“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day” the wonderful words of the Mamas and the Papas (one of my most listened to artists on my iTunes). Well for me, this Monday (the 13 th) wasn’t such a terrible day. Last week flew by, and after teaching at elementary schools for the last 7 days, I finally am moving onto Junior High School on Wednesday! I think that teaching at JHS would be easier since there is really no preparation on my part because I am a true AET (Assistant English Teacher) in those classrooms. Whereas at ES, I am for the most part in charge of the entire class period.
Last Friday, I was done with classes by 11:30am, awesome right?! Not so much, since my official working hours are from 8:20-4:05pm. So yes, until my job picks up, I sat at my desk until 4, and then, on my off time, I had meetings until 6pm on a Friday night! You would think that would be antagonizing, but no! I spent my Friday afternoon researching my upcoming trip to Kyoto this weekend. The best part about working “overtime” is that we are basically on the honor system to work roughly 35 hours a week. So, when I worked 2 extra hours on Friday, I’m able to leave early another day in return. Personally, I love this idea. You are only scheduled to work a certain number of hours and not expected to do overtime (as ALTs, we are definitely not held to the same standards as a typical Japanese worker is). The honor system here is truly amazing, but I guess living in a small town has its own way of checking in on what the ALT is doing (since I stick out very well).
It should be in my job description to spread the word about Japanese School Lunches to those outside of Japan or unfamiliar with school lunches. Oh man, if you want a high calorie (think high starch/carb diet), this is the one for you. Elementary students will have roughly 650-750 calories per lunch, and JH students will have between 750-950 calories per lunch. It’s kind of scary to think about since when you look down at your tray, it doesn’t seem so bad. On Friday, I got a treat for lunch. The main course was one slice of cold French toast (no syrup), broccoli salad, pork and beans (I passed), an orange slice, and a carton of milk. I remember the story that my grandma told me about a boy (maybe her nephew) who wouldn’t mix his food together during meals. So, if the meal consisted of salad and spaghetti, he would eat all of one before indulging in the other. I loved how my grandma pointed out that it all ends up mixed up in you stomach after you eat it. Well, 10 years later, I understand that boy’s point. How does taking a bite of French toast and then broccoli sound? My point exactly! Let’s just say, when I first look at my lunch I make a strategic plan as to what I want to eat first, second, and third.
Before coming to Japan in August, I had been here 3 times for about 2 weeks each time with the JMP and the University of Idaho. Recently, I was sitting at my desk, drinking my daily cup of cold green tea and I was reminded of my first trip to Japan when I was in the 5th grade. That trip was all about sightseeing and actually witnessing the culture we had spent the last 6 years learning about. I remember being with my dad (who was a chaperone) and the other kids in my group sitting down at a tea house (or something similar). At the time, I remember thinking, oh my gosh, my prayers have been answered, finally something I want to drink…I thought it was apple juice. Now, 11 years ago, I guess it seemed feasible that there was apple juice in the teacup, poured from the teakettle, served at a tea house/restaurant. I guess its like when people are stranded in the desert and they finally see water but in reality its not there, same idea. Well, I remember taking a huge sip of the “apple juice” and having this huge repulsive wave come over my body, starting with my taste buds. It was not apple juice, and I had to do something with this tea that I was not a fan of. I was so disappointed and I didn’t like one bit, so for the rest of the time, I didn’t dare touch the cup of green tea. Finally the time has come where I am mature enough to enjoy the sophistication of green tea or matcha. So far, every day I’ve been at school I’ve had the privilege of having cold green tea. And in the summer, cold green tea is the way to go, as it is incredibly refreshing. Also, going from school to school means I get to try different kinds of green tea, some are weaker than others, or some have real greenish color or some are fairly clear. Lets just say I’m very thankful that my taste buds decided to warm up to green tea before I moved to Japan, or every day could be a challenge (it is fairly difficult to refuse things in Japan, mainly because the response “no, I’m fine” means “yes, I would like some more”)…So there is my wonderful tangent on green tea, my once (or more) daily fix of a true Japanese culture and lifestyle.
