I went back to CA alone last winter, and during the 2 weeks that Anna and Nico-chan were alone here they had the good fortune of discovering a new, spacious dog park along our normal commute, complete with lots of friendly dogs and a few that are basically Nico’s besties.
After I came back and we started working again we became regulars there, going pretty much every day we could – Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and sometimes on the weekend (our weekend is Sun-Mon) as well.
As it happens, just as we’re closing our school at the end of May (today is our last day, and as I write we’re getting ready to move everything out), this place that has become a regular part of our lives is closing too. Something involving an evil landlord.
So however long we stay in Japan this summer we will be homeless as far as dog parks go. This distresses me more than losing our school – because we planned that – and makes our idyllic last month or so here feel rather empty. I use this blog to complain a lot, but even pessimists have to understand that a glass half empty is better than no glass at all.
I thought I would devote a little space here to expressing Thanksgiving-like tokens of gratitude for random things that made my life here better.
I’m grateful first of all for the people who took a chance on our school even back when we had nothing besides enthusiasm to offer. Classes back then were sort of a grab-bag of different teaching methodologies (I tended to default to Audiolingualism-like assumptions about the value of practicing something in its correct form in my first year) but people liked us enough to patiently hang on.
I’m also grateful for private students who confided quite a few things in us that we know they didn’t tell their friends or sometimes even families. Playing therapist is sometimes part of helping someone express him/herself and I feel privileged that people trusted us enough to make sharing privileged information part of their language learning process.
In particular we had a few kikokushijo (“returnees”) who shared with us thoughts and reflections that had no other outlet. I’m very honored to be considered someone they thought would “get it”. I told one student the final week that I know I’m pretty good at projecting intellectual confidence in class but actually I consider several of the kids living this life of forced comparative cultures way smarter than anyone I know was at their age.
I’m thankful for our younger students’ parents, who had a lot of other choices for their kids’ English educations, and chose a place that made very few efforts to be appealing. It is surely hard to trust someone you don’t know to take care of your kids, especially when you’re almost guaranteed not to understand what they’re doing.
In particular, we had one set of young parents who showed all the stereotypical signs of 不良 furyou (“no-good”, something like “delinquent”) – tattoos, brightly dyed hair, cigarettes, married young – but were always here on time, always courteous, always helpful but never overreaching, and trusted us with their kids for almost 10 years. I don’t expect them to keep in touch with us but I have a lot of respect for actually doing the things that many parents have just learned to look like they do.
A lot of our adult students shared stories of vacations, work, and other random asides (including a long series of conversations on fermentation), and I’m grateful that they felt at ease enough to do this. I’ve done my share of complaining about adult students’ unwillingness to approach language learning as a serious endeavor, but ultimately they didn’t have to sign up for English lessons at all. We’re about to move back to the USA, and the unwillingness of most people to even consider broadening their perspectives by learning a second language – even one most of their neighbors speak – is sure to hit us in the face with a reminder that our adult students were actually very brave.
And for the topic that started this post, I’m sure running a dog park is hard to make a living from, and we were very lucky to have someone nearby who had the personality to give it a go despite the odds against it working, and the ability to actually make it work. Our last half-year in Japan with Nico-chan wouldn’t have been nearly as good without her, her dog Taro, or the multitudes of interesting people (some from as far as Gifu and beyond) with their dogs she was able to bring in. Nico doesn’t have the ability to type, but I’m sure if he had a blog he’d say the same.