Monday, June 21, 1999: Sanctuary Lost
One of the teachers at Isao used to tell me to go to a certain room downstairs whenever I was sleepy or tired of the smoke in the teachers room or just wanted some quiet. There's this room where they've got a TV, desks, chairs, and nice leather sofas. It's great! Finally I could get away from all the distractions in the teachers room and find peace!! Ahhhhhh... Could just take a nap whenever I wanted (cause God knows I don't get enough sleep!) But I've only started using it recently. Today I took a book down there and pretended to read it while lying down. A teacher came in and left and shortly thereafter an English teacher came in and said that this room was used for talking to students who "were having some troubles", or being little punks and in that room they get bawled out or counseled by the teachers. Sigh. Had to leave cause there was a bawling session coming up.
Saw Mai on the way home today. She was heading towards the train station to go to Takatsumi JHS. That's so far... I wonder how she made friends out that way, but this is a small city, I keep having to remind myself that.
Tuesday, June 22, 1999: Revelations
Today the homeroom teachers were buzzing. The reason? A group of students were found smoking on Takatsumi JHS grounds!! AHH!! One guess who was included in the teacher-made arrests. Sigh. Damn. They're so young. Breaks the heart. Actually, the teachers probably wouldn't have cared, but they were smoking on the JHS grounds. That's baaad. What's worse is the JTEs told me that a number of the parents they called didn't care that their sons or daughters smoked. They know. They know their kids smoke, drink, and do God knows what else, but they don't care. I can't get over this immense disappointment I feel; she was one of my favorite students. I saw her as I was leaving school and asked her about it. She said she wasn't smoking, but I think she was lying. Then she said, "Who cares smoking?" I said, "I do, and so should you. It's a dirty habit and it's really bad for you." She said that she didn't understand, but I could tell from her eyes that she did.
Later that night I went out with Akiko (teacher from Seiwa) and we met her friend for dinner. As we went to pick up her friend she was priming me up! She told me how beautiful she was and how she had just broken up with her boyfriend and how we had so much in common. Sigh. It sounded like a fix-up when we decided to go out last week, but I asked her flat out anyway. I asked her if she was trying to fix us up (that concept took some explaining) then she said no no it wasn't like that at all. Sigh. I really don't mind that she wasn't trying that, I'm thankful for that, but just all my instincts told me that she was... why would she say those things in that manner, in that tone? We had a good time regardless. We talked about so many things...it got kind of interesting when we talked about dating. Contradictions. They said that external materialistic things don't matter but they both said a stable job was important to them and they'd never date a guy who was younger than them (even a year!). They said a lot of things like that, and when I called them on the contradictions they gave a very, very Japanese response, "Hmm. It is difficult." Sigh. Wakarimasen. I don't understand. I will never understand Japanese women, but that's ok, I'm not in the market now anyway.
Wednesday, June 23, 1999
Today first period was "Morals Class". They gathered the kids in the gym and some of the teachers take turns talking. I wish I knew what they were saying, this place (Japan) is pretty weird from my point of view and I'd like to know what they think will make them better citizens.
Talked to a JTE about a particular lesson and the section that class is in the book is between two stories, one about a group of girls having a slumber party and the other is a story of two children who die in the aftermath of Hiroshima. This is a perfect time to talk about this. There are a number of people (despite the America-worship which I encounter) who are angry at Westerners and Americans in particular for WWII. Yamagata (my JTE) was loathe to talk about this and express her opinions. I insisted on it and if she tries to worm her way out of it tomorrow I'm going to be really ticked off. I know the Japanese are really anti-confrontationalists, but this may be the only time in their lifetimes which they get to hear an American's viewpoint of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today it really rained. It's about time.
Thursday, June 24, 1999: Fisticuffs
Rain again. Akiko's much anticipated turn team-teaching with the ALT had arrived. We talked about Slumber Parties first. The talk went over really well, even the obnoxious kid who always ticks me off got into the discussion and was asking intelligent questions!! I was so shocked! BUT Akiko was also prompting the kids to ask more questions (which I hate, if they don't have any questions, they shouldn't be forced to invent dumb questions), and she was doing this purposefully so we wouldn't have enough time for the discussion about Hiroshima! Arghhhh!!!!!
