Monday, December 13, 1999
I hate it when I come in and find that people have put stuff all over my desk.
Sunday, December 14, 1999
I love my kerosene heater.
Tuesday, December 14, 1999: The Showdown
Today a student threw a chair at me. He was late for class and we were about to start the Christmas lesson and he banged on the door (it had been locked, long story there). He came in after Kishi-sensei opened it and his bad attitude just came off of him like a stench. She tried to get him to sit in the front (we were in the audio-visual room to watch the video) and I asked him to be quiet and take a seat. He told me to speak Japanese, but then I said very loudly that it is English Class so I am speaking ENGLISH! Well, apparently he didn't like that at all because he picked up a folding chair and threw it over the table at me! I caught it in mid-air and set it down and asked him what the hell was wrong with him!? He began muttering things in Japanese (later, the teacher wouldn't tell me what he said) and came around the table with his fists clenched.
Oh boy. This was it. I switched into a different mode (kind of like when you first feel an earthquake or see a fire, you think in a different way and all of your attention is completely focused on it). I could see what he was going to do. And I knew exactly what I was going to do. I positioned myself to receive him but before he got too close to me the teacher threw her arms around him. He struggled against her, but not too hard because she was able to hold him (apparently hurting a JTE is more taboo than insulting the ALT and approaching him for a fight). He was really speaking in Japanese now (what I mean by that is he was speaking a variety of insults which I could not possibly learn if I stayed here for 10 years) and I said something to the effect that he'd better watch his step or I'd paste him to the floor! I pointed to the floor when I said it and of course he didn't understand it, but he kind of got the gist of it. And he didn't like it too much. He struggled some more and I shouted at Kishi to Get him out of here! I had to open the door as she pulled him out and the whole time he just stared at me and nearly snarled (I'm totally serious his teeth were bared and he was glaring) like some kind of wild animal (the boy has some serious issues). Before she leaves the room, she tells Yoshiko (the brightest girl in the class) to finish the Christmas interview with me.
Of course you can imagine the mood after she hauled him out of there. The lesson wasn't a complete failure in that class, but they didn't get nearly as much out of it as they should have. After I got back to the teachers' room everyone already knew what had happened of course. Apologies all around especially from the vice-principal. They all acted like it was their fault (which, in part, it is for allowing the students to think they can do this and get away with it without consequences). I told them that it wasn't their fault, but the student's fault.
Later, when I saw Kishi-sensei again she told me that the PE teacher had accused him of tearing the baseball net and that's why he was so angry when he came into class (the Japanese people believe in excuses and reasons for behavior, a very anti-existentialist attitude that I can't stand; everyone knows that we're entirely responsible for all of our own actions) and I said I didn't care if the PE teacher killed his dog, that's no excuse to throw chairs at the teachers. I told her that the next time I teach his class (next week) that she'd better send him out of the room or I won't go to the class. I could see that there was a hard internal debate inside her. She said that she couldn't take him out of the class when class was in session no matter what (he has a right to an education) and I said that she could and will. Or I won't go. So, she could either cancel the class or send him to go see the school counselor for an hour or whatever. He could go hang out at Lawson's for all I care. I love asking the Japanese common-sense questions sometimes. I asked her if he was going to learn anything while I was in the class and she said no, of course not, and then I asked her if he would be a disruption during the class, and she said yes, of course he would. And so I asked her if the other kids had a right to an education less than this one unruly punk does and, of course, she couldn't give me an answer. She said that she would think about it.
Wednesday, December 15, 1999: Japan: The Nation of No Consequences
Today I talked to Kishi again about that kid and she said that his parents called up and were very angry at the PE teacher for accusing him of tearing the baseball net. She said they weren't angry at him for cussing at me or having to be thrown out of class and I asked her if they were angry at him for throwing the chair at me and she ... couldn't remember that part! Can you believe that?!? She had blocked it out of her mind. She remembered what he said and hauling him out of the classroom but she forgot the event which triggered everything, the chair. She said that she was so excited, that's why she forgot that one detail and having forgotten, didn't mention it to the parents. I was so pissed off at her. To be honest, I couldn't remember what the student looked like after the incident. It was pretty intense, but it seems like you should be able to remember the basic plot, even if you don't remember specifics, right? Luckily, this week is parent teacher conferences, and she sees the mother or father on Friday. So I made her promise me to tell them about the chair and my refusal to teach with him in the classroom. She hated that. Y'know, Japanese people, in general, avoid unpleasantness like the plague. I mean, nobody likes dealing with uncomfortable situations, but for the Japanese it's multiplied by a factor of 100. She looked like she was going to wet herself she was so uncomfortable just talking to me about it.
The student came up to me during third period (I guess his teacher told him to come to me during class) and apologized. It was a pitiful apology because he treated it like it was funny or some kind of joke. I was even more pissed and to make matters worse there was no English teacher around to translate. I had to make do with my limited Japanese and I guess he understands that what he did was "inappropriate" but not "wrong" because no consequences will come of his action. Nothing will happen to him, no disciplinary measures will take place. For throwing a chair at his teacher. Crazy. And what made it worse, was that the teachers gathered around all seemed pleased that he apologized, as if one little crappy apology would make it all go away. Well, surprise, surprise! In the world which surrounds me there are consequences, and there are consequences for him as far as I can make them. I remembered him when he came to me today. He's a bad boy but he always shouts out hello to me in English and will sometimes answer in class if he knows the answer. I used to like him.
