The office has been very busy today. All of the departing teachers have been by with their respective principals and vice-principals to say goodbye to the people here at the kyoikuiinkai (Board of Education). Yesterday, it was the High School teachers. My good friend Imbe-sensei was among them. He teaches science and speaks excellent English He’s also a really nice guy, and we frequently talked after school and between classes. His English, though already excellent, was something he liked to work on, and what better way than by talking with a native English-speaking science geek. He’s going on to teach at a specialized sciences school in Sapporo. I’m sure he will do great things there, just as he's done here.
Today it was the Junior High School. The vice-principal (Kyoto-sensei), another English speaker and friend of mine; my favorite JTE Saito-sensei, who will be moving to a Japanese International School in Shanghai; Watanabe-sensei, the Japanese teacher who was always willing to try and talk to me in what little English he could and teach me about Japanese; Shouji-sensei, one of the youngest teachers at the school, who although very shy would sometimes make the effort (but always opened up at enkais - the joys of nomyunication*); and Hoshiba-sensei, the Math teacher with the infectious laughter. Incidentally, all four of the teachers leaving are in my group of desks, leaving only myself and my downstairs neighbor who doesn’t particularly like me.
Later there was a contingent from the Elementary school, although thankfully a small one. Tada-sensei, the Grade 4 teacher will also be leaving. His classes were always lots of fun to teach, and he was always excited about teaching his students English and learning right along with them (his was one of the few classrooms where ALL of the English topics we covered were up on display).
And of course, my own supervisor will be leaving too.
I met my new supervisor, Takahata-san, briefly yesterday. I greeted him with what I hoped was a friendly “yoroshiku onegaishimasu! Nice to meet you!”. He heard the English, gave a slight bow, and ran away as fast as he could. Needless to say, I’m a little bit worried. I’m sure things will be okay, but at the moment I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. So many of my friends and support will be leaving here in the next little while. It feels like I will be starting all over again.
* Quite possibly my favorite word in the Japanese language. Combining the verb “nomu” meaning to drink and “communication” (adopted from English), it is what happens when you get a bunch of Japanese people together at an enkai. With the addition of alcohol, the rigid social rules are erased, people aren’t afraid to talk to each other or to try out their English skills, and more actual communication can happen. I’ve been very fortunate to have many opportunities to nomyunicate at enkais, both with my Board of Education, and my Junior High School. It really has made a difference in how well I am able to integrate into the various work settings I am placed in.