January 31st, 2008


17. Report

(Parts of a letter to R. at my home university.)


Yes, this experience is certainly of value. I sometimes like to tell of the frustrations in a facetious fashion both to let off some steam and to entertain others; so with all this creative writing fodder, how could this experience not be valuable? Okay, I’m kidding.

The fact really is that, as you put it very well, I’m learning about myself, not just about teaching and Japan, although those latter things are important too. But the things I learn about myself will be useful anytime, anywhere, and for the rest of my life. I’m outside of my fishbowl, but in the long run it’s a great thing. Yes, the pessimist in me reminds me that I’m out of said fishbowl and therefore can’t breathe… =) and I wish I could finish this thought without resorting to a platitude.

But I’m happy. Really. And thankful.

Besides, we’ve all got to pay our dues someplace – it might as well be someplace interesting, right? I’m sure you’re prouder of your accomplishments and your position by virtue of the fact that they were not arrived at overnight. You didn’t get your position just for having a comforting tone of voice and a knack for dealing with people. I hope to arrive at the place I’m going (wherever that may be) in a similar fashion, building up experience all the while, although I’ll lack some of the particular talents that you and many others possess.

I’m sad to say that my understanding of this, how the world works, was sadly underdeveloped before I came here. I must confess that this teaching internship is the first experience I’ve had with anything close to a real grown-up job. I needed this experience, imperfections, blunders, and all. It’s kind of like when you buy a computer or a car. You need to have the rough experiences with the first one so that you know exactly what you want the second time. And a lot of the so-called roughness can be blamed on the inexperience of the buyer, or, in this case, the teacher. (Especially the blunders.)

It is very helpful to have the other interns around. Without them, I would have run away screaming weeks ago. Every one of them, in their own way, even (and in some ways especially) my fellow new interns, has been a tireless wellspring of help and advice.

Thank you very much for sending F. and me the electronic version of the contract. It’s quite likely that you sent them to us already; if I had internet, I would have looked. =) But J. says that I may get internet soon, and that would make things a lot easier. It’s not that it’s impossible to do internet things from work; it’s just very tiresome and frustrating, and it means spending time at the workplace when you could be back home.

I hope to someday take the Japanese classes offered by TOPIA, but that day will be a long way off. The beginner level is offered on a weeknight starting at 5pm, so it’s impossible for me to take them. And even for that I think I need to have hiragana and katakana first. The intermediate and advanced levels are offered at more convenient times; [participants with a background in Japanese] are taking those. (And [one] works at the downtown campus, so she could and I think does take a/the 5pm course anyway.)

I’ll have a better chance at getting involved with the local French society here; but I’ll have to be careful here, because I have very little experience speaking French to people who aren’t either students or teachers. I don’t expect them to be a one-one-hundredth as patient with me as the folks up at Sainte-Anne were.

Anyway, indirectly, somehow, by hook or by crook, I’ll end up at Japanese. It’ll just take some persistence and ingenuity.

* * *

This is the first post I'm making from my apartment. I got my internet gear last night, and so now I'm in touch - reading about things; doing this, doing that - it's great. It's great to be able to listen to Canadian radio, watch videos, check my e-mail; and all at lightning speed - this is one of the best internet connections I've ever used.

But there's one problem; maybe this setup is a little
too comfortable. Between the radio and the chu-hai, I've been sitting on this post for two hours. All I've been doing is snacking, drinking, snacking, watching, listening, snacking... I think if I ever want to become a writer, I'll have to live inside the buildings of some sort of austere religious commune.

My thanks go out to everyone who has wished me a happy birthday - I turned 26 today - and my thoughts go out to the tens of thousands of Islanders who are without power after a vicious storm. I first heard about it last night when I hooked into the Internet and started listening to CBC Radio.