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Amparo Bertram

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07:01 pm: School Festival, Day 3--aka Sports Day
First of all, the teacher in charge of the English club comes up to me at lunch today and we have the following conversation(?):

Teacher: English club is on Monday. Please teach them English conversation.
Me: ... //Okay, but isn't that a bit vague?// Could you give me a suggestion of what topic you would like me to teach?
Teacher: Yes, their level is very low, so please teach them many topics.
Me: ... //Um, that didn't answer my question. I realize that you expect the exchange teacher to be in total control of the English club, but this is my first time at it. Pointers or hints or *something* would be nice.//
Teacher: Your predecessor showed movies or played games. I'll be in a meeting.
Me: ...?! //It's my first time teaching the English club, and not only do you not have any helpful suggestions, you *won't even be there*?!//

//Fine. I'll just ask the students what THEY want to do. It is a club for their benefit, after all.//

He then comes to see me again after school.

Teacher: The students want you to ask them.
Me: ...? //Again with the vague.//
Teacher: They are very passive, so please ask them what they want to do.
Me: ... //That's what I was planning on. I suppose that means I'm on the right track.//

This same teacher, when planning for Monday's lesson, pointed to a graph in the textbook of a survey of people in Japan, America, and China. He told me to plan to ask questions about the graph. When I suggested,

Me: Okay, like, "What was the most popular answer from Americans?"
Teacher: I think "definitely yes" (the answer) is too difficult for them. Make the questions so they only have to answer "Japan," "America," or "China."
Me: ... //English is mandatory starting in middle school, which means these are students who have been studying English for three and a half years. Plus they're in the English track here. And you think saying "definitely yes" is too difficult for them? Oh, well, it's your class.// Okay, I can do that.

The rest of the day I spent carefully observing the students cheering for their teams during the sports events so I could fill out the score sheet I was given. At the end of the competition, I turned it in to the girl in charge of tallying the results. I then watched as she shoved it, unlooked at, under a clipboard. She didn't even glance at it until after the results were announced and prizes handed out. What the heck? If you didn't intend to use my scores, why did you ask me to be a judge in the first place?!

I'm sure it was just some silly mistake. I probably missed some subtle "turn your scores in now so I can tally them in time for the award ceremony" signal. But if so, why didn't she (or anyone) notice that my scores were missing? Did she notice and not care? Was she too rushed to do anything about it? Was she too shy to ask me? I was sitting right next to her, so it's not like she couldn't find me if she looked. Yesterday someone specifically sought me out to make sure I had turned in my scores for the cultural portion, so this really came as a surprise. It's not that I was all set on being a judge and deciding the winner...it's just the thought that they would ask me to judge and then not use my scores. Did they even *intend* to use them from the beginning? I have no way to know.

Finally, to top off my day, I went to the post office to try to send money home. But the post office stops handling money orders at 4pm...and of course I work until 5pm every day. This is a typical problem in Japan. Hours are not designed to be convenient for people who work. I tried to complain about the hours, and they just replied, "That's the way it is." I tried protesting, "Well, *somebody* decides the hours, doesn't anybody complain to *that* person?" But they just pretty much ignored me, instead saying that my only option was to come on my lunch hour. Lunch half-hour, that is. In order to expedite this, they (very reluctantly, and only with the personal agreement of the supervisor) gave me the form to fill out to request a money order so that I could have it already filled out when I come.

Why didn't I have this problem in Matsudai? Oh, yes, because as an ALT I only had to work 35 hours per week, rather than 40. I got off work at noon on Fridays, so I could take care of any any business-hour errands then. Now, no such luck. It's either sacrifice my lunchtime to attempt to squeeze in a trip to the post office, or try to catch a train to Otsu after I get off work and hope to arrive at the main post office there before they shut down operations at 6.

You know...I love Japan...but sometimes I just want to grab somebody who makes up these inconvenient systems and shake them. Hard.

Okay, I think I've ranted enough for one day.

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[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 04:47 am (UTC)
*hugs* Sounds like a crappy day. (Is this the teacher you have most of your classes with, or a different guy?) It sucks that you only have a half hour for lunch. I guess I'm lucky that I have an hour that I can use to run errands (there have been days when I used the whole hour), although I specificially set up a 振込み account so I could do it through the ATM whenever I wanted. Too bad it costs an arm and a leg. :/

Japan is just not suited for 一人暮らし. How do those unmarried salarymen do it?
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 05:01 am (UTC)
Is this the teacher you have most of your classes with, or a different guy?

Yep, this is him.

although I specificially set up a 振込み account so I could do it through the ATM whenever I wanted. Too bad it costs an arm and a leg.

I've always used postal money orders, because they're the cheapest and easiest...at least, they were when I could get to the post office during business hours. (I felt like shouting, "Otsu can keep their windows open until 6pm, why can't you?! Or at least stay open on Saturday, for crying out loud!" But I was being a cranky enough customer as it was. ...I kept thinking, nothing will ever change if no one complains...but I don't want to take it out on the poor guys who just work there...) I may have to think of switching to some automated method.

How do those unmarried salarymen do it?

Maybe the company takes care of all their needs? I know when I worked at Matsudai, I could pay bills and other things just by handing the money over to the office guys and they'd do it all for me. But, yeah, I'm sure it's much easier to have someone at home to run errands during the day.

I'm just really glad today was Friday. If I had to work tomorrow on top of everything, I'd blow a gasket. I'm just going to have to spend some quality time enjoying my new couch and watching the instructional video about my new sewing machine to relax.
Date:October 1st, 2004 06:36 am (UTC)

More hugs

Hugs from us, too. What a week!

Best wishes as you iron out yet another wrinkl.

Love, Mom

P.S. Matt L. had his 24th birthday this week, and he signed up to join the Marines for five years.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 06:58 am (UTC)

Inconvenience, idiocy, incompetence...some of the worst things in the galaxy.

[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC)
//Again with the vague.//

:-( Poor Amparo! The whole vague and the lack of communication either between themselves and then to you is just infuriating. ARGH. I sympathize. I still don't know what I'm supposed to do at cleaning time or when every student and teacher has suddenly disappears without telling me where (like they did yesterday -- I found them all outside randomly crushing cans - I guess they didn't need my help?). If someone says "anything is fine" it makes me want to strangle them, but I guess it's step up from silence.

Well, I guess either I'm lucky or being really rude. I sneak off to the post office during *normal working hours*. Actually, I don't even sneak, I announce that I'm going and leave. No one's stopped me (and other teachers do it). If they complain, I'll tell them "Well, how else do I pay my rent?" Though I guess if you have a solid 5 or 6 classes a day, it's harder to get in enough time.

I hope next week is better!
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 07:52 pm (UTC)
There are some days when I have extra time for just sitting at my desk...it would be convenient if I felt I could use that time to run errands that can only be done during the day, but I never know when one of the other teachers might want to come up and plan classes with me. It could happen at any time, and goodness knows *they're* generally so busy they might be doing it at the only time it fits in their schedules. That's not to mention the office people randomly needing me to hanko something. <sigh> You know, I'd be willing to stay an extra half-hour later four days if that would let me get off two hours early once a week.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2004 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the good wishes and sympathy, everyone. I'm feeling much better today. Getting a good night's rest can work wonders.

Or, as it says on the blanket cover I just found while cleaning more junk out of my bedroom closet to make room for my craft supplies...

The hours between getting asleep and waking up in the morning are valuable to fill your sensitivity. So, when you wake up pleasantly in the morning, you will be full of expectation for a nice day.
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