So... I figured I'd give you all (uhhh... all *what*? 5 of you?) a 'day in the life' type summary of what it's like to be me; the life of the quintessential ALT.
6:50AM- Wake up to J-Pop themed phone alarm, stumble blearily from luft-bed trying to avoid ankle sprains or other injury on the stairs. Open the curtains and curse loudly if it is raining again.
7:15AM- Post shower, shave and smacking head on bathroom door consume breakfast; possibly one or a combination of the following: bananas, toast made in the microwave, last nights sushi (retrieved from fridge), yogurt (or yogurt/jelly substance of unknown origin), orange juice, milk, anime-themed cereal.
7:30AM- Leave apartment, consider riding bike if dry otherwise resolutely pop umbrella and trek bravely into monsoonal conditions.
8:00- Arrive at Noko. Smile broadly and yell a combination of 'Ohayo Gazimasu!' and 'Good Morning!' at arriving staff and students to reaffirm 'happy/crazy foreigner' rep. Switch out outside shoes for indoor shoes in staff lobby.
The gates of Noko. The giant clock that greets latecomers with an analog representation of their failure in punctuality is a nice touch.
8:03- Arrive in staff room, continue to say 'Ohayo Gazimasu' constantly to fellow staff while weaving towards desk. Sign up for bento (lunch) on the sign up sheet, dig in wallet for business card when failing to remember how to write your name in katakana (AGAIN).
8:30- Morning staff meeting; stand, bow, sit. Listen to the Vice Principal and various other staff members make announcements and report news, nod attentively and pretend to at least partially understand, clap when appropriate.
8:40- Homeroom. You have no homeroom. Pour a cup of percolator coffee and drink slowly while reexamining the schedule you have memorised. Choose between making flashcards for Japanese study later in the day, reviewing flashcards you already made or reading a few more pages of 'Lonely Planet's guide to Hiking in Japan'.
9:00- First Period. Think about what classes you have tomorrow. Plan, make, and print necessary materials after discussion with the Japanese teacher in question. Alternatively, use the same activity you did yesterday/last week, print the necessary materials and debate with the geography teacher over which Michael Crichton novel is best.
10:00- Second Period. Go to class, nurse somewhat tender hand after high fiving every second student you cross paths with on the way. Greet class, and ask a random person 'how are you?' Appeal to Japanese teacher to explain why the answer 'rain' is not appropriate. Make class repeat key phrases and do a carefully planned activity. Try to keep a straight face when random students (boys and girls) respond with 'I love you!' to questions they don't understand.
11:00- Third Period. Return to the staff room, spend a few minutes studying/practicing Japanese, then make some tea and sit down with the newspaper and get up to date on all the ways the world is going to hell. Silently wonder if you are the only person on the planet who has never actually heard what Sarah Palin's voice sounds like.
12:00- Forth Period. Finish the newspaper cover to cover (even the Sumo news). Return to your desk and practice some more Japanese. When stomach noise becomes audible cave in to temptation and sit down with your bento box. Have fun guessing the identity of the various meat, fruits and vegetables you are eating, and indeed which are which. Briefly feel morally superior to your colleagues due to your use of non-disposable chopsticks, lose the feeling when you realise that you've been given disposables again and they're gonna get tossed anyway.
1:00- Lunchtime. Pour another cup of tea and sit down with staff, attempt to practice your Japanese by joining conversations about which students are most delinquent and whose mother-in-law the most intolerable. Tell the staff about your past and plans for the weekend. Field basic questions about the Western world as a whole.
2:00-Fifth Period. Teach again, assemble materials and go to class, 'help' the Japanese teacher by translating their readily understood Japanese instructions (open your books, stand up etc) into English that the students don't understand. Practice pronunciation and try to make students say 'clothes' instead of 'clothezez'. Have an activity, explain it, have the Japanese teacher explain it, model it and then heap praise on the 25% of students that perform it successfully, more praise on the 60% that try and fail and attempt to look disappointed at the 15% that use the worksheet as a fan as they talk to their friends.
3:00- Sixth Period. Go to locker room and change into PE gear. Go to gymnasium and join in whatever class happens to be in session. Watch kids giggle as you routinely fail to get the ball in the basket or whatever. Use your height to unfair advantage as much as possible and celebrate victory in a completely overblown fashion.
3:50- Cleaning time. Go out and supervise kids while they clean the school. Practice your Japanese by mocking them incessantly for failing to actually do any cleaning. Have basic conversations and teach kids ridiculous handshakes. Fend off girls attempting to solicit your phone number and/or organise coffee dates.
4:10- Seventh (extra) Period. Return to staff room and fill out daily work report. Clean up your desk and think about what you need to do when you get home. Make lists as necessary.
4:30- Say goodbye to colleagues and leave. Walk out yelling goodbye and waving to students as you do so. When clear of the school gates strategically loosen tie and tune into mp3 player.
5:10- Arrive back at apartment. Change into civilian clothes, fire up computer and munch a few cookies to revive flagging blood sugar levels. Sign into facebook, g-mail and blogspot and hammer out wordage as appropriate. Try to ignore the implications of cyber-dependence and thank god again that you don't have a World of Warcraft account to worry about.
6:00- Domestic time- washing, cleaning, ironing, tidying. Turn up the music and attempt to find satisfaction in sanitising your domestic realm. Fail again.
7:00- Shopping. Wander over to AEON, head straight to the sushi section and grab whatever's left now that it's late enough for it to all be half price. Do the same with the milk and whatever desert will hit its use by date in 2 days. Feel awesome about rorting 'the system'. Briefly feel morally superior about using eco-bags, but then lose the feeling when you see that every cookie in the bag is individually wrapped. If you encounter students pretend it is the most exciting thing that happened to you in months. Dodge hugs from schoolgirls by high-fiving when they approach with open arms.
7:30- Return to apartment. Make an enlightened choice between watching TV, DVDs or something on the Internet or perhaps even reading or playing a computer game. Eat and drink as you partake in such activity, try your hand at multitasking by managing more than one recreational activity at a time. Text-messaging, eating, watching TV and saving the planet from space aliens simultaneously will surely be a marketable skill someday.
More of the Shinkansen girl, here in her Autumn getup. I'm still waiting for a Pachinko machine to be made out of this ad series.
10:30- Get into bed and possibly read something deep and mentally nourishing... or whatever you can get your hands on that happens to be in English. It may end up being a bilingual pamphlet about trafficking in human sex-slaves.
And that's about it! Wash, rinse and repeat! Maybe next time I'll write something about the 'average' weekend. Right now though I'm off schedule; and those DVDs don't watch themselves ya know...
Ciao for niao!