Yesterday was Sports Day in Japan. What a really cool event. The school split their students in three teams, Red, Blue and Green, each with a different name of course, like Kyodo and Sekanin (I forget what the third team was called), and the kids play games against each other, scoring points until all the events are over, and whichever team has gotten the most points by the end, of course, wins. I wasn't familiar with a lot of the games. Mainly the races were the only familiar thing, oh and tug of war. Other games included Steal the Hat, where three or four kids for a human pyramid, three carrying the fourth like a rider, and this human chariot carries the rider around the playing field, trying to steal the hat off of the opponent chariot riders. Another was the human bridge race, where the kids kneel down on hands and knees and another kid runs atop their backs. Once the runner has run over you, you have to get up quick and go to the front of the line in order to keep the bridge going for the runner. Once up the field, once back. Another game was where a pole with a basket on top was held by a couple of kids, and their team mates had to throw all these balls on the field into the basket in such and such amount of time. Whichever team got the most balls in won, of course. The way they counted the balls was fun, too. An annoucer counts, and a kid from each team throws a ball out of the basket, high into the air for each number. Eventually as the numbers get higher, they run out of balls, and the last team still throwing balls up wins.
Here are some of the pics.
Sekanin, the winning team.
The Human Bridge Race
Bridge members running ahead to kneel down before the runner runs out of backs to step on.
More human chariots.
And yet more cheerleaders.
All in all, a great day (though I got a really bad sunburn on my face. Ohama sensei grows aloe plants at the school, though, and broke a stalk open for me to swab with, and gave me a plant to take home. She's so nice. The kids were all really fun to watch and cheer for. I'm starting to know who a lot of them are, and building relationships with certain students who are really into speaking english with me. It's funny, too, because little kids from the elementary schools that I've taught at came to the junior high Sports Day festival with their parents to watch their older brothers and sisters play, and they would see me and shout, "Chris sensei! Chris sense! and come running up to say hello and how are you and that they are good. Then their parents would look shocked to hear their children speaking english and the mothers would clutch their hearts with pride and the fathers would clap in astonishment. I didn't mention that there was a teacher here before me, though. I'll just take the credit. hehe.
After Sports Day, I went out with the teachers for a huge bash. Boy, the Japanese know how to party. I may have found home. hehe. A work party is full of lots of good food, saki, beer and wine etc. Lots of speeches were given throughout the night. I was welcomed in English by Nobuo, who is the young cool new English teacher at Edosaki, and then I had to give a speech in front of everyone at a microphone too. I basically told everyone how lucky I felt to be at their school because they've been so kind to me and have made my transition to Japan very easy and have made me feel at home here. Ohama senei was translating for me, and she kept telling them I had said how beautiful she is. She cracks me up. Later the teachers who were the team captains knelt in a chair on stage while another teacher berated and praised them for their efforts. Then I was brought up on the chair as well, and the science teacher, a really cool guy who taught me how to make a duck from a washcloth earlier in the night, hehe, did the praising of me. It sounded like he was really mad, but he was saying how earlier I had said When in Rome, do as the Romans, and how I planned to adapt that saying here as well, and how they were all happy to have me at their school, and that I make it easy for them to make me part of their family because I'm so warm hearted. And also he added how the first day Ms. Ohama came into the faculty lounge and they asked her what she thought of me, and she said she was very impressed, with that Ohama wink in her eyes that means more than what she's really saying, and they all laughed at that.
No one pours their own drinks at these parties. You pour for each other as you see someone's glass draining, or you go up with a new glass to someone and pour for them just to show them courtesy and that you want to serve them. You say, Otsukare sama deshita, which means, You did such good work today, you must be tired, here, drink this. And the receiver holds the glass with his or her right hand, and the bottom of the glass with their left hand and says, Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, which pretty much just means, I'm happy to meet you. I'm not sure why that is said by the receiver in this instance amongst people who obviously know each other, but hey, I went with it big time. Three young teachers cornered me to ask how old I thought they were and to guess my age and to ask if I had a girlfriend, and what my blood type was for some reason, and apparently I am going out with all three of them in a couple of weeks after the students are done with their tests. They are competing amongst each other to be my Japanese girlfriend. Ikue is one of them, an english teacher too, who happened to hear me tell a student in class one day that I liked hip hop, and so she asked if I like Eminem. I said I did, and now we are going to watch this dvd she has of him together, I guess. Apparently I look like Eminem, they said. I said, not really. But then they said, yep, you got it, that I have the same eyes as him. Blue blue blue.
I had a great time. Onuki sensei drove me home and then my friend Kevin came over and we drove to pick up Beth, his wife, at her work party. They had moved theirs from a restaurant to karaoke, and as soon as we came in, we were made to sing with a bunch of drunk Japanese people. Then they asked us to sing Queen songs for some reason. And the Beatles. So the party just kept going. People were passed out in the karaoke room's couches. Crazy bunch of of people here.
Obviously I *love* it.
Which is what I've been thinking about this morning and afternoon. I've had a few rough days here and there since moving, but really nothing terrible. Yes, some culture shock, yes some feelings of loneliness and why am I doing this sorts of questions, but nothing lasting. Most of the time I'm really digging it here in a big way. I feel like I'm going to make some important relationships here, and I'm already learning alot of things. About this place and these people, and also about myself. This afternoon I was cleaning my apartment and I thought, I think this is one of the best decisions I've ever made, coming here. And in the background, Tori Amos shouted, "You bet your life it is!" so you know it's true. Later I was looking through pictures of my family and friends and places that I love and feel are part of me from back home and I felt like I had a new relationship to all of those people and places. I can't explain it, but I brought a lot of pictures. Some are really old, from the thirties and fourties and fifties etc. and they're of family members I barely know or who died before I was born but I feel like I know them through stories, like my mom's dad, and I felt this huge surge of who I am, all these people and places, that washed through me, and then I saw a picture of my dad when he was a teenager holding up two squirrels he'd shot and I suddenly started crying because I was overcome with this sense of seeing who these people are with such clarity it sort of hurt, but it a good way, and I guess what I'm saying is that I just finally saw how much I have back home. So many wonderful wonderful friends and family and people I've loved and still love, and if that's all coming to Japan ever gives me, that realization of just how wonderful and, yes, blessed even, my life has been, it will be more than I'll ever need.
First day of school