So today was the big one. After weeks of goodbye party after goodbye party today it was time for possibly the most difficult goodbye of all - saying goodbye to my school.
It's been a fun 2 years at Nyu. There's been ups and downs for sure, but I don't think I've ever had a job as rewarding as this one. It can be crushing when you have a day of bad classes, but the euphoria of creating and teaching a successful lesson is worth everything. It's the kids that really make it. Like this crazy bunch who accosted me for a photo this morning.
I know I've moaned about the job in the past, but I can safely say that it's the best job I've ever had. The teachers have been fantastic, the students have been fantastic... why am I going home again? Oh yeah, that's right, I want to be a journalist. Now why would I want to go and do a stupid thing like that?
So today was the official end of term at school - and I had to give a goodbye speech. In Japanese. I wasn't particularly worried about it actually, since I'd worked out the speech ages ago and gone through it thoroughly with my Japanese teacher, but when I walked into the school gym for the closing ceremony something went horribly wrong. Why were my hands trembling? Why was I biting my lip? Why couldn't I look anyone in the eye? Shit, I knew this was going to happen - I was about to break down in tears like a big girl's blouse.
I just about managed to hold it together as I walked up on the stage with the headmaster. He made a short little speech saying thank you and we shook hands and everything was fine. Then it all went pear-shaped. Midori from the tea ceremony club walked up on the stage and started reading a speech to me in English, saying thank you for my fun lessons and thank you for coming to tea ceremony club, and then she started sniffling and that got me sniffling too, and before too long she was struggling to get through the speech and I was wiping the tears away like a man who's just caught his crown jewels in the cash register.
By the time it came for me to give my own speech I was a wreck. I was blubbing more than Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars. God knows what everyone was thinking - most embarrassing moment ever? Possibly, but at least I wasn't the only male ALT to have a decidedly unmanly moment on stage, having just read about Sam's waterworks on his blog
. Man, giving that speech was hard. To top off all the unmanliness I was given the biggest bouquet of flowers I've ever seen - yes, I really did feel like Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars.
Incidentally, this is my desk. Bye desk!
Anyway, the last couple of weeks at school have been great. I was getting a bit stressed with all the things I had to organise before leaving (selling my car, cleaning out my house, etc etc), but I really enjoyed giving my last few goodbye lessons. The very last one in particular was really special. Flick and I arranged to do joint lessons at each other's schools: I went to her very last lesson at Takefu High School a couple of weeks ago, and she came to my last lesson at Nyu last week. It was a great lesson - we did a quiz and the students were really excited to finally meet my girlfriend! It was a really, really nice way to end my time teaching in Japan. I guess teaching's not so bad after all...
So yeah, it's all getting a bit emotional at the moment. My house is looking pretty sad and empty right now - the other night I finally took down my Japan map. I put up the map about a year and a half ago when I was feeling pretty depressed about how little I seemed to have done in Japan after being here for six months. I decided to stick pins in all the places I'd visited and stick photos next to them, and suddenly I realised that I had done quite a bit after all. Since then the number of pins and photos has grown and grown, to the point where I was running out of wall space. Taking it all down really brought home to me that my time in Japan is actually coming to an end.
Yep, I'm really going to miss Japan. One thing I won't miss though is my nemesis: katsuoboshi. These dried fish flakes (I think they're called bonito in English) seem to find their way into absolutely every food dish in Japan. Truly, they are the vegetarian's worst nightmare. Mostly because most waiters and waitresses don't seem to register that they're actually fish, even if I emphatically explain that I don't eat fish or meat. Hence, ordering a bowl of plain soba results in this:
Katsuoboshi aside though, I can't begin to list the myriad things that I'm going to miss when I go back home to England in exactly a week's time (so soon!). I think the biggest thing I'm going to miss is the feeling that somehow every day is an adventure - you never know what bizarre thing will await you round the next corner. For example, when I was driving round this morning I spotted this:
Yes, that's right, it's a radio-controlled crop-dusting helicopter. Brilliant. Truly, everything in Japan is in miniature. Check out the operator's Tom Cruise-style silver Ray-Bans too - now there's a man who takes his job seriously. I wonder if he realised what he was getting into when he applied for a job advertised as "helicopter pilot"?