Nine months into my tenure on the JET Programme, I’d like to think that I’ve settled into a routine.
I wake up every morning at 6:45am, but I usually stay in bed until at least 7 (or, on especially lazy mornings, 7:15). Part of my morning routine includes checking the garbage schedule to see if I need to put out garbage that morning – considering some weeks have as many as six garbage days, my garbage schedule is my bible!
Both my junior high school and my elementary school are equal distances away from my apartment, so regardless of which school I’m going to that day, I arrive at school around 8:15am. I go to my junior high school every day except Thursdays when I go to my elementary school.
Once I’m at school, however, there’s no such thing as a routine. Some days I will teach five classes. Other days I won’t teach any. Another day, we’ll have a ceremony, or a practice for a ceremony, or a meeting. Classes and entire periods will vanish from the schedule. Suddenly, the fifth period class will be bumped up to third period. Periods will be 45 minutes instead of the “usual” 50. We’ll have Monday’s classes on Tuesday and Tuesday’s classes on Thursday. Every day is a new adventure at school and I usually don’t know what’s going to happen that day until I actually get there! (And sometimes I can be at the school for an entire day and still have no idea what just happened – ahh, the joys of working in a foreign language.)
My contract finishes at 4:15pm, but in keeping with the appearance of the Japanese work ethic, I usually stick around until closer to 4:30pm. If I have errands to run, I’ll run them as soon as I leave school. My bank, convenience store, gas station, post office, supermarket, and video rental store are all close together (and close to my apartment!), which makes it easy for me to run my errands quickly.
I usually always eat at home; I hardly ever eat out and thus know very few restaurants in my city (shame on me). My recipe repertoire is pretty limited, but lately I’ve been trying new recipes that have made me excited about cooking again. I found a website called Japanese Cooking 101 and I’ve slowly but surely been making my way through some of the recipes on there, including nikujaga – my new favourite Japanese food!
After spending a day surrounded by Japanese, I like to spend my evenings relaxing in my apartment with a cup of tea and an English movie (rented from Tsutaya for only 108yen/week!) or TV show. I’ll text my friends and family back home who have finally woken up, or on rare occasions I’ll even Skype them. I try to journal as often as I can, but I’m not the greatest at keeping up with it (as you might have been able to tell from this blog!). Sometimes I’ll spend my weekend days at my favourite cafe, reading my book, or making the 60 minute drive to Akita City to go to the mall.
However, I do have several evening activities that I also partake in. On Mondays, some other city ALTs and I usually arrange a movie night at someone’s apartment. We turn movie nights into potluck dinners and we have had some really delicious meals while watching movies together!
On Wednesdays, I have kyudo. The two-hour Japanese archery practice is so calming and a good way to clear my mind. I really enjoy it and have even progressed to shooting at the real targets outside (which I have hit at least five times)! Our fellow kyudo players and teachers are so kind; they’ve taught us a lot in our seven months of lessons!
On Fridays, I take Japanese class at the city cultural centre. The class recently started back up after taking a break over the winter months and I’m glad that I have a place to structure my Japanese learning once again. The JET Japanese course books provided by CLAIR that I worked on over the winter really aren’t all that great…
Finally, on Saturdays, I do ballet. The class is fun – it being taught entirely in Japanese isn’t as difficult to understand and do as I thought it would be! The class is an adult class, which I’m happy about, and my teacher is wonderful. That being said, I’m still keeping an eye out for a tap class or modern class somewhere, but they seem to be harder to find here in Japan…
No matter what day it is, I am usually in bed by 11pm. Since coming to Japan, I’ve turned into an old woman who can’t stay up past her bedtime. ;)
And there you have it – a day in the life of this ALT!