I smile because I have no idea what’s going on.
It’s been a while readers. Sorry. Due to some technicalities, I wasn’t able to post at all last month. I had already written this blog out, but because my pre-written posts were somehow deleted, I’m going to simply highlight things that were interesting for that day (at least for me). Also, “simply?” Ha! This is a LONG post! Mind you, this was supposed to be posted months ago, so some recent comments and events may have been added. (I guess you can call this blog “long ramble”). Sorry for the lack of pictures (and especially for such a long post)!
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Talking During Lessons: I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again. I have no clue how some of the girls learn anything in class when they are constantly blabbering during the teacher’s lessons. When they aren’t conked out on their notes, they will be having their own conversations, and the teacher will just continue to talk as though the room were listening. (One time, one girl shouted my name from across the room right in the middle of the teacher’s lecture! Everyone merely laughed!). However, as soon as the teacher turns and asks someone to answer a question, everyone shuts up. I mean, it suddenly goes dead silent! The girls will just look down at their notes or at anything except for the teacher. And no matter what class I’m in, no one (or a majority) chooses to answer, even if they know it. It’s only when the teacher calls on them that they respond. Even then, they suddenly lower their voices to a mere whisper. In a class of around 40 students, I have no idea how anyone can hear anyone. I mean, they don’t elevate beyond a murmur.
Used in Class: It’s no surprise that I stand out nearly everywhere I go in Japan, but in school, teachers are always calling on me for the simple fact that I’m foreign – dare I say American. One time, an English teacher had the class interview me for their class points. Another did a compare and contrast with my school and Toyo Eiwa. Sometimes, teachers will just use me for correct pronunciation of English words. (A teacher had me read the lyrics of a Christmas song to the class so they could sing it correctly. Even at home, my host family will ask me if their English grammar and pronunciation of words is correct. They even have me translate sometimes!). One teacher in particular, Nakada-sensei, calls on me anytime anything associated with America is brought up. On this day, she called me to demonstrate a coin toss in front of the class simply because it was used in America. I told her I had rarely – if ever – done a coin toss, so it might be bad. And it was! I accidently chucked a coin at the girl in front of me! Another time, Nakada-sensei had me come to the front merely to summarize a summary of squids and how they recognize color and shapes.
Exams: Do you remember how I said studying is important? Well, that’s because they have exams all the time. It seems like there is always someone who has an exam to take, and exams are VERY important in Japan. Students are always constantly studying for exams with no real break, because even during breaks, they spend it all studying. And it makes sense to me because exams basically determine their future. Unlike in America where students normally go to the same school up until senior year, after middle school in Japan, students pick what high school they wish to go to. And based on how good their grades are, they could either choose to go to a well-educated school or a below average school. Either way, they have to test into the school! For college, it’s a bigger deal because they can only take an exam to enter once a year. (In America, students take SAT’s; however, these test can be taken multiple times a year). Some of the senior students at Toyo Eiwa quit their clubs in order to study. (Note: I figured out that if anything is mentioned about a test or having to study, a teacher will be a lot more lenient).
Lunch Time: We have a 40 minute lunch break in-between 2nd and 3rd period. There is a cafeteria, but most of the girls eat in their classrooms. They move all the desks and circle into their groups. Normally, Japanese bento lunches are eaten cold, though, some girls choose to heat there’s. They also pick off of each other, using their chopsticks to take each other’s food without warning. On the loud speaker, songs of a specific artist for that day will play. (Students can control the volume of the loud speaker from the classroom or turn it off completely. I thought that was neat). Nearly every time a song comes on, girls gasp and squeal, and sometimes, they dance! But what I thought was more interesting was that there is a 20 or 25 minute bell in between lunch that signals club members to rush to their clubs. So, the girls will rush to their clubs and practice until lunch is over.
Deep (and Nearly Entitled) Sense of Sharing: Lunch Time: There was something I really had to get used to, and I’m still not used to it! In Japan, society is more conforming than individualized. So in the classroom, everyone shares without being asked to. If someone has food, they will share with whoever is near, which is why the girls have no problem stealing other’s food. However, the Toyo Eiwa girls’ sense of sharing is so deep that they will go through your things. On several occasions when I would be writing in my journal, my classmates would just hover over my shoulder, READING what I was writing. (A lot of girls in my class can read English, so this is a VERY big deal!). Sometimes, they would stand in front of me and read what I was righting out loud. (One girl, who was just walking by, decided to stop by my desk, lean in close and MOVE my journal so she could get a better look at it, then walked away). Other times, they would pick up my journal and start reading it. Whenever something on my desk caught their eye, they would pick it up, analyze it, open it, etc.! (Sometimes, it’s annoying; however, I’ve recently noticed that I’ve started to do the same thing, only mildly).
