BY KATHERINE BRANNON from USA, ALT
As I have adjusted to the routine of life in Japan since I moved here last August, I have come to dread certain periods and look forward to others. For instance, the week or so before testing begins, both for midterm and final exams, is always particularly stressful.
Students are overcome by the realization maybe they ought to have been listening in class and panic, while teachers rush in every direction to both help those wayward students and finish making their tests. The level of anxiety in the office is noticeably higher.
But then there is the week of midterms – a favorite time of mine. In addition to the school atmosphere becoming more relaxed, during this interlude the lunch period also changes: bentos and onigiri are abandoned and instead teachers take the chance to eat out.
Since I came here, I have always been invited out to these lunches with a group of women teachers. They teach English, shodo, Japanese and everything in between. When we first lunched together I sat back, watching them talk and laugh and not understanding a word. I had no Japanese when I first came to Kochi, and it has not been easy for me to learn.
Although we can’t talk about most things, these ladies invite me to lunch every testing period and we always enjoy each other’s company. They have laughed with me as I try to decide what strange-sounding food to order, shown me kindness when they knew I had to move apartments and been infinitely patient with my slow progress learning their language.
Although our lunch hours are short and seemingly casual, it is this time, with these women, that has come to epitomize for me the heart of internationalization.
Taken from vol.12 (July & August, 2006. How to Keep Cool in Hot Kochi)