Friday, July 17, 2009

Meditating on the Good

This past week has been full of goodbye ceremonies. From Tuesday- Friday I went to a different school and was involved in some sort of ceremony. The most fun was certainly at Kawasaki Elementary School. There are only 10 students at that school and they did two dances and we ate homemade cake. Everything about that afternoon was just about perfect.
On Thursday, Hakuchi Elementary School held a farewell ceremony for both myself and another Japanese English Teacher. The students and teachers at Hakuchi have been wonderful these past two years. I wrote a speech in English and a Japanese friend kindly helped me translate it. I said it first in English and then in Japanese.
Both Julia and Brad have inspired me to write my farewell speech on my blog. I will write it in English only because, honestly, it is when I read the English words that I began cry and felt sincerely moved. I could have written so many things to this school but I kept it simple do to the fact that I had to read the Japanese and I wanted some people to understand the English.

Hakuchi Elementary School,
The first time I came here I was nervous. I remember meeting Morimoto Sensei and she said I looked very young. I was worried I could not be your English teacher. But everyone was very nice. Soon I felt welcomed.
When I came to Japan I thought I might be lonely because I was far away from home. I lived alone for the first time and I did not know anyone in Ikeda.
Because all of you always chatted with me, I felt comfortable and happy at school. I was not lonely.
Sometimes Japanese people seem to be nervous when they talk with foreigners. The teachers and students at Hakuchi Elementary School were not nervous. All the students talked to me. Now, everyone at this school can speak English to foreigners. All of the teachers can easily have conversations in English. And that made me feel very welcomed here.
Thursday became my favorite day of the week. Thank you very much for welcoming me into your community. I will remember you forever. I will miss Hakuchi Elementary School very much.

On my last Thursday at Hakuchi, students continued to hand me origami and personal notes. Girls told me again and again (in English) that they loved me. And unlike most people in this culture the students at this school give and get hugs. While I understood the significance of the ten year old who deeply bowed to me at other schools, the hugs I received at Hakuchi felt really good. The teachers also find it endearing that these students love hugs.
At the end of the day I ate cake with the teachers in the staff room. I said a few more words and the principle and two of my favorite teachers walked me to my car. After I put everything in my car I gave them each a hug. I drove off, feeling overwhelming sad that I may never see them again

On Friday, I asked the Japanese English teacher at the Jr. High to call my supervisor to tell her that I will have no where to stay once the new English teacher moves into my apartment. The only thing that was resolved from that call was that she can not help me close my bank account.

I went to a final work party last night. I thought I was going to walk out of there and feel more accomplished than I felt when I graduated from college. Instead, I spent time at the party talking about the many things that I need help with in my last few weeks here. My supervisor is refusing to speak with me directly because she finds it to hard to communicate with foreigners and others talk about how busy they are. Luckily, I have slowly found resources.

Feeling like I am putting others at such an inconvenience is defeating to say the least. One of the many things I have learned in the last two years is that Japan can be a xenophobic country. I have been refused at restaurants, told I am 'thin for an American', and had $200 taken from my wallet because people did not want to ask me for it directly.

But, for now, in these last two trying weeks, I am really attempting to meditate on the good things that have happened in the last two years. Because there have been plenty. The grandmother of a special needs student at one of my schools engraved my initials on a wallet. I have never met this woman but when I received this gift I thought that some of these students might genuinely remember me as a good teacher.

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