Encounters With the Girls: By this time, I learned that some girls are shy and others not so much. In one of my English classes, one girl came barging her way into class, singing at the top of her lungs even with the teacher in there. The other girls in the room quickly sang along with her. In another class when I was waiting for a lesson to start, a group of girls huddled around me, giggling. Suddenly, one brave soul stuck out her hand and said “Take my hand.” Very confused (I thought it was a trick for a moment), I hesitantly took her hand and shook it. Immediately, she and the other girls squealed! “Thank you!” the girl screamed. With another incident in the same day, a girl who was literally stalking me down the hall didn’t have the courage to approach until I waved at her. Suddenly, she came zooming up to me. In broken English, she said, “I vant . . . to talk . . . vith you.” (A few girls had actually said this to me). So, I just gave her a brief introduction and asked what her name was. She was so happy! Still, towards the end of this day, I ended up walking into my homeroom class to see a girl crying. I felt a little heartbroken for the girl because she was clinging on to one of her friend’s shirts, but they just seemed to ignore her. (Apparently, if there is a problem or an awkward situation someone doesn’t know how to handle, they will just smile and/or laugh nervously!). So, I ended up walking over to the girl. Still crying, she laughed and told me she was alright. I simply nodded and gave her a hug. “Thank you,” she said.
Happy Birthday to Someone I don’t know: After coming out of the bathroom one day, I turned the corner just in time to see two girls skid to a halt. They quickly turned and started whispering to one another, occasionally throwing glances my way. Confused, I just started walking back to my homeroom. When I glanced back, I noticed they were following me! So, I stopped and waved. They giggled even more but quickly turned away, so I walked away. Later, one of my classmates came to me, telling me that two girls wanted to talk to me, and the two girls were the same ones who were following me! (That happens a lot too; if girls are afraid to come up to me, they’ll ask someone else to introduce them to me). Anyway, I walked up to the girls and just said hello. Nervous, they asked if they could record me saying “Happy Birthday,” to one of their friends. After a light chuckle, I did, and the girls went ballistic. “Thank you! Thank you!” they said. “My friend will be so happy!”
Other Experiences and Observations:
When Toyo Eiwa students enter the library, they have to put their bags in a cubby so they don’t try to steal any books.
In one of my English classes, doing a handshake is part of a test because some Japanese people don’t know how to shake hands. As my English teacher described it, their handshakes are weak and flimsy. (Sometimes, they have to practice hugging too because Japanese people don’t normally hug one another).
Friday, September 4, 2015
Good Relations With Each Other: By this point, I’ve realized that everyone is friends with everyone. It’s like a family setting: everyone talks to everyone, everyone messes with everyone, everyone gets in everyone’s business, etc. But not only are the girls really close with one another, they are really close with their teachers as well. In the middle of class, students will shout out jokes and teachers laugh with them. During gym class when we were playing volleyball, one girl completely missed the ball when serving, swinging her hand passed it. The teacher, who was standing right behind her, bent over and started busting out laughing. So, the student grabbed a volleyball and threw it at her, and they got into a chase. (It was really funny!). For a time, I always thought the teachers were the strict dominants who only wanted students to shut up and listen. I’m glad I was wrong.
One of my English teachers decided to dress up as Baymax for Halloween
Communicating With Non-English Speakers: I only have a handful of teachers who know English, but I am so happy to have them because I get to practice my Japanese (though, they still try their best to speak to me in English). One of those teachers is my algebra teacher. When he tried to explain a lesson to me, he didn’t know what to do, and the students kept laughing at him. Luckily, I had already learned what he was teaching back in America, so it was easy. Still, it’s really fun the way the teachers include me in things. And without fail, they always ask if I understood the lesson after class. (Most of the time, the answer is “No”).
Body Image: A lot of the girls at Toyo Eiwa are very small and thin. Of course there are some tall girls, but not that many. But no matter what size they are, a lot of the girls I talked to described themselves as fat! Well, if they are fat, I must be obese! In one of my English classes, one girl explained to the class how her mother told her she was fat and that she ate too much! In my opinion, she wasn’t fat at all! It was just her body image, her figure. Even so, the class just nodded along and AGREED with her! Another girl I talked to who is very petite raised her shirt and showed me a stomach compression band around her waist. I know that Japan’s and America’s obesity chart differs greatly, but this was just ridiculous to me.
PowerPoint and Excel: On this day, I had computer class, and it was a little surprising to me to find out that the girls were just now learning how to use PowerPoint and excel. In America, I learned how to use the said things in middle school. But what also surprised me was that they didn’t know how to give a presentation. They were all so nervous and jittery, constantly gluing their eyes to something other than the audience when they spoke. So much so, when they saw me give a presentation on my life, they were all amazed, saying that I looked professional and comfortable behind the podium, and I was!
How Fast am I?: Throughout the entire week, up until today, the girls and teachers continued to ask me if I would join the school relay. To my utter surprise, someone came up to me and told me that I was already signed up to run! Confused, I asked how and why. Then, another person came up to me and told me that someone told them I could run a 70 to 80 meter sprint in 6 seconds . . . I never told them that! All I told them was that I was a mid-distance runner. Nonetheless, after constantly being hounded, they finally got me to say yes to the relay. (They announced my entering of the relay to the class too, and everyone cheered!).
Homework: I ended up leaving school for the weekend with three books to read, two essays to write, a school project to complete, and around 5 worksheets.
By the way, that friend who I saw crying on Thursday came to me with her returned peppy smile. She thanked me and told me I was kind. But with that same peppy smile and tone, she told me that she didn’t like the homeroom teacher at the moment because she scolded her about the school festival, and then continued to insult her. All the while, that peppy smile on her face remained. It was a bit creepy, but I was glad she was happy again.
(Random Note: In classes, no one’s desk is really their own because seating arrangements tend to be different in every class. But even with that said, there are hooks on the sides of the desk for people to place their bags. So when someone goes to sit at a desk, there are already bags there).