Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Tuesday, November 6, 1990

I’m visiting Chikasono Chu Gakko this week. If I suffered from hangovers, this would be a good time to have one, but I’m not hungover. I never get hangovers. It makes it easier to drink when the worst problem is puking, but still being able to get up and be a functioning human being. No. I did not puke. I’m not a puker.
I meet Sasnanuma Kenichi (Ken Sasanuma), the English teacher at Chikasono. Who drives me to school in his race car (see VROOM for that story).
The school is stuck in the middle of some farmland—and from what I can tell, the kids are polite, shy and not as well off as their brethren at Wakakusa and Ohtawara Chu Gakkos.
In the teacher’s lounge, I chat with the principal (Ko-cho sensei) for about 10 minutes – his English is understandable, though not perfect. I’m sure he studied it well when he was younger, but 35 years later he probably never had much of a chance to talk to a native English speaker until myself and my predecessor Cheryl Menezes.
He shows me the blue-prints concerning the reconstruction of the school over the next two years. Newer, bigger and similar to the rest of the junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi (city).
The Phys Ed. teacher comes by and tells me all about bonsai trees promising to show me his trees later. Sounds interesting.
The opening school assembly is okay. I get a standing ovation from everyone, and I’d turn red if my complexion would let me. I sit on a chair on the stage while the ko-cho sensei speaks to the assembly about me. I then stand and listen to a welcoming speech given to me by a third year (grade 9) boy who does so in English. He speaks very well, indeed.
then give a speech in English that is translated immediately by Sasanuma-sensei – who’s English is superb. I talk about how I promise to try and speak to them in Japanese if they first try to speak to me in English. An international exchange, if you will.
There were no flowers for Andre, as apparently the florist screwed up – but I’m told I’ll get them on Friday before I leave. No big deal. I'm a guy. What do I know about flowers?
Teaching – I give four self introductions and make everyone laugh. The students are too shy to ask me any questions, so I start asking them questions about themselves – funny personal stuff that loosens everyone up.
I like that. School shouldn’t be so dismal. I want them to know that foreigners aren’t so foreign. I’m sure it’s not like that for all of the other schools where my fellow AETs teach. I’ve met hundreds of them already – and they seem to have a personality disorder. People like Matthew and I have a personality, and most of the others do not. Enough of the rant.
I eat lunch—it’s natto, and at this point in time, it’s not something I even want to at—with the teachers in the office and show them my photos of my life in Toronto. Basically, it’s another self-introduction, but it’s fun, so who cares. Still… life in an envelope.
After school, I go with Sasanuma-sensei (I call him Ken) and watch him do road work with the school’s long distance running team. They run. We follow in the race car. I’m exhausted and nearly fall asleep, which I guess Ken picks up on so he drives me home after the club activities.
Actually, he drops me off at the Nakamura barber shop in downtown Ohtawara that’s about a five-minute walk from my house. Yes, everything is a five-minute walk from my house. The barber there is Muneo Nakamura, one of the nice young gents from the Kokusao-Kouryuu-kai (Ohtawara International Friendship Association). Not only does he wash and cut my hair, he gives me a shave with a straight razor, and shaves my forehead and ears before giving the best massage I’ve ever had. I’d marry him just for that.
Afterwards, I go shopping at the local Momeseya for groceries and head home. There’s an Aerogramme (airmail) envelope on my table from Ashley. I suppose she noticed the letter from her sister Kerry on a table. Ashley writes that her sister thinks I’m a little homesick. Sure I am. But when I wrote to her, I was probably more confused about my relationship with Ashley and wanted her sister to know, in case she felt like talking to her about it. If she did, I never ever learned about it.
I call Ashley and small talk for 10 minutes. I make dinner—beef croque and corn soup (okay, I heated up a pre-cooked meal) and pass out at around 9:30PM. Must be getting old.
There’s no phone call from the Nozaki pain.
Somewhere Zzzzzzz,
Andrew Joseph

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