Thursday, May 15, 2008

"You will join those who have even forgotten how to swim."

Two months today I've been in Japan. So sad to think about that. If I'm unable to renew my contract after a year, that means I only have twelve months to be here. Which leaves me with only ten months more, far too little.

The third-years are assigned to ask me questions in passive tense. The majority are whether various Japanese food and things are eaten, done, and known in America - sushi, ramen, miso, kendo, judo, hashi. When my answer is yes there is invariably amazement. I like the unpredictable questions. The loud girl who asks, "Are you loved by someone?" When I play dumb and say, "Yes, my family" she rolls her eyes "Chigau yo!" (not that!). Holds up her pinky in the symbol for boyfriend/girlfriend - based on the myth that there is a "red string of destiny" that ties two lovers together by their little fingers. If I had a yen for every time I've been asked if I have a boyfriend/husband/"rabah"... But in the same class a boy asked, "Is existence of god believed in America?" Not quite grammatically correct, but still leaps and bounds ahead of his classmates, I was quite impressed.

The third-years went to Kyoto and Nara for Golden Week, and we've been revising paragraphs they wrote about the trip all week. I'm quite jealous - Nara is the hometown of my favorite artist ever - he never misses an opportunity to brag about it, and was finally declared honorary cultural ambassador - and it seems like a gorgeous place. It's famous for the deer roaming the streets, which are friendly enough to come up and eat biscuits (provided from a vending machine, of course) from your hand.

When everyone had read their essays aloud, they voted on whose was most enjoyable. One boy wrote in HUGE hiragana - so that even I could understand it - "Mine! That was an awesome English speech!" "Mine" being "ore no" - ore is a pronoun only used by males in informal situations - it has a sort of rough, manly connotation to it, so it makes me laugh when little tiny first years use it, and gives me a bit of a shiver when my very polite, soft-spoken coworkers do.

There's a half-hour recess after lunch, the only time almost the entire school is on the playground. The kids stay precisely divided by year, and mostly by class. The other ALT and I, by virtue of our age and lack of responsibility, take the opportunity to build rapport by kicking a ball or jumping a rope. I'm a bit fascinated by the jump ropes here - in my distant childhood they were either for one-person only or could fit up to three, brightly colored and plastic, sometimes in tandem to make it more interesting, and always accompanied by some sort of rhyming chant. Here it is a literal rope, and yards and yards long, enough to fit an entire class of thirty. It takes all the swinger's energy to get the rope up and over their heads, and they can't keep it up more than twenty times. But then, getting that many kids in sync is extremely difficult - there is no chant other than counting "Ichi, ni, san" and even with the prompting cry of "se~no!" someone in the middle invariably doesn't jump when everyone else does. Then everyone reproaches that person, and gets repositioned, and the poor swingers rest their arms, and eventually they try again. Perhaps once during the recess they'll actually get a sequence of more than ten jumps, even up to twenty. It's a little inspiring when they do, though - you can literally feel the earth shaking under your feet. Times that by seven for each class - for some reason only third-years are allowed jump-ropes - and it's pretty impressive by any standards. Not challenging in the same way as Double Dutch, but in its own.

1 comment:

woody said...

Hi Em, now that you're getting the hang of learnign japanese you can become a computer programmer when you get home and jsut learn computer code (i think there is some transferrable skills their). I learned a new japanese word today, Hikikomori (ひきこもり or 引き籠もり, it basically means socially isolated. lova ya---wood