My time as a teacher in Japan only stretches another fifteen days. I’ve broken protocol and started telling my students that I’ll be leaving. Neither my wife nor our coworker supports this. I guess they’re rip-the-bandage-off-at-once kind of people. Responses vary, and I’m beginning to think I should’ve just pulled a Houdini in two weeks.
Most of the students only ask about the new teacher. “Boy or girl?” “Is she pretty?” “How old are they?” Most agreed a female teacher would greatly improve their current predicament. One group of seven year old boys, possibly resentful they were going to have to learn how to terrorize a new teacher effectively, spent the class period drawing piles of smiling poop on the board. Neither the promise of candy or threats in a foreign tongue could deter this behavior. Two of my adult classes stole my thunder by actually quitting the class moments before I was going to break the news. “Sorry, Joe. Last class.” I tried to explain that I was leaving too and that they didn’t need to apologize but they just bowed and made their exit while I tried not to feel abandoned.
Not all responses were bad though. Two thirteen year old boys who refuse to speak English unless I let them play basketball cheered me up. Haruto asked me how many more classes we’d have together and when I told him it was only three. He repeated “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” on loop for the next three minutes. That’s the most English I’ve ever heard him say, and it hit me right in the feelz. Takumi, not as prone to bizarre and emotional outbreaks said nothing, only smiled. Haruto called him careless (We’d been studying adjectives but I didn’t have the heart to correct him) but Takumi only dug through a notebook. He found what he was looking for, looked me straight in the eyes and told me, “Good friends live on in the heart.”
I did my best not to blubber like a grandmother in front of two boys only interested in throwing a deflated rubber ball in a dented metal can.
But the reaction that touched me the most was from the first person I told. I let slip that I was leaving because Akira informed me he was going to be opening a Japanese style steak house. As in a place that only seats six people, and he will personally prepare every bite of food for his diners. He wants to open in November, he just needs a location. My mouth watering I confessed that I wouldn’t get to try his steak because I was leaving in a month for America. He frowned at me and reached for his dictionary. After thumbing around he said, “I got used to you.”
What a compliment. But there’s a lot in those words. Maybe it means I’ve adapted to life in Japan that such a simple statement could mean so much. But I guess that’s the truth of life. We only grow accustomed to the little things that make us comfortable. Coffee, how people say hello, all the little stuff you never notice unless you have to go without.I had got used to life here, and damnit Japan, I mean it.