestingly named second-hand shop on my way

and arrive at school! 

Before going in you change your shoes for indoor slippers. 

This is the view from my desk in the staff room. As you can see it's pretty empty for now, but sometimes I get a chance to chat to teachers, rephrase or edit English for them, or even hear them read in their spare moments to discuss pronunciation. 

I love the school building with its covered walkways. 

Here’s what a typical classroom looks like.

These dragonflies can be found in most rooms at any given time – they’re about the size of your palm. 

I won’t be posting any photos of students, but here’s what they wear! 

You can have a delicious lunch delivered for 450 yen – about 3 quid. 

This is a school toilet. That’s all I have to say about that. 

After school I visit other JETs and try to get my bearings by cycling around somewhere different each day. 

The city, Miyakonojo, has a population of about 168,000 and is quite spread out, with little fields appearing between houses, malls, barbers and cafes. 

When I get home I make some poor attempts to decorate the apartment

and cook something simple for dinner. 

This is what I have to work with: the rectangle in the middle is a grill - enough to do maybe one rasher of bacon?! - and the hot water hasn’t functioned for years, so my forays have been pretty tame thus far.

Thus far I’ve been pretty healthy. A tomato resembles a tomato in any language. I’ve had very few instances of panic thus far – my one meltdown arrived, as I was warned it would, on my first visit alone to the supermarket. I’ve seen one non-JET gaijin since I got here – and she rushed up to me looking surprised – and so you can imagine how many stares one gets in the soy sauce aisle. This, combined with 100 different bottles, none of which I could read, proved to be my undoing!

Apart from this, I’m faring well. JETs are well versed in the stages of culture shock by the end of orientation. I’m pretty sure I’m still in the honeymoon phase (Stage One) and plan to hold on to it for as long as possible before the dreaded Stage Two hits..! And when it does, I'll still have the sunsets to look at.

Hopefully that's all that will be routine about the next year. I hope to travel as much as a I can, visit a different place every weekend, and come back with many stories. 

1 comment:

  1. Darling Girl - this is so interesting. Love the school uniform of course and fascinating to see the school. Pleased to see you're cooking nice things. I will send you a one=ring cookbook if I can find one!