Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good Grief

Wow, I really went AWOL. My apologies. Now that summer break is over, the students have been running around with the school sports festival. The sports festival isn`t actually about sports, just running and doing crazy games. The students in the high school and junior high are divided into three teams and they then battle it out for top honors. Each team has to plan a timed and choreographed dance, and they compete against each other in different categories throughout the day. Some of the students seem to take it very seriously, creating cheers and forcing team spirit with the reluctant junior high kids. When I was asked this week if we have sports day in America, they were surprised when I said no. I told them that if students don`t want to do something in America, they usually don`t have to. This was shocking. Here, there is definitely a "you say jump and I say how high" kind of mentality in schools. No questions asked.

Classes are going well. I find forcing conversation with the students to be the most enjoyable part of my job. They obviously never have to have conversations in English in their typical English classes so it obviously makes them extremely uncomfortable when I fix my sights on them. Their first reaction is "if I don`t look at her, she isn`t there." When they can no longer deny my existence, they look frantically around at their fellow students for a life raft. Then they look at the Japanese teacher, who puts her hands up and says "don`t look at me!" Finally, you start to see the cogs turning as they reconcile themselves to the fact that they will have to give a coherent response to "how was your summer vacation?" I feel like they really go through the stages of grief before they can answer my questions.

I have been exercising still in Ojika and the little older ladies at the grocery store ask me about it and pretend to jog in place. Nothing escapes people`s attention here, particularly at lunch. I have been eating raw vegetables at lunch for a long time now. I make my lunches because it`s cheaper than buying the bento lunches at school every day. Japanese people don't really eat raw vegetables and so when they hear a giant "CRUNCH!" and see me gnawing on a carrot, they always look shocked. "Erin-sensei, you can EAT that?!" I have found that cucumbers, carrots and green peppers are extremely crunchy and attract a lot of unwanted attention in the quiet teacher`s room. The last time I brought an entire apple to the elementary school to eat in front of the kids at lunch, they all looked at me like I was trying to milk a dog. The bento lunches in Japan are mostly composed of rice and then pieces of meat carefully separated into separate cupcake tins. There aren`t really any vegetables, except maybe a random tomato. Dessert is usually a slice of an apple or a strawberry. Every time I have eaten a bento lunch at school, I feel comatose for the rest of the afternoon. And as for making my own bento, it seems like a lot of effort for some meat and rice. Some bentos are put together nicely and look very beautiful (because there is a focus on not only preparation but presentation in Japan with food) but it`s just not feasible with time. I am not waking up at 5 am to make my lunch for an hour.

Softball league with the teachers starts tomorrow evening and goes for a month. What joy is mine. Everyone is intent on me pitching but can't seem to understand what kind of damage I could do if I hit someone while pitching and they aren't wearing any protective gear.

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