Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Teacher, Teacher

Let me tell you about what a day is like for me in the first couple of months in Japan.
I'm going to break it down into two parts - today's episode is about school; and tomorrow's is about personal life.

It's Tuesday, September 11, 1990, and it's the first day of class at Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko (Kaneda North Junior High School).
I'm up at 6:30AM, do a load of laundry and hang it outside on my northern balcony while awaiting Gunji-san, the school nurse, who arrives at 8AM. (Check out the scan here at the top telling me about my transportation details).
She's nice and has a radar detector for some reason in her too small white car. She's always smiling and speaks little English - but that's okay, because I want her to concentrate and continue hunching over the steering wheel as she navigates the 1-1/2 lane paths through rice field after rice field on the way to school. We do chat, and I think I know what she means maybe 65-70% of the time... I pretty much understand one word and hope like heck that that is the subject.
We arrive at school at 8:15AM - a 15 minute car ride that would have taken me 45 minutes to ride, if my boss Hanazaki-san had not intervened and told them they need to provide me with a car ride... besides, I don't think I ever would have found the place (my atrocious lack of direction may also have had something to do with Hanazaki-san's decision).  
I warn the teachers that I might be upset because of I had a fight with my girlfriend last night (again). I even tell them who it is (fellow AET Ashley), because I'm looking for compassion.
As a nice welcome to Kaneda Kita - surprise - I'm asked to give a short speech to the teachers and then one to the school. Aaarrrggh! Good thing I kept the one I prepared for last week's visit to Ohtawara Junior High School.
When I'm done, they present me with flowers - an outstanding display that I will attempt to re-gift to Ashley. I'm cheap, not stupid.
Check out the scan at the side here, showing my school schedule - pretty busy, eh? Apparently I don't go to the schools  on Monday - I spend it at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) - funny, in 2010, I thought it was Fridays I spent there. Good thing I wrote stuff down.

Each class is a solid 50-minutes long. There are three classes of first-years (Grade 7); four second-years (Grade 8); and three third-years (Grade 9). Despite the newness of it all, I find the classes boring as both Yashiro Keiichiro-sensei and Sagawa Ise-sensei (sensei means teacher) translate everything I say into Japanese.
This shows how naive I was, as I expected the kids to understand what I was saying. Nope. Even dumbed down a bit, I was speaking several levels ahead of where these kids were, and I was too stupid to know it yet - what with this being my second week of actual team-teaching. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can see a page of a first-year English book the kids use. Why would I think they would understand everything I tell them in a self-introduction? Even I don't understand half the things I say or write.
Between classes, some of the students come and chat with me in broken English and broken Japanese, and I appreciate the effort, because at least it shows that some of them like me.
After arm wrestling a really strong boy or three (read about it HERE), I meet a really grubby kid - Wakanabe Hakashi-kun (kun implies "boy"/chan is used for girls - and like in all Asian countries, the surname is placed ahead of the given name... he's Wakanabe-san or Hakashi-kun). This boy hates to study (so his teachers tell me), but he's a nice kid even though he likes to pull on my substantial arm hair.
Lunch (in class 1-1) is a rather filling combination of milk, rice, fish (salmon), salad, chicken and (back at the teacher's office) several cups of o-cha (green tea - of which I would have anywhere between five to seven cups of a day at work - not by choice, mind you, but because it is offered up by the female staff, and I didn't want to insult anyone by saying 'no thanks').
While in the office after lunch, a man walks into the place (he's not a teacher), sees me and walks over and asks if he can see my hands (in English he said: Han-do, pu-reez). Shocked that I understood him, I complied. Now with Keiichiro-sensei (he prefers I call him Yashiro - in a cool sign of friendship) translating, this guy wants to read my life lines on my palm. It's free, so what the heck?
He says I'm going to live a long and happy life with a good strong wife and kid--just one (so far, by 2010, he's right). He says I will work on my own and that I am very lucky, with luck dominating my being. I will also be rich.
(In 2010, I work as a writer - pretty much on my own, and have always considered myself lucky because my life is actually pretty good - although I am not rich - well, only in the things that count, and I'm pretty p-o'd about it. C'mon retirement fund lottery!
For some reason I think the rest of the afternoon classes are boring - more translation and less real interaction, I suppose. Is it going to be like this for my entire time here?
When 5PM comes, Gunji-san drives me home - and lo and behold I'm at my apartment in 15 minutes - with my flowers.

Somewhere reading between the lines,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by .38 Special and can be heard HERE.
The scan beside this shows as page from a 1st -year English textbook. 
Oh... and if you wish, here are a few photos of Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko - SCHOOL DAZE.

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