Real English Lessons
On Tuesday, I finally moved on from my self-introduction lesson and taught a real English class! I taught 5th and 6th graders about “can/can’t” and “like/don’t like”. Lets just say I knew it was going to be a rough day for two reasons. First, the ES is the toughest of the group, today in one of my 5th grade classes, two boys got in a physical shoving and hitting match, where one finally ended up on the floor and the teacher yelling at them. Second, since school started back up 2 weeks ago, the ES students have been preparing vigourosly for Undokai (Sports Day) which is this weekend. Before my classes, all of the students went through an entire run through of Undokai, literally trying their hardest to win the meets. After you combine those two, well, you get a tough day to teach English. I wouldn’t say I failed by any means, I gave it my all and had plenty of energy (or in Japanese “genki”). I am very thankful for the homeroom teachers, who were able to translate some of my directions into Japanese, or else, then I might have considered it a failure. Overall, it wasn't too bad, it just required more of my voice than I am used to, I think I’m going to buy throat lozenges the next time I’m at the store. On the flipside, I was treated to the full run through of Undokai, which was fun to watch, I even took some pictures so you could all see the excitement in the little 1st and 2nd graders (although, I’m not sure if I was supposed to, oh well).
That is the entire Junior High School! Only 46 students!
They had some crazy relays.
What kind of Sports Day would it be without Tug of War?
Or a giant jump rope contest, that is the entire second grade.
Here are some highlights from the past week:
- The 3rd graders at the largest ES in the town thought the Statue of Liberty was holding an ice cream cone. THAT was funny.
- A girl in the same 3rd grade class was obsessed with grabbing my stomach (the homeroom teacher was a victim too). She even made some weird noise when she was doing it, like the noise you make when you are saying something to a baby (weird, I know). She tried it 3 times on me, and I swear if she tries it again, I’m going to grab her belly, since it might possibly be larger than mine.
- My upperbody is very sore from spending time with the kids on the playground. Those monkey bars are killer! But, it reminds of a time when working up a sweat was actually fun.
- My face is literally tired and sore from saying hello to every student I pass in the hallway (and from smiling at the cute little kids).
- For all the hassle and requirements to get a drivers license in Japan, they honestly are the worst drivers I have EVER SEEN. No question. I cannot tell you how many accidents I have almost seen happen, or for that matter, almost been a part of. Yes, it’s scary, but thankfully, Japan has a wonderful train system (maybe that’s why it’s so popular?)
- I can pay a lot of my monthly bills at the “combini” or convenience stores, for example, today I went into a combini and paid my home phone bill.
- During cleaning time today and after school, they played Christmas tunes. I heard “We Three Kings” and I started to hum along, no one else even knew that the song was considered a holiday song in other parts of the world.
- Landscaping is done by teachers or faculty members. I have seen the vice principals at two ES doing routine landscaping now. Talk about a different take on cutting costs.
- When teachers or staff members go on vacation, they bring back omiyage, or gifts. The gifts are usually a little food treat, and they are meant as an apology. Literally, they are trying to say I’m sorry for inconveniencing you all by going on vacation. I like them because I have gotten some wonderful treats from teachers or staff members I haven’t even met yet!
- After being completely immersed in the Japanese culture and language for over 6 weeks now, I am shocked about how much my Japanese has improved!
In the words of my ES students: that’s all for today! Wish me luck as I start my JHS teaching adventure tomorrow!
Just for kicks:
Here is my electricity bill. Just got it today. Let's just say, I have no idea what it says, just that I owe a lot more money than they said I should owe (for electricity and water bills, they send out a notice of how much energy or water you used during the previous month, and what you will be expected to pay when the real bill comes.) Well, my real bill and my announcement bill were not the same by any means...