My first two weeks in Shizuoka were the most difficult, mainly because I was sleeping on the hardwood floor on a Japanese style futon in an otherwise empty apartment. It feels really strange to come home to an empty place and eat dinner on the floor. Once I got my bed at the end of my second week in Shizuoka, things slowly started to improve. The more furniture and other miscellaneous things I got for my apartment, the more comfortable I felt at home. Before my apartment got filled out with furniture, I spend a lot of time wandering around the neighborhood because it felt less strange and lonely compared to being at home. I came back just in time to to shower and get ready for bed.
Adjusting to my new workplace was challenging as well. At work, I’m mostly surrounded by people who only speak Japanese, and the only people that spoke to me were the English teachers. It made sense though, since I only work with the English teachers anyway. Information about my class schedule and the workplace in general was given to me in small increments throughout the day as I sat at my desk planning my self introduction lesson. I didn’t have my first classes until my second week at work and I ended up teaching my self introduction lesson many times in many different classes over the course of 2 weeks. I quickly realized the difference in English ability from my junior high classes and my senior high classes and I knew I had to do a better job of tailoring my lessons to fit their ability. I wasn’t told in advance what their English level was, so it was hard to be adequately prepared. Fortunately, the Japanese teachers (also known as JTEs, Japanese Teacher of English) were patient with me and knew I would need some time to get used to my role as an ALT.
The students greeted me in the hallway like I was a celebrity. It was pretty cute. During my self introduction lessons, some classes were eager to ask me questions, while others were more reserved. Here are some of my favorite questions I got:
As you can see, the love related questions were very popular. I had a good laugh at the “How many boyfriends do you have?” question because of the implication that I likely have more than one. In Japan, people say “ehhh” when they are surprised or fascinated by something, and the longer the “ehhhh” sound goes on, the more surprising or fascinating they think it is. When I said I choose love over money, the “ehh” reaction was very long.
By then end of the month, I had introduced myself to all my students and while my apartment still needed furnishing, I had enough to live a little more comfortably compared to when I first arrived. I can’t say I felt “settled” at this point, but many of the initial challenges of living abroad were behind me.