To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Enkai


Hi, all,

       At times I'm a bit lonely after hours--I haven't been too energetic about maintaining contact with the other JETs in town, though they're a good bunch--but I am still having a fantastic time at work (hey, a big part of my job is flirting and goofing off; how can I not enjoy that?) and after work when I go out with my coworkers. Tonight's enkai was the "special" teachers, those of us not assigned some sort of allegiance to a particular year of students, together with the school secretary, groundskeeper, truant officer, vice principal, and principal. This is an older crowd than I usually go out with--of nine of us there tonight, including the principal and vice-principal, just three were under 50--but although they are less wild than the younger teachers, they hold their liquor much better, and the evening goes on longer than with the tadpoles. Alcohol is an amazing substance; not only is it essential to Japanese professional/social life, but it has the unforeseen effect of easing the assimilation of weird foreigners. Depending on the conversation, my comprehension tonight ranged from maybe 10% to (once or twice only) 70%, but even at the low end I was amused to note how much I was enjoying the evening, honestly laughing at anecdotes I didn't really understand (the gestures, expressions, and tones alone are entertaining enough, but together with the obvious friendliness and comradery they were very easy to enjoy) and conversing at the low level I could manage with the other teachers. I've been around long enough that I'm no longer a center of attention just because I'm so different, but although I often don't exactly follow what's going on, the others make a point of including me just enough so that I don't feel ignored, either; all in all, they strike a very kind and comfortable--I think for all of us--balance. They manage to include me enough so that I don't feel ignored, without making me feel like they're going out of their way to do so. Good people, these. And damn they've got some mighty fresh sashimi along this Japan Sea of theirs.

O genki de,

Peter

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