Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I am a fish person.

So I have been a bad person and not updated for a bit. It’s a combination of being busy and not having a solid internet connection. At my apartment, I am still picking up on a weak wireless signal. If I stand on my right leg, with one arm in the air, in the corner, I can get a “low” signal, rather than a “very low” signal. I will be getting internet (supposedly) September 27th. Let’s hope that works out. Seeing as the instructions for installing the modem and internet are all in Japanese, I foresee some problems and possibly some cursing.

Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see. Since I last wrote, I have accomplished quite a bit. I have taught everything except elementary school. That’s tomorrow. I teach 1st through 6th grade. I am pretty excited about working with the young kids. I get recess again at the age of 26! I hope it’s not too hot or I will have to tell those kids to push themselves on the swings while I sit in the shade, fanning myself.

I also got a cell phone, a new bicycle and a tennis racquet! The cell phone confuses me still. It’s pretty nice. Japanese cell phones have all the bells and whistles. And if there is one thing I don’t understand, it’s technological bells and whistles. And the Japanese language. And the last episode of Lost. I am learning some words and phrases here and there but it’s a whole other ballgame in comparison to Portuguese. Still, people love it when you use Japanese and I would like to be able to communicate with my co-workers who don’t speak any English. I feel so proud when I say goodbye properly, leaving the teacher’s room every afternoon.

I have a fish! His name is Chikamaru-fish. Like the previously mentioned boy dressed up as a deer. He may not be snuggly like a dog but he sure gets excited when I feed him in the morning. I can’t read Japanese and I just assume that I am feeding him enough. Hopefully not over or under. But he has stayed alive for almost a month now, so that must mean something. I really wish I could get a dog but I don’t know how long I will be here AND I live in an apartment.

I got Chikamaru-fish at the Obon festival on Ojika. It was an impressive little festival. It’s a Buddhist celebration of ancestors and many people return to their home city or town to pray to their ancestors. The festival was put on by the shops in Ojika and there was a performance by a taiko (drumming) group and a Beatles cover band. There was even a stage production for the children that involved Chikamaru-kun and his girlfriend, Hana-chan (actual costumes!) being kidnapped by some evil guy and the power rangers coming to their rescue. I got so excited when I saw Chikamaru-kun, that I spilled my strawberry shaved ice all over my lap. I am happy to report that I wore black pants.

I think there may be mold in my apartment building. I am fine during the day, and then once I get to my apartment, my nose starts running and my eyes sometimes get itchy. So I will eventually talk to the school about the problem and see what they say. My apartment is fine otherwise. I would hate to move because my neighbors are all the female teachers and it’s great to have them there. They have been very helpful. And where else would I attribute odd noises while watching horror movies in my living room.

We had sports day on Sunday, where the junior high and senior high students split into three teams and compete in some normal and some abnormal races. They have some games that Americans would consider dangerous and cruel. They had a dizzy bat (where you spin around with your head at the top of a bat) and then the student had to finish a race. Hilarious. And a competition with the boys was holding onto a pole and climbing and shoving their way to the top of the opposing team’s pole to grab a flag. It was very entertaining, to say the least. All the students participated too. American children would have said no and asked to speak to their lawyer. At the end, all of the teams and certain groups danced too. That was my favorite part and I have videos of it that I will try and post on here after the arrival of my internet. After the sports day festivities finished, the students and teachers did the takedown in the pouring rain. The kids are so helpful and work hard. I was and am impressed.

That night, the teachers from the junior high and high school had an “enkai,” which is a teacher drinking party. There is some great food at the party. I have developed a liking for sashimi, or raw fish, with soy sauce and wasabi. If I could have that for every meal, I would. There is also tempura, which is seafood battered and fried. And there was also what can only be described as fried cheese sticks. And in the stick, they include a minty leaf that improves the cheese stick, in my humble Wisconsin-born opinion. I have ideas for when I return to visit Wisconsin and my sister and I run to Culver’s to ask for their second largest cheese curds. But enough about cheese sticks. Enkais are great. There is a lot of good food, good company (despite not being able to understand about 75% of what is going on) and a pinch of alcohol mixed in. I drank sake for the first time and my first instinct was to mix juice with it to make it taste better, which I don`t think is normal.

The Japanese teachers work really hard during the week. They are mostly in their late 20’s to mid-30’s. They get to school around 8 am and are often there until 8 pm. I have a hard time staying past five if I am sitting at my desk. I also don’t have motorized transportation, so I am not fond of the idea of peddling home in the dark. It’s not that I’m scared of people but of vehicles that might not see me. Ojika has a zero crime rate. I walk past the police station every day and they always look bored. I went and registered my information with them and I think that was the most thrilling event they had seen that week.

My bicycle has been great. I have taken it all over the island and heaved it up hills when I am panting at an embarrassing volume. It has a basket and I take my camera with me and take pictures. My new favorite thing is to visit this public park by the public gymnasium and feed the giant fish pieces of bread. I don’t know if it’s good for them, but they seem to like it and it doesn’t seem like I’m the first person to ever do it. They see you standing there and swarm to catch the bread first. It has happened. I have become a fish person. I would pet the dogs that live on my road if I thought I would get my hand back. So yeah, if those fish end up belly up in the pond, I didn’t do it.

I have taught with the high school teachers to a couple of classes. One is a shy junior class of 9 students. Today, I showed them a point card that looks like a board game. I stamp a space each time they raise their hand and participate. Once they reach the “prize” space, I give them something. I am not sure what yet. It worked well with the shy class. Hands were shooting up like popcorn. My other class I co-teach with is a senior class of 19 boys and 1 girl. I feel bad for her. She is very quiet and timid. Hopefully, me being female and everything, I can get her to speak up. But the senior boys are loud as loud can be. Every time I walk past them in the hallway, I hear “HELLLLO!!!!!” and sometimes, a salute. They are an energetic group to teach and should have no problem filling up their point cards with stamps. I am a big fan of the junior high kids too. They are very lively and interested in what I have to say. The non-jaded, if you will.

It’s amazing the difference that having the internet makes. When I was a teacher in Mozambique, I had to think of games and activities on my own, with my own ideas and my roommate’s ideas. Here, I have a lot more resources and I have the internet to help me get ideas from what has worked for other teachers in games dealing with grammar and vocab. If I am at a loss for an activity, I just jump on google and within minutes, I have an idea of the shape of the lesson’s game. I mostly play games and activities with the kids. The Japanese teachers tend to focus on the rules and the grammar and I am the “game player” and I have no problem with that. It’s like getting to play Santa Clause every day.

And no, I have not seen the pothole yet. That`s my goal for the month of September.

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