What do I do in my spare time? A lot of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) say that they have too much time on their hands. It seems like the opposite with me, like my dance card always gets full because I try to say yes to every invite and request. I have started teaching at the elementary school, junior high and high school all in the same week. And it involves a bit of running around. In a couple of weeks, I will go to Oshima elementary, a school on another smaller island, for lessons in the morning. There are 5 students at the school, all boys. Two in sixth grade, two in fifth grade and one in second grade. I will take a ferry over in the morning and then return to Ojika after lunch. So my school days are filled with lesson planning for every class. I also have started extracurricular activities!
I am playing tennis after school with the girls tennis team. There are about 12 girls and it’s a lot of fun. I am proud of myself because yesterday, I managed to memorize all of the girls’ names. They asked me if I like Michael Jackson and when I said that he is okay but not my favorite, there was an audible cry of disappointment. But then I asked them if they knew how to moonwalk and there was a lot of hilarious walking backward movement. Their tennis practices are just drilling by hitting back and forth. When I was in high school, we had a lot of games and certain drills to practice. Plus, we had music. It’s so quiet during their practices! And before the girls hit the ball, they need to call out “onegai-shimasu!” and afterward, “arigato gozaimashita!” – which is like greeting and thanking the other player for hitting with them. And after practice, they all line up on the court to practice bowing to the other team. It’s the most polite tennis I have ever seen. But the girls can really wail on the ball and they are impressive players. The ball is a soft tennis ball, not the hard tennis balls we play with in the states. You might compare it to a stress ball. Squishy and not as bouncy, it’s a lot different to hit so it is going to take me some time to adjust. It doesn’t bounce very high, no matter how hard you hit it – so you have to take that into account when you are returning a volley.
In Japan, you can only join one club because all the clubs tend to meet at the same time of day. Rachel from Glee would be super disappointed. At my school, there is tennis, baseball, badminton and brass band. The seniors taking the college entrance exams had to quit before summer break to focus on their studies. Boo! I told the brass band club that I would play a song with them at the end of October but I haven’t gone to a practice yet. I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but I prefer to listen to music rather than play it. So I will practice with them for this one band event, but my druthers include sports and moving around. The song involves some super high notes that I don’t think I have ever hit in my trumpet-playing career. When I was in high school, if I couldn’t hit a note, I would just pretend to play and let everyone else cover for me (the truth comes out!). The band teacher has agreed to let me play an octave lower though because I confessed my high note habit.
Thursday nights I have eikaiwa, or adult English conversation club. There are four to six dedicated adults and we play English games, practice a grammar point and practice speaking in English. I am learning quite a bit about Japan from them and one of the members is going to help me with my Japanese, which is in sore need of improvement. I really need to hunker down and set aside time every day to study. I was talking to a predecessor on Ojika and she said that a lot of people tend to think they can just “pick up” Japanese but it’s not true at all. I totally agree. So besides teaching, tennis, random band practice, eikaiwa and a social life, I need to set aside time to study. I haven’t been to the island library yet but apparently they like for the ALT to read to the kids in English. That’s on my to-do list as well. I love being busy and productive though! Life is such a far cry from what it was two months ago!