I got a text at 3.34am this morning from the boss saying, “Have a nice time at training,” which woke me up. I’m due at the train station at 6.50am for Tokyo meaning I’m up at 5.50am to get there. With 3 and a half hours sleep I wanted to answer, “Yes, I’m sure I might.” Would that be considered insulting by a japanese person?

Japanese people remind me of us Brits. We’re all so touchy and questionable. “What was that last comment supposed to mean?” Then we clam up, ponder about it more and get touchier. Which is exactly what’s happening to me now:

When I was at work today I got the ‘Sumimasen, taihen ne?’ which translates as something like, “Excuse me, it’s difficult isn’t it?” The boss was referring to the 2 days of training I’m about to do on my weekend off with no pay. The incentive to go is to learn the system we use at our school which involves learning a tonne of flashcards and how best to use them. This will be the third time I’ve attended such a training seminar and thankfully, it’ll be my last.

I’ve had no problems with the first two and was happy to go to them. Despite getting no sleep for the second one, whilst I was adjusting to a shift in work scheules, I had a good time. Getting out of Kofu’s often a treat and meeting new people’s always good. I even managed to get top marks in the class  after combining the scores of the first two seminars together. You’d think I’d be sad about it being the last time.

Having to attend this seminar’s righteously ticking me off. It’s not the format of the seminar itself that gets to me or the lack of pay. I don’t really care too much about the weekend of my time being consumed by work although I would really have liked to get things in order here before Helena arrives on Thursday (another trip to Tokyo – expensive isn’t it?).

I guess what bothers me most is the boss’ attitude to the whole affair. That Japanse phrase “Sumimasen, taihen ne?” means – in my experience – is a kind of sarcatsic jolt to say – ‘chin-up’, ‘do your best’ or ‘try harder’. At least that’s how I’ve seen it used by teachers at my old school I taught at previously and is a phrase often used to kids who aren’t doing their best. I’m guessing the appropriate, polite response is “Oh no! Not at all, nothing’s difficult. Everything’s very easy and harmonious! I love my job!”

Then there’s the early morning text message – what do I make of that? Did he stay up specifically just to send me his regards? Did his new born baby wake him up and remind him to mail me? Or perhaps he wanted to make sure I woke up on time? I never know what to make of these polite little gestures the Japanese make because I’m not Japanese and as much as I’ve tried to figure out what they mean, no one tells you or tries to help you out with an explanation. Asking would be a faux pas on my part, probably to be greeted with silence. If you question them on said faux pas they pretend not to know what you’re talking about.

This happened to me in my high school class on Friday when one girl’s English pronunciation was a mystery to me. Of course the other kids knew what she meant. When I questioned everyone for examples, the heads went down and they shared private chuckles at moron sensei who doesn’t his own tongue even when it’s spoken to him.

So what’s the correct response to this text then? My  head calculates that I should ignore it, my heart beats for honesty to tell him that he woke me up whilst the shy guest in Japan in me nags me to say thank you for the polite, albeit mis-timed message. 

“It’s difficult, isn’t it?”

It all leads back to that big question: December, do I stay or do I go? I won’t know that until after Thursday. Maybe not even after that. 4 days and approximately 6 hours to go until Tokyo. Again.

Captain’s Edit: Just as I finished  this my alarm went off and it’s 5.50am here. Tokyo here we go…
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