On other matters, I've been thinking about the Trojan Page. I feel bad that I'm not updating it like my real page, but I really don't think any of the teachers are checking it for updates. I think they look at it once, mention how good it is, then never check it again. I think I'll put a counter on the Trojan page to see if it's worth updating. I won't stress if it doesn't get any hits.
What made my day today was a call from my old friend Waka. She was a Japanese exchange student at UCI and I was helping her with her English conversation. We became friends, but I thought I'd never see her again when we last saw each other. I'd planned only on staying in Japan for one year and she wouldn't have returned by then, so I figured that was it. But now she's back in Japan and she'll be in Kyoto on the weekend. Me and another girl I know, Machiko, will go see her. What's strange is that when Waka found out I was going to be placed in Wakayama, she remembered that her best friend from high school (Machiko) lived there. So she gave me her address and phone number and we got to know each other. It was really good to have a friend here when I got here. And to see them all in the same place at the same time will be majorly strange. Wow. Talk about your worlds colliding, neh? I had a crush on her for a while... I wonder how she's changed...
Thursday, December 16, 1999: The Right Thing
Today Ms. Kishi came up to me and told me that she wanted to cancel all of my second-time third-grade visits. She said that if we're going to cancel that one class that that kid is in who threw the chair at me, we should cancel all of them, to be fair. Can you believe that?? I was so angry and I never get angry! I told her there's no way I won't see the other third-grade classes because of one little punk in one of the classes. She's so afraid to disrupt the "Wa". The Harmony. She makes me sick. She says that we can't take that kid out of class, but I know she can, she just doesn't want to have to explain herself to the parents or the principal. In Japan, all kids have a right to an education, and so must be present in the class, even if they're disruptive. But there are precedents for taking disruptive kids out of the class, she just doesn't want to make another one, it could make her the center of attention for a while. Most people here are afraid to deal with any circumstances from possible actions which could disrupt the "Wa". Now she faces a dilemma. What she won't do and what I tell her I'm going to do. I hope she does the right thing. And yes, I know this is a little culturally supremacist of me, but, hey. I'm right, you know what I mean?
While a second grade class was watching the my family's Christmas video from last year one of the girls started to cry! I guess all that family tenderness stuff was too much for her. I couldn't believe it!
I got a call this afternoon from the electronics store and my voltage converter finally got here! When I got there, however, I found out that they didn't order me a straight converter, but a heavy, bulky, transformer! It's twice as big and three times as heavy as an ordinary voltage converter! It has a switch for both directions, but at first I couldn't figure out which to switch it to: the power going into the transformer or the voltage I want out of it, and of course, no one at the electronics store knew either, and they can read the instructions. Sigh. So, after about an hour of pondering the matter at home, I finally figured out that you switch it to the voltage which is coming in, not what you want out. To test it I hooked it up to my Christmas lights and switched it while it was on (kids, don't do that at home). Now, my computer is significantly faster and a little quieter. I still need a new hard drive, though.
Friday, December 17, 1999
I had prepared a lesson today to teach some Western gestures. One of the gestures was the circling finger around the ear to signify someone being crazy. She asked me four times if she could white it out because she said it was too bad and we couldn't teach the students that. BUT I'd done this lesson at two other schools and the other teachers didn't have a problem with it, they thought it was interesting! Kishi is so fearful of doing something wrong or something which might draw attention it's amazing. She needs to relax. The fourth time she asked me I was so annoyed that I let her white it out on the worksheet just to get her off my back.
Had tacos for dinner at the neighbors' house. It was really good! Real tortillas and everything! It's so hard to find decent tortillas around here.
The plan is to meet Waka and her friends at around 4 tomorrow at Kyoto station. I'm pretty excited! When last we saw each other, I was sure I'd never see her again. And seeing her in Japan... it's just so out of context!
Saturday, December 18, 1999
Today I left for Kyoto a little early so I could get a few last Christmas presents. It took about 20 minutes to track Waka and her friends down in the enormous Kyoto train station, but we finally found eachother, right in front of the huge Christmas tree. I was so glad to see her again I gave her the biggest bear hug I could. We caught up, went out for dinner at a Chinese place, and froze our butts off on the crowded streets of Kyoto. Her friends were all really cool and we had a great time. She told me one of the big obstacles in coming back was getting the accent down. She's from Kyushu which is the Japanese equivalent of Hicksville, so if she uses that natural accent people will think less of her. And while she was away for 2 years not practicing her Japanese, she reverted to her native accent and forgot the accent she used when she was in Japanese university. She's changed quite a bit, but she's still basically the same Waka. I got back from Kyoto late, spent 4+ hours on the train today, but it was well worth it.