This post is going to take you through a normal day here at the International University of Japan. What’s actually kind of amazing is that “normal” consists of a bunch of young men and women from many cultures (Japanese, of course, but Chinese, Korean, Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, Lao, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Indonesian, Filipino, Kazakh, Krygyz, Uzbek, and various African nations) along with their teachers (from the US, UK, Australia, and Canada) all here in rural Japan working to prepare said young folks for graduate work at a handful of Japanese universities. Suffice it to say humans are sufficiently resilient and flexible to the degree that we have indeed reached a kind of normality here, due in large part to the culture of higher education that rolls itself out pretty uniformly across nations and cultures. But it is all quite remarkable, nonetheless.
So today I’m going to share what I do pretty much five days a week, with slight variations. We have just begun Week 4 out of 8, so midterm assessments are on the docket for this coming weekend and then I’ll start the countdown to departure. This whole adventure is made slightly less enjoyable by the consistent heat and humidity – we’re hovering around 96 degrees F all this week which, although not challenging compared to the Iranian inferno of 154 (with heat index included), is still warm enough to cause some accommodation.
So here’s a beautiful early morning on campus. I usually get up between 5:30 and 6:00 just to enjoy a short walk in the relative cool…
…before returning for a light morning repast. This is the best I’ve been able to do for coffee – individual packets of drip roast. Not bad, but not Caffe Verona.
Shortly thereafter I head out the door. Here’s the beginning of the walk to my office…
My path runs through as much covered and air-conditioned of a route as I can make it, but this stretch is out in the open and mercifully brief.
Here’s a inner shot of the main building complex. This buildings have classrooms, study rooms, administration offices, and most of the faculty offices. There are also some small open lounge spaces with vending machines for students.
My office is in a smaller building (the “Research Institute”) through the bright green opening in the middle above. Below is a shot of my office, circa 1995, complete with metal desk, filing cabinets, a land line (!!), and a desktop computer, courtesy of Fuji-Xerox, who with a donation too large to be ignored turned the campus from an Apple environment to the Dark Side of Microsoft some years ago:
So I work here for about two or three hours every morning, reading the IUJ email, correcting homework, preparing my classes for the day, entering grades, and so forth. I also hold half-hour tutorials with eleven students in here every Thursday.
About noon, I go make my photocopies in preparation for classes after lunch. Here’s the gallant copier and the gallery of Recheche du Teeshirts Perdu:
But by now, we’re getting a little peckish, so I head over to the cafe for the social highlight of my day. Here’s Monday’s selection:
…and a shot of the interior. I was reluctant to shoot with a full house, but you have to imagine the below almost completely filled with 90 or so students, 14 or so faculty, and the occasional administrator or cleaning staff member.
Starting at 1:30, I teach two classes, back to back. Below is a picture of my classroom with my first set of students trying hard to look casual:
It’s a nice room with a large blackboard and a small white board off camera to the right and a good computer set-up. Not a bad space, and the student tables and chairs move around for pairs and teams work.
After my two classes are over, either there is some kind of teacher’s meeting, like there was today, or I just head home for a cooling beverage and a little dinner. But before I leave you today, I want to share a picture of a group of the students on one of our outings, the one to the temple I haven’t had a chance to write up. Here’s the real reason I’m here, the motivation for pushing through the heat, the culture shock, the odd food, life in the boonies. In short, it is a pleasure and a privilege to get to know and work with these enchanting young people, if only for the brief moment of this summer. I always fall in love with my students, and this crowd is no exception. If these faces don’t inspire you to stay on your game, nothing will. Cheers!