Sunday, June 27, 2010

Placement and minor delve into ancient values

Received my placement!

I am based in Obi, Nichinan City. This is in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyuushuu, Japan. This is the best placement I can imagine. It is on the coast, hot, with mountains on the side. Best of all, it is an historical town, named after Obi Castle of the Ito clan in Kyushu. While I am appreciative and grateful of NZ's (relative) youth and somewhat peaceful nature, it does not make for storytelling of quite such an epic nature as clans, Samurai and Shogunates. I am looking forward to exploring.

And in that vein..

I have been doing some light reading on Japanese history, values and religion. In doing so I stumbled across this gem. (Along with others, but we mustn't be greedy). It's a sweet analogy on the subject of Seppuku, or 'cutting of the belly' - the Samurai form of suicide in order to show sincerity and expose the core (believed to contain spirit, will, and emotions).

"Let us picture a single, healthy apple... The inside of the apple is naturally quite invisible. Thus at the heart of that apple, shut up within the flesh of the fruit, the core lurks in its wan darkness, tremblingly anxious to find some way to reassure itself that it is a perfect apple. The apple certainly exists, but to the core this existence seems inadequate; if words cannot endorse it, then the only way to endorse it is with the eyes. Indeed, for the core the only sure mode of existence is to exist and to see at the same time. There is only one method of solving this contradiction. It is for a knife to be plunged deep into the apple so that it is split open and the core is exposed to the light - to the same light, that is, as the surface skin. Yet then the existence of the cut apple falls into fragments; the core of the apple sacrifices existence for the sake of seeing."

- Mishma's Sun & Steel

The passage above, aside from being beautifully written, puts me in mind of any sort of activity that requires human resilience. It is (not quite so literally) seeing what you're made of. Usually we avoid discomfort (be it physical, mental, social) - and by doing so see the same parts of ourselves that we always do. Human beings are not that strong on paper but we have tremendous capabilities for adaptation. We barely see this as we are surviving with a minimum of effort. You have to quite literally decide to put yourself in disarray, take a challenge, push the (metaphorical) knife, if you are to expose your core.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who I am and how I've gotten here

I've come to the realization there will be a few people reading this who may not actually know me. So, a little more information about who I am and where I am from. My name is Tiffany. I have been reading, writing, and mentally correcting people's English for as long as I can remember. I have grown up in Taupo, I have gone through the schooling system here which was handy until I was about 11. (I kid, I kid - I'm grateful to every teacher I've ever had!)

Halfway through my Taupo Nui a Tia college schooling I decided to go on an exchange to Illinois, USA. It was pretty much as it reads, one day I decided, a couple months later I was there. That was a whole other lifetime and somewhat irrelevant to this blog, but worth mentioning as this was my first major experience with travelling and I learnt a lot of basic life/culture/travel rules that I will probably be drawing on.

Upon my return I opted not to go back to school and to work in a fast food outlet. This was a valuable learning experience and served to inspire me to go to university. A special entrance, three years, three universities, and three cities later, I ended up motel cleaning back in Taupo with a degree. Luckily my friend Kirsty had told me about the JET programme earlier on, and six months after applying I learned I had a place. This news was somewhat unexpected, but very welcome.

My 21 year home in Taupo and somewhat nomadic lifestyle around New Zealand has given me a pretty solid base of friends and less than conventional experiences to see me well prepared to head back overseas for another adventure.

Back to the preparations!

Mum has embarked on the first (and, yes, I believe there was a second) of blubbers whilst booking accommodation for the big day. If we are to average two cries per day over the next 37 days I think we are in a bit of trouble - particularly if this is to be an exponential trend.

She has also brought home a much appreciated blazer, which is appropriately long (can't be showing any back skin or - god forbid - buttcrack whilst reaching for a chalkboard) and loose enough to fit a multitude of cleavage/arm/shoulder concealing layers. The dress code is to be quite formal, which is going to be a shock to this pierced and generally jandalled child. Case in point: the new blazer was tried on atop a baggy singlet, slippers, and jeans so mauled as to not even belong in the fashionably torn range (my knee is cold and I have a dark feeling there is a hole down one buttcheek) - and yes - I will be wearing these out tonight. At least it will be somewhat easy to pack my 20 (yes, twenty) kilo suitcase, as most items will probably not be making the cut.

There will be a few premature updates I'm afraid, I have a huge multitude of information to share and easier to do it when it occurs to me!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First post

Well. Have my basic area placement in Miyazaki-Ken, a prefecture on the South East coast of Kyuushuu. From google stalking it looks like an excellent place to live. Haven't received specifics yet, at this stage I could end up in a city, a coastal town, a mountain village - the possibilities vary hugely. Luckily each option sounds good and I intend to maximise on every opportunity.

Starting to get my visa and taxes sorted. Seems like NZ is trying to penalise new graduates for taking their skills elsewhere; I am to be taxed on my Japanese income as an NZ resident (after Japanese tax), but am not eligible for an interest free student loan. I suppose that's fair enough, they have coddled me through an entire degree after all. It's unfortunate we can't be more appealing (or supportive) of new graduates - particularly in areas where we are lacking (teaching, nursing) but eh, even if we were I probably couldn't be enticed to stay. NZ is the base, not the dream.

Because I have been hired by the prefecture and not an individual school, it is likely I will be teaching older students. Can't yet imagine telling an 18 year old what to do, but at least over there I will be somewhat giant. I may come back a power habituated tyrant.

Five weeks left and counting down, have completed my South Island visit to say my first goodbyes (and a hello, to Ollie who I may not meet again until he is walking and talking). Travelling around the North Island somewhat this next month, limited by work (but only ever so slightly).

Learnt about 100 Japanese characters (most of the two most simple alphabets Hiragana and Katakana), only about 1500 Kanji left to go. Speaking practice still dismal, but this can only improve. Taking online lessons which teach me such helpful gems as "Anata wa yasete imsaen. Futtote imasu." (You are not skinny. You are fat.) Can't imagine any situation in which this phrase could arise but unfortunately because of the odd factor it seems to be the only lesson that has stuck?