Working Girl in Ise City

Originally published on 5 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first ever trip abroad to teach English in Japan!

Hello! I hope everyone’s had a wonderful 4th of July. I celebrated here in Japan by wearing my Braves t-shirt and some star socks my family sent to me! How much more American can you get in a foreign land, right? No grilled burgers or hot dogs, though. I stuck with the sushi. Some of you have been asking about school, so I thought now was as good a time as any to give you some miscellaneous insight to life on this side of the world.

I haven’t been teaching many lessons this month, much to my relief! The ones I have done have gotten easier than when I first started. I’ve lucked out and gotten the well-behaved classes. Or maybe Yuri just thinks I can’t handle the other classes. Either way, I’m glad! They stopped playing this one Disney CD last month and they’ve been playing a Whitney Houston CD instead. Honestly, I like the Disney stuff better. I never did get tired of it. It just reminded me of home, cheesy as that may sound. I keep hoping they’ll change it back to Disney or something else.

We watch Anastasia or Ice Age every day when the kids’ class are going on, then we switch to Backdraft, Romeo and Juliet, or Back to the Future when the adult/Jr. High kids start coming. I don’t really get tired of those movies either. We watch them in English with English subtitles. It definitely makes reception time go by faster. And I’m always doing something to help prepare worksheets or activities for kids’ classes, so that kep me busy too.

Yuri and I had a discrepancy about my work hours last week, and about my day off. I thought I was almost done with my 300 hours for internship credit, but apparently I’ve been counting it wrong. I don’t even know how many hours I have now. There are too many numbers and it’s too complicated. I’m still close to being finished, but I thought I’d be done by last Saturday so I could start on my paper and have it done. I’d still planned to work up till I leave, of course, no change there. But I wouldn’t have to think about the class credit or the paper anymore. It’s a 5-pager that I’d like to turn in as soon as school starts! What really ticked me off was that Yuri said she’d looked at my time record before and noticed it was wrong. So she not only looked at my personal stuff without asking, she also didn’t tell me she knew I was counting it “wrong” according to her. She might be the boss, but I really feel that’s unethical. And just not nice.

Also, I was told before I agreed to come that I’d have an extra day off every week, which I had planned to use for travelling. I did not ask for this, it was just offered. Not that I demand having more time off than the other girls, but the Kodas told me that was the deal. I didn’t ask or suggest it, but I was glad to hear I’d have time to travel and see more of Japan while I’m here. Apparently Yuri had never heard that, though, and she’d been giving me a day off out of the “goodness of her own heart.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it very, very much, but I had already started making plans and expecting to have a day off, so I was really disappointed this week to learn I wouldn’t have that extra day. I thought she’d just forgotten, so I did something completely out of character and asked her about it instead of letting it roll by. Well, of course I felt awful when she said I wasn’t getting a day off this week or next because I’ll have the last two weeks off. I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear because she made me feel like I was being totally ungrateful.

I feel so uncomfortable at work. It’s like she expects me to mess up, and when I do I feel like such a disappointment. I think we all had different expectations of the working situation. She expected us to be just like the girl we replaced, which we can’t be because we don’t even know her! She was there from the start of the school, so she sort of got to help make up the rules. Plus she was much older and had already been in the working world (I think Yuri said she worked with actors or something) for a while. She wore makeup by choice, she could work in Excell in Japanese (something neither Anna nor I can do!), and she was just better at everything. Nothing against her; I’m glad they had a good experience with her and she helped the school get off the ground, but Anna and I can’t be her. We’ll always be a disappointment to Yuri because we aren’t what she expected us to be. It’s very frustrating and a huge discouragement.

She also dislikes my southern accent, even though she said she wanted us all to have different accents so her students can hear the differences and learn to understand multiple accents. She tends to correct my and Anna’s English on occasion, too, which gets on my nerves–I’m a native speaker! And she says some things about English are strange or dumb, which also gets on my nerves. I would never tell someone that their language is “dumb.”

She asked what the name is for a story told with pictures, and when I said a “picture story,” she didn’t believe me. She looked it up in her electronic translator and guess what it was called? A picture story! Apparently there’s a word for it in Japanese, and it’s just “weird” and “foolish” that there’s not a word for it in English. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but maybe I am a little bit!

But enough about that. I still have LOTS to look forward to, and more things keep coming up! Stay tuned! Have a fantastic week and let me know what you’re up to. How’s everyone’s summer? What did you do on the 4th? I love y’all. Here’s a picture of Anna and me with Mami and her friend, who actually like us!

Outside Ueno Castle! 

5 responses to “Working Girl in Ise City”

  1. It sucks that your boss makes your work experience unpleasant… Do you have any chance to change your job?

    1. That’s so kind of you to ask! This is actually a post from when I worked in Japan 11 years ago, and it was only a three month internship, so I stuck it out. I felt bad for my coworker who had a year long contract to complete!

      1. Oh sorry, I haven’t noticed! I went straight to the article :))

      2. No worries! My mom has been begging me to put these “emails to home” on my blog since I wrote them so long ago and they were never on my blog before!

      3. I’m glad she did 🙂

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