At 8:30 this morning I arrived at school with a bag full of vodka and pine products and an appropriately eager beaver attitude. The former were gifts- I was told to bring Maine products and consumables for my principal, three assistant principals, and four cooperating English teachers. Thus the Cold River Blueberry, which was recommended by a colleague who’s been here. Back in Maine, he told me a hilarious story about his principal opening the bottle immediately and forcing him (I use “forcing” in the loosest sense, of course) to get day drunk with him in school. As a social studies teacher, I am well aware of the premise of history repeating itself. And as a social and studious person, I thought I’d provide favorable conditions for exactly that to happen.
(*As an idiot- ADDENDUM- it’s now after 3 and I haven’t yet passed out the gifts. I didn’t have them during my introductions and hesitate to just brashly walk up to my colleagues’ desks and stick the stuff under their noses, especially since our linguistic challenges prevent me from explaining why. Plus I haven’t figured out who two of the English teachers are yet, and I’m fairly sure that one of the two that I have met hated me on sight…)
At any rate, at 8:30 I was still eager. Komiyama-san told me to wander the halls by pointing all around and saying, “Place! Place! Place! Bathroom! Place! Place! Here, 9 o’clock.” I took this to mean I should explore, so off I went. It didn’t take very long because I was scared to venture to three of the four floors and I didn’t know the protocol for visiting the PE fields outside. See, I had to bring a brand new pair of indoor shoes and take the tags off when I got to school to prove I hadn’t tarnished them with outside wear. Since my outdoor shoes were in a cubby and I thought I might need them, I eschewed the outside world to check out the first floor halls. Adorable tiny people were scattered about in plaid and suspenders and there was artwork, a collection of posters, and inexplicably, a giant photo of a deformed toenail decorating the walls. Wide-eyed children shouted accented “hello”s at me before collapsing into giggles with their friends, and the whole thing was so delightful that I just wanted to shout back Sound of Music songs in their faces. I refrained. Song pun!
*SECOND ADDENDUM: Seven hours later- this time out of pure insanity- I think I just might. Shout music, that is. It seems like a boredum interruptum.
Right around nine, Mr. Komiyama fetched me to properly tour the school. Heck yeah, it was the grinniest 45 minutes I’ve been here. One classroom was easily my favorite in that it was a second grade, I think, with a kid who spoke English quite well. I could tell something was going on as I entered and he started dancing around the room with the other giblets egging him on. I saw the class looking from him to me and back while verbally firing at him, until at some point he jump stopped in front of me and in remarkably clear English demanded, “how old are you?”
He translated and the place erupted like it was simultaneously the funniest and most amazing thing the kids had ever heard. I swear one girl licked her lips. As I was laughing, he shouted a follow-up.
“How tall are you?”
“Almost six feet,” I answered, and blew up the room again. The whole thing did wonders for my posture and I strutted out of there like a newly knighted panther.
I know… that’s not a thing.
The tall theme continued as I toured, mostly emphasized by a hand held high in the air indicating where my head might end if it were a foot in front of me. I also got to meet the teacher who, two nights before I left Maine, emailed me an introduction and asked if I’d swim with the kids. It was heartening to hear her say I sounded like a nice person, based on my response. Heartening and a relief, since my response was the most politely cultivated, emphatic “no” that I could muster. I swim about as well as I hide here.
It’s about ten in the morning now, and I don’t have the slightest idea what the rest of my day will hold. I have a schedule, but it looks like this:
so if someone doesn’t hold my hand pretty steadily, I’ll probably just hang out in the teachers’ room. Staff all have desks in here- they even gave me one!- and I’m really glad I brought my notebook because I’d definitely be otherwise unoccupied. Perhaps, when I get to know some people better, I’ll be more apt to ask for duties, but for now the communication barrier is hung with signs reading “sit your butt down and keep quiet.”
And I’m good here. I know how to read.
It’s 2:30 now, and I’d like to dedicate this entry to the English teacher who talked to me for five minutes and showed me where to make coffee. I’ve just mixed the strongest shot mug of instant Nescafe that I think I can handle, because y’all, I am bored out of my overactive mind. Reading is all well and good to a point, but that point arrives more hastily when you don’t bring any books to work.
Six hours I’ve been here now, with two and a half remaining. I left my desk for the tour and ate an uncomfortable lunch at the table next to me, but other than that I’ve been doing all I can with a pen, a notebook, and a non-connected phone. Thanks be to whatever version of myself downloaded those free e-books, because otherwise it’d be bat poo crazy up in here. As it is, I’m trying to stick with the Douglas Adams and PG Wodehouse because when those are done, the only remaining option is the Marquis de Sade I downloaded out of curiosity. And I’m here to tell you: don’t. I like to think I operate with a high degree of tolerance and open-mindedness- at least when I only know things superficially- but honestly he makes those two girls look as if that one cup is no big whoop. And if I open “The 120 Days of Sodomy” in a school, I fear the porn police will show up to deport me in the most embarrassing international debacle ever.
Sorry, family. And Mom: do NOT look him up to see where I’m coming from. It’s 100% not worth it and I’d like to continue to enjoy being your daughter.
I’m itching to get out of here to commence a solo walking tour of Tokyo. I’d like to bang around on public transportation, too, staring fascinated at the fashionable youths who make me feel enormous and dowdy, and try to find Harajuku to see what rang Gwen Stefani’s bell so hard. I’m supposed to get paid half of my salary today, though, and that hasn’t happened yet. Without it, I’m broke as Back Mountain. With zero yen, a credit card shuttered by a company whose history with me includes bars, cabdrivers, and Banana Republic almost exclusively, plus a debit card I can only use judiciously until I can determine if there’s an exchange tax, I am S out of L. Impoverished, even. It behooves me to stay and keep still.
Almost 4 o’clock now, and I’m struggling with the quiet! I intended this blog to be more culturally philosophical than the existing play-by-play, but alas, my boredom doth defy my noble thoughts. Actually I just revisited the kitchen area for another cup of the brown and powdered, and a nice lady offered me ice. I believe she said we didn’t have to boil the water anymore, either. I took this as a somewhat ominous nuclear disaster reference and decided to fill my jug, because why not? Perhaps, if I have offspring, the genetic modification will give them bigger boobs or something.
See? Science and hope, all intricately knitted like a lamb in a sweater! There’s a reason, folks, that I’m a teacher.
(If only they’d recognize that here…)