As a college senior, I’m often asked, "What are your plans after graduation?"
If I didn't have a job lined up, I think I would dread this question. But I love giving the shocking news that I'm moving to Japan, and then witnessing the reactions that result.
Most people are caught off guard, and I don't blame them. After all, I don't speak Japanese, I don't have any ties to Japan, and I don't know anyone there.
Well, I take that last part back. I can say that I somewhat know my boss and some of the students I'll be teaching. Here's the story of when we met:
I found out before Christmas break that a group of students from Kuji--remember, the sister city of Franklin--would be coming to visit in January. I was asked to speak to them, so I wrote a speech expressing my excitement and nervousness about moving to their hometown in the near future.
Before speaking, I ate dinner with some of the students. Keep in mind that I don't speak Japanese, and they speak very little English. They know some of the basics, like how to say hello, introduce themselves and tell me their favorite foods. (Sushi is a common favorite.)
The boy next to me got out his cell phone, and I was surprised to see that it was big! I figured that the cell phones would be more technologically advanced, and therefore much smaller, right? Wrong. When I got out my cell phone to show them the size difference, they all stopped eating and "ooohed" and "ahhhed,” which I thought was hilarious. "So small!" said one of the girls at my table.
I think that his phone was bigger because it had a lot of features. Like many American cell phones (but not mine), it could take pictures. The boy had hundreds of photos on his phone that he had taken in Franklin earlier that day, and many of them were of the court house! We laughed together at some of the silly pictures he had taken of the other students, then shared them with the others at the table. I could tell that other people at the dinner were looking over at our table to see what we were all laughing about.
When it was my time to speak, I was introduced by the interpreter, and everything I said went through her. The students at my table realized for the first time (since I wasn't able to tell them myself!) that I would be their teacher soon; they all had looks of sudden understanding as well as big smiles, which was definitely reassuring for me!
While speaking, I couldn't help but notice one of the chaperones from Kuji, who was sitting at the front table grinning from ear to ear and giving me the thumbs-up sign! Once I sat back down, "Smiley," got up to speak, and I learned that he was my future supervisor at the Board of Education office, named Yamadate. He was extremely enthusiastic about being at the dinner, and talked about how happy he was to meet me because "we be working together side-by-side, and we'll have great times! Okay!?"
I'm convinced that we really will have great times because Yamadate seems like such a fun person! I like to share this story about my night with the Japanese guests because I had a great time, and the experience has made me more at ease about moving to Japan.
A picture of me with Yamadate