Here are some things that are also not glamorous:
|This is a sandwich with the crusts cut off and|
the sides pushed together. In this case, the
inside is filled with salsa.
|This is the name of the building, not the menu.|
I go to middle school on Monday through Thursday, and generally I just think up some activities for the students to do during the first part of class. The teacher in charge of the class teaches the next part of class, and calls on me to repeat words with my soothing and masculine voice every once in a while. Every so often, I feel like a cult leader that is brainwashing my minions with repetitive chants ("I am a Korean girl. I like listening to J-pop better than K-pop. Arashi is my favorite J-pop band."). Unfortunately, we go on less field trips than most cults.
|I did get to fly kites with these elementary school children, though!|
In certain classes, the students don't repeat that many words, so I am forced to stand in a corner or resort to other activities. If some students are being disruptive or asleep, I usually step in. Some students have figured out that they don't actually have to do anything, though. There is no detention, calling parents, or even getting held back a grade if you choose not to participate. There's even one student who says his back hurts too much to sit in a chair, so he doesn't have to go to the majority of his classes (except the ones he likes, of course). I occasionally am told to go play basketball with him in the gym, which is better than sitting around.
|Or crouching around. When the other teacher pictured saw this,|
his reaction was: "I need to stop wearing blue and white together."
Sometimes I try to bond with the kids, but mostly they don't want to talk to me. In order to help this situation, I have done various things, including arm-wrestling every middle school boy and playing ping-pong against the middle school girls. While I would generally lose most arm-wrestling matches I entered, and win most ping-pong matches, the result was the opposite here. The coach had me play all the girls from worst to best, and I won the first ping-pong match handily, won the second after a heated deuce, and lost the next 20 without the girls breaking a sweat.
|This was in my dreams for weeks.|
|My first letter: "Dear Nate, please correct my English. SDFLS DF KJF|
BDFEI VNZ QOI EI FNV. Thank you, Tsubasa."
In school, there are a few noticeable differences that still get me. For example, the students stay in one class, and the teachers change classrooms. Also, I need to change my shoes constantly. I have a pair that I come to work in, a separate pair for inside the building, a pair that I use if I want to run around outside with the kids, a pair that I use for any event in the gym, and I have to change into the provided slippers when I use the bathroom. Also the bathroom is a squat toilet, which I still have trouble pooping in.
|I still haven't run into a situation where I would need to use the ones on the left.|
When my power got turned off because I failed to recognize my bill in the mail, I turned to one teacher and said, "now, I don't want everyone to know, but my power got turned off..." at this point I was interrupted as she shouted, "Nate's power got turned off! Does anyone know what to do?" The principal then called the board of education, the power company, and my landlord and angrily conferred with each one.
People try to do what they can to help me, to the best of their ability. One teacher will always make sure I know what's going on, because despite studying Japanese constantly, I still have no idea what they are saying at the morning meeting every day. Another teacher always tries to make conversation despite my limited ability to reply intelligently. One day she asked me, "Do you like pumpkins?" I replied that I did, and when I came back from the next class I was teaching, a large and green pumpkin was sitting on my desk. I had never cooked a pumpkin before, but it was a good day to learn.
Speaking of pumpkins, I did attend a halloween party, a holiday which is not widely celebrated in Japan. I came with no costume, and was gifted various items of cloth which were pinned to me by a helpful old lady.
|Yes, we have racist costumes here in Japan too.|
This guy with autism is one of my favorite students at school. He is always happy, no matter what happens, and always greets me with:
"Hello. How are you?"
Me: "I'm great. How about you?"
Him: "Why thank you!"
I eventually started changing my answer to "I'm great. You look good today!" so that his answer would make more sense as a reply. He always finds me wherever I am so that we can walk into the lunchroom together. When his grade is signaled, he either holds my hand or wraps his arm around me and we proudly walk in to the lunchroom as a team.
On one fateful day though, we were late to lunch and he changed his grip right as we were walking through the door. This caused me to look down and forget to duck under the door. As all the other students had already sat down, the resounding THUD! that my head made on the doorframe drew quite a bit of attention and "are you alright?"-type-responses from everyone. Although it wasn't the most comfortable moment, I walked away with my ego bruised more than my forehead. Now this guy makes sure to duck along with me whenever we go in.
I feel like this is a great time to randomly insert a commercial for my favorite Japanese face-muscle-strengthening beauty product.
|Huuuum indeed. Huuuum indeed.|
|If you write them down, your goals are more likely to happen.|
Ping-pong photo credit: cartoonbrew.com