がんばる: to persist, to insist on, to stand firm, to try one's best
"Ganbarimasu" means, "I will do my best", and I think there's no better phrase to describe the Japanese work ethic. From the McDonald's workers to the Junior High School students I see every day, the Japanese always look like they're giving 110% into everything they do. It's impressive, and makes me feel like a schlub, honestly. The majority of the students I work with are quite impressive - When the bell chimes, they're always right where they need to be, and are hardly ever absent. And as my friend Scarlett commented on her blog the other day, they never ask to leave class to go to the bathroom, in fact, I've never seen any student roaming the halls during class time. Teachers stay at work until 7:30 or 8:00, while I peace out at 4:30 (and that's a late day for me!) Sometimes I feel a little bit guilty that my job is so easy, when everyone else looks like they're working so darn hard, so on my time off, I try to keep busy as well - study Japanese, write e-mails, check facebook (hey, how'd that get there?) Ok, maybe I'm just trying to look like I'm busy.
Hard-working JHS students
Another good example of ganbaru happened this morning. About 7:00, just I was getting Ethan up, I heard a siren which sounded like it was making its way toward our apartment. A few minutes later, more sirens. I looked outside to see three fire trucks and a paramedic van parked right outside our complex. Out came the firemen with the water hose, while more trucks and vans came. Nate and I were frantically trying to get dressed and feed Ethan, because I assumed that whatever was happening was big and that they were going to evacuate us any minute. Come to find out that a person had left the stove burner on and a pan began to smoke, setting off the fire alarm, which is conveniently connected to alert the fire station of any emergencies.
Not even a fire, folks, but that didn't stop the fire station from pulling out all the stops.
No doubt this extra hard work has its disadvantages - late nights, burn-out, depression - but I think Americans could learn a thing or two from the Japanese work ethic. They take pride in what they do, even if it is flipping burgers. I'm hoping some of this work ethic rubs off on Ethan, heck, even on myself!