Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Leaver's Weekend

Leaver's Weekend was tough. Getting a combined eight hours of sleep in a 72 hour period didn't help (nor did the harsh elements or my poor beverage selection), but I managed to survive the weekend and had a fantastic time in the process. So what exactly is Leaver's Weekend you ask? Leaver's Weekend is the title that we give to the last big farewell and party that most of the ALTs participate in before we either 1) start another year living here in Japan or 2) pack up our lives here in Japan and return back home. It's a time of fun, reflection, tears, goodbyes, and everything in between, and riding this emotional roller coaster for three days was exhausting - both for the people who are staying and leaving.

I consider the formal farewell ceremony at Yamaguchi Prefecture's central office, which was held on Friday, July 8th, to have officially "kicked off" Leaver's Weekend. The nine ALTs that teach here in the Prefecture at High Schools gathered together and went through the official "goodbye" ceremony with our contracting organization, the Yamaguchi Prefecture Board of Education. The ceremony was simple but unquestionably Japanese: no AC, lots of sweat, suits, speeches, and bowing. On a very nice note, the head of the Yamaguchi Prefecture Board of Education individually thanked us for our hard work and presented us with a beautiful certificate and parting gift. We also said our goodbyes to Seiki Sensei, the head boss of all the ALTs in the Prefecture and someone whom we all liked a great deal. We capped off the day with our last meal at Nishida's okonomiyaki and hamburger joint, one of our most favorite restaurants in the Prefecture. 

Farewell ceremony at Yamaguchi Prefecture's headquarters

Receiving the certificate and gift from the Yamaguchi Prefecture Board of Education

Seiki Sensei with the the nine high school JETs who are departing

Dinner at Nishida's

The following day on Saturday, we set out to Leaver's Party. This year Leaver's Party was at Omijima Island, a beautiful island near the town of Nagato on the north (Sea of Japan) side of the prefecture. There are around 45 ALTs in Yamaguchi Prefecture and 19 will be heading back home over the next month, and just about everyone made the trek out. We drank, bar-b-que'd, tossed the football, played cricket, got rained on, played a skit game, and crashed out in the cabins in what was a very fun but very emotional party.

Party on the beach!!

I still have no idea how to play cricket...

There was a moment at the party where I took a quick step back to try and take it all in. This group here of ALTs was a diverse bunch. America, Canada, New Zealand, England, Japan, and South Africa were all represented, but even among people from the same country there was a plethora of diversity. For America alone, we had people from Alaska, Boston, New York City, Seattle, Kentucky, Indiana, California, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Texas. Honestly, if any of us had met while living our normal lives back home, we would probably have never become friends. Every one's backgrounds and interests are so diverse that finding common ground would have been difficult. That's one of the greatest things about living over here in Japan with these people. Despite the diversity, we really are like a band of brothers. We are here together trying to make life work in this very foreign place - all experiencing and sharing the ups and downs that living in this foreign land entails. We all know that these goodbyes aren't like most. These goodbyes are final. After we all return to our small corner of the Earth, we will all continue our lives in a myriad of directions and most likely never have the opportunity to meet again. It's sad, but I know we all will never forget this special time that we got to share together here in Japan. 

Nighttime grilling
Hanging with some of the guys

Sunday morning before heading out

1 comment:

  1. brilliant post, man! really enjoyed it. really cannot honestly believe that this year is nearly over, but we got many adventures ahead, eh? thanks for the great post and continuously great writing. really nice to read. じゃあ、ちょっと日本語で:富士山の山頂まで行こうよ!本当に楽しみ!