I am finally starting to feel better, though my voice rarely makes it through the day. Ben has now taken his turn to be sick, and is taking his second sick day for the year. I have gone into full mama bear mode, I don’t handle Ben being sick very well, and Ben and I usually end up with gallons of soup, and Ben begging me to let him be awake.
Ben and I haven’t been to English club for a while because one of us has been sick for the almost every Thursday for the past few weeks, English club starts at 8:00 which is a late start if you’re sick. I got a note from one of the members through one of my co-workers today from one of my friends asking if I was OK, I nearly cried, to be honest I was feeling pretty lonely in town.
I’ve been having a rough time lately at work. It started in December, every company has an end of the year party. I wasn’t really expecting to get invited to one, and would have been fine with it. The hard part for me was a group of women all decided to discuss whether or not they should invite while seated at a table with me. The repeated my name many times, and my Japanese is was good enough to understand what they were talking about. These women are bullies, and generally I can deal with them, but this was probably the attack by them that was the most difficult for me.
I’ll take a moment to explain why these women are bullies. Japan is hierarchy obsessed. Everyone knows everyone’s status compared to one another, and they work hard to improve their status by respecting those higher up on the food chain, and accepting respect from those lower down. Japanese also like to categorize things into “in-groups” and “out-groups”. For example all the 5th year teachers are part of the “5th year in group” and everyone else is the “out group”. This system is pretty black and white, smaller groups are part of larger groups, but you can’t be part of multiple in groups. This puts me in an awkward position as I teach at three schools, which in the end means I am not part of the in group for any of them. More progressive people realize that this is really difficult for foreigners, and will step outside of their groups to make you feel welcome, but many people are very shy here, so it is difficult for me to be as social here as I was back home. These bullies don't like that I don't work in their hierarchy system, or group system, and they spend lots of their personal time reminding me of my roles in those systems.
I started out the new semester with my spirit a little broken. I was frustrated, and at the school with the bullies I had a difficult time motivating myself. My general strategy for dealing with the bullies before the break was just to smile, and give myself an internal pep-talk while they bullied. Winter is always a little rough on my spirit, and I just couldn’t handle them as well after the break. I think they sensed my weakness, because they became relentless. One of the women is in a position of power, took it into her power to make me remake every lesson plan several times, if there were many games in them, she would say I needed to focus on learning, if there were not many she said I needed to focus on the students enjoying English. She also reported me to the people who control my paychecks, and made life outside of work very difficult in many respects.
I have less than a month of work left, and have decided to make the best of it. My plan is to hide from my bullies, and start giving myself pep-talks again when they find me. I am feeling much healthier, and ready to give a last hurrah to this amazing country before heading back to our home country.