What a difference a year can make

Reflecting back this time last year I was depressed, absolutely miserable and fighting many insecurities, internal conflicts and struggling at work. I hated my supervisor and English co-teacher. She was overworking me and still does to this day and even though she was ‘nice’, she could be cruel. My students don’t like her and I’m not quite sure why. When I wanted to go to my elementary school graduation, she refused because she needed me at junior high school to do 3 normal lessons. It was frustrating and useless as I wasn’t even doing anything important in those lessons. My students were teaching me a game and playing the piano with me and she said they could no longer teach me anymore. She said the other students couldn’t play piano during lunchtime, but we already asked and were granted permission from the music teacher. So in my mind at those times, she was a cruel, jealous and horrible woman. She wasn’t nice or even a good teacher in my thoughts.

Likewise, I hated my 2nd grade students and resented my 1st grade students at Junior high school last year. My 1st grade students were so shy they didn’t want to speak English with me. My 2nd grade students were so mean, they laughed at me, one girl ignored me and turned her back to me when I was talking to her. They were rude. In January, one boy said at lunch during one of my lowest points when I was trying to speak to them that he doesn’t speak English. He hates English and no-one understands. I sat there in silence not daring to speak after that, in such a foul and angry mood wondering what the hell I was doing wasting my time on some useless children who didn’t even want my help nor my teaching. Not that anything would help since their English was beyond despair, since their level was so low and they weren’t even motivated to try. After I finished eating I immediately stood up abruptly and without saying goodbye walked away. I think I shocked them. I almost gave up that day. I almost gave up a few months later after the earthquake.

One year later. 

I am happy. That same boy who told me he didn’t want to speak English began speaking English with me. He taught me a Japanese game and tried to use English to explain. He was patient and kind. That rude attitude and that distrust, suspicion and dislike melted away though I’m not sure when. He still dislikes English, but now he at least tries and has promised to do his best. He’s in 3rd year and has now graduated. I was so sad to see him and the fellow 3rd years go. I fell in love with my students (platonic off course).

I almost gave up on them, but somehow I kept eating lunch with them and I kept speaking English to them. They didn’t like it off course but eventually they opened up, eventually we started to joke and laugh. Those mean 3rd graders became kind and friendly. I don’t know why. The girl who rudely ignored me while I tried to speak to her when she turned her back to me, I was so shocked. six months later she began to thaw. She wouldn’t cover or hide her work anymore, she let me look and check. She didn’t ignore me but would say hi. When I spoke to her, she would try to speak English. She had such a strange personality transplant I wondered what happened. In all these incidents I have no idea why they changed. Maybe they got used to me. It’s hard to replace your predecessor who was so loved by them. It’s hard to fill big shoes, but I managed to change my attitude and they changed theirs. And somehow we improved and they became my favourite classes.They were still naughty sometimes, but more cheeky than bad. They certainly improved a little bit – mainly their speaking and conversational skills.

I don’t hate my teacher anymore. I just accept her, though she still pisses me off from time to time, I no longer care. She is not significant. She is just part of the job and will be leaving in two days.

During graduation, my favourite student when giving me a present told me that he was very glad he met me. He truly had fun in my classes and one day he wants to speak English with me as an adult. Earlier when I met his mother, she told me that he always spoke about me and how kind I was, how he enjoys my classes and wants to do well in English. Truly he was the kind one. He also was enthusiastic about my ideas and games, getting other students involved. He always spoke to me and asked my questions, not letting the conversation die. He always tried even though his level was very low. He always did his best speaking. I was very proud. I managed to inspire one kid out of 44. Only one, but it makes a world of difference to me because I was extremely happy to know I had succeeded with one. He wants to go to America one day. It’s not England but it is abroad at least. It’s not just about Japan. I changed that view.

My 1st years who were very shy have also improved and opened up. They are still quite shy but they are very kind and always have been. They try to speak English and even when I ask questions in Japanese, they reply in English.

I can’t believe the transformations. I have met some wonderful and lovely children. I am so very happy now. I am also sad because my students are leaving and graduating. I am sad because soon I will be leaving and the harsh truth has hit me. I’ll never see them again. But I’ll always love them. I am so so glad I stayed. I am so glad I stuck it out and never gave up because in the end, the benefits reaped were far greater than the losses I’ve experienced here. I am stronger emotionally, internally and as a person. I am more confident.

What a world of difference a year makes. I don’t know what changed and why. I only know that I am now happy.

 

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When you’re actually going crazy…

WARNING: This is a long post.

So I wrote my last post about three weeks ago, however I lied and things have worsened so quickly in a short space of time. I didn’t publish it then hence why I published it today. In my last post, I wrote about being happy with my life here, but in actual fact, I wasn’t completely happy. Happy to write yes, but I was hurt by what my brother said and I was trying to prove that I was okay. I am not okay. Since then things have severely deteriorated. I am facing a brick wall and I can’t smash it down.

