Friday, July 19: My Last School Day in Shinagawa
The other Portland teachers all have parties, assemblies, and gifts they’re getting today, but I don’t think my school has ever really known what to do with me. While Tara, Brian, and Ira have been active members in their school communities, they’ve also had a least a teacher each who could communicate in passably fluent English.
It has been very, very difficult for the English teachers and I to communicate here, never mind people like science teachers and assistant principals. With such a barrier, I think it’s easier for them to just let me be or let me watch and I’ve done my share of both. Today I have a few classes in the morning, and then am scheduled for “clean up time”. Four hours of it.
Since “clean up time” involves stuffing the magazine I brought back into my backpack, I figure I’ll use the allotted- minus ten seconds- for whatevs the hell I want.
Today has actually gone better, so far, than the previous few. I delivered five 25 minute lessons on A Typical Day of School in Portland, and even though an average of 5.5 kids slept (or pretended to sleep) through the entire thing and everyone else ignored me and talked through it, the fact that I had to keep my temper in check meant I stayed firmly awake myself.
My favorite period by far was the one I spent with the “handicap” class. There were only eight or so students, and this is the second time I’ve been scheduled with them. My gosh, they were delightful. They oddly had better English than any other group of kids, too. They had short presentations on Japanese culture prepared for me, and were so cute and pleased and proud when talking about castles and some pop group whose name sounds like AK-47. They also performed judo and origami with gusto.
(I hope that one kid’s head is okay, actually. I’m not sure the furniture was ready for him…)
I left the class with a warm fuzzy feeling and almost shed one manly tear. Brian shed one manly tear yesterday when he realized his orchestra was philharmonic-worthy, and I wanted to do it, too. Almost.
Lunch came as usual and was also okay because I thumb-wrestled the children. Usually in a thumb war, I waggle my stump at people until they marvel at it and forget they’re playing me, resulting in a quick attack and pin. My stump is still quite a lot larger than any thumb these kids’ve probably ever seen, however, so I actually had to rely on manual dexterity and therefore lost handily.
Ha! Appendage puns. I’ve still got it.
The only surprising bit of today is when I did get all choked up on my way back down to the teachers’ room. I figured I’d swing by Elementary Lane to bye-five some first and second graders, and they swarmed around me with such genuine happiness and squeezing that for a second I was sad to be leaving and got a little sniffly.
I think innocence might be the most beautiful of features. That, or maybe immunity to fluorescent lighting. Most little kids have both, the little buggers. It was all I could do not to grab them in explosive, drippy hugs.
This has been an absolutely amazing experience. I feel like I’m better at empathy with kids now, and have a more complete understanding of the various ways that cultures weave the threads of human nature.
My body is ready to go, though. You wouldn’t believe with what fervor I yearn to eat a cucumber.
Monkeys, Thailand, Justin Timberlake! And then I’m h-ward bound.
See y’all in three weeks.
ADDENDUM: Turns out they do have a closing ceremonies of sorts, and I’m trying really hard to take it with a grain of rice but they only informed me as I was saying my goodbyes and walking out the door- for what I was so happy to think would be the last time- at 5 today that I’m expected back in school until 2 tomorrow. Yes, they have Saturday school here. Yes, I already made reservations at the monkey hotel- four hours away- for tomorrow night with Sunday plans booked solid, too.
Language barrier be damned; somebody should have told me.
What is intrinsically a selfish, independent personality is currently at odds with an equally innate sense of responsibility geared toward being Class Act Ambassador for 400 million people. Losing what I know is merely one weekend’s freedom, though, is killing me. When the US finally slides down the oil-slicked tube to dictated slavery, I’m definitely in the ranks of the first ones shot.
Sorry, fam. This loss of freedom thing- though I know it’s, in this case, relatively harmless- is for the birds I’m currently flipping.