Thursday, June 30, 2011

Feeling Bearish

There seems to be an energy initiative in Japan this year. The teachers are much more careful about turning off lights and general use of electricity. There is also something about plugging and unplugging our computers during the day. The part where this gets unbearable is that they haven`t turned the air conditioning on yet. It`s very sticky and humid, and often, during the summer, the only respite in a school is the teacher`s room since that is the only air conditioned room in the building. I am all for saving energy, but within reason. I already show up to school panting like a little dog and awkwardly sweating through a tank top and a shirt. I have been asked on several occasions while fanning myself at my desk to cool down if I am okay or not. Yes, please poke this bear with that stick.

Otherwise, everything is going well here on the small island. I have been much busier at the elementary school and junior high than I have been at the high school, even though that is my main school. After a day with the elementary school kids, I definitely always need a nap. Kancho girl has been at it again - showing off for her friends by picking on the foreigner. I was walking to the gym the other day after school and kancho girl and her friends were walking home. Of course, to make her friends laugh, she charged up after me with her umbrella and walked extremely close. I was not in a good mood so a good glare and a swift "DAME!" (stop!) seemed to do the trick, even though I could hear her mimicking me to her friends and saying "dame! dame!" I think that girl gets teased at school and has pent-up aggression. She is an overweight child and in a grade of 10 boys and 5 girls, she becomes quiet as a mouse anytime we are in class. But none of that is an excuse for her poor behavior. Every time I have told anyone about this child and her intention of making a mockery of me, they simply laugh. It`s driving me bonkers.

In Mozambique, I took a much more straightforward approach. When I saw a gang of children throwing rocks into our yard at my dog, I went to the elementary school next door, where they all fled into a classroom. Trapped in the classroom, the students had no way of fleeing me and I easily apprehended one of the future shotput olympians and took her screaming and crying to the school office. Of course, the school did nothing to punish her because of their lack of organization, but it drove the point home for the girl and the students who saw her being taken to the office. Maybe next time, they would think before they tried to stone my dog. I could easily do that in Mozambique because confrontation was more common there. Here, there is no confrontation. If someone makes you angry, you are usually expected to grin and bear it. You accept another person`s bad actions and horrible personality with a smile, rather than telling them directly that they are wrong. (That is one reason why I sometimes don`t like the phrase "ganbare," which is used often here and basically means "fight through it" - sometimes, you shouldn`t have to fight through it. You should verbally smack the person down like the hand of God.)

I was reading a book about marriage in Japan and an American woman who had married a Japanese man said that she was at the embassy in Tokyo once, trying to get her paperwork in order. While she was waiting to speak to someone, she saw an embassy worker yelling at a woman for not having the correct paperwork and it actually made her smile and become nostalgic for good ol` American confrontation. You really do begin to crave direct interactions with people who aren`t easily offended and that`s where having other foreigner friends or a long phone call home can really make all the difference.

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