I have a new name: アレン (Aren). That is the Katakana version of my name.
I have been here in Japan for more than a month now and I took up basic Nihongo conversation classes since September 11, 2018. Obviously, all of us students are non-Japanese speakers.
Half of the class are Christian missionaries including myself which gives us fifty percent discount in our tuition fee. I am the only Filipino in our class.
Initially, there are 7 of us in class but we were joined by a Chinese woman this Friday afternoon so that makes us 8 students. Though she enrolled late in class, she is actually advanced compared to us since she can read Chinese characters which Japanese calls as Kanji (漢字).
Our class are composed of 5 nationalities (excluding our Japanese teachers): 2 Americans, 3 Koreans, 1 Thai, 1 Chinese, and 1 Filipino.
We have 5 teachers (now reduced to 4) who take turns daily, just so happened they are all female, and all our teachers are Japanese and knows very little English (which is actually good for me personally as it will force us to learn fast). One teacher had to be substituted as she is fully booked with her schedules and we just met the 2 new teachers last Monday and Tuesday and one teacher had to take the Wednesday and Friday schedule.
Our Nihongo classes are from 1:20 PM~4:10 PM. It would take me approximately 40 minutes to go to our class via train and walking. So sometimes I would eat my lunch around 10:30 AM and prepare for more than an hour for my travel to school. I would go out of our house around 12:15 PM and walk to the train station which is just nearby. Sometimes, it feels like the wait for the pedestrian cross would take longer than my actual total walk to the train station. One time, I missed the rapid train just because I bought a milk tea in a vending machine and that stalled me some precious seconds. Well, you might be familiar with how punctual Japanese are so I won’t bother to explain that. Whenever I ride the train, it feels like I’m in a music video as the view of Kobe City is just picturesque. I am not usually fond of city landscape but Japanese architecture and urban planning is just something.
Aside from hearing Japanese in class, you would hear Korean, since they are the majority in class and they would translate by themselves what the teachers were saying, and English since I and the two American couples would seat together and just discuss and react whenever we don’t get what’s going on in class.
Most of the time, the teachers would talk too fast we couldn’t catch up but the teachers assured my American classmates that they’re doing just fine. At the beginning of our classes, the teachers would ask everyone some quick conversation prompts and skip me maybe because… I don’t know. Is it because I wear eyeglasses and look smart? Maybe. So to get the attention of the teacher, I would play the role of the class clown. This is exactly the opposite of me when I was in high school and college as I would be very shy and quiet in class and would still perform well anyway. But now that I am learning a new language, I would do all the means to learn inside the classroom. So far, being the class clown probably earned the ire of the teachers but I hope they understand that I am grabbing attention so as not to be left behind.
5 of us are Christian missionaries: I and the two Korean men are Catholic missionaries and the two American couples Baptist missionaries. It just so happened that the 2 Koreans are also fellow Catholic Brothers like me which is rare. Also, I learned that the community house I am in now were actually theirs and the land of their properties now used to belong to the Marist Brothers. How and why that happened is a long story to tell. To tell you honestly, I don’t even know the specific details how and when did that happened.
Anyway, since our class is on basic conversation, the teachers would ask us about our weekends. We Catholics would say that we go to church or Kyoukai (教会) during Sundays. Though Japan’s Catholic population is very small, there are a quite number of Catholic parishes here in Kobe City probably because this is an international city and many Catholic foreigners such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos live here. I also noticed that there’s quite a number of Catholic religious orders/congregation here in Kobe as I see sisters in Tarumi where I go to Sunday Mass. In Japanese, sundeimasu (住んでいます) means “I live in” so it is easy to remember whenever I try say in Japanese where our house is.
Our Thai classmate, who probably is a Buddhist, was baffled why the two American couples don’t attend the same Church as we Catholics do. With our limited Japanese vocabulary and non-English speaking classmates, it was hard to explain how come we Catholics and Baptists don’t attend the same Church though we are all Christians.
If ever we Catholics mention that we attend different parishes would bring more confusion not only to her but for us too who does the explaining. Another point worth mentioning is if ever we Catholic Brothers would explain what is a Brother would mean more headache not only for her but also to our fellow Baptist Christian missionary couple. I even haven’t brought up yet to them what is a Brother and what’s my missionary apostolate here.
Going back to school is hard and takes lot of humility. I keep on reminding myself to say yes to mistakes since that’s part of learning for as long as I keep on trying.
We just finished our first assessment this afternoon almost a month of Nihongo lessons. I aced the test despite being the class clown. I was actually frustrated because in the essay, I had to change my answer as I forgot how to write る (ru), ろ (ろ) and む (mu). For the record, I am typing with a smartphone so I can conveniently switch to a Japanese keyboard.
Reviewing last night was 50% worrying and 50% test drills and re-reading that I even woke up around 3AM and reviewed right away thanks to the energy drink I bought yesterday. Since I was up early, I was able to take pictures of the sunrise.
I took a nap around 10:30 AM, put my alarm to wake me up after 30 minutes, but I woke up and it’s already 12 noon!
I arrived in school just in time and bought my lunch in Japan Railway Sannomiya Station’s 7-11 and ate it during the class break.
Have a blessed weekend everyone!
Postscript: I initially wrote that all of us are non-Japanese but I might be wrong since our Thai classmate’s surname is Japanese and I even am a part Japanese as my mother’s grandfather is a Japanese. So there.