At the beginning of our second class together there was an incident. When everyone stands up to give the greeting to the teachers, one boy was sitting down and the other was standing right above him speaking quite harshly to him. I made my way to the back of the class as fast as I could, but I was too late, the fight had begun! Fists were swinging and clothes were pulled and in my struggle to pry their hands off eachother they pushed themselves out into the hall. I got them to stop swinging at eachother by shouting at them and by then I'd attracted the attention of Akiko and another teacher who was in the adjacent classroom. They rushed up (apprehensively) to the kids and the three of us managed to get them apart without any further punches being thrown. They then rushed them down the hall to lecture them and I was left alone in the class. As you can guess, the attitude in the class was rather rambunctious after that! But everyone was stone quiet. To break the silence, I said in a loud voice (in Japanese), "Today I am by myself!" Everyone busted up laughing and I began the warm-up, which thankfully wasn't that hard to explain. Akiko came back after ten minutes or so, minus the violent offenders and we proceeded with the class.
The school counselor at Isao is a college grad student by the name of Maho. We used to go out every now and then at the beginning of the year, but I haven't really talked to her in months. She says she loves talking to me because my facial features and gestures are so animate. But today she told me that she thought that Americans were too honest. Too honest! I asked her if that meant that Japanese lied too much and she said "maybe". Haha! Couldn't believe it. She just meant that Japanese are far more concealatory about their true emotions than Westerners are, which everyone knows already.
Friday, June 25, 1999: Hiroshima Revisited
To start off the day today I gave a stern lecture to Akiko on the value of exact translations instead of sugar-coating it like so many people do (at least here anyway). I felt it was really important that the kids knew exactly what I said when I gave my Hiroshima talk rather than some dulled-down version. I succeeded in having the talk today.
The outcome was really interesting. During the talk, one student was asleep, a couple seemed bored, a LOT were uncomfortable, and the rest were quite interested. The mood was soooooo somber. It got even more so when I asked whose grandfathers fought in WWII. Wow. What a mood changer. Quite a lot of them did have relatives who were involved, and of course they were so reluctant to say that they did to the "American". Akiko, of course, was so uncomfortable she looked like she was about to pass a kidney stone throughout the whole talk! I was really glad I did this, but nobody asked any questions... not that I'm surprised, just disappointed. This may be the only time in their entire lives they get to ask an American about the Western viewpoint of Hiroshima.
Saturday, June 26, 1999: Ramen Wars
There's this ramen shop in Wakayama that is supposedly famous throughout all of Japan. The entire restaurant is smaller than my living room in America and it seats approximately fifteen people. Sometimes in the evening you can see people sitting on stools outside the restaurant holding huge bowls of steaming ramen in their hands as they slurp their noodles. Never mind if it's freezing or blazingly hot outside, for that matters not, there is only the ramen.
Me and some JETs went to that ramen shop today. I don't know if you guys know this, but once you get into a small restaurant like this you are expected to order, INHALE your food, then get out to make way for more customers. You can't sit there for an hour and talk philosophy like you can at Denny's or In and Out. Another thing, the Japanese are always talking about how large American portions of things are, but bowls of ramen are HUGE and there's no way in the Abyss that I can finish one. I can eat hamburgers and pizza up the wazoo, but ramen is the domain of the Japanese. Also, after you eat all the noodles, there's the broth (which every respectable Japanese person drinks down to the last drop, of course). Now the broth, you must understand, is probably laden with enough MSG to kill a small horse after a few bowls. I couldn't even think of drinking it down. Sorry, folks! That's one part of the Japanese experience I'm going to take a pass on.
After the ramen, we went across the street to a place called "Royal Host" to grab some western sweets and conversation. While inside, one of my friends saw a JTE of his and she told him she had just come back from an advanced screening of the net STAR WARS movie! It had a couple later showings too! So, of course, we had to go. We went and bought tickets and came back later. BUT we were tooooo late and we ended up in the front row!! I couldn't believe it! Cruel, cruel Fates! I'd been waiting for this for years and this is how I'm rewarded with my patience!?? Oh, woe is me!
Actually, it wasn't that bad. I really got used to it after a while. The movie was good, but it seemed like it was written for a younger audience. Had way too many computer generated effects and I could have done without _____ and _______. (spoilers omitted for those few who haven't seen the movie yet)