The school festival was a lot of fun, but a long day. We started at 8:45 and finished around 5 pm. The kids put a lot of work into the festival though and I was impressed. All the grades made videos that were funny and creative. The tenth graders (everyone calls them the “first graders” – which makes me laugh every time. Kind of like how an elementary school teacher writes “crap your hands” instead of “clap your hands” on lesson plans) made a video where the boys impersonated the male teachers at the high school. They were spot on! The female teachers must be either off-limits for mockery or lack mock-able qualities. The students also sang, gave speeches, played in rock bands, made udon (noodles) and created games and activities.
Each classroom made a theme for their room. There was the flea market, the haunted house, an art room, a giant board game and a “soda-can castle.” I think the “first graders” just walked around in Halloween hats and black clothes to sell soda and have people play “paper, scissors, rock” for candy. Once again, paper, scissors, rock reigns supreme in Japan. I have paper, scissors, rock tournaments with the second graders and it gets pretty crazy. Anyways, they had to take the can castle down at the end of the day and they filled up the entire back of a pick-up truck. The haunted house was super messy as well, filling up bags and bags of straw and cardboard. But it was a hit. There was a line up and down the hall, waiting to enter. While eating my lunch in the parking lot, I could hear screams coming from the third floor. About 20 students played in the rock bands. The last rock band to play was by the senior boys and after one of the songs, a singer made an announcement, addressing another student who was emotional because he couldn’t play with the band because he had to study for the college entrance exam, saying “pass the exam and then we will play in the band together.” If that’s not adorable, I don’t know what is.
After the festival, the teachers had an enkai at a local restaurant. The lady who owns the restaurant gave me a persimmon to eat at the beginning of the week when I ate there with a co-worker and I pretended to like it so as not to offend her. Well, now she thinks I love persimmons and gave me another one. I am going to have to figure out a way to smuggle it into my purse in the future. After the enkai, we went to karaoke, where I sang a couple of songs to be a dork, one of them being "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls. After I finished, the school nurse told me "Erin, you are good at rapping!" The words Spice Girls and rapping really should never belong in the same sentence.
Speaking of adorable, the Halloween parade with the pre-school kids was just that. There was a Winnie the Pooh, a dinosaur, several princesses, pumpkins and random Halloween garb. It was incredible. I think this island understands the concept of Halloween and the organizer told me that it’s getting bigger and bigger every year. There were probably about 25 kids there with their parents and we walked down the main street and the shop owners came out and handed out candy. The kids couldn’t even fit all their candy in their bags. I should tell them about using pillowcases for next year. A guy walked beside the kids with a stereo on a cart playing songs like “It’s a Small World After All” and the Mickey Mouse song. So, Ojika amazes and astounds once again.
A sore point with me the past couple days has been finding out through a student in the town where I was a volunteer in Mozambique that the two sewing machines I managed to get for my girls group were stolen from a volunteer’s home. I cried when I heard that. It makes me so sad and angry to know how some people are stunting the development of that beautiful country for personal gain. The thieves had to have known that the machines were used for girls to learn how to sew. I put hours and hours of work into writing a grant, obtaining the materials and planning for the group to learn how to sew on those machines. But it’s not my own effort that bothers me so much as the fact that a successful, unified group that once had 14 members has been reduced to two. The girls were a tight group and could chat and have their own space and time to just be girls and have fun. Now, that has fallen apart. Something I have learned is that you can give people knowledge and resources, but you can’t guide them the whole way. They have to have the motivation and courage, despite obstacles, to keep creating that path that separates them from poverty - the whole leading the horse to water concept. I can only hope they gained something from the time we spent together.