September 29, 2007

Jim the New JET-School Has Begun

The new members of the JET Program arrived in Japan in July and August. Our good friend Jim was one of them. He has been kind enough to share some of his stories about his new life as a teacher. He is from New York City and is living and teaching on a small island between Kagoshima on the southern end of Kyushu and Okinawa's main island. This is going to be an interesting adventure for him.

Read his first story

If you are on the JET and would like to share some of your stories please send me an Email

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Jim wrote
Hi. How’s it going?

Sorry I have not been writing more. My life here is still very far from settled, and each day my attentions are pulled in dozens of different directions. Anyway, my “real” work has begun, and I’ve been driving around the island visiting those first in line of my 15 (!) schools.

I have to give a self introduction class each time, so I show some photos and videos of NY, winter, American animals, food, sports, hobbies, blah, blah, blah. I’ve already done the same routine about 2 dozen times, and I’m not crazy about discussing myself in such detail for such a long time in front of so many people. It’s tough to imagine that what I might have to say is all that riveting… but that’s the job.

On the bright side, all this repetition makes things a bit easy. There’s a few jokes I throw into the presentation that are hardly worth a chuckle - but since I tell them in Japanese it tends to bring the house down with laughter. Too easy. I’ve only got to do this about 40 or so more times (seriously), and then we can move on.

Here in Tokunoshima it’s still humid as an armpit. The weather is gradually cooling off, but it continues to be worse than any summer day in NY that I can remember. Every day since I came to the island there have been enormous clouds in the sky (generated by the humidity and high pressure, I suppose). It can provide a slight touch of relief from the blazing sun if you’re lucky enough to be in its shadow. But this last Saturday we had a School Sports Festival outside from 8am to 5pm, and it was the first day that there was not a cloud in the sky. I put on my waterproof/sweatproof SPF 50 lotion multiple times, but it did nothing to help. I might as well have been rubbing butter over my skin, cuz I got cooked. I’m sporting quite the farmer’s tan, and expect to be a wrinkled prune by the time I return for Christmas.

The next day was to be my “Stay-The-Hell-Out-Of-The-Sun” Day, but then I got a call from one of the teachers asking if I’d like to join his family for some snorkeling. That’s too much fun. I couldn’t say no.

It’s pretty weird being the only foreign male in an isolated island of 28,000. I’ve met several hundred people already (truth), and I have hundreds of students all over the place. I wouldn’t say I’m a “celebrity”, but I’m certainly well known and easily recognized. It’s rare that I can walk into town and not hear my name called out (or the Japanese bastardization of my name) “Jimu! Jimu!”

The problem is I’m having a terribly difficult time recognizing the hundreds of people who recognize ME. I get stopped all the time by people who want to chatabout what a nice time we all had the other day, and then I walk away wondering who the hell that was. In an effort to not snub anyone who I have already met,
I’m constantly on the lookout for someone trying to make eye contact – but it’s tough discerning if they’re staring because we have already established a relationship, or if it’s because they’re wondering how the hell this foreign devil got to their isolated little island.

Almost got hit by my first big typhoon this weekend, but it was a false alarm. Already had my first earthquake, though. Predictably, most if the natives slept through it. Just another day in Japan.

Alright, that’s all from here. I’ve finally acquired someone’s assistance in getting the internet in my place, but it’ll still be another 2 or 3 weeks before the contracts and connections are finalized. Once that’s settled, I’ll start posting my photos and crazy stories online. I’ve got plenty of both to share.

Ok, see you,

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