William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

6. Tokushima-shi

I’m not adjusting as well as I would like. I’m wondering what I’m doing here and what I was thinking. I should have known that I like sameness, sameness, sameness; yet I forced myself to come here. I guess I should be glad that I have done this for the reasons of the self-knowledge that I have gained, but it comes at a terrible price. In fact, I may know more than I want to know, notwithstanding the teaching of Buddha that says it is better to live one day and learn a particular thing than to live for one hundred years and not learn it. Help.

Still, take the preceding and this entry as just my honest first impressions. They are virtually certain to change, at least in spirit if not in specifics.

And people were right: this
will be a great experience for me. Of course, I mean that in the sense of great used in “The Great War.”

January 4th

6. Tokushima-shi

One thing I am really getting sick of is all these rules. Everything is so strict here. But maybe my perspective is limited.

I’m tempted [and I will probably end up doing this as a way to stay grounded] to express my iconoclastic tendencies by shooting a new movie. It would be interesting to see how the locals react to guerrilla filmmaking. We’d probably be kicked out of places like shopping malls routinely – in much the same way that you can’t say you’ve really been to NSCAD unless you’ve been kicked out of Scotia Square at least once. Still, I’d try my best to be low-key. Once I’m outside Japan (or somewhere less parochial, like Tokyo), I would edit and release the movie.

Choses ne sont pas mal… choses ne sont pas vraiment mal…
that's what I have to keep telling myself.

F. and I are in the Foreign Tourist Information Centre, which is a surprisingly welcome sight. They have lots of language and travel resources here. We’re going to go for a walk back to S.G. soon. She says, and I agree, that it’s the only way to get to know a place. [Now that we’re back home we can say that the walk was EASY! Longish, yeah (an hour or so?), but not stupidly so. I’m going to walk to the party in the downtown tomorrow both to save on the train fare (ha-ha) and so I can visit an electronics store on the way that will have the cables and adapters I need. Geez, stuff is SO much easier when you do it yourself than it seems when you hear people around here explain it to you!]

There’ll be a mandatory New Year’s-ish party tomorrow night, which we have to pay our own way to get to. WTH? Apparently reimbursement for work-related travel is unknown? (I don’t mean getting to work, I mean getting from work to point c, if you gather me.) Yeah, it’s only 420¥ (about $4) return, but it’s the principle of the thing. What really got my goat, though, was hearing that we had to pay our own way on equally mandatory field trips. WTF? I guess I didn’t read the contract carefully enough. [6/23/08: Ha-ha, what a petty thing to complain about! Also, the paying-our-own-way-on-field-trips thing has not come to pass for me... yet.]

And these little tidbits of information are all delivered with the delicacy and aplomb of a hydrogen bomb. They make me want to rebel instead of comply. [Ah, I even hate that word! Nothing in life should be forced.] And they still believe in authority, which I’m convinced the large part of us will eventually see for what it is – a joke.

I would like to go just twelve hours – that’s all, but more would be nice – without having to suppress the urge to scream.

Anyway, it’s high time we got to work. I’m glad to have these preparation days, and J. has been nice enough to take us around. I’d like to start teaching yesterday.

[The kids are SO cute here! You should have seen them at the mall today; they were running amok, and the parents just let them be kids – it was so precious! As long as they’re not rude, let them run – let the older siblings wearing white air masks run with a cart (with his younger sibling standing in it, also wearing a mask) into random stores – it’s great! I remember as a child being kept from running about and exploring exciting places like the ferry (en route from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia), places where I couldn’t possibly get lost, and I hated it. I’m so happy to see the kids just being kids, I really am. In North America, a lot of those kids would literally be on leashes – you know those coily, stretching ones that look like telephone cords that keep the wrist of the child in reach of the parent?]

[This has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but don’t even ask about Japanese paperwork and forms. Their bureaucracy is thorough, which is fine, but their technology is from the sixties. Of course J. met maybe half a dozen friends and former co-workers at the city hall today when I was getting my alien registration put in, so there are benefits to the tradition of antiqacy in government and banking. And they’re better at letting their kids be kids, and I bought a 10-pack of CD-R Audio (don’t ask*) for 880¥ (around $8) that were $3 apiece in Canada. I can’t wait to go back to the electronics superstore tomorrow, which I only got a few minutes to go into – the stuff I bought today was at a mall department store.]

I hope teaching will help ease the frustration, or at the very least trade one set of problems for another. And maybe I’m sleep-deprived too, which may be part of why I react so poorly to things.

I will sum up my current ambivalence towards my experience and situation like this:


I learned something new just now. I now know why the senior foreign teacher is engaged in the 88-temple pilgrimage in his spare time. Actually, it is one of two possibilities: either he is the contemplative type who would both survive the job and take the pilgrimage, or maybe he is more like I would be and is taking the pilgrimage to stay sane. Either way, I think there is an association between the pilgrimage and his longevity. (He's been here since last March, putting him at the nine month mark. Seniority of foreign teachers at S.G. is tabulated in much the same way as age is for the Jem'Hadar.)

I have to put some blame on myself for this. I had high hopes and expectations, perhaps out of desperation – although I did fall hook, line and sinker for all the funny stories and pretty pictures.

The greatest thing I can take from this experience is that I know what I want now, and I’m determined to get it. And this experience is far too much the fledgling to be called a write-off yet. Ask me again in… oh, April. Yes, April.

À bientôt mes amis,
~ Will

Tuesday: The staff party, and my first major purchase here… Monday is a national holiday, National Coming-of-Age Day, and therefore also a blogging holiday as I will be unable to update after work as has been the case so far this week.

[* - If you really really want to know – and it’s not like it’s a secret, but it’s boring and pedantic – my Mom bought a standalone CD recorder with a turntable and auxiliary inputs so that you could convert your analogue LPs and tapes (through the aux in) to CD with ease. The problem is that it does not take standard CD-Rs (or -RWs), you must use CD-R (or -RW, but why on Earth would you want to) Audio Recordable. I had never even heard of that format before Mom tried to use this system. (I had heard of standard CD-Rs branded for “music,” like they often are for “photo,” but that has all to do with the data preservation and recording integrity of the physical discs and nothing to do with the format itself – they could really be used for any purpose.)

It’s amazing how much life the Japanese give to archaic, obscure media formats. I bet I could get good slide film for Uncle Shane here, too.]
Tags: japan, work

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