My Nihongo Conversation classes

Hello WordPress,

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.

Counting down the days

Hello WordPress pals,

It’s almost the end of the school year and I never thought how I am already at the end of my teaching days here in Notre Dame of Cotabato. I don’t know how I was able to juggle all my responsibities as a teacher with eight teaching loads ( with two combined class), a coach of the Table Tennis team, a homeroom adviser to the Grade 12 class of Blessed Br. Luis Alfonso, and a coordinator of the Grant-In-Aid students here in the school. My teaching load is crazy that I teach 7 sections almost every day and I even have a Saturday class plus the coaching and coordinator responsibilities. I know I already mentioned it on my previous posts but I just find it stressful yet satisfying to be able to multi-task and handle them all at the same time.

I am happy that I am leaving because I know I would not be able to handle these responsibilities next year. No, I’m just kidding. Hehe!

Seriously, It’s sad to be able to think I’m leaving this school after two years of staying here. I actually want to stay again for another year as a Grant-In-Aid coordinator because I know I was not really able to be fully hands-on to the scholars that much. They were the victims of my hectic schedule that I cannot do a full-time hands-on approach to them. I want to  establish a better relationship to them a give them support to their studies and whatever help I can give them be it financial, moral, or spirtual. But wherever I am, I’ll assure them that I will still support them. That is my way of being a big brother to them.

Now it’s safe to say that I am almost through with teaching here and the next challenge for me is to figure out my new mission in… I already told my students where I will be but I haven’t posted it yet in my blog. I’m keeping it a secret for now.

Will I teach again? Stay tuned for more updates next time I find a free time to write whatever comes to my mind.

A peaceful Sunday to all of you.

One question that changed my life

This is the draft of my Opening Remarks for tomorrow’s Career Celebration 2K18: Millennials Shaping the Future here in Notre Dame of Cotabato.

January 22, 2018

Good morning everyone,

One reason why I was asked to give the Opening Remarks is because I am a millennial. I can still remember that I once was a high school eleven years ago. We don’t have these model ramps that often before in Marist School, Marikina where I spent my high school. As an exclusive for boys’ school, we only have the Mr. Marist contest every two years during the Marist Fair. (For the record, I did not join.)

Given my surname Timola, which is a cause of being bullied sometimes, I was always asked to seat at the back of the classroom and mostly at the corner beside the window. There, I spaced out; stared outside the windows and daydreamed. Sometimes I draw doodles on my notebook or write a list of my favorite songs. In the early 2000, there was a famous song by Switchfoot with the title Only Hope. The lyrics would haunt me until now.

The lyrics go like these : “There’s a song that’s inside of my soul. It’s the one that I tried to write over and over again.” 

(Sing this if I have the guts to sing in front of these 2,000 students)

That song is a constant companion of my restlessness during college. It took me years to decipher the meaning of that song. We all have that song inside us. That song inside our soul is our personal mission. It is a God-given personal mission. How do we discover that mission?

The short answer is that we discover our mission in life by discovering about ourselves. High school life is a perfect time for us to discover about ourselves. It starts with discovering your talents.

Who are those good in Math? How about English? How about Science? How about basketball? How about computers? How about painting? How about singing?

But still, even discovering our talents will still leave more questions about our own selves. That is the question we have to live the rest of our lives; that too, is the tension we have to live the rest of our lives. And this tension will only end when we stop living. Thank God we have that tension; it means we are still alive. It’s okay if we try to write that song inside our soul over and over again.

It will be an unending search for an answer. To paraphrase Maria Rainier Rilke, let us live the question.

I hope that the Grade 12 students will learn the most from this Career Celebration. Grade 12, I dare you to ask questions about college, about work, about your future. Start asking us—your advisers, your teachers, our guidance counselors: Mrs. Casiano, Mr. Ade, and Mrs. Sobrepena.

Dear students (yes, all of you), I dare you to ask questions. Curiosity is an evidence of one’s willingness to learn. Learn by asking questions.

Before I end, I’ll leave you with a question that changed my life: “Sa paghahanap-buhay, mahahanap mo ba ang buhay mo?”

Good morning everyone.

Br. Allen Timola, FMS

Should I be scared to travel alone?

Dear Lord,

This fast few months, I’ve been preparing myself for my transfer to a new community and ministry. I am in the midst of processing my papers for travelling outside the country. Thus, I would be leaving my first apostolate (after MAPAC) which is teaching here in Notre Dame of Cotabato. I’ve been teaching now for three straight years and I don’t know how what to feel once I stop teaching and start learning a new language and be a student once again.

Though I was briefed what’s about to happen, of course I have my own what ifs and other reservations. Like what I said to a fellow brother, I don’t know what will I do there specifically so I’ll just stick to what I know: live as a brother in common life, pray, and even work while studying the language of that country. I know I will travel alone outside the Philippines but there are brothers anticipating my arrival there in my new community.

I admit there is a part in me that doesn’t want to leave asking, “What’s going to happen to me there?”. The prophet Jonah’s travel to Nineveh comes to mind. But unlike him, I feel no hate towards the people I will encounter. I don’t feel like turning back and take a ship going the opposite direction. It’s just that I don’t feel like going out of the Philippines for a long time. I am anxious but I’ll still go and follow what I am told to.

What I am experiencing now humbles me. To some extent, I can influence what I can do in this future apostolate but of course I don’t have the total control of what will happen to me and my future community. It’s a risk I’m willing to take and I entrust my future to my superiors who decided on this.

It’s a different kind of advent for me.

I don’t know where I am going to but in faith, I surrender.

Let Your will be done, not mine.

And let this be my prayer.

Amen.

My life as a Brother

TAMONTAKA, MAGUINDANAO, May 24, 2014—Last night, I had a problem where to put my journals. With only three bags for my luggage, I thought of a solution: give away some of my clothes and valuables for more space. Today, I am moving back to Marikina not for a home vacation but for the next stage of my religious formation. It seems surreal. Two years here in the novitiate felt like a very long time yet it seems like it was just a month ago when I first stepped on this monastery-like place. As a novice, I was formed to become a consecrated person. Now, I will start my new ministry of being a student Brother. Yes, that’s right, you may now call me Brother Allen.

Chastity, poverty, and obedience –these are the vows I publicly professed just to follow the footsteps of our brother Jesus Christ. I don’t really have much much to write about now. About my journal, I’ll try to buy the small and light ones since I have an old blog to continue. I will try to write my life as a Brother in my blog.

Goodbye WordPress

Starting this October 6, this blog will be on a hiatus.

Getting a line from a song, I don’t know when I’ll be back again.

Cliche.

Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night… no, just kidding.

Lately, I’ve been writing my reflections as a missionary novice of the Marist Brothers.

Since July, I’ve compiled this weekly reflections and its volume is enough to fit in a novella.

Now I’m going to be away for months and even a year.

That means no more boring stories from Allen Jambalaya.

But if you say you’re going to miss my not so extraordinary posts, just hit me in the comments.

Sorry to say this but I have to go now.

I promise, I’ll be back.