Wednesday, June 16, 2010

doo doo

So I don`t know if I really like that little weekly feature I was trying to do. It felt too forced, and no one likes things that are forced, right? Besides, my blog is pretty much just one long rant about what to love and hate about living in Japan anyways. But I`ll still try to post helpful photos sometimes.

It`s a special week at えいめい ちゅがこ (Eimei Junior High School). The first graders (7th graders in America) are camping for two days, the second graders (8th graders) are doing job shadowing, and the third graders (9th graders) had sports day yesterday and are doing volunteer work today. I`m not sure what everyone is doing tomorrow, but it means that I have nothing to do this week. And Monday, I didn`t even have to go to work because they had sports tournaments all weekend and the students had a day off. So I only had to teach class on Tuesday. That`s it. I get three days of revising my short story (which is pretty much done..I just have to decide whether the first paragraph should be in past tense or present tense) and trying to come up with activities for next week.

I used to get annoyed at the ever-changing and mysterious schedules of a Japanese school, but now I`m starting to see how good it can be for the students. They work their asses off, but they get rewarded. They even have a swimming pool at their school. It`s all blue and glittering now.

I tried to explain to one of the 英語 先生 (I think that means eigo sensei, which is English teacher) that in America, you just couldn`t have cool field trips. I mean, you could have cool field trips, but not cool field trips. Last year, Zack accompanied his junior high students on a mountain climb. Up a real mountain. The kids had to leap across treachorous rocks at various points on the climb. Can you imagine taking over a hundred (I`m not sure how many students went) on a mountain climb in America? It just wouldn`t happen, especially in middle school. I was explaining to Maki-先生 that the liability is too great. People will sue for any possible reason, even if it doesn`t make any sense whatsoever. If the lawyer can sell it to a judge, someone will try it.

There`s more of a `survival of the fittest` vibe here in Japan. People are tougher. The sidewalks are tiny and completely inaccessible to wheelchairs. If you teeter off the sidewalk, you might fall into a 外人 (gaijin, foreigner) trap. A 外人 trap is a steep concrete ditch that foreigners sometimes drive their cars into because the roads are so narrow and most outsiders aren`t used to steep concrete ditches flanking the road. If you fell into one of these ditches, and you didn`t have a cell phone or friend with you, you could definitely die. Or at least be seriously injured. I heard a true story of a girl who got trapped in one last year. She was wearing a 着物 (kimono) and drowned. She was only 24. I get nervous when I see old people tottering down the road, their backs hunched and their hands crossed. They never seem to fall or get hurt, though.

Every morning, I see elementary schoolers walking themselves to school. They are usually in groups, but it`s still strange to see children walking without adults on these narrow streets (or any where). Kids also run amok in parking lots. Very rarely do kids hold their parents` hands. It`s just another way in which our society is different. People feel safer here, and they can. The crime rate is only a fraction of what it is America. (Although I question the car accident rate.)

One day, I was warned my vice principal that a strange man was wandering around Chino so I should be careful. I almost laughed. Can you imagine trying to count the weirdos in any American city?

I don`t let my perceived safety cloud my judgment. I dont`t walk alone at night here even though I did in Miyada. I`ve finally learned how to call for help and how to tell someone to call an ambulance or the police. Maybe it`s my American paranoia at play, but I truly believe in our old adage `better safe than sorry.`