Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snip, Puncture, Marinate

I have a three day weekend and my only plan so far is just to get my hair cut in the city. I am tired of looking like I just descended from a three month Everest expedition. I have to go to my haircut prepared though with everything but pie charts and graphs. I am going to ask my co-worker if she can write in Japanese my instructions for my haircut and how I want it to look. Either way, I guess it doesn`t matter too much because it`s hair and it will eventually grow back.

The three day weekend is attributed to "National Foundation Day" tomorrow. I didn`t really know what it is until I googled it and discovered that it is celebrating the founding of Japan. In other words, I am going to sleep a lot and relax. Japan has a lot of holidays that mesh into three day weekends it seems - that is not a complaint. That`s a deeply rooted appreciation on my part.

School has been far more quiet now that most of the senior boys are gone until graduation day. They are all on the mainland getting their driver`s licenses. I now assistant teach two less classes a week since their classes ended. They graduate at the beginning of March and then they head off to their jobs across Japan. Many of them are moving to big cities, which I think will be a sort of shock to their small island systems. I was talking to a teacher about them leaving and she said "They all go to the ferry terminal. Say goodbye. Many tears." If I grew up sheltered on a very traditional, country island, I wouldn`t know how to behave in the cramped city of Tokyo or other large cities in Japan. My senior class basically took an exam and got offered jobs while the other seniors are still studying for their exams. The university kids will be at school all weekend, living and breathing the fear of university exams.

I have started to wake up early to go running/dragging myself around the high school sports field. I am sure that if you happened upon my running in the dark, you would be frightened by all the wheezing and gagging. I go four laps or about one mile and then walk the rest. I don`t want to overdo myself right away. Last year I experienced the scorching, sticky summer that is Japan and want to be more comfortable this time around, rather than rolling up to school drenched in my sweat and out of shape. You could water a ficus with all the sweat I would produce in one day. Plus, in April, I am climbing the Great Wall in Beijing. I hear there are a lot of stairs.

My bicycle has a punctured tire still and I haven`t ridden it in a while. I will take care of it eventually but getting it fixed requires walking it to school and then taking it to the mechanics after school to try to communicate with them. People are constantly asking about my bicycle and why I don`t ride it to school. I try to explain that walking up that hill to school isn`t easy either way so I might as well just walk. Otherwise, I am just heaving a bicycle up a hill. I am the only teacher who walks to school - even though it only takes about 10-15 minutes to get there by foot from most points in the town part of Ojika where the teachers live.

One thing that is driving me bonkers is nervous giggling. I will be trying to talk to some people and they just start giggling for no good reason. They are simply just nervous with my presence and speaking English. I know someone who can`t go a full sentence without giggling and putting her hand over her mouth. It`s super awkward because I obviously am just waiting for her to respond and she catches a serious case of the giggles.

Her: Do you (giggle, giggle) like (giggle, giggle) Ojika(giggle, giggle)?
Me: Yes, I love Ojika. Have you traveled outside Japan?
Her: I (giggle, giggle) visited (giggle, giggle) California (giggle, giggle) for three or four months (giggle, giggle).

In the junior high, the teacher has me ask the students questions and they are visibly relieved once they finish answering my questions and can sit down. I also eat lunch with the kids and I will ask them a question and they will immediately turn to someone for a translation with a deer in the headlights look. You can`t phone a friend in a conversation, kiddos. You just have to let it marinate in an uncomfortable silence.

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