Sunday, October 28, 2007

real japanese people, yay

I'm sorry I left that last post on top for so long - what negativity and frustration I expressed! How can I be unhappy, with Nakagima-koen turning golden yellow and red. And so much has happened since last monday, how can I not smile in pleasant exhaustion.

I'm going to just summarize my week, cause it's been a pretty good one.

Monday after work I went to a used CD shop and asked for advice finding some music I would like. I got some Japanese folkish rock from the 1970's and some more recent softish rock: both not bad. The man was happy to try and find some good music, even if we only had so many words that we both could understand.
Then I went into a little cafe where I go every Monday, and I am forcing the owner to accept me as a regular. I have a spot where I sit and study, and we chat in a mix of english and japanese. Last week she kindly made me some vegetarian spaghetti for dinner.
Then I went to my weekly japanese lesson. I am excited, because I think the lessons are just about to get useful. They have been very slow moving so far, but I am starting to increase my vocabulary and the grammar we learn is starting to get more complex, so that slowly I am able to actually formulate sentences in regular conversation, though they make sense far less than half the time.

Tuesday was a short work day because we had a district-wide meeting of english teachers, observing a class and discussing its merrits. I had no idea what was said over the course of the meeting, but when my turn to contribute came around, I managed to say the correct formalities and surprise everybody by thanking the presenters for their teaching. Woot. I only had a little bit of trouble staying awake over the two hour meeting. So far, in most meetings, I have been one of the few people who DOES stay awake through the entire meeting. I figure that's fair, the rookie has to stay awake and the vets have earned the right for a little snooze here and there.
Even better, that night 6 teachers and 2 ALT's went to a classy Japanese restaurant for drinks and dinner. It was the perfect mix, because they knew lots of English, and yet were still kind enough to be amused by our incoherent efforts in Japanese. We ate some sashimi and sushi, and tomago yori, umaboshi, tofu habe, and susumi, or something, as well as other stuff. Multiple courses and samplings are the norm here. I can't remember what all the names were, and what everything was, but it was good!

Wednesday I left the office at 330 and went out to the soccer field. I kicked the soccer ball around for an hour by myself, doing some drills, and just goofing around. I get so sick of not having anything to do, but I've been there the whole time, and if they had something I could do for them, all they had to do was ask. So, I figure I might as well go and kick the ball around. When the kids came out at 430, I played with them for 530, just passing the ball and not worrying about speaking English, or speaking at all. It was nice.
Wednesday night was the only night this week I spent any time at home.

Thursday I saw two friends, and we chatted for a couple hours about fantasy books and american politics. Basically, they inform me, Terry Pratchet is amazing, and Bush is a scary dictator. There are so many ALT's here, it is easy to let time slip by and not see an individual for a while. It is great to have such an accessible network of basically instant friends, but the tricky part is maintaining ties with people as individuals, respecting them and putting the time into seeing them, and not just taking their presence here for granted.

Friday was a good day. My school's Chorus Contest was Friday morning, held at a beautiful music hall, Kitara, in the beautiful Nakagima-Koen. The music teacher says it is the fifth best music hall in the world, and I wouldn't presume to argue. I can't quite describe the whole event of the music contest, only: did I mention these kids are amazing? Every class has its own song, student conducted with four-part harmonies, accompanied by a student on piano. For the most part, practice was self-directed and corrected by the students, with occasional check-ups by teachers. Every day for a month or so, the kids have been working before and after school on their songs. On Friday morning, before filing into the theatre, after practicing their songs one last time, each class did a group huddle and a rev-up cheer. Again, the teachers just stood back and watched the kids at work. Every single student of the 750 got up on the stage, in front of maybe 1100 people in the audience, and contributed to their class song. They all tried as hard as they could to sing in harmony with the others. Each grade chose increasingly difficult songs, with the grade 9's involving changes of rhythm, solos, difficult harmonies, accapella, discordant harmonies, if there's such a thing, and lots of other technically hard stuff that I don't even understand. They performed incredibly. When the winners of the 9th grade were announced, a class that is always exceedingly friendly and chatty with me, I couldn't help but be touched by their shouts of joys and excited hugging and jumping. They work so hard, these kids, and they do some amazing things.

That evening, the teachers had an enkai to celebrate. I was so happy to see them all so bubbly and energetic. They could barely contain their happiness, it seem. Again I tried a bunch of things I've never eaten before, and it was all tasty. They were finally relaxed enough, it seemed, to have a few laughs at my expense, which really helped me feel included. They also assisted me with some new Japanese and were ever so congratulatory when I made anything resembling a sentence. My favourite quote was when I said (again) that I am from Vancouver, and the music teacher said "Oompaloompa?" I talked to many teachers, and it was so nice to share ever so slightly in their joy and triumph after the chorus contest.
After dinner, I joined a smaller group of teachers for the nijikai - the second party. Ten of us went to a little jazz bar in a basement somewhere, with a baby grand piano and an awesome middle-aged singer who sang jazzed versions of thirty and forty year old english songs. I learned more important vocabulary, like how to say 'drunk', and enjoyed every single time the teachers laughed at me or with me.

Saturday and Sunday were so amazing, I have to save them for a next post. I'm exhuasted and I need a snack before getting to bed early.

No comments: