Jan. 24th, 2008

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Today, Kinoshita-sensei hit us all up for the yearly submissions of a brief message per teacher to give to the graduating third years. They won't graduate until March, but obviously the literature needs to be put together before then. I got all the grammar on mine correct, first try, and I attempted to use a touch of English they could understand easily, and overall I'm rather proud of it, so for posterity's sake, here it is:

Well done, graduates! 皆さんおつかれさまでした!その25人の笑顔にGoodbyeと言うことは悲しいけど、新しい世界へ進んでることを見て、うれしくなります。この国際的な現在に成功するためにずっと英語の勉強をがんばってください。 Be brave! Be curious! Be kind!
Good luck, Class of 2008!

Translation of the Japanese: Everyone really did their best! Saying "Goodbye" to those twenty-five smiling faces is sad, but I'm happy to see you moving on into a new world. Please always work hard at your English studies, so that you can succeed in these international modern times.
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When we all interviewed for JET...and when we got our first packets of informational literature...and when we arrived at the preliminary pre-departure orientation...and the main Tokyo orientation...and the regional orientation in Sapporo...again and again, we female JETs were warned:

Your coworkers and boss may expect you to perform menial tasks like making tea or filing papers. You will have to decide your own reactions to this. Be warned that this is a normal expectation for female office workers in Japan.

And here I am in Uryu, after six months of employment. The secretary at the middle school is an intensely efficient and always-jovial young lady who manages to get everything on her desk done in excellent time and still have time left over to chat. The secretary at the Board of Education is, incidentally, a boy, and just as good at what he does; and what he can't finish, Kakizaki-san or Izoe-san look after.

I have never once been asked to make tea or file other people's papers. And yet, every time I find myself sitting on my hands at work because of a lack of anything significant to do, I think wistfully of those warnings, and of what I wouldn't give to have somebody handing me his or her excess busywork. I would at least have something to do.

(For clarity's sake, this isn't to say that I'm jealous of those who have to deal with smothering sexism at work in Japan, or that I do nothing at work four days out of five. I just have the occasional free moment that stretches on a bit too long, and leaves me feeling a bit too much like a lazy college girl phoning in a part-time job for party money...)


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