Tokyo Tour Guide
About a month ago, the fourth grade class at one of my schools started a new unit called, “Our Town.” The concept is to introduce their ward. The teachers modified and even created the following backstory: Sally’s Mother is coming to Tokyo and its up to us to tell her what sightseeing she should do in our ward. When the teacher told them my mother was coming, the students faces immediately lit up and they frantically asked me if it was true. The teacher asked me to go along with everything, so the students are diligently working on creating their perfect project highlighting their neighborhood. In fact, today, I only taught for half the class (essentially the warm up and review) because the students want their projects to be a surprise. They want me to have no idea what landmarks they will present. I’m excited to see their projects. If only I could convince my mom to visit in the next week or so and surprise them!
What’s in a Name
A few weeks ago at one of my schools the principal randomly asked me to write my family name in Japanese. He wanted to add my name to the attendance board. Basically all the teachers have a name card that they to over when they arrive and before they leave. Since I added I have a hard time remembering this new habit. Anyway some of the sixth grade students quickly noticed this new addition. One day they started calling me by my family name and it confused me. How on Earth did they know my name?! Then I remembered the name card. Of course my name stands out since it isn’t written in Kanji. Now they enjoy calling me by my family name. I just pretend I have no idea what they are saying.
Good Deed for the Day
A few weeks ago school ended and I wrapped up my task before saying goodbye. Although the day started off sunny, there was a steady rain in the afternoon. As I’m changing into my street shoes I see a second grade student waiting. We play Rock Paper Scissors a few times before I open my umbrella and leave. Naturally, I assumed he was waiting for his mom or grandparent.
I haven’t taken more than ten steps through the gate when I notice the boy walking next to me. When I asked him if he ad an umbrella he said no. I responded, okay, let’s go together. I pinky had my small emergency umbrella that day. However, since it was a cold day out I made sure to shelter him more than myself. I knew that he could easily get sick from a walk home in the rain. Once I saw how far from the school he lived I was happy I walked him home. It was about a 12 minute walk and he would have arrived soaked.
Last Thursday I’m on my way home and changing trains in Ikebukuro. I am following behind a Japanese girl as we approach the turnstile. As I get closer I notice the sensor light to scan passes is only lit on the exit side of the turnstile, indicating that you can’t enter. I swiftly move one turnstile over. However, a girl doesn’t notice this and tries to scan her train pass. Of course it isn’t accepted since it’s currently serving as an exit only gate. Plus, people were exiting through the gate as she approached. She was completely oblivious to the fact that she was trying to enter through an exit only gate. As a result, she starts slamming her wallet on the sensor, convinced that it’s broken. Maybe this happens to her often? I have never seen anyone in Japan, or anywhere really, respond this way to a sensor.
I think the station attendant was a bit shocked by this demonstration. Hell, I noticed that people visibly turned to look. If there is one thing you should know about Japan it’s that they never stare unless you’re a foreigner. No, seriously. There can be someone stupid drunj, passed out on the floor of a train, vomiting all of their innards on the sidewalk and no-one even notices. No one ever says anything or asks if you are okay. Everyone minds their own business. This girl was slamming her wallet on this sensor like she wanted to break it. She even let out some frustrated screams. She reminds me exactly of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. That’s exactly what she had: a mini temper tantrum at the Central Gate 1 of Ikebukuro Station in a Thursday afternoon. After she changed turnstiles and entered she frantically ran for her platform. Even people that hasn’t seen her tantrum stared as she ran by. It was truly bizzare and strangely hilarious.
Saturday Morning Cleaning
This past Saturday I was heading to my first ever shamisen lesson. On my way to the station I saw what I can only describe as an “only in Japan” moment. Outside his shop there is an old man vacuuming the sidewalk. Vacuuming the sidewalk! I’ve seen people sweeping, pressure washing, or raking leaves, but vacuuming the sidewalk? I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone vacuuming the sidewalk. I definitely silently laughed to myself as I walked by.
Saturday was Snow Where’s birthday (Snow White is my Japanese friend). We went to dinner then headed for karaoke. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to meet her Japanese friends. I love when people combine friend circles. Her birthday group consisted of our hiking group, hee university friend, and two childhood friends that are like brothers. None of them really spoke English so we had fun trying to communicate. I was pretty quiet though because I still can’t have natural free flowing conversation in Japanese. I was happy when my French friend (we’ll call him The Doctor – we went hiking to Mount Jinba together) arrived. His Japanese is really good so he was able to bridge the gap in our conversation.
After dinner we wanted to karaoke, but there was barely an hour until last train. The Doctor and another French friend weren’t able to join since their respective last trains are pretty early. Our karaoke group consisted of me, Snow White and her Prince Charming, the two childhood friends, plus a third childhood friend that joined us at karaoke.
We grabbed some footy pajama costumes and sang out heart out. The evening naturally started with some Japanese songs, which Prince Charming and I couldn’t sing. Slowly we transitioned to English songs, including Let it go, which they belted in Japanese. It was probably my favorite night of karaoke I’ve had here because the grouo energy was so much fun. The hour passed quickly and soon we were rushing to shibuya to catch our last trains.
Snow White and her childhood friends all live close to me. Perhaps a 10-15 minute train ride from my house. We live on the same metro line. Well, I live by three metro lines, so I took the most convenient and cheapest way home. We traveled together for a few stations and before we said goodbye one of the guys ran up the platform to make sure I didn’t miss the last train.
Snow White has some pretty awesome friends so I’m hoping we can officially combine our groups in the future.
I Have a Dream
Yesterday at school I seized the opportunity to talk to the third grade teachers about our Friday class. I hardly ever get a chance to pin down teachers in advance at this school, so if I need to stay a little later so that we can better teach together, I’m all for it. I gingerly approach their desks (I’m in the teachers’ room) and I say, “Sumimasen, kinyoubi ni kurasu ha “What do you have?”…..(blank stares and Teachers A and B frantically start looking for their English curriculum guides in their desks)….”Nani wo motteimasuka?”
Excuse me, Friday’s class is “What do you have?……What do you have?” Collective understanding overcomes the teachers faces as they find their guides and relevant page. I continue, “I have a pen…..I have a pencil….” Teacher B chimes in, “I have a dream.” We all immediately started laughing, including some of the other teachers in the room. I absolutely love that he made a joke. Definitely one of my favorite teacher interactions. Teacher A follows up with, “I have no dreams.” We are all still laughing and I tell them my activity ideas. They are games we have done before, so nothing new, but I figure it’s nice on their end to know what my plans are so they know what they are expected to translate to the students. I definitely need to seek these teachers out more.