Friday, July 16, 2010

The Shortest Week of my Life

Monday of this week started slowly, put things quickly picked up. I woke up, ate breakfast and ended up eating a forkful of Nutella straight from the jar, against my better judgment. It was worth it though. After riding the bus from my house, I waited fr the subway. Each station and platform has a different tune that plays when the train is close.

The song that plays in this station reminds me a lot of the opening song to Skins. There's another that sounds like a Disney song, and one that sounds like it belongs in a Zelda video game.

My schedule for the week was:
Monday: World History, English (understood this!), Contemporary Japanese, Gym (mostly understood this!), lunch, Math (understood it), and Biology (mostly understood it).

A summary of the classes I understood: In English we decorated a paper Tanabata decoration, even though it was a little late. While everyone else wrote their wishes in English, I had to write mine in Japanese. Everyone was impressed by my sloppy kanji without any recognizable stroke order, though.

A lot of girls wanted to make boyfriends. Some of the best wishes I read were 'Present happiness will be go into the future,' 'I want to have good brains,' and 'I want to be health.' I hope that's not what my wish sounded like in Japanese.

In gym, we went swimming. The school has it's own pool and sauna, no big deal. I was told we were going swimming so I came to school with my only swimsuit, which was a bikini, but I forgot a towel. Everyone filed into the boy's locker room (they assured me it was okay when I saw the sign) and changed into swimsuits. A friend brought me over and introduced me to the gym teacher who looked very strict, and who did not seem to approve of my choice of swimwear. Once all of the girls got lined up and sat down by the side of the pool in their one-piece, shorts-length athletic swimsuits, the gym teacher introduced me to everyone. She made me stand up, say hello, and then have everyone comment on my swimsuit. Were I Japanese I would have died of embarrassment as the entire room echoed with the words 'nice body' in a Japanese accent, but being the American that I am, the gym teachers snide remarks and underhanded tricks could had no effect on me. This was only the beginning of my battle with the gym teacher.
After gym everyone dried off and I used borrowed various towels from various people. Most of the girls had these plastic 'towels' that soaked up moisture like nothing I've ever seen before, and when they were done they just squeezed all the water out of the towel ad stuck it back in their bag. I need to to some research and find out what these are and where they come from.
Next was lunch, and my first day with an obento. I didn't know what to expect, but this week I probably had 5 of the best packed lunches that I've ever had.

Everything wrapped up and still chilly from two ice packs and an insulated bag. Also, you can see my portable Winnie the Pooh chopstick case.

My Minnie Mouse boxes and Pokemon furikake. Furikake is really flavorful and you put it on rice to, well, give it flavor. Each of the furikake packages I had had a different Pokemon, one of four flavors, and had a little Pokemon trivia on it.

The top Minnie Mouse tier always had some sort of fruit. I think these apple slices look like little rabbits!

Need I say anything except maybe that my mother should step up her game a little?

After learning about sine and cosine were 'サイタ/saita' and 'コスモス/cosumosu' and learning about Punnet squares again, I asked my homeroom teacher what sports clubs there were for girls. I'm pretty sure everyone is convinced that, since I'm a foreigner, I'm pretty much incapable of doing anything by myself. Be it riding the subway, playing basketball, or going to a club. My teacher listed off only the clubs that my classmates were in so that I could go with one of them, which made me a little irritated, but it ended up working out fine. A girl offered to take me to badminton club with her, and another girl offered to let me use her badminton gear.
We looked for the sponsor of the club to ask if I could join, but he was nowhere to be found. We also weren't sure if I would even be let into the gym to practice, since it was the Chukyo University gym and I didn't have an ID card. In the end we just didn't say anything and I walked into the gym without anyone noticing.
I always thought badminton was a difficult sport. Turns out it's not. Badminton is like tennis with lighter rackets, a very light shuttlecock instead of a tennis ball, and it is played on smaller, indoor courts. M strategy quickly turned into swinging my racket as hard as I could whenever the shuttlecock came on my part of the court. By the end of practice my partner, normally a member of the tea ceremony club, and I, who had never so much as thought about playing badminton before, hadn't lost a game by more than a couple of points, and we almost won a game!

Tuesday: English, Biology, Gym, Home Ec, lunch, Ancient Japanese or something that I didn't understand a word of, and double English classes at Chukyo University.

This time in English we went to the computer lab to practice listening, speaking, and writing for the TOEIC test that everyone took on Friday. From what I can tell, the TOEIC is like and AP test. I passed the practice test with flying colors.

After more genetics and heredity, it was time for gym and I was prepared to battle with the gym teacher. I could take her on in a mental fight, and probably a physical fight. She didn't scare me one bit.
The classes split up into softball and basketball and, not wanting to go outside in the soggy sand/mud mix on the field and not being able to hit a softball to save my life, I went upstairs to play basketball.
The first thing that I noticed in the gym was a huge net separating the boys from the girls, presumably so that no basketballs rolled over to where the boys were high jumping. Second, I noticed that the boys were high jumping. 'Hana Kimi' makes a lot more sense to me now.
After looking surprised and saying 'You're playing basketball?' in an amused tone, the gym teacher moved me from the back row to front and center. After talking for a minute or so about what we were going to do, everyone stood up. We did a little routine where we went from being at attention to 'resting,' and then the gym teacher pulled me up to the front. After some confusion, I figured out that I was supposed to raised my hand. When I raised my hand everyone spread out into less tight lines and started stretching.
After that we id partner stretches, one of which included standing back to back with your partner, locking elbows, and lifting your partner in the air as you bent over. I had not problem doing this, as my partner was small Japanese girl who was a full head shorter than me. On the other hand, everyone clapped when she picked me up. I probably outweigh every girl in my class except for one by at least twenty pounds.
The next stretch was leap frog. The height difference between my partner and I made things interesting.
After stretching, I thought we would play an actual game of basketball. Instead, we learned how to pass in several different ways for about 40 minutes. When everyone struggled and started to get tired, I was still going strong. The gym teacher used my partner and I, along with several other pairs, to demonstrate the correct passing technique. I was not picked on again by the teacher.

After gym was Home Ec, where I learned the kanji and names of 50 different types of seafood.

In Ancient Japanese I learned how to say 'give me a kiss,' or something along those lines, in Korean.

In English at the University, my teacher was hilarious. He was a short, stout, and loud man from California named Tim. We skipped several lessons because he just plain didn't like them and thought they were racist, and then played two truths and a lie, except there were three truths and two lies. It made me realize that I really miss being able to speak English whenever I like to whoever I like.

Wednesday: Biology, Contemporary Japanese, and then the whole school went to watch Rakugyo and Kyogen, traitional Japanese performing arts.

In Contemporary Japanese we went to the library to do research. Needless to say, I could not do research as everything was full of kanji and vocabulary that I don't know. My teacher still wanted me to do some work though, so I read Harry Potter and wrote about how it made me feel. I wrote something along the lines of "In England, I don't think the days that they say are hot are actually hot. If they came to Txas, they would have real complaints. I've really all of the Harry Potter series, but it's still interesting. It's making me a bit nostalgic. I think I'll read the whole series again." The teacher gave me a Totoro stamp that said I did well.

There is only one problem with Japanese performing arts. hey are completely in Japanese. I fell asleep for about half of it, and daydreamed for the other half.

After school I was informed that the Chukyo University gym wasn't going to let me play badminton, so I had to find another club. I decided on Japanese archery club. A girl from my class walked with me to their dojo in hakama and tabi (traditional Japanese two-toed socks), while I walked around in a pair of basketball shorts and some torn up Vans.
I wasn't allowed to actually use the bows because they were huge and dangerous, but I learned the basics of shooting one of the bows. I highly admire anyone who can do this well. There is not a single part of kyudo (Japanese archery), from walking up to the spot where you are going to shoot from or putting the arrow on the bow to how you let go of the bowstring to actually shoot the arrow. They even have their own style of seiza which is even more painful than original, if that's possible.

Thursday: Home Ec, World History, Japanese History, English, Lunch, Gym, Ancient Japanese, and Math.

On the way to school I stopped by a Circle K convenient store and bought a little snack after I tried some Wednesday afternoon. I bought a bag of little flavored mochi pieces coated in what I think was sugar and ate a few on the way to school. When I got to school, I wondered why everyone was leaving the classroom about five minutes before first period. I asked one girl and she said that today we were going to the Home Ec room to make warabimochi (fake mochi). While I like mochi, this was the second time I had eaten it in about an hour. It was good though, and I will most definitely be making it at home sometime.

