The first day of school – the day when the countdown to the last day of school begins.
(This should have definitely been posted over two months ago, but whatever! Better late than never!)
Monday, August 31, 2015
Me in my Toyo Eiwa uniform
The first day of school was actually half morbid (at least for me) and half blissful and exciting! It was the first day back from summer break (at least for Yuchi). After getting up at 6:00 a.m., eating breakfast, and taking pictures of me in my school uniform, Yuchi and I began our commute to school. Everyone walked around with mugs. I didn’t know if that was because it was Monday or what, but they also had their noses buried in their phones, their heads down. Anyway, Yuchi and I had to walk through Jiyugaoka (the town I’m staying in) to get to the Jiyugaoka Train Station, which was about a ten minute walk. Then, we had to take a local train to another place called Naka Meguro before boarding yet another train to Roppongi. This took about twenty minutes. Finally exiting Roppongi Station, Yuchi and I spent another ten minutes walking to the school, and the entire time, she kept asking me if I was nervous. I’m sure you all know that answer by now. (Spoiler Alert: No, I wasn’t.) (I also saw a TON of foreigners in Roppongi too: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, Italians, Germans, etc. But it makes sense; it’s a tourist spot where Tokyo Tower is. I could even see the tower as I walked to school).
Toyo Eiwa students were everywhere, so before I even put on my indoor shoes or even entered the school, I got TONS of stares, and nearly every time I passed some students they would stop their conversations, trail me with their eyes, and then giggle. It was even worse when I got inside because the girls would just stop in the middle of the hall and stare at me, still giggling! At this point, I had to wait outside the teacher’s office so they could direct me on my day. So, as I sat and waited, I could just feel eyes burning into my back.
When the teacher, Nakada-sensei, finally came out, she sort of tapped on my nerves because she started bombarding me with, “Have you studied?” and “Have you practiced your introductions?” and “How much Japanese do you know?” and “You know you are going to have to give a two minute speech in front of the whole school before you leave, right?” I don’t know why, but it just irked me. What irritated me even more was when I told her, “No, I didn’t practice my introduction,” because I already HAD an introduction. So, in disbelief, she tried to cram a bunch of new phrases and words into my head, making me repeat them to her as though MY introduction wasn’t good enough. What made it worse was that the vice principle came rolling in (she was in a wheel chair) at this time, and Nakada-sensei made me tell her all the phrases I had just learned not even two minutes ago to her. Of course, I butchered it. “Keep practicing,” is all they said to me. That kind of spun my day a little.
For the first half of the school day, I didn’t really talk to anyone. They probably thought I was a morbid person. When I walked into the class, I noticed the chalk board say “Welcome to our class, アドレナ (Adorena)!” In case you don’t know, that’s not how you spell my name in Japanese. It’s actually “アドリナ (Adorina)” (which is closest to the American pronunciation). It’s not a big deal, but even here in Japan, they get my name wrong, and even here, I chose the wrong pronunciation as a nickname instead of correcting them.
As soon as the bell rang, everyone scattered to their seats, and I was introduced to my homeroom class by Nakada-sensei. And as soon as she finished, she turned to me and told me to give a brief introduction. So, I did: “Konnichiwa! Hajimemashite! Adorina desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!” which translates to, “Hello! It’s nice to meet you! I’m A’Dreana. Treat me kindly” or “Let’s be friends!” The room nearly blared with whispers and amazement soon after. The girls were repeating “Sugoi (awesome)!” and “Jouzu (skillful)!” With introductions out of the way, I took my seat next to a girl named Shiho, who was fluent in English. She would be my guide for the day – or week.
Unfortunately after taking my seat near the window in the back of the class, I had to immediately stand right back up. As the teacher stood peering out to us students, the girls suddenly bowed, saying, “御機嫌よう (Gokigenyou),” as they did. This is a very formal phrase, and it basically means, “Hello” and “Farewell” or “All the best!” It basically induces “Let’s have a good class” and is used at the beginning and end of class. Depending on the time of day, it could also mean “Good morning/afternoon/evening.” (Note: Mind you, this phrase is said at the beginning and end of every single class period). (By the way, for all those anime lovers, have your ever wondered why the main character almost always sits in the back of the classroom by the window? Well, apparently this is because the main character is being “protected” by the rest of the class, which is why s/he is furthest from the door to the class. It signifies importance. Yay! I’m important!).
