Some random musings:
It's election time in Japan. Unlike back home, here they hold them on two different weeks, with one half of the contested positions each time. This week, my town is one of the ones holding its election.
During election time, the candidates and some of their staff drive around in cars with loudspeakers mounted on the roof -- like the Bluesmobile advertising a concert. It's sort of the more polite version of the black vans. . . . I often see and hear these cars as I'm walking home from work. Yesterday, on my way home, about four of them passed me, politely waving and reading campaign slogans. One of them stopped, and the candidate looked at me and said, "Arigatou, sensei. Otsukaresama," before he moved on. I guess it was a good idea for me to attend a couple of PTA functions.
My friends and I have simultaneously hit a low in the culture shock cycle, we think. For me, I have an added difficulty, in that the only people my age I can really talk to are the English teachers. That's okay, but for the fact that this year they are all homeroom teachers, and thus have no spare time to just chat (and, alas, sometimes no time to plan team-teaching lessons). Plus, none of them live in this town, so after school is out, I'm pretty much by myself. I sometimes get to see my ALT friends on the weekends. They're fun to hang out with, but occasionally I'm forcibly reminded that I'm six or seven years older than most of them, and our frames of reference are somewhat different. (One of my friends is five or six years older than me, but he has more to worry about than dealing with us young'uns. . . I'll say no more, except for this: He has had to hire a lawyer.)
My supervisor at the school board came to my desk yesterday to tell me that for some reason they'd forgotten to set up a deduction in my pay for the school board's social fund -- set up to pay for all those welcome parties and other staff functions. Because I haven't been paying this fee, I had basically gone to a lot of parties and things for free.
Matsuo-sensei seemed braced for an argument -- I'd been supposed to pay into this fund from day one, but since I hadn't, about a hundred dollars of fees had built up, and she had to ask me to pay all of the back fees, as well as start paying from now on. (�500 a month, since August of 2001) However, I didn't bother putting up a fight, but just said that it was okay. She seemed a bit surprised, I think. I then went on to explain that every school I had ever taught at had the same kind of fund set up. (I think at Prosperity Heights we called it the "Sunshine Committee fund.)
Sometimes I think that people forget I've been a teacher before.
I may have mentioned earlier that last Wednesday (the 23rd) was my birthday -- or maybe I didn't mention it. Anyway, just for fun, I asked a few classes how old they thought I was. Most students guessed pretty close, although a few started clowning around and saying that I was over 50. I hope they were joking, anyway.
Occasionally, students ask me questions like "How do you say 'baka' in English?" or "How do you say 'aho' in English?" I took some advice from one of the English teachers, and began responding, "Wonderful!" "Smart!" "Cool!" The correct answers would be "idiot" and "dumbass," or words to that effect.
My friend Doug noticed that many students in his town have taken to flying the bird at each other. Whenever he sees this, he rushes over and exclaims, "My god, you're doing it wrong, it's THIS finger," whereupon he sticks up his ring finger. The really funny thing is, they believe him, and now the kids flick each other off with their ring fingers. I don't think I could get that to work in my town.
So, yah, I'm tired, lonely, and culture-shocky. However, the trip to Hiroshima starts tomorrow. so we'll see if that helps. And, I'll probably have more photos to post in my photo album by next week.
Catch you on the other side,