The Flux Continueth

No poker night this week but blogging time was monopolised by the recently arrived girlfriend. I’m sure you can all forgive me for skipping a post in order to spend time with my girlfriend whom I haven’t seen for 7 months. However on the off chance that some of you are sharpening net-axes and prearing to murder me would a sorry help?

My life, along with blogging, continues to be in flux as well. School is wrapping up and this Tuesday will be my last ever lesson at Fukuda Junior High School, however, joy of joys, I have to stick around until the 1st of April. Considering my full time teaching kind of wound down in the middle of February this is not a prospect I relish. Ah well, I expect there shall be many hours spent studying Japanese in my future.

Speaking of school I received confirmation today that I am going to be moving schools in April. Fellow JET Pete informed me that I’ll be taking over his old school. Apparently the letters have been sent out but typically my school hasn’t bothered to tell me yet (le sigh). Peter described the kids at his school as super nice, which will make a nice change. No seriously, the best part about my job are the kids. I love them all and they’re all great fun, but my school does have something of a reputation for misbehaving students. Having no experience of other schools I couldn’t tell you how bad they are but certainly I have struggled.

The worst part about my new school is that apparently it is the furthest away school that Gakuentoshi JET’s go to. Which is, obviously, not exactly ideal. I need to get both a train and a bus to get to work. I already have to get up at 6 to get into work now I’m going to have to get up even earlier!

Recently arrived girlfriend (or Fran to use her proper name) is in good health. On her first weekend here I showed her around Sannomiya and Harborland and watched her go “squee” whenever she saw anything cute. Although I have lived here for 7 months she was spotting shops I have never seen before! Apparently Fran has some kind of cute radar and can home in on a cute thing without even seeing it.

She started training today and this finishes by March 29th. Hopefully then I can book Japanese lessons and figure out a new schedule for blogging but until then you’ll all just have to bare with me.

Currently I’ve had no big photo opportunities or particularly exciting jaunts. However this is all due to change as this weekend I am going to watch Sumo wrestling, followed by a national holiday (in which i intend to visit Kyoto) and then a tea festival in Shiga the weekend after that.

However despite the lack of photos I do have news. Today was my san-nensei’s (third grade) graduation. Alas no pictures because I rather foolishly forgot to charge my camera but mostly there wasn’t anything to take pictures of.

The main hall was really elaborately decorated, there were red carpets, an ENORMOUS bunch of flowers and of course the Japanese flag. Highlight for the embarassing moment of the day was when I went in to look at it in the morning and one of the teachers told me that it was the Japanese flag. Now it’s one thing when my kids explain Japanese to me that I can already speak but it is quite another to try and explain the Japanese flag to me.

I am convinced that everyone at my school thinks I am an idiot.

the day started with the san-nensei in their classrooms getting ready and some volunteers from the other 2 grades helping to put the finishing touches on the hall. Since nobody seemed to have any work for me to do I volunteered myself for greeting parents that were coming in. My word some of the frocks had to be seen to be believed. There was one woman that looked exactly like Margaret Thatcher, only Japanese obviously. There was also a man with the largest beard I have ever seen on a Japanese guy. It rivals my Grandad’s for length and for width surpasses most of the beards I have ever seen in my life. It was an almost semi-circular projection from his face, quite extraordinary.

All the female teachers were dolled up too. Kosuga-sensei had a smart suit on, Nishi-sensei looked like an asian Princess Diana and one san-nensei teacher was wearing Yukata. Only a very unusualy yukata, more like the kind that priests in shinto-shrines wear than the kind I am familiar with. She was the only woman wearing Yukata on the day too but she looked very smart.

I do like that about Japan. At any formal ocassion you have a choice between western clothing or traditional Japanese and nobody bats an eyelid. You can wander round in something that is essentially the same item of clothing from 100’s of years ago (and in the case of some kimono’s this is literally true) and not seem at all out of the ordinary. It makes formal events so much more vivid and interesting to look at. Even if this particular style of yukata did have the unfortunate side-effect of making her look like a bell.

My concession to the day was to wear a tie. Yeah…

Eventually everyone was seated and I got the opporunity to practise sleeping with my eyes open. We had a speech in Japanese, an intermiable wait whilst students collected certificates, some music, another speech, another speech, another speech, anotherspeech and then some more singing followed by another speech and it was all over. 1 and a half hours of sitting in a hot room desperately trying not to fall asleep.

I did perk up when the second bit of singing started because the san-nensei sang everyone a song and then everybody sang the school song. I do like to hear my kids sing, they’re all wonderful singers and whilst I’m not keen on Japanese singing voices individually collectively they’re stunning.

It was quite sweet to see some of the students in floods of tears as they tried to sing too. And some of the teachers.

I did think it was a bit much pomp for only graduating year 9, however I realised that this is the last time the students will all be together. They will all go to separate high schools. And the teaching set-up is slightly different in a Japanese school, the teachers change grades every year. So for example Nishi-sensei taught
1st grade English, 2nd grade English and then 3rd grade English with these kids. So I guess it is a very emotional time, particularly for the teachers.

Fleeing the very, very hot auditorium (to the strains of land of hope and glory???) the teachers, parents and ichi and ni-nensei lined the road outside and we threw a parade for the san-nensei. Then I nipped off to where they finished up and said my goodbyes and had my photo taken many, many times.

I will miss some of my students. In particular Michael (who did a very un-Japanese thing and hugged me) and Maho who is easily the best English student in the school and one of my favourites. However I can’t say I was particularly sad, after all they have their whole lives ahead of them and it would be selfish of me to want to tie them to one place and time.

Besides a lot of them really were gits. Especially Michael.

Kids all done with I retired to the staff room for a fancy sushi lunch paid for by the PTA and then proceeded to do sod all work for the rest of the afternoon.

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