Wow, it’s been awhile since my last post. Sorry about that. Well, a lot has been happening, which is simultaneously why I haven’t posted until now and why I now have a lot to tell you (and I mean A LOT).
I’ll start with how things went today; today was wonderful. Today was the undoukai (sports festival day, in case you forgot). Before I tell you about the events, I’ll go ahead and say that the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. There was no wind to kick up the dust, but it was cloudy so it was cool, yet it did not rain, so we did not suffer that either. It was fantastic.
So, I had to show up to work early to help set up and everything, and it was admittedly quite a bit of work. I did a lot of lifting and setting up of tents and helped tidy things up. But, after that, it was time for the fun to begin!
I participated in two events: the Hole-in-One event and the Mukade event. The first one was basically using a wooden golf club to hit a ball into this metal wire thing. Everyone had ten minutes to do it and you only get one hit per turn. I managed it on my fourth try (when I switched from trying it right handed like everyone else to my more natural left-handedness). I didn’t know it then, but we got a prize for winning. I now have enough toilet paper to get me through the winter, I think, because my prize was a giant bag of it. The latter (Mukade) was a relay in which 5 people are tied in a line at the ankles, and they have to run in unison. Although my team was by far the fastest (the crowd let out a big “oooooh!” when we finally started running because we were fast and not tripping over ourselves), the group that we were given to give us our relay stick was the most horrendous group of 5. They were my students, and they ganbaru’d the heck outta themselves, but they had no idea how to work together to move forward. So, by the time they reached us, the other two groups were already almost to the finish line. But it was all good. We had fun, the students learned something about working together, and it was enjoyable to hear the crowd gasp as my team sprinted forward in almost perfect unison.
One thing I enjoyed was seeing all of the children at once, and their parents. It was also terribly amusing that when the really little kids saw me, they got SUPER excited and were like “KATIE-SAN! KATIE-SAAAAAN!!!!! KATIE-SAAAAAAN DA YO!” And ignore everyone else around me trying to say hi to them. One woman from the town hall laughed and was like “what is this? You’re so popular, and they just ignore me…” I felt a little bad. But mostly I felt satisfaction at the fact that the kids were genuinely excited to see me. The elementary students hardly cheered, but when I got up there to do the golfing, they were screaming themselves silly for me. Just me. It was awesome.
My favorite thing of all though, I think, was the parent-child competition relays. The kids did their absolute best in competition with their parents. The parents just kind of goofed off. Sometimes, they really did their best because they couldn’t keep up with their kids. But, most of the time, they were so much more physically capable than their children in the races that they ended up goofing off to be fair. Sometimes they would run like mad, get ahead, then stop to wave to the crowd or tease their child until they caught up, then run at half speed so that their child was ahead. Or, if a parent beat their child, the next parents would take the relay bar and let the next one get ahead. One parent ran SUPER fast and out-distanced their child in three seconds flat. They didn’t slow down. They rounded the corner…and then kept running straight instead of completing the turn for the goal. They instead ran around the gym and by the time they got to the goal, their child had already caught up. It was also great to watch the parents cheat to get ahead sometimes (they would cut corners, or mess with the children to distract them, or switch and let a mother run instead of father if he was slow, etc.). But, in the end, they let their kids win the relay.
The past couple of weeks have been just as interesting. First of all, my school wasn’t joking about getting the violin for me to play for the music festival. It came in the mail the other day, and I’ve been tuning it and was told that I can take it home to practice. So, I’ve been practicing for several hours, too. So, I shall be doing that in the upcoming days.
I also got sick. Like, the kind of sick that comes and goes fairly quickly but that is also fairly fierce. I would have been more upset about it if it weren’t for how kind everyone was. I went to work and by lunch I was feeling quite horrible, with chills and sweats off an on. I told my English teacher and they said to take it easy in the staff room awhile. The next thing I know the principal comes over and asks me for a minute in his office. I was like OH GOD WHAT. But I was like “s-sure?” and went in. And my English teacher followed. And the principal was like, “So, I hear you’re not feeling well. If you’re not feeling good, please don’t push yourself and take it easy. If you need to, go ahead and go home. It’s okay.” He asked the English teacher to translate, but I understood everything and was like, “I’ll see how I feel.” And he replied that I should go to the hospital if I don’t feel better and everything, and then insisted again that I don’t push myself and go home. I ended up going home. A couple hours later, I get a few messages from random people NOT from work about how I should feel better. For the next couple of days, everyone I ran into (from my neighbors to the workers at the grocery store) asked me if I was okay, if I’d been to the hospital, and told me to take it easy. Pretty sure that EVERYONE on my island knows that I wasn’t feeling well, and they were all concerned about my health and wanted me to be better. It was a strange yet comforting experience.
Hmmm…there’s also the kindergarten to talk about. The last time I went was a rough one. The children were just having one of those days where they just bicker with one another. Two children got into a physical punching fight when one wouldn’t stop chasing the other. It had happened several times already, and Japanese discipline at this age is usually to only step in if it gets dangerous and to otherwise let them solve it themselves (which they did the first couple of times with apologies), but the third time was the last straw. One kid went all out punching when I was the only one there, and I had no idea what was going on or what to do, but I could see that it could turn bad, so I grabbed hands. The screaming and crying drew the teachers from the game hall and wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t know, but they asked the kids to explain. As it turns out, the teeny one had bitten a hole in the other one’s shirt because he wouldn’t stop chasing him. The kid wasn’t hurt, but his shirt had a very large hole in it. It was hilarious. I couldn’t believe that the tiny child could do that. It was a serious matter, though, so the laughter was followed with a lecture. I didn’t stick around for that, though, because the other children were being nosy. So, I led them off to play a game until everything got sorted out.
I also went around the island to draw with the junior high kids for four hours, which was both fun and exhausting. Four hours of sitting and drawing one spot of scenery outside in the sun gets hot, fast. But it was peaceful and quiet.
Anyway, that about sums up the most important bits since my last post. I’ll have some pictures for you all later.
Today’s Japanese(今日の日本語): The last time, I talked about how bugs will “deru” or “come out” in your house. This verb is useful for other things, though. Today, for the various events at the undoukai, people kept asking me, “_____ ni deru?” (“Will you come out in ____?”). While in English we use the word “participate,” Japanese prefers the usage of deru for things in which your participation occurs in a place where you will be watched by people. Which makes sense. You come out before people and show them something. To participate (sanka suru) in something is somehow more private or individual, but to deru is a much more exposed feeling because the phrase is more literally “will you come out/appear in ____?” It’s a different way of thinking, and I kind of like it. It makes the experiences in which you deru feel somehow more communal, and hence more enjoyable.