I think I am adjusting somewhat. At the very least I'm having a few days a week where I feel good. And then the next day I'll be back to feeling crap again.
I continue to have pounding headaches in the afternoon. I continue to be paranoid about my car.
Most days I am enjoying myself however. I enjoy being back at school and enjoy learning again. And I also enjoy the social aspect. I'm beginning to get to know my classmates, exchange jokes with them between classes, go out for lunch, and even develop circles of friends.
I've also managed to acquire a small fan club of about 7 Korean females. They're a couple levels below me, so they're not in the same classroom, but I see them occasionally between classes. They're always very eager to talk to me and compliment me repeatedly on how cool I look. They give me small gifts of chocolate and candy. Last week they asked if I wanted to walk down to the convenience store with them during lunch break. When I said yes, they gave out such a loud cry of joy that some of the teachers came out of the office lounge to see what had happened.
This is of course the old "Charisma Man" factor coming into play again: the sudden and undeserved popularity we Westerners experience in Asia because of
1). Our relative rarity out here and
2). the popularity of American movies worldwide, which has created the impression that all Westerners are like movie stars.
This is a common story out here and, since writing about how popular I am tends to be one of my favorite subjects, it has popped up many times on this blog before now.
Still, it's interesting to note the differences between countries. The amount of intense attention I'm receiving from these Korean girls is even a further step up than what I'm used to in Japan. Assuming the factors that create Charisma Man syndrome are the same in both countries, why should there be a difference? An interesting question for sociologists to explore, no doubt.
(I wonder what my life would have been like if I had spent the past 6 years in Korea instead of Japan? Ah, the road not taken.)
In order not to get in any trouble, I worked into the conversation that I was living with my fiancee as soon as possible. (I figured I was getting a little bit old to play the game of concealing her existence.) They were initially devestated, but they still seem very eager to get a chance to talk to me between classes.
Well, as Richard Nixon once said, "I like to be liked". At any rate, it's nice to know that even as an old man of 30, my years of popularity are not completely behind me.
Speaking of the old 30th Birthday...
It passed quietly here, as most Birthdays do in Japan. I usually try and keep a low profile on these days anyway.
The previous week I had mentioned to some of my classmates that I was on the verge of turning 30 (it was the start of classes and we were introducing ourselves to each other). They wanted to throw me a birthday party, but I was horrified at the idea and quickly squashed it.
I didn't mention anything to Shoko to see if she would remember on her own, and she didn't do too well. I had a feeling if our positions had been reversed, I would have never heard the end of it. But I let it go. I did point out to her that I had always remembered her birthdays, but she responded, "Yes, but what's the point? You remember them, but you never do anything special for them. You just wish me a happy birthday, and I still have to do all the cooking."
The following week however, Shoko made me a big birthday dinner and cake. And took a couple pictures of me at 30.
Because of my work schedule, I have trouble keeping up with the homework for my Japanese classes.
The first test I scored a 91 %, which was the best score in the class. I was quite proud of this, until I remembered that I had originally tested into the advanced class, and then dropped myself down to the intermediate class. So this already was an unfair advantage over my classmates.
Plus, lest I forget, I have lived in Japan for 6 years now. My classmates have been in Japan for one month, or at most half a year. The fact that we're even in the same classroom studying the same material should be an embarrassment to me.
I could plausibly argue that Chinese students have a background in Kanji characters, which helps them out a lot. But that still doesn't explain away why the French, Vietnamese, and Korean students are also about the same level as me.
...Well, it's embarrassing. What can I say? I've become the poster child for the ignorant American who lives several years abroad and still can't speak the language. My only defense is that I have been living in Japan as an English teacher, whereas my classmates have all come to Japan on student visas and have been able to throw themselves fully into the language study. Hopefully after completing this course, I'll finally have a decent level of Japanese where I can hold my head up high again. Although even now I'm finding it difficult to study while splitting my time as an English teacher.
Last update I was feeling sorry for myself because most of my Chinese classmates didn't have part time jobs, but it turns out I might have just been talking to the wrong Chinese students. The other day I was talking to a different classmate who gave me quite a different perspective.
"Most of us have part time jobs," he said. "And we have to work a lot. I work from 7 to 11 every night, and then have to do my homework afterwards. And we're constantly being yelled at by our Japanese bosses because we don't know the Japanese customs or make mistakes speaking Japanese."
...Point taken. With all the crap I have to put up with at my job, at least I don't have someone coming in and yelling at me constantly. And as a teacher, I have a lot more enjoyable job than a restaurant or convenience store employee (which is what most of the Chinese students are doing). Not to mention that I get paid a lot more that they do.
...On the other hand, at least the Chinese students have jobs that allow them to practice their Japanese. I'm forbidden from using Japanese inside the classroom, so my job has absolutely no studying benefits for me. (In fact because of the simple English I always have to use in class, I often complain that my English is deteriorating, and my Japanese isn't improving. The worst of both worlds.)
And lastly, speaking of work...
This Monday I was glancing at the work schedule for the following day, and noticed that my name wasn't on it. Instead, teaching all of my classes was someone listed as John Brooks. I asked the staff about this. "Oh, that's just a computer error," they said. "John Brooks is a teacher in Fukuoka. His name got put on your schedule, and your name was put on his, but don't worry about it. Just come in and teach tomorrow as always."
And so I did. I walked into the office as always, and my (long suffering) Australian co-worker called out, "Hey Swagy, how are ya?"
I slapped him (lightly) across the face. "My name is John Brooks, Damn you!" The rest of the day I refused to answer to my proper name. The Japanese staff thought it was amusing, but my co-worker just seemed to get more and more frustrated throughout the day.
Finally at the end of the day he said to me, "Are you going to tell me what this is all about, or what?" I thought it was self evident, and pointed to the schedule, but this only confused him more. Finally I realized he hadn't bothered to look at the schedule all day, and didn't realize the switch up in names.
Link of the Day
This Modern World
Chickens coming home to roost”
The context behind that endlessly recycled sound bite:
And Via Whisky Prajer
I would like to say more about King, but I am still wrestling with what he represents -- unlike, say, the North American media, which still does not hesitate to put a black preacher "in his place." From Jon Trott, who remembers.