Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Picking Up Where We Left Off... (pt.5)

I woke early the next morning, as per usual. The next few days would be a blur of visiting places, signing more things, and having no idea what was going on. I got to go to my middle school and meet the principal and one of the Japanese Teachers of English. I shared a short and for me awkward exchange with the principal and tried to stammer out my introduction without screwing it up. This same process I repeated at the elementary school and daycare and at the Board of Education and at the Enkai which was thrown on my behalf. Enkais are basically work parties-- we rented a small bus and we all piled in and went to Tottori city where we ate a buffet style dinner with unlimited drinks, where I was the subject of much good hearted scrutiny. At least I hope it was good hearted. Honestly they could have been planning to kill me by poison or fire and I never would have known the difference. But everyone did ask about me as best they could, and I answered as best I could, and we all generally had a good time. I will say this, that despite the fact I had just met them and we could barely communicate, sitting down with these folks who had done an excellent job of welcoming me really and truly did make me feel like part of a family. And I'm not being cheesy. It was a good feeling.

The kids at the daycare climbed on me and thought I was a rockstar; the kids at the elementary school were preoccupied with a bug and spared only a few words, and the kids at the middle school quickly made introductions and then excused themselves. I'm sure they felt just as awkward as I did when I tried to do the same in Japanese. I met many people and quickly realized I had goofed up on omiyage.

Here's the thing: people in Japan get Omiyage for each other every time they come back from a trip. This, at least here in Chizu, seems to most often be in the form of some edible item. I foolishly thought that two shot glasses and a mug plus a smattering of lesser items would be enough for everyone. I was wrong. I met the superintendant, the principal of each school, the caretaker of the daycare, and I hadn't even considered that my supervisors, who had given me the most of anyone else, would have such an active role in my settling in. I had nothing for most of these people and I really felt like I had little to offer and kinda guilty. I wanted everyone to think kindly of me and be interested in where I came from, but the only real material I had ended up being my awful Japanese and a set of exaggerated facial expressions to show emotion.

So these trips were stressful, not because anyone made them stressful, but because I was worried about the omiyage and could not ask about it. But no one made issue, obviously, and things generally went off without a hitch...

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