May 05, 2008

Jim the New JET-Island Veteran

Our good friend Jim is almost finished with his first year on the JET Program. 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
Read his second story
Read his third story
Read his fourth story

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

You can see and read more from Jim at his site Special Squirrels

Jim wrote
The new school year has started here. In the Japanese school (and bank and post office) system, workers get transferred to new locations every 2-4 years. They don't get any say regarding where or for how long. Just part of the job. Because of circumstances too tedious to explain, an inordinate amount of teachers left my high school to be replaced by an even greater number of new teachers. There were about 20 of us left behind to greet over 30 new people. I still haven't figured out how the board of education hasn't collapsed under the constant upheaval it inflicts upon itself, but whatever.

Anyway, the good news is a large percentage of my grumpy untalkative apartment neighbors have been shipped out, and some friendly young teachers have moved in. Since I'm now a relative veteran of the island, I took a handful of them for a day-trip around the isle to show them all the hot spots. We went to all sorts of different beaches, Some with jagged coral; some with calm inlets for snorkeling; some with special monuments erected; some with great steep cliffs; some with enormous boulders the size of buses. At each spot I was sure to take my camera out of the car, in case I saw something special.

Our last stop is popular for snorkeling, but in my opinion, not the most scenic of what the island has to offer. The entire day had been dark and cloudy, but a small hole opened in the cloud cover - allowing a beam of sunshine to come down and illuminate a relatively small circle in an otherwise gray and gloomy ocean. Moments later, a dolphin began jumping over the surface of the water right in the center of that 100m wide solar spotlight spotlight. It was like a scene out of a movie. So naturally... this was the one time during our 6 hour excursion that I chose to leave my camera in the car. Live and learn.

In other news, I'm a bit less emaciated than my former self you might have seen during my winter vacation back home. Having food shipped from America certainly helped. Also, I'm inhaling protein shakes as if my life depended on it - because, apparently... it does. I finally joined the "gym" here. The owners can't get over the amazing fact that gym (jimu) and Jim (Jimu) are kind of the same word. They find it absolutely hysterical. They're also so amused that an actual foreigner patronizes their business that they often seize the opportunity to introduce anyone who walks through the door to "New York Jimu". Even if I'm in the middle of an exercise and straining to keep the heavy weights from crashing down on my skull. It makes handshakes difficult.

At least stuffing my face and getting off the couch is apparently having an effect, though. I just went back to one of my junior high schools after not having visited for a month or two. While having tea with the teachers during break time, one of them inquired, "Jim, did you get fat?" I'm going to chalk that up to an unintentional lack of grace in translation (despite the fact that she is a teacher of English). At least I'm happy there's a visible difference now.

This week is Golden Week. A week in which there's like 4 different holidays grouped together. It's a big deal in a country where free time is almost taboo. Unfortunately, two of the holidays fall on Saturday and Sunday, so it's actually more of a Golden Weekend than a Golden Week. I won't be doing anything, though. I just took a trip off the island recently, and this week is notorious for the crowds and expenses you'll encounter if traveling - so I'm content to vegetate at home.

I guess that's it. Hope all is well. Talk to you next time.

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