Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Birds And The Bees

Let me tell you 'bout Kaneda Minami Chu Gakko (Kaneda South Middle/Junior High School).
The second time I visited this jewel of a place was on December 3, 1990. Every week I visit one of the seven schools from Monday through Thursday - spending more time at the big schools like Ohtawara Chu Gakko aka Dai Chu (Big Junior), Wakausa or Nozaki than I do at the smaller schools like Sakuyama or Chikasono. Kaneda Kita (North) and Kaneda Minami are considered to be mid-sized schools.
The main English teacher at Kaneda Minami is Hayakawa-sensei. He's got a great dry wit, and I enjoy chatting with him very much.
I only have three classes to teach on the Monday - and five more all week - because the kids have exams. Unlike a lot of other schools, I actually do some team-teaching - and it feels like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing here in Japan.
School lunch is the infamous rotting soy beans called natto. For the first time ever, I eat it and don't even make much of a fuss. I'm told by one of the students that I am no longer a gaijin (outsider) but am now a Nihonjin (Japanese).
Hunh... and all I had to do was eat natto!
Tuesday... I have two classes. All I do is read questions to them for their exams. It takes 15 minutes - and then they study. One of the classes is a third-year-class - they seem totally nervous about tomorrow's exam, and well, who can blame them?
After lunch while I'm sitting in the teacher's office, two girls drag their friend up to me saying that she loves me. What, I ask. Love you, they repeat. They then spell it out in English letters with their bodies contorting all over the place. Cute. They said all three of them want me to be their boyfriend. What would Jesus do?
Since I'm not Jesus, I said sure. I mean, why not? It's all a joke, right? I probably won't have to do anything except treat them nice which I would have done anyways. As expected, they giggle a lot and run away.
Later they come back and invite me to come and watch their volleyball club after school. It's fun and I think I wreck their club activity by spending too much time talking to them all. Only girls - boys don't play volleyball in Japan. At least I've never seen any who do.
The important thing is that they are speaking in English and are doing a fantastic job of it. Obviously I've only been here to this school on one other occasion so I can't take ANY credit for this - until the Principal finds me and tells me that all of the kids in school have shown terrific improvement since I first visited, as all of them wanted to learn better English to communicate with me. Shucks. I guess I have made a difference - and hopefully years from now I will re-read this diary entry and know that I didn't waste my time in Japan.
So, what is it with this school? Why have they gone An-do-ryu crazy? Are all of these girls hot to trot after me? Why weren't they in my school when I was a kid? Oh yeah, because they were two years-old.
At home I talk to Kristine for two hours. We talk about nothing and everything. I wish she was here now.
They next day it's cold so I sleep in 15 extra minutes. I only have one class to teach, so I end up writing six letters to friends back home. Why does no one have e-mail or the Internet over here? I hear it's something people are just starting to use back in Canada! Japan may be a technologically savvy country, but it hasn't trickled down to Ohtawara yet.
At lunch I eat with a third-year class (my girlfriend's - see photo to the right - Noriko, Rei & Yuka - I taught them to do the thumb's-up instead of the typical vee-sign the Japanese always do in photos)) who specifically requested me. All of the 14 girls stare at me longingly and blush when I glance at them. It's wonderful to be someone's fantasy. And, although the Kristine of 2010 has no recollection, she also said it to me last night in 1990. So, I've stolen her line.
Because this week is just after a team-teaching AET (assistant English teaching) seminar which prior to leaving for, Ashley broke up with me, and I hooked up with a woman from Edmonton - named Christine, my mood is light, to say the least.
Break up with someone, travel that same day to another province and hook up with another woman. I love this country.
Now, along with the Christine hook-up, and the Kristine telephone dial-up, and all of the hung-up female students at Kaneda South (also Kristine's last name - South, that is), somebody is trying to tell me something.
Wednesday has a flu-riddled Ashley come over (she thinks we have kyudo (archery) today, but I accidentally on purpose neglected to tell her it was canceled. Yes, I'm an immature piece of crap. But, I did want to see her - which is why Kristine always said she would have dated me if I wasn't so screwed up over Ashley.
Bang.
Sorry... I just shot myself in the foot.
Bang.
Both feet.
Anyhow, on Thursday, I check out a teaching demonstration on the use of computers in the classroom. It's really quite cool and I can see this being an integral part of class rooms perhaps by the year 2000.
Having never entered a school since 1996, I have no idea if this has come to pass or not!
Thursday night there is a school party for the teachers which I am invited to. The enkai (party) is a real blast. I eat basahi (raw horse meat!) and ikka kuchi (squid mouth), drink lots of beer and have 12 shots of sake (rice wine). I know I'm hammered, but when Miss Akemi (Ch/Kristine) Takita (the volleyball coach) comes over to pour me a glass of sake, she says I'm a nice guy - and that she's a nice girl - and that all of the other teachers are acting like sukebe's (perverts). She has no idea who she is talking too.
After the party ends, some of us (her, too) go to another bar near my apartment (all of Ohtawara's bars are near my apartment) for karaoke, dancing and drinking, but not necessarily in that order. Akemi is playing grabby leg with me, so when she says let's go, we head back to my place.
She spends a couple of hours with me ensuring that I realize just what a freaking wonderful country this is.
After she leaves at 10:30PM (I told you they like to party to the wee hours of the evening!), ten minutes later Christine calls telling me she's coming from Saitama-ken (province of Saitama) tomorrow to see me.

Somewhere you can't make up stuff this good,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title, sung by Jewel Akens, can be seen and heard HERE.
PS - As of now, this feels like the best week ever  - and it still ain't over yet. I still have to tell you about Friday, Saturday and Sunday! All this is good even though all of my plans to go to Thailand with Tim Mould have fallen through - Ashley is going, though, and while I'm not happy about not going anywhere for Christmas vacation, I'll get over it. Read THIS old blog to see how that went.
PPS: I know... not the photograph you are expecting, but this is my favourite photo of Kaneda Minami... it's just outside the entrance of the school and has a female student (a girlfriend) walking home alone along the road.

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