For the last year, I have worked in various elementary schools as an English teacher. I worked with grades 1 - 6, as well as a mixed-age, mixed-level special needs group. For the most part, I enjoyed my time as a teacher. I found that I often was able to establish a good rapport with the students and homeroom teachers and it was rewarding to especially hear at the end of the year that the students have learned to love and look forward to their English classes.
However, I am no longer an elementary school teacher. At the moment, I am unemployed. Here's why:
When the large earthquake happened on March 11, 2011, it affected the TEPCO Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima. There was very real danger of a nuclear meltdown occurring. It was not going to be of Chernobyl proportions, but concerns about radioactivity affecting the food and water supply (and worse!) caused quite a stir in Japan, especially amongst the ex-pat community. Several embassies, in an excess of caution, had called for the immediate evacuation of their citizens from Japan. America did not ask for their countrymen to leave, but did offer voluntary evacuation options, going so far as to sponsor flights out to other Asian countries for Americans looking for immediate departure.
It was scary. No one knew exactly how imminent or ominous the dangers were. No one knew whether the damaged plant or the area around it could be saved. There were scares regarding the safety of drinking water for infants in the Tokyo area and bottled water, canned foods, rice and instant noodles disappeared off the shelves or jumped up significantly in price in some areas.
And of course, there was the lack of information and the overabundance of misinformation.
My family was understandably worried about my safety. They wanted me to leave immediately and were trying to find every possible way to get me the hell out of here. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that I could leave for a number of reasons. I was still on contract. My company, at the time, had my passport with them for visa renewal. @fobkoa's passport was lost and we were waiting for a new one. My having my passport reissued or leaving before the visa renewal process was finished would have tagged me as an illegal alien in Japan, resulting in my inability to re-enter the country for 10 years. Kekoa's family members were here, visiting. I have pets. Blah, blah, blah. And really, by most scientific (non-news media) source available, we were going to be okay.
I'm still not really sure if all of my family members understand why I stayed or forgave me for not obeying their wishes, but anyway, I stayed.
During this time, I was in the middle of negotiating my new contract with my old company. I honestly wasn't sure whether or not I would be staying in Japan. I mean, I wanted to -- and that's what I had told my family members -- but at the same time, I wasn't sure that I wouldn't succumb to the pressures of my family. I wanted to let them know I was okay and still, as sure as I said I was that I was safe, I wasn't really sure since no one was certain about the developing situation at the power plant.
So, I told my company that I was hesitant in re-contracting for another year. I feared that things would take a turn for the worst and that I would have to break contract. To me, it seemed better NOT to sign than to sign and then break contract. In the end, the deadline passed and the Board of Education for my area said that if I could not commit on that day, they would have to find someone to fill my position immediately, so the position would no longer be available to me. With some regret, I said that I could not commit 100%. With that, I became unemployed in a foreign country where, mind you, I am supporting not just myself, but another person, too!
A week after that, it seemed obvious that I would not be returning to Hawaii any time soon and that I needed to find a new job. That's when the search began. I applied to many places -- most of them, media related.
It's been about a month and a half since I've had a full-time position, although I do currently work part-time. I do have a job offer pending, about which I'll write when I have a signed contract in hand. Until then, it's about trying to make what I have in the bank last as long as possible -- but still enjoy my time here. And that's exactly what I'm trying to do.
As fun as it can be not to work and as stressful as it can be to work, I must say I would rather work and not have to worry about finances, than not work and always stress about whether or not it's okay that I'm going to spend $8 for 10 hours of karaoke when I could just stay home and save.
Ah well. Hopefully, things will work themselves out soon and I'll no longer be UNEMPLOYED. I'll keep you updated.