As mentioned before, the all-girls school I attend is also a Christian school. So, before classes started, we had about a 15 to 30 minute service in the classroom, which was led by the teacher for this particular day. We students went out to our lockers to get our bibles and hymn books, went back to our seats, sang one hymn, read a scripture, listened to a sermon (that I didn’t understand), prayed, and sang another hymn. Then, we were off to classes.
My class schedule (yes, I have over 10 different English classes :P)
Since I was a new student, my schedule was posted on my homeroom chalkboard, but I also had another with me at all times, just in case. And one thing that was new to me – or at least different from my school in America – was the fact that I was allowed to carry my bag with me to all of my classes. Normally, Japanese students remain in one classroom the entire day, only leaving for extracurriculars like gym or cooking class. So, they have hooks on the sides of their desk to place their bags. But of course, I was an exception, so I didn’t stay in my homeroom class all day. Instead, I constantly move from class to class like the teachers.
The first class I had was bijutsu (art class), which made me sooo incredibly happy. I was in a senior class. OF course, I got plenty of stares, but no one came up to me (thank God!). And at that time, I really liked it. Moreover, the other girls were already in the middle of a painting project, so I was in my own designated spot at my own designated table away from everyone. There, the teacher came up to me. She wasn’t fluent in English, so she brought me pencil and paper and began pointing to things in the room, asking me what I wanted to draw. I immediately pointed to a cow’s skull. After placing it on the table, I began analyzing it, preparing to draw. But then the teacher moved the skull, propping it up on a wood slab. Unsatisfied, I removed the wood, which made the teacher confused. “Musukashii (difficult),” she said, referring to the perspective of the cow that I would be drawing. I merely shook my head and said, “I know.” Shrugging that off, she then began to tell me how to draw shapes and what pencil I should use. I listened to her but did none of the things she showed me, so she just left me to my work. The drawing came out pretty well if I do say so myself, and the teacher agreed, complementing me on my work. “It’s sensitive,” she said. And as I drew this, the girls kept throwing glances at me and my work again and again and again. “Sugoi (awesome, cool),” they would whisper.
Next was ongaku (music) class. And boy, I had no clue what was going on, at least for the second half of the class. In the first half, I got immediate stares when I walked into a room that looked like a chapel. There, the teacher introduced me before showing a musical called “The West Side Story.” In the second half, we students transferred to another room that actually looked like a music room. There, before the second part of class started, student after student played songs on the piano. And I’m not joking when I say most of them were playing songs like Mozart. (*Sigh* I really want to learn the piano now). Anyway, during the second half, the students were taking notes, I assume, on musical notes. The teacher would use the piano that was in front of the class to play different levels of sound, and the students would write the sounds they heard on paper. Finally, it was lunch time.
My mood started getting a little better around this time. Shiho, my mentor, invited me to a different classroom to have lunch with her and her friends. The entire time, I didn’t really say anything unless I was asked a question. I just ate my cold lunch silently, listening to the other’s conversations or girls from across the room squeal and scream when one of their favorite songs came on on the radio (no joke). But towards the end of lunch, I apologized to Shiho, telling her that I wasn’t my usual cheerful self and that I was not always that quiet. She simply told me it was ok, and that she knew I was like that because I was nervous. I quickly reassured her that NO, I was not nervous, just in a bad mood (like that was any better -_-).
After lunch, it was time for English class, Side Reading class to be specific! The English teacher, Mrs. Boxall, the one from England, introduced me to the class but then had the class ask me questions about myself and why I was in Japan. It was at this time that I realized EVERYONE throughout the entire day – or even week – would ask me the same things: “Where are you from,” “Why did you come to Japan,” “Do you like anime and manga,” “How do you like Japan,” “What is your favorite music,” “What is your hobby,” “Who is your favorite singer,” and so on and so on. But once all the questions were out of the way, Mrs. Boxall went straight into the lesson revolving around the book “The Golden Compass,” which I was assigned to read by the end of the month. And it was funny because during the questions and answers over a book I hadn’t read, the girls would turn to me for the answers simply for the fact that I was fluent in English. I simply told them they were out of luck. (Note: The students talk during class lessons. And I don’t just mean small whispers. No! I mean full blown conversations! And some of the teachers do absolutely nothing but continue to teach. A lot of them also sleep, their heads on the desk, mouth open, and everything! I have no idea how in the world students learn anything).
And finally, it was time for the last class of the day: taiiku (P.E.). Unlike my school in America, Toyo Eiwa didn’t have any locker rooms. The girls simply changed in their homeroom class. And it was funny because they WOULD NOT shut the door, even though there were male teachers there roaming the halls. However, one brave soul would close the doors and lower the blinds. Since I didn’t have a gym uniform, I had to wear a plain white tee and some black spandex my mom bought me. When we finally got to the gym, I found the gym teacher and greeted myself to him. And almost immediately, he brought over the basketball coach, who also helped with PE, and they both asked me if I was a fast runner and if I played basketball because I “looked” it . . . After staring at them blankly, and after asking Shiho to translate what they asked me, Shiho clarified that their school festival was coming up and that they needed fast people for the relay. I simply smiled, turned to the coaches and shrugged.
When class actually started, everyone had to line up into a certain formation, bow to the teachers and say, “Gokigenyou,” before sitting. Once attendance was taken, we all had to run about five to ten laps around the gym before getting back into formation for stretches, which were a little different from the way things were done at my school. Here, students are constantly moving during their stretches, not even holding a position for ten seconds, and the teacher leads the stretches, counting “Ichi, ni, san . . .” And after stretches, we all gathered by a chalk board. The gym teacher came up and apologized to me because he was going to be talking most of the time about preparations for the upcoming sports festival. After his little screed, all of us girls had to separate into two groups according to our homeroom class. From then on, we simply practiced different formations for games that would be at the festival.
It was finally the end of the day. Though most of my classes had quizzes and tests this day, I was leaving with two novels (The Fault in Our Stars and Tiger, Tiger) to read, a short book (A Thousand Cranes) to read, an essay to write, and over 25 Japanese vocabulary to memorize.
In my homeroom during my ten minute passing period, over half of the 38 girls in my class came and surrounded me, literally circling around my small desk, and each and every single girl was beaming. They just started sputtering questions and shouting their names, even though I already had about 50 names I had to memorize from the random girls who would come up to me and scream to me who they were. In broken English, one girl said, “I vant to be friend vith you.” More girls behind me started touching “my” hair while saying “Sugoi.” It was only when the teacher, Nakada-sensei, walked in and started giving out handouts that everyone dispersed.
Once announcements were completed, one of the girls stood and said a prayer. Well, more like spat out a prayer because she was saying it as quickly as possible. (It was the end of the day after all). With the room booming with “Amen” everyone rose from their seat and pushed their desks to the back of the room so girls could clean the classroom. Only a few girls, who were assigned, do it. As people were leaving to their activities, Shiho snuck me some sweets as a gift. Sweets weren’t allowed on school grounds/class, or I should say with strong emphasis “prohibited”, she made sure to due swiftly. Grateful, I pulled out a little gift I had been carrying with me throughout the day; it was an American flag. She was truly surprised and truly happy that she even got something from me. I told her it wasn’t much, but she really appreciated it.
My shoe locker (the 1-5 represents my class number, and the 38 represents my student number)
Finally ending the day on a good note, I went to my shoe locker, grabbed my loose shoes, and went back home with Yuchi and some of her friends. And of course, I continued to get a lot of stares all the way back home. (Extra note: Each student is given a number and sit according to that number. I am number 38).