It all started with my brother cussing me, then my realisation that I had to change my attitude towards him, because we have this messed up relationship where I used to idolise him and see him as superior and myself as inferior. I knew I had to change but I also knew that change would take time, space and a lot of effort. That’s when the world decided to shit on me all at once.

After a few days battling with my emotions, I experienced my first major earthquake. I can’t tell you how that feels like when you’re driving and everything around you is bouncing and swinging towards you, including the signposts and traffic lights while your car is swerving out of control from side to side. At first I didn’t understand what was going on until my phone was blaring at me in Japanese, “Jeshin desu, jeshin desu!” which means you guessed it, “Earthquake!” I heard it before and I’d seen the warnings around school, so I knew what it meant but I never knew it would happen so powerfully. It was a magnitude 6.4 I later found out, but I was so out of it, the experience left me feeling dizzy and disorientated. So much so that I had to stop immediately after and safely park somewhere. All I wanted to do was get home, but my phone was buzzing from all the texts from everyone. I made it home but experienced a few aftershocks. My house was alright, nothing damaged so it was okay.

Nevertheless I stayed at one of my student’s house for the night and returned the next day for school and home. I only got about 2/3 hours sleep as we were up till 2:30am watching the news and I had to leave at 5am. Typical Japan, we still have to go to work even after an earthquake. #thiscountrystopsfornoone. Later I went home and it was only late at night I discovered my flight to the Philippines was cancelled. I was vexed. How could this happen 2 weeks before I was due to fly out? I called my friend who I am going with to the Philippines to check if her flight was cancelled too. After I planned to call the agency but it was too late by the time I got off the phone with my friend what with the time difference I had miscalculated and their offices had just closed. It was 10 minutes after getting off the phone with my friend that I experienced my second earthquake and this time it was far, far worse. Magnitude 7.1 which caused havoc and destruction around the whole of Kumamoto prefecture. My house shook like thunder had just struck – so violently that my ceiling light fell narrowly avoiding my head which is when I was alerted to the big earthquake. I quickly ducked under the table, but my God I watched as my glasses, plates and everything came crashing out of my cupboard and smashed into smithereens around me, as the cooking oil and other containers spilled their oily substance onto the floor, the furniture all around me shaking and groaning. I screamed out and cursed because in that moment I feared for my life I couldn’t stop crying, even after it finished causing it’s havoc.

I come from a country which has zero earthquakes and during the past 9 months, I have experienced a strong typhoon, a heavy snowstorm, 5 major earthquakes and over 700 aftershocks. I ran out my house crying unable to stem the tears. It was then I was struck with the horrible realisation that I was all alone in a foreign country, I couldn’t speak the language, didn’t know where to go and I had no-one. I was wrong off course, I had my student who immediately phoned me and drove like crazy to pick me up. I was so incoherent on the phone I couldn’t even talk, but I was grateful, I had her, because otherwise I’d really have no-one. I stayed with her for two more nights but again I had a severe lack of sleep, I couldn’t concentrate. I went home after two days and got to work cleaning hoping for no more earthquakes. I didn’t get my wish. Two days later another magnitude 5 earthquake struck. More broken glass. What’s the point of cleaning? I don’t even react to the aftershocks anymore. I am on edge and anxious, but I know what to do now. But it’s almost as if I’ve become desensitized to them.

Since then, my life has gotten progressively worse, not just because of the earthquake, but because I am alone. I am deeply unhappy, I am depressed and I have to go to school every day and pretend I am happy and fine. I can’t fake the smiles anymore. I feel too much. I cry every night and I drink to help numb the pain. It doesn’t help, but I don’t care, it’s my comfort.

Japanese society can be so harsh on women, I really do feel it, especially when I am questioned mercilessly by my Board of Education. “Why were you there?” “You went to the mall by yourself? Alone?”, “You didn’t meet friends?” I know what they were saying, could see the judgement and disapproval written all over their faces, the unbelief and disgust. Why the hell should I have to explain myself to you? I am an adult, I can do what I want. I came here by myself so I can go to the mall by myself, even if it is late at night. Why is that so bad? Why do you look down on me just because I am a woman. A man wouldn’t get this kind of treatment.

I want to go home, but I can’t. I have so many problems, not all listed but I can’t escape them. I can’t take the bored, the refusal for help from my students, the stubbornness and the attitude. I don’t care. I can’t deal with your stupid tantrums because I have bigger fish to fry. Namely do I stay or do I leave? Do I stay and continue to cry and slowly go insane or do I leave and start over? I don’t know if I’m giving up and failing or doing what’s best? I don’t know anything anymore.