Monday, April 10, 2006

I am not the only one with a Useless Job!

I have no special news today, so instead I will tell you about the principal at the junior high school, let's call him Mr Tanaka.

In keeping with the Japanese work inversion principal,
Principal Miyata, being the top guy at school, has nothing at all to do.

He got transferred at the beginning of the year, and the previous principal had cornered the
plumb job of gardening, which was a beautiful job- answerable to noone, gets compliments, lots of fresh air. But between principals the sly vice-principle, Yoshida san, grabbed the gardening duties so that, together with his usual job of serving tea to visitors, the vice principal almost has enough to fill the day.

That has left Miyata with nothing except aisatsu.

Aisatsu translates to English as 'greetings' but that simple word does not begin to communicate the complex behaviour, intricate obligations and verbal intricacies of Japanese aisatsu. It can go on for 40 minutes, and Miyata san makes it go for an hour. He loves to meet me because he has a chance to welcome me, inquire about my health, and exhort me to further energetic endeavours in my non-existent teaching role.

Lately we've been truly bonding, because we have so much in common- a respectable but purely ceremonial position in the school, an excess of free time, and a lack of power to change our fates. So now he says, 'Let's drink coffee' which he loves because he gets to kill another half hour before he has to go back to his empty office to contemplate cutting his wrists for the
rest of the day.

Occasionally I do have to go to class...
on those occasions I am forced to politely refuse his invitation: 'Ah, I am so sorry Mr Miyata Principal, I am unable to have coffee with you, I am actually a little busy, um, I have to go to class...'
'Ah, please go ahead' he answers but you can see the light going out of his eyes, the hope falling from his face and the endless dark prison of boredom descending once again upon his soul. He is surely the saddest figure I have ever met in Japan and his situation goes a long way to explain the mediocrity I see around me- if you are successful as a teacher, you will get promoted- and that means...death. Death of your career, your self-respect, your status with your peers.

Meanwhile I study Japanese, chat with the library girl and muck around with the kids who have taken to calling me 'baldy'. My duties are, shall we say...light. I had this conversation at the beginningof the year:

'Can I help prepare lessons?'
'Ah, no'
'Can I start an English club?'
'Can I have my own class?
'Can I join a school sports team?'
'Can I help with the school play?'
'What can I do?'
'Um, internetto'

Lucky I got that Master's in Linguistics, eh?! I'd be
lost without that!

But they still pay me 4000 bucks a month with free
accommodation etc.

At the beginning I actually felt guilty until I
realised about Miyata san and the others, who get paid
a lot more than I do. But of course, their aisatsu is
WAY better.

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