Sunday, September 05, 2004

Well it's been a long week, but I can say that I really do love my coworkers at Edosaki Junior High, and I loved teaching at my first elementary school, though I was exhausted by the end of the day. On Wednesday I came into the teacher's office and everyone was saying good morning to me, and during the morning meeting, I was asked to stand and give a little speech, which I did in Japanese. The first thing I said was Ohayo gozaimus to everyone, which is just good morning, and in unison the entire faculty said it back to me. I sort of blinked, stunned by the communal return of the greeting, and then went on. I was applauded afterwards. Then, later, I was introduced to the entire school in the auditorium, where a selected student came up onstage and welcomed me in english, and told me the Edosaki students were gentle and cheerful and happy to have me be their teacher of English, then they all stood and bowed to me. I gave a speech half in Japanese and half in English, and one of the English speaking teachers translated my English to the school. Everything went swimmingly.

The English speaking teachers at the junior high are so nice. I like them a lot already. Kazuaki is my age and in charge of my schedule, and he's really nice to talk to and teach with. Nobuo is the new guy on staff, twenty two and just out of college, and really sweet. Fujita sensei is a woman of the world, knowing both English and French, so we switch back and forth during the day sometimes just for fun. Her desk is right next to mine. Ohama sensei is incredibly funny. This is the woman who said, We will drink lots. In class she tells the students she is twenty-seven years old this year, though she's in her fourties, and she told me this and I played along and she told me I am very honest. She is always telling me that for some reason. And she asked me for the class what my favorite season was and I said autumn and they wanted to know why, and I said because the trees change all sorts of colors, and Ohama sensei said, Ahhhh, you are romantic!

I eat lunch with a different class of students everyday, and they are all so sweet and interested and eager to talk with me, both in Japanese and English. the junior high kids have more English, some more than others, so they are able to ask me more questions. Mostly they want to know if I have a girlfriend. They also want to know what sports and music and movies and books I like. I think this is the extent of their question asking abilities really, but they want to exercise them and are interested in me in general. No matter where I go in the halls, the students are always saying hello! and how are you?? and wanting me to speak to them. They're all sweet and polite and I love them already. Tons of fun.

The elementary school on Thursday was awesome, though tiring. I taught five classes, and of course no one in the elementary schools speaks English, except a word or two here and there. I shared the principle's office with him while I was there, and he is totally nice. He knows a little english and I know a little Japanese, and so we spent much of the time I was in there with him trying to talk back and forth. I was nervous and he said he was too because he was new to the school and was only there for a month now and had to address the entire school for the first time the day before I came and he said he knew how I felt, we were both new guys. The teachers and I got by with whatever Japanese I knew, which was more than I thought I had possible, and managed to have great classes. Lots of fun. The kids come and pick me up in pairs of two or three or four in the principle's office and take my things from me and walk me to the class, chattering away in english and Japanese. One boy with his leg in a cast came to pick me up with a girl, and before I knew it, I had asked him in my broken Japanese if his leg hurt. I was really only able to say, Does it hurt? Ittai desu ka? and point at his leg, but that was all I needed and he nodded and said Ittai desu, with much affirmation. Later during the game we played he ran so fast towards me, he almost fell and I had to catch him. These are very eager kids. heheh.

At lunch the kids serve each other their food in their homeroom classrooms, both in the junior high and elementary schools. I imagine in the high schools too. They clean up after themselves, no dropping trays off for cafeteria workers. And mostly I sat next to a little girl who kept saying, Chris sensei, do you like such and such a thing? I do. She was thinking of as many possible things to ask or say. Very cute. And I never thought I'd ever be called sensei in my life. Weird.

The cutest thing in the world is watching the elementary school kids at lunch. They dress up in white smocks, the servers, and white caps and put white masks over their mouths so no germs or hair gets into the food they are doling out to their friends, and they run around with trays from desk to desk, looking like three foot tall surgeons. At recess, they gather at the principle's office window, when he's not there, and wave at me and blow kisses. Sometimes they surround me and want to just touch me and chatter nonstop in Japanese, and I keep telling them I'm sorry, I don't understand, in Japanese, and finally one group of boys who were ushering me back to office that I said this too stopped asking, except one was persistent and continued to do so. Finally one of the other boys pushed him on the shoulder and said, Stop it, idiot, he doesn't understand us. Which I laughed out loud at because I DID understand THAT, and then they were shocked and laughed at my understanding, but then they thought, OH! he knows Japanese, and started the questions up again. Vicious cycle. But a cute, easily endured one.

I feel like I did at Disneyland. The character they all want to touch and talk to and take pictures with. It's odd. For the first time in my life I was at home one night, taking my contacts out, when I looked in the mirror and really saw what I looked like. I don't know how else to say that but I think it's because I'm surrounded by people who don't look a thing like me, and suddenly my self reference became more oriented to Japanese features, and then I looked and saw my face for the first time in a shocking sort of way. I looked for a while, interested, just sort of looking and feeling a bit like a new sort of person to myself.


Blogger Dave said...

Fascinating. It sounds like you've found your way into a good situation there. I'm really enjoying your observations--keep them coming!

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Chris, it's mom. Wow what a week you had! It is just fasinating reading about your days in Japan. The children sound so pleasant and full of fun. How exciting for them and you! I will email you as your dad and I went shopping and got lots of things to send to you. Check you email honey. Love you, mom

9:48 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

You're so going to be the teacher everyone has a crush on.

And Ohama sensei is right: honest and romantic! I wonder if she'll reveal further powers of Barzak-observation by telling you that you're Grover on ecstasy.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Elad said...

great entry, Chris. You are having such an adventure. thanks for sharing. Again.

3:19 PM  

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