Friday, April 28, 2006


This entry was written late on thursday night.

I had a bit of a shocker today.

My eikaiwa class (english conversation class) tonight only had one student, a lady named Hiroko Shibata, who runs an organic bakery, and whose son is the special needs student at the junior high. Her daughter, Keina, was one of the really gifted kids who were in third year when I first arrived. Obviously Keina got it from her mother, who is also quite a fluent English speaker.

Mrs. Shibata was telling me what her husband had told her: that the Japanese government in trying to find ways to cut the education budget, is going to cut down the number of JETs that they subsidise. This will mean an overall reduction in the number of ALTs across the nation, because few boards of education are going to be able to afford an ALT on their own. What this means for us, is that in Katsuura County, neither Katsuura town nor Kamikatsu town will be able to afford to hire an ALT on their own. So a few years down the road, when the subsidising comes to an end, they are going to join forces and share an ALT between the two of them.

At the moment, Tom Collins in Katsuura is responsible for Katsuura Junior High, Ikuhina Elementary, and Yokose Elementary. He may also visit the preschool and kindergarten, I'm not sure. I think the junior high is at least thrice the size of our school, maybe four times the size. There are at least two English teachers plus Tom. So no matter what, his classes are all special classes, rather than him going to the normal classes.
And as you may know, I see every student in Kamikatsu from preschool through grade six at least once in two weeks, and I am at Kamikatsu Junior High four days a week. So I see the kids quite a bit.
Whenever the merge happens, the kids in Katsuura will see the native English speaker less than they already do, and surely the kids in Kamikatsu will hardly ever see the person at all. Katsuura has a population of around 30,000, while Kamikatsu is at about 2,100 and shrinking. We will hardly be able to afford or justify having the ALT (assistant language teacher - that's my job!) come for more than perhaps weekly visits. Probably it will mean three Junior high classes in the morning and then two or three elementary classes the same afternoon. And surely the ALT will live in Katsuura. There will probably cease to be an English conversation class in Kamikatsu; as the one in Katsuura is naturally already larger, and you can only stretch one person so far. So Kamikatsu is really going to lose out in just a few years.

That was part one.

Shibata-san asked me if the Board of Education had asked me if I wanted to stay longer. Thinking about it, I seem to recall in the autumn being asked something to the effect of, "If we were to ask you if you wanted to stay, what do you think you would say?" I thought it was just idle curiosity, gauging how I felt about the town, but in retrospect, given that it was my supervisor at the Board of Education who was asking, maybe there was more to it. Shibata-san was surprised that they hadn't outright and officially asked me. I've done all the conference stuff, I'm already in the country, I know how everything goes in town. It would be much more cost effective to keep me on than to find a new person to hire privately two or three years down the line. And they already know they like me and I like the town. It has been a four year gap since the last person like me. (A Brit named Claire stayed three years, then a gap year without anyone, a Canuck girl named Chris for one year, then another Canuck named Brennan, and then me.)

At this point the town is too far down the line for me to reconsider and decide to stay (not that I would), but Shibata-san really thinks that if I go back to Canada and then decide I want to stay here after all, the job is probably here waiting for me.

And that is really interesting.

It kind of threw me for a loop.

But getting home and forgetting about it for a while as I worked on some logo designs, when I came to it again, I do still feel that it is right that I am leaving. At least for now. I can hardly imagine living out the rest of my life in a place that gets no proper snow in the winter, is so far from a grocery store, and has frustratingly poor ideas about junior and senior high education. But maybe if I found myself married and with some real TESOL training and nothing better to do, I could imagine giving another decade or so of my life to this town, before any kids I might have were old enough to enter junior high. But in a decade, will there even be schools in this town? Possibly not.

It just goes to show how hard the future really is to see.

I have thought before that some job which allowed me to live on and off in Japan could possibly appeal to me, but of course that could be as hard on family life as a naval post. I'd have to feel very strongly that such a job was indeed what God was directing me to do before I could actually take up a job like that.

Oh future, will you ever cease to be so full of riddles?

It's like trying to look a kilometer down a winding road at night, when the fog prevents you from seeing more than a couple meters ahead of you. I don't even know what I'm going to be doing in five months! I've been praying about it lately, and the only answer I've gotten has been "Do whatever your hand finds to do, and do it like you are working for God." And that's certainly no poor answer. It's just not what I was hoping for.


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