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Monday, September 8, 2008

Torigoe- this is from last Monday

Torigoe (1 Sep)
Today is my first day at Torigoe, my twice a month elementary. I got here very early because I overestimated how much time it would take to walk to the bus stop and ended up on the 7.38 bus instead of the 7.58 bus. The bus cost 170 yen! That’s about $1.70 US, which is really expensive for me. It cost 75 cents US at home. Anyhow, the way the bus works is that you take a ticket when you get in. And a board at the front of the bus displays your number and the price you pay, which goes up as you travel. I think next week I will walk to the bus stop by the high school and see if I can save 30 cents. Or not.
Any how, once I got here, I went to assembly. Assembly was weird. The principal did Maths!!! After she introduced myself in English and Japanese to the students. We exited to music!!! Next was the morning meeting. I introduced myself in Japanese and the staff freaked out. They introduced themselves and I promptly forgot all their names. I did, however, remember which forms they taught. Some of the forms here are combined. Like 3rd and 4th grade and 5th and 6th. The whole school is the same size as my smallest class at Ichinohe Chugakko, 33 students. Or at least that is how many I counted at assembly. Today I went to ninensei first (second graders). There were only 4 of them. The second grade teacher is the English activity coordinator so she had a lesson plan done out. Then back to the staff room during the random 10 minute break between everything at schools in Japan. In second period I had 3.4. There was no lesson plan there. I did my introduction, then I had the students introduce themselves, then I did “I like” with some random foods and then we play concentration with foods in either English or Japanese. Then it was break time. I went back to the staff room and the lady across from me offered em coffee and I said yes. For what reason I do not know since I don’t like coffee. The English coordinator gave me some sheets to draw my introduction on the bulletin board. I think I had too much fun with it. I wrote in all the harder words in Katakana and Hiragana, except the word for capital which I don’t know. The teacher who sits next to me freaked about me writing in Japanese. She struck up a conversation and I actually understood most of what she said. She asked what we eat in Barbados and I told her rice, chicken, spaghetti, flying fish. I didn’t tell her about coucou. It is hard enough to explain in English, far less in Japanese.
After I finished designing my introduction billboard I wrote a poem about my Japanese.
Today I said Konnichiwa to someone I didn’t know
They asked me a question
And suddenly it flowed
Coming from my lips was a steady stream
Of Japanese and where it came from I can’t begin to dream
But come it did and understood it was nonetheless
Despite my intermittent cries of “Nihongo heta des-“
“I am bad at Japanese”, even though at the time
My mouth was making my truth sound very like a lie
The responses came “Iie, Jouzu desu” and “Subarashii”
“No, you are very good,” and “It’s wonderful” they said to me.
I bowed and smiled as I turned my back
Why must my mouth tell lies on me, without a modicum of tact?
Or maybe I am learning Japanese, maybe I can speak well
Only time and the next conversation can truly tell!

It’s how I feel today because I understand most of what is going on. Lunch time came and I ate in the staff room with the Principal, Vice Principal, the lady across from me who puts out the food and who I assume is the janitor-ish, maid-ish thing (this position is hard to define in Japan because they do very different things from the ones in the Western world). The principal freaked out that I was eating with chopsticks, but that was what I found in Scott’s drawer. It was either that or fingers! Lol! As usual lunch was a very strange medley: tofu and fish soup (drank the soup- ate one piece of tofu for good measure, some mixed veg thing, which I tried to no avail to pick the carrot out of, rice, and a tempura thing ( I wish I could explain tempura, it looks like a hairy nugget, but it can be shrimp, meat or vegetable).
The principal was walking by when I started with my kanji practice and stood over me talking about how brilliant I was to be writing Kanji, so the Vice Principal walked over. Looking my computer and my shirt, he asked me if I liked pink. I said yes. He said that pink and purple are his favourite colours! Same as mine. If he was a Westerner everyone would think him gay for liking these colours.
One of my 3rd.4th graders appeared to tell me she was writing a letter for me. I would have understood her but she said “Romaji o mimasu ka,” which is like “Do you look at romanji, instead of can you read romaji?” Then two of the ninensei (2nd grade) came and said “Join us!” in English! And dragged me off to the library and asked me what half the pictures in the book were called in English.
The bell saved me, and they ran off to clean. The International coordinator came over to give me the list of staff names I had asked her to do for me. Turns out the lady sitting next to me with the face mask on (because Japanese don’t stay home when they’re sick ) is the health teacher. There is some cruel irony in the health teacher bringing her sick self to school. The coordinator gave me the curriculum and showed me where each grade was on it. After cleaning was 5thperiod and I had the 5.6 grade. We did pretty much the same thing I did for 3.4. But in this class the Principal came along to take pictures. I had a lot of fun with the kids today. It’s a pity I only see this school twice a month. Oh well!
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