I have this habit of agreeing to things that I decide I didn`t want to do in the first place – but then once I go to it, it`s actually a lot of fun. If that makes any sense. My latest example is my second island badminton tournament. I am playing with the biology teacher again, so we will probably win just because he`s the best player on the island. I was watching him play with another one of our teammates, an office worker, while sitting and talking with my co-worker, another English teacher. This biology can bob and weave and can pretty much dominate the court on his own. The office worker, on the other hand, was flailing around like a dead fish with a badminton racquet and shrieking. My co-worker said “it`s like he is playing against three opponents” – he being the biology teacher. The tournament prize is Kleenex and beer again. And they pull out an old trophy from a box, your team takes a picture with it for the island newspaper and then they pack it away again. It kind of reminds me of those old western style photographs you can take with your family at amusement parks.
The weather has been gorgeous this week in Ojika. I think that Japan is making up for the rainy, dreary weather that we were subjected to last week. The sun is out and it actually smells like spring again! I love the smell of the sea!
I am gearing up for the family to come to Ojika. It should be a good time and I look forward to showing them the sites. On the list are the pothole (a decidedly underwhelming sea-made stone ball), Madara Island (a smaller, beautiful island connected to Ojika by a bridge) and maybe Nozaki Island. Nozaki Island is an island close to Ojika and used to have quite the population. However, everyone eventually left the island in or around the 1970`s or 80`s when fishing declined and now there is no one there but old buildings, deer and a maintenance man. You can go camping on the island in the old school and go hiking. There is the only church in Ojika on Nozaki but it`s no longer used except for special occasions. Now that I write it, it kind of sounds like something straight out of a horror movie - isolated island with a ghost town and no one but a caretaker living there. I doubt there are tumbleweeds.
Graduation is on Tuesday. So everyone has to work on Sunday and Monday to prepare for it. As far as I can see, the preparations involve practicing the school song and maybe setting up chairs? I don`t really know but I am intrigued by this graduation ceremony. I have heard it`s pretty serious, formal occasion – a far cry from my graduating class and people doing cartwheels on the stage and handing the principal a roll of toilet paper in commemoration of some of the members of our class being the best at TPing the school. I remember graduating from high school and arguing with my mother over which shoes I should wear with my graduation robe. A lot of the people I have graduated with now have children and/or spouses but I still feel like I am light years away from that stage in my life. I get varied reactions with that – some people talk up the joys of marriage and having children and how they wouldn`t have it any other way and I have other friends who are also single and focusing on their careers or school. I like having that balance of friends.
Some people in my graduating class could choose to remain in the same city and that`s a difference between Japan and the states. In Japan, when you are going straight from high school into a job, everything is prepared for you and you go straight to your new life and job directly from your childhood. In the states, you have the freedom of choosing your job and if you want to stay in your area, you can choose to do so. That umbilical cord isn`t cut as swiftly. I don`t know of many students even staying in Kyushu – the lowest of the four islands that compose Japan and the one where Ojika rests off the coast. They are all relocating to the central region of the country and starting fresh with completely new friends and responsibilities. I think that it would be scarier to be a Japanese graduate because your ties are almost entirely cut with your community and family, except for phone calls and the occasional holiday visit home. I have gotten to see the students going to university relax now that they are finished studying – which is nice because for the past several months I have seen them walking around with worried expressions and wearing masks so as to avoid getting sick. I honestly didn`t recognize their faces at badminton when they played in the tournament last night.
I just signed up to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) in Osaka in May. I am extremely excited and nervous to begin the process of taking the exam and begin applying to graduate schools. So begins the next step to continuing my education! And I am also thrilled to get to travel to Osaka and look around a bit on my own. My sister has advised me that Anthony Bourdain had a good time in Osaka, so clearly I will too.