All or Nothing

Wow!  I don’t post for almost a month, and now I’m giving you guys TWO posts in TWO days! Aren’t I great?  Aren’t you lucky?
Anyway, here’s what happened today:

I woke up this morning and knew instantly that it was the coldest thing I could remember experiencing in my life.  In shorts and a T-shirt for pajamas, I woke up and forced myself to get out of bed despite the violent shivers that immediately took hold of my body.  I quickly put on a sweater, and while it helped a little, I couldn’t stop shivering.  I immediately turned on my kotatsu and started  my coffee and tea.  Then I used my gas stove to cook my food as well as try to heat up the room a little bit.  When I finally got to relax under the kotatsu for a minute and check the temperature, I realized that it was raining outside and found out that it was 46 degrees.  Now, that might not seem like a lot to some of you folks out there.  But keep in mind that the temperature OUTSIDE is also the temperature INSIDE my home.  Not only that, but I’m from the desert state of Arizona where THIS is winter–and it’s not even “winter” yet in Japan.  Anyway, it was fairly miserable and I went to work wrapped in 3 layers.

My co-workers, upon seeing my appearance, were visibly amused.  My principal couldn’t resist and was like, “it’s not cold today, right?” and I made an appropriate sad, distressed expression in response and everyone laughed.  I then proceeded to tell them that it was 86 degrees in Arizona today (~30 degrees Celsius) and they let loose gasps of shock and claims of “atsui, ne!” (“that’s HOT, isn’t it?”).  I replied that it was actually perfect weather and they laughed and told me that real winter hadn’t come yet and that it was only going to get colder and hinted that I might possibly/would probably die.  Thanks, guys.  Feelin’ the love, for sure.

Well, on Tuesdays (it’s Tuesday in Japan today, remember), I go to the kindergarten.  I forgot to bring my umbrella since it was actually sunny (but still really really cold) when I left my house today, and got rained on a bit.  But it was only a light rain, so it wasn’t so much of a problem.  And then, when I arrive at the kindergarten, I’m accosted by one of the children saying, “atarashii tomodachi ga kita yo!” which means, “Some new friends came!” or “We’ve got some new friends!” and dragged me over to meet them.  These new friends were two new kindergarteners that I’ve never seen during my three-and-a-half-month stay here so far.  They were fairly adorable, but also pretty rowdy since, as the new kids, the other children were doting on them.  Well, I asked them if they’d ever studied English before, since I immediately realized that my lesson plan for the day was probably going to have to be adjusted for them.  Their reply upon my asking was, “eigo tte nani?” or “What’s ‘English?'”

Having confirmed their lack of any English, I set about adjusting my lesson for the day in my head while the children played (they did not want to play so much with me today, since they wanted to play with their “atarashii tomodachi” today instead).  But I did play a Japanese (?) board game with one of my usual kindergarten children, and gave them quite the challenge.  I could have beaten them easily despite having learned the game for the first time today, but I planned it to make it look like they were losing and encourage them to think harder about their moves, and then I would play somewhere dumb to see if they could catch it.  I was really impressed by the end when they started really stepping up to the plate.  Don’t underestimate 5-year-olds, guys…they’re actually pretty dangerous.  XD

So, then I return to my junior high to prepare quickly for class.  Then we have class, which was fine.  As I heat up my bento in the microwave wishing it weren’t so freaking cold, I remember.  I drew the first/second graders pikachus last week.  And they wanted me to color them yellow today.  But, when I finish lunch and am about to go over to their table to tell them I’ll be there, I see that they all forgot–or thought so at first.  One little child DID remember and ran over to hold my hand and tell me that they wanted me to draw them a NEW pikachu.  The surprising thing about this is that this child NEVER finishes their lunch on time, and hardly ever finishes with enough time left of recess to actually enjoy it.  It’s a daily challenge for them.  I praised them for finishing it, and went with them to draw them a pikachu.  Their teacher, who speaks some English, spoke to me in the classroom while the child prepared the materials for me to draw them a pikachu.  They said, “I was so surprised [they] could finish today….” I laughed and replied, “so that I could draw [them] the pikachu?”  The teacher nodded and but then said, “…but, [they] really…[they] really love you” and proceeded to thank me for watching out for the child.

Maybe it was because it meant something coming from a teacher whose known the child for several years, or maybe it was because I am still not sure how to interact with children most of the time, or maybe it’s because I had some particular troubles interacting with this particular child when I first got here, or maybe it’s because it’s just plain nice to know that you’re special to someone who by all means has no obligatory attachments to you nor the kind of attachment that comes with an extremely long time being together, but I was really touched by the comment.  It made my day.  🙂

Whether they’re children in Japan, children in America, or children anywhere in the world, they all need someone to help them find what drives them, because they often can’t find it by themselves.  And, once they find it, they need to be encouraged in it so that they don’t give up.  You can’t withhold all praise until they do what you want.  You can’t let them put themselves down by saying they can’t do it.  You have to find something that interests them and tell them they have talent at it, even when it’s only the littlest of little bit of talent, and give them the motivation to show you why they’re special, instead of you telling them why they’re not because of what they struggle with, or why they are(but not really) because of what they do the same as everybody else.

今日の日本語 (Today’s Japanese): In Japanese, there is a word, “mottainai” which is often translated as “wasteful.” But, the other day in my eikaiwa (English Conversation Club), someone mentioned all the rare fish that hang around my islands but that no one has the time to sail out to and catch, to which they commented, “mottainai.”  I have recently come to understand the word as being used in response to something which had/has potential that is not being exploited.  Thus, its range of uses is quite large.  To sum it all up in the English word, “wasteful” limits all of the possible connotations of the word in Japanese, which are not always so negative as “wasteful.”  Any thoughts, those of you that know (some) Japanese?

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