Tis the season for those tax forms to make an appearance. When I was in the Peace Corps, my income was never very complicated. I was paid by the U.S. government and I made a pittance as a volunteer. Now that I am in Japan, it`s a whole different ballgame trying to figure out which forms to fill out and which extensions to file. Ah, the agony of growing older and having to take responsibility for your finances.
My home computer had been having some issues lately and it finally went dead. I haven`t purchased a new computer since 2002. That`s nine years and I`d say that`s a pretty good run. I never buy electronics just because I feel like it but because the previous ones have lived their full lives. I left my very first computer purchase in Monapo with a student and hopefully it`s not being used as just a paperweight now. Without a computer, my apartment seems so quiet and empty. I read a lot and I kind of feel like I am back in the Peace Corps. However, I ordered a Macbook Pro online today and can`t wait to get my paws on it. It will be my first mac and it has a hot pink cover! I am happy to join the ranks of mac users because macs are less susceptible to viruses and they have a solid reputation. Plus, I bought the protection plan that is good for parts and service for three years around the world.
Today is the practice for the graduation. In the morning, we had a ceremony with all the elementary, junior high and high school students in the gymnasium. After practicing standing up and sitting down for about ten minutes and holding a bow for three counts(ichi, ni, san...no joke), we finally did the ceremony. Watching a Japanese official ceremony is kind of like being in church. You stand up and sit. You bow. The speakers bow before they approach the microphone. It is a very religious experience but with a bonzai tree on the stage. Also, I have no idea what they are saying half the time so one could argue that the experiences are one in the same. All I need now is my mother to pinch my leg if I fall asleep or to play paper, scissors, rock with my sister. I still remember when I was younger and I was wearing umbro shorts to church in the middle of summer. When I tried to stand up, my shorts had suctioned themselves to the pew and made the most obnoxious noise. I remember thinking that was hilarious and giggling with my sister and Lord knows, once you get the giggles in church, you are done for. Particularly when it`s during confession and there is complete silence.
When I was in middle school, we had a couple of mice in our basement and my mother set out sticky traps to catch them. Sticky traps are those traps that once they catch a spider`s leg or a mouse`s foot, the adhesive is so strong that you need the jaws of life to detach you. My mom set one out in the kitchen and we went to bed. In the morning, my mother, sister and I went to church and in the middle of the service, my mom got a serious case of the church giggles. For the life of me, I couldn`t figure out why she was laughing so hard. After church, she finally told us that in the middle of the night, my dad had gone into the kitchen and hadn`t turned on the light. He had forgotten about the mouse trap and had stepped right onto the sticky trap. I remember him saying "I thought, oh God, there had better not be a mouse on this trap." So he turned on the light and there it was - a comrade who had also fallen prey to the trap - a mouse stuck to the sticky trap.
There are so many awesome church stories. Walking around, unknowingly, with powdered sugar all over my black jeans during a church social. A child sticking his gum in the holy water. That time at Easter Vigil when everyone was blessed by the priest by the spray of holy water with a palm leave. But instead of just a sprinkling, it was a downpour. People were taking off their glasses and wiping them down. The Knights of Columbus at church and their pirate costumes. Okay, they weren`t supposed to look like pirates but they did. They even had swords. My confirmation ceremony with my sister as my sponsor and accidentally dumping money out of the collection plate rather than putting it in. I remember studying abroad in Ireland and going to Easter mass and having a man ask me to say the rosary out loud. I just shook my head no. How was he to know that I wasn`t that devout of a Catholic.
But back to the graduation ceremony. The gym is decorated like a big candy cane for graduation - red and white draped against every wall. It kind of looks like an American election is about to take place. When they were setting up for the ceremony, they actually measure the distance between the chairs! That`s right. They pulled out a measuring tape. I was astounded. Now that`s thorough. On the stage, they have the flags for Japan and Nagasaki prefecture. And in front of the lecturn, they have rows of potted flowers. I was told that there is a plan on how to set up, measured out completely, and they follow those same instructions every year.
There are more ceremonies this afternoon and a graduation run-through practice. Tomorrow is the big day when the students and their families come to graduation. Three of the students haven`t found out yet if they have passed their exams and they won`t find out until March 6th - which I`m sure to them feels like a lifetime away. And if they don`t pass that, they have to take another examination a week later (at least from what I understand from talking to a co-worker). But they are definitely more relaxed now than they have been all year and it`s nice to see that they can now enjoy themselves.
I am sad to see the 12th graders go but there is always the next batch of kids. After talking with a co-worker, it seems that they want me to lead more classes only in English next year and I think that will be great. So many English classes are led in Japanese right now and speaking in English will make more of an impact on their English comprehension. Maybe I can get rid of that deer in the headlights, oh-my-god-the-foreigner-is-talking-to-me look I get every time I speak to some of them.