In English we watched a video about the girl who was bitten by a shark, which was centered a lot on her Christian faith and how she believed that getting her arm bitten off by a shark when she was 13 was a sign from god to spread his word amongst surfers. I feel that these students might be getting a bit of a wrong impression of America and Americans.

In gym I played basketball again, because I still suck at softball. Today we finished with some extra time left, so the gym teacher decided to have us play dodge ball. This was not regular dodge ball though. There was only one ball, and there were no real teams. One person would throw the ball at someone as hard as they could, and it would just go back and forth, back and forth. Everyone sort of huddled in the centered of the gym, running from one side to the other, away from the person with the ball. It got even more confusing when a second ball was added in and you had to watch for a ball coming from both sides. Not really knowing the rules, I just dodged balls. I didn't try to catch or throw anything, but I stayed in the game until the end!

After school I went to kyudo club again but this time it was a much more sullen meeting. Instead of practicing shooting bows, the first year students were practicing the more ceremonial aspects of kyudo. This involved a lot of slow walking, moving around of bows and arrows, and lots of correction from the older club members. I felt very out of place.

Friday: English, TOEIC, lunch, term-end ceremony

In English we gave presentations on Japanese culture (In English, of course). Not only was my group a group of three, but we had a native English speaker (me) and we couldn't talk for more than two minutes on our topic. We chose karaoke from the list of topics and did our presentation, and then everyone else did their presentations.
When we were done, everyone took pictures with their projects.

The guy in the back on the left is Marshall, from Tennessee, and he's one of the two English teachers for my class. The tiny Japanese girl on the right who isn't in uniform is the other English teacher. She's just as sweet as it looks like she would be.
After English my class went to take the TOEIC, and I went to read some more Harry Potter in the Library. About half an hour in, I heard someone shouting, or so I thought. It was actually one of the librarians trying to get my attention. We talked for a little bit, and then I continued reading. After that, yet another librarian came to talk to me, but this one was much more awkward. In fact, he used to be a math teacher at Chukyo but he had a mental illness so he had to take a break and work in the library, but he hopes to be able to teach math again very soon. I don;t know hat to say to that in English, much less in Japanese.

After reading to the point where everyone was sitting down to have their first dinner with Harry in Number 12 Grimmauld Place or the first time, I had to put the book back on the shelf and go to lunch. When I get home, I'm reading the Harry Potter series again.

We all filed into the gym, hot and sweaty, and sat in lines according to classes. With every change in speakers I was terrified someone was going to make me go up and say something to the school, but I never had to. We finished, went to homeroom, and the kid going to India and I gave our little farewell speeches. From my class, I got a Chukyo High School bag that everyone signed. Some of my favorite notes:

Enough said.

He also loves our English teacher. This kid is hilarious. I wish we could be best friends.

I thought this whole are was cute.

The Chukyo High School logo.

I got a pretty little cloth that I think is meant for wrapping lunch boxes from one of the English teachers (who didn't even teach my class).

I got some candy from one of the most adorable people I've ever met. This girl, Yukino, wasn't in my class, but she came in during lunch and talked to me several times.

I was planning on doing something after school with friends, but instead I went to go say thanks to the principal and the teachers and everybody, and by the time I had finished most people had gone their separate ways. On Tuesday there's a going away party for the kid going to India, so I get to see everyone one last time before I go home. I have several email addresses and intend to use them to practice my Japanese and keep in touch with some people.

This was by far the most exhausting week so far.


Anonymous said...

Step up your own game!

Lena Ray said...


Jeanne said...

My dear, that was your father, not me. Love, Mom

Lena Ray said...

It would have been funnier if you hadn't said that.

Anonymous said...

Hey lena
My name is Beth and i just returned from Japan. I also attended chukyo. I love chukyo and miss it everyday and the students. I was in class 3L, What class where you in? I might know them.
When where you there? I remember Simon-sensei mentioning that chukyo had a exchange student a while before myself. I hope we may be able to exchange stories.
You where in class 3I i think. I know all those students really well!!! I was across the hall

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