Monday, September 13, 1999: Practice Makes Perfect

Today one student came by to see pictures from my trip. For the past couple of weeks, I've been giving a short talk in each of my classes about my summer vacation and I showed them some pictures and told them if they wanted to see more to come down to the teachers' room and I'd show them. I showed him the pictures and talked to him a little bit. The students don't really come to talk to me anymore... the novelty of being a foreigner has worn off. I don't mind that so much, but I wish they still wanted to talk to me, many of these kids really need the practice!

Speaking of practice, Mariko came by after school to practice her story for the English contest. She lived in America until she was four years old then her family moved back here. I practiced with her for about an hour or so. When I went back into the teachers' room there was nobody there except an English teacher and he asked me if I was going to play softball with the other teachers. Huh? I went outside and sure enough, there they were (most of them) practicing for the softball tournament with the other schools' staff this week. Nobody tells me anything around here... granted, I might have heard and understood if I had actually paid attention during the morning meetings, rather than involving myself with eating my Pop Tarts, but hey, what are you gonna do, you know what I'm saying?

So I go outside just to watch (I was wearing my semi-good clothes) and they cajole me into batting a few (about 30). Then I went home to stress about the lessons for the next day even though I promised myself I wouldn't do that anymore.

I finally got an email from Hiroko! The email was really short, but she's ok and that's the important thing. Must be having too much fun!

Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Today I'm really, really tired. I stayed up way too late last night trying to put together a worksheet that didn't even turn out that well. I saw Mayu early on and she was kind enough to lie and tell me that I didn't look so tired. My standards for worksheets has noticeable declined. Some of the sentences in the grid game didn't make a whole lot of sense. I got another email from Hiroko, she's going to try to come back next week.

Me and the neighbors went over to Ondria's and Kristy's place for a pot luck dinner. It was pretty cool. I've been feeling weird that I haven't seen them much. But it was good to see them today.

Tomorrow is "Respect for the Aged Day" so it's a national holiday. Hmm... I wonder if they really respect the Aged tomorrow. Is that like grandparents' day back home? Is this the day the salaryman gives up his seat in the crowded train for the elderly woman who's standing a foot away from him instead of ignoring her like he usually does? WHOAH! Did I just have a flash of bitterness or what?? At any rate, the gals are going to a festival tomorrow and invited us to go along with them. Its the one where the crazy Japanese people carry these huge shrines through the streets, running, and sometimes people get hurt or killed. It should be wicked. We'll see. I think it's supposed to rain tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 1999: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Got up extra early this morning to make it over to the train station on time, but as the time to leave approached the rain worsened, and worsened, and worsened. It got so bad that I didn't even want to walk outside. It looked like a hurricane and I couldn't imagine anyone running with a shrine on their shoulders through that. The idea seemed ridiculous. So we didn't go after all. I could have shot someone, though, when a two hours later the rain was all cleared away and the sun shone through the clouds. The weather taunted us. I suppose we could have made it if we really tried, but it was getting close to the time of the festival starting. I'm going to check out if there are any festivals going on this weekend anywhere nearby.

One of my old teacher-friends called me up today and asked if we could go out tomorrow with her friend. Dinner and then probably dessert.

Thursday, September 16, 1999

I helped the two students with their English speeches again. Sometimes, I really think I'm being too critical. Every time one of them reads their story I have at least a dozen things I want them to practice. I asked Doi-sensei about this, she helps me when I meet with the students, but she says they don't think of it like that. It's just that Junko always looks so sad when I tell her what to work on. Hmmm... I thought I was being as positive as I could. You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, though.

Softball was cancelled because of the rain. Oh, darn. Well, it's not like I was elated that it was cancelled, but it makes today a little easier. I had to go get ready to go out tonight.

