11 Mar

Just before I entered the staff room this morning, I was stopped by a “Joy-chan~~”, from one of the English teachers.

Then ensued a 3-minute fumbling of words where I was being asked for the proper English expression for a Japanese expression which she was trying to express >.

Living and working in Japan for over a year and a half now has undoubtedly increased my skills in the game ‘Charades’. While waiting patiently for a teacher to tell me something in English, I am painfully aware of their every gesture, every eye movement, every word… for hints as to what they’re trying to tell me.

In this particular instance, the teacher was making glances to her right, where one could behold a beautiful view, filled with hills, and dotted by roofs depicting the triangle-style that is reflective of traditional Japanese houses.

There was also a flagpole in her direct line of vision.

Charades – Start – GO!

“What is the term for when the flag is not fully raised, representing the country’s mourning for a particular event?” – My rephrasing of the 3 minutes of word fumbling and gesturing.

In my ignorance, I said that I didn’t think there was an official word, because maybe it’s only a Japanese custom? Thankfully, I’m not ignorant of my ignorance. Instead of leaving it as that, I told her that I would do some research and get back to her.

“Half-mast” or “Half-staff”.

That’s the official term. To think that I thought it was a Japan-only custom, when in-fact it happens all over the world, in Singapore too.

 Well, I see it as an added benefit that on top of being immersed in the Japanese language and culture, teaching English, and interacting with students on a weekly basis, I also get to learn lots of new general knowledge thing-a-ma-bobs, because my teachers are always asking me these interesting questions that I’ve never thought about.

I guess, in all its entirety, I simply enjoy working in an educational environment. Even while working in a non-academic capacity as a Student Coordinator for one of the programmes in UBC, it was a job filled with all the good things that come with being a learner. Things like openness to new ideas and concepts, a mind to accept change, and most importantly, an attitude of learning; that of wanting to learn.

I’m sure this is not something that can be found in the education sector, but I do think it’s more pronounced, simply because education = learning. And when you’re learning, you can’t help but adopt a ‘learner’s attitude’.

Coming back to the issue about the flag, it was also further explained to me that today, March 11, makes it 5 years since that devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant leak. I also identify it as an event that people, friends and family, brought up frequently when I mentioned that I was going to Japan to study (which didn’t happen due to a series of events, partly chronicled here), and thereafter when I announced that I was going to teach in Japan.

Thankfully, I myself, did not feel immobilized by emotions like fear (and some may argue, logic), instead going for the plunge, and now find myself grateful and happy, living and teaching in Japan.

Granted, I only have about 4 and a half months to go (sighs heavily), and hopefully I will be able to write a post about the ‘epic bittersweetness’ of it all, but I’m looking forward to a great last few months here as an employed civil servant of the Japanese government.

Today, at 2:46pm…

…we all stood, closed our eyes and as the siren signifying a tsunami warning sounded, we directed our thoughts to that event in 2011, remembering.


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