Ok. That’s a little dramatic. But if you were a student of mine in the past, you probably have a specific image in mind of what I look like. I’m guessing your picturing painted nails? Perhaps high heels? Killer accessories? An overwhelmingly impressive control of fashion? A nose ring?
It’s all gone now.
The schools in Japan have a strict dress code for their students. For starters, they wear uniforms (these are public schools, mind you). Boys have to keep their hair short and girls must be careful about even the placement on their hair. For example, if their bangs are too long or a strand of hair falls out of place, a teacher will be sure to ask them to go fix their hair.
Teachers don’t have to follow rules quite as strict. For the most part, we have the liberty to wear almost anything we want. (This is a bit of a side note that probably deserves a separate post entirely, but the staff members here seem to either be dressed very nicely, i.e. suits, ties, dresses OR they are wearing track suits. But never, ever jeans.)
The biggest challenges for me, however, have been dealing with the shoe and nail issue.
As I think I’ve mentioned in another post, when we arrive at school we take off our shoes, put them in a cubby, and put on special “school only” shoes. My shoes are often the pride of my entire outfit. The problem with these “school only” shoes is that they never, ever can be worn outside. This means that all my precious, beautiful shoes that I own have been soiled by the outside world and are not fit to enter the halls of this junior high.
Now this posed a particularly difficult dilemma for me. I like my shoes to coordinate with my outfits. That means sometimes I need black flats. Sometimes I need black heels. Sometimes I need black boots. Sometimes I need brown flats. Sometimes I need brown heels. Sometimes I need…
Ok. You get the idea.
So what do I do? Do I buy an entirely new set of shoes just to wear to work? Do I have that kind of money? My shoe collection has been carefully harvested over years. I can’t just up and buy an entirely new collection just to wear at work in Japan.
Instead, I just bought two pairs of relatively plain flats that could possibly “go with anything” (I want to vomit just typing that).
LOJ students. I know you are shocked. How can this be true? Many, MANY of you asked me in the past “Ms. Jensen, how many shoes do you own?” or “Are those new shoes?” or “How TALL are those heels?” (which was one of my favorite moments ever, because it was followed by the student getting out a ruler, kneeling down to the ground, and measuring my heel.)
That’s not the only thing that’s changed. I can’t paint my nails here. I know my neon-yellow nails were once a beacon of hope and motivation for students everywhere, but now they are just…just…clear. Is that a color? This has been especially hard for me. When I look at my own hands I feel like I am looking at the hands of a stranger. (Whose hand is this??? If you’re unaware of the dangers of hand possession, please watch the 1999 classic staring Devon Sawa, Idle Hands).
My compromise has been to paint my nails immediately upon arrival home on Friday, and then to remove the paint Sunday evening. It’s been rough, kids.
Also I had to take out my nose ring.