While we were out, my friend asked me what I thought of her friend. Which somewhat surprised me because the last time I went out with her I was ticked off because she made it look like she was setting me up with her friend (not that I was all that enthusiastic about her, or even would have gone out with her, mind you), but this time she really was trying to set me up with another of her friends. She was nice, but not all that interesting. We went to a restaurant called "Friendly's" which is like a Japanized Denny's then rented "You've Got Mail" which is actually a really good movie. I had seen it before but they hadn't.

Something she said kind of bugged me, though. She called me "Jeff-kun" which is the honorific you use when talking to younger people. Many of the teachers use that with the boys in their classes. In fact, it really ticked me off. I may look young, but hey, man. If they knew all the things that I've done and seen in my life... I'm not some little kid. And I'm less than a year younger than her. She's always saying how much she looks up to me, but I guess she really does think of me as some younger person. I'm not sure what's up with that. I guess maybe a lot of people think that about me solely based on my appearance. That's really annoying.

We ended up back at my place to watch it despite my protests that it really was a sty. One of them lived with her parents, the other said she didn't have a VCR. Hmmmm. Whenever I watch a movie with a Japanese person I feel bad that they don't get so much of the humor. It's GOOD stuff, too! There's not too much in the humor business here... there are no Jerry Seinfelds in Japan.

Friday, September 17, 1999: Up in Smoke

This morning was my last day at Seiwa and I put my foot down to the kocho-sensei. I told him that under no circumstances would I do any more nonsense speeches. I'd been there for a year and I'd be there for a year longer and there's no sense in making a grand ceremony of my comings and goings, which most teachers don't even care about anyway. Well, I didn't exactly say it like that, but he acceded when I told him that it made me feel like I wasn't a real part of the staff, which it does in a way, but more than that it's just a pain in the butt.

Today I had the worst class at Seiwa, it's a 2nd grade class. Several of the kids are little disrespecting @%^!#$^@#$. If I could only slap a few of them around... man, that would make me feel so much better.

What surprised me most about the class today was not that they were worse than last time, but it was when I found out that their homeroom teacher is the music teacher. She's soooooo nice! I couldn't believe it. Usually, the really good teachers have good homeroom classes, but not in this case. I also found out today that after the stink I put up about this class the last time I visited it, she pleaded with them to behave for me. Man, that sucks. She's so cool and has a crap homeroom. But she can't be responsible (entirely) for her class. Homeroom teachers have too much responsibility and no power whatsoever. In Japan, a homeroom teacher is responsible for the student's behavior inside and outside of the classroom. The parent has so little responsibility. One teacher told me that she thinks many parents are lazy and shrug complete responsibility for their kids off onto whoever is the poor soul who is that student's homeroom teacher that year. It will be a long time before that system changes.

Poor little Eri. All alone in a sea of chaos and mediocrity. The lone good student amongst the embodiment of her country's sociological decline.

Today we had a fire drill. First some teachers set off some smoke bombs outside of the school and set off the alarm. Man, those things were so cool. It's like opening up a can of soda and out spews really thick clouds of smoke. I wish I had a few cans... you could have some real fun with those. Next they all lined up outside on the field and a few people who looked like they wanted to be in the military took turns lecturing them on how important their school is and how important it is that they all know how to use the fire extinguishers, because, you know. In a real fire, they won't freak out and just run out of the building, they will remember their duty to their school and do everything they can to put out the fire to the last dying ember. Right?

So they took a select group of students and teachers and lined them up. Then they filled large tubs with gasoline and lit them with these stick like things (hey, you X-File freaks out there... they looked like those mini blow-torch sticks that the rebel aliens use to set everyone on fire!). It was pretty cool. Then, one at a time, they ran at the fire and put it out with the fire extinguisher. Then they talked and talked and talked some more. Action packed day.

Saturday, September 18, 1999

I love the rain. I could just sit and watch and listen to it all day. Also, the rain makes a perfect excuse for not doing anything. "Oh, I can't wash laundry, because it's raining" and "Oh, I can't go out grocery shopping, because it's raining". That quickly becomes, "Oh, I can't study, because it's raining". It's great.

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