Beautiful plum blossoms in Okazaki Minami Park.
These flowers are the first signs of the beginning of spring and the end of winter in Japan. It was still cold today, but the strength of the sun and the vibrant blossoms encouraged us to think that maybe winter is over now.
Yep, it's true, there's more. I thought I'd seen and heard everything in the middle schools. I guess maybe I have.
But this time, I was in an elementary school that ordinarily I love going to. It was the last class of the day (4th graders who are about 10 years old). The final bell had just rung.
It had been a great day with interested, eager kids wanting to practice their little bit of English.
I was talking to three girls who wanted to shake my hand and hang out for a moment before I left.
All of a sudden, WHAP! One of the boys smacked me really hard on the lower back. I hadn't even known he was there, but boy, I sure did after that. It almost knocked my breath away. The teacher made him apologize after I insisted that yes, it was actually a problem and that I was in pain. I think I'll probably have a big bruise on my spine, but even more than that, I'm wondering if I really want to pursue working at that school one day a week from April. I'm extremely disappointed and angry, and my throbbing back is not helping to put me in a weekend kind of mood.
At the same time, I'm SO happy that my hubby's website was put on USA Today. He's a proud JNT papa. And I'm a proud wifey. That news today softens the elementary school blow a bit.
But would you please excuse me while I go tend to my aching back.
Whoo-hooo! My site is featured on the USA Today Tech page today!
Here is the story.
Took a day off today and went for a walk in a park in Okazaki full of gorgeous plum blossoms. I asked this kind lady if she'd pose for a photo, and she gladly obliged. She felt flattered because I called her "honorable aunt" and not "honorable grandmother", though her husband spoke up and bluntly assured me she's old enough to be a grandmother.
Today was a flowery day. I met up with a third-year student who gave me a beautiful arrangement she'd done for me. She's kind of an apprentice in a flower shop and loves creating. Her dream is to work in a flower shop in Europe and use her English. Ikumi is a jewel of a student.
In response to my shocked, kick-up-a-fuss reaction with the homeroom teacher of the girl who told me to die today, I was told that this is a form of "aisatsu" (greeting).
Pardon me, but I don't think telling someone to die in any country is a culturally acceptable form of saying hello.
In many ways I'm not going to miss this job.
It seems lately that I've been blogging really depressing things. My teacher friend who gets told by students to die, the Expo problems, etc. I do have good stuff going on in my life now, too, but today I was overwhelmed by news that one of my second-year students committed suicide recently. The other teachers at this school have been dealing with it for a few weeks now, but I only found out today by reading one of my other students' English journals. I don't know what was going on with the student who died, but he must've felt completely hopeless to do such a thing. When life gets hard, I'm so relieved that I know where my hope lies. I'm so blessed to know Who Hope is. I can't imagine what my student's family is going through now. The students in his homeroom class put out fresh flowers every day in the classroom, and they still put out his lunch tray for him.
Just today we heard the latest on the Aichi Expo 2005 fiasco. Apparently, to keep up appearances, last week police in downtown Nagoya actually tore down an entire homeless people's community. They've had their shelters up for years, hold down jobs, keep to themselves, and cause no worry or fear, yet the Expo committee certainly doesn't want visitors to the Expo to see homeless people! Heaven forbid! A huge city which actually has a homeless population. No way.
Another subject that's dear to our hearts is an orphanage here in Nagoya. There are two parts to it, a home for babies and very young children, and the one where we hang out sometimes, which has children aged about 4 to 18 or so. The Aichi prefectural government used to supply 2/3 of the budget for the orphanage. Because of the Expo and the completely unnecessary new international airport they've conjured from the sea, the funds are down to 1/3 of the orphanage's budget. They have to raise the rest themselves through donations. A mall that's close to our apartment here in Okazaki used to have a huge display of telling photos of the condemned building where the babies used to live. The see-through donation box is always empty. Recently, the towering display has been replaced with a table, complete with applications for a credit card for the mall. The orphanage donation box has been moved to an out-of-the-way place underneath an escalator. The babies and young children are now living in an abandoned hospital that doesn't appear to be much better than where they were before. Construction on the new building is underway, but from what we understand, halted occasionally for lack of funding.
Another thing that gets my goat is all the advertising pamphlets for the Expo which claim the Expo is "earth friendly" and "celebrates the past and future of the Earth". How can that be? They've torn down tons of trees, built roads, hotels, train lines, etc., which apparently will just be demolished after the infamous Expo. Very friendly.
Argentina has wanted to withdraw their participation completely, claiming it will not benefit their country or tourism industry one bit. Toyota threw a fit because of their involvement in industry there in Argentina, so the country has decided to cut their involvement in the Expo to half of what it originally was rather than withdrawing altogether.
Even many Japanese people we've heard about are hacked off with all the hoopla, as taxes have risen indiscriminately.
I'm sure the politicians and construction industry are reaping the benefits, but who else is or will ever?
- Arguments by citizens' groups prior to the Expo about long-term evironmental and fiscal effects.
- Japan Times article about the homeless people in Shirakawa Park being ejected by city officials. The Mayor's response? Nagoya "would open a consultation center to help the displaced homeless people find lodgings and jobs." (Note the use of "would", refering to an unspecified future time; and "find lodgings" rather than "provide lodgings". Good luck to them finding lodgings when they don't have a Guarantor....)
I love our church friends! The Itoh family is really great. Mrs. Itoh, our pastor's wife, loves to cook for crowds, and especially for the gaijin four. Going clockwise, starting with Abigail, Nick, Julia, Airin Itoh, Makiko Itoh, Mrs. Itoh, and Pastor Itoh. Stephen, our illustrious photographer, was asking us to say "curry rice" for the camera. This is the traditional staple food for getting together after the Sunday morning service here in Japan.
I was helping some second-year students with their English speeches. The assignment was to talk about something they like and why.
I choked back a laugh when I read one girl's paper. Her favorite movie is one with Bruce Willis called "Harmageddon."
My sentiments exactly.
I think what's most on my heart today is one of my teacher friends here and her plight at work with the little junior high school darlings. She is absolutely one of the nicest teachers in the schools, really cares about her students, and loves English and is great at it.
Don't get me wrong. Some of the students are very nice. Then there are the others.
Some of these others (a group of girls) repeatedly tell my friend to die. They tell her they are going to kill her. She's told their homeroom teacher numerous times, but nothing seems to change. I asked her about consequences for these kids and if any are utilized. Her only option, she feels, is to leave this job. She's got a job offer at another school for next year. I hope she takes it.
In the meantime, I can't imagine having to live with those words every day. I put my hand on her arm this morning and told her that I pray for blessings for her, and not for curses. She feels grateful for my support, but as a gaijin I am just so impotent in this system.
What I really want to do is call the police. I wonder what they'd say. I don't think they'd take it as lightly as the homeroom teacher apparently does.
There was a fatal stabbing of an elementary school teacher by a 17-year-old former student in Osaka two days ago. He wounded two others.
What the heck is going on?
You can pick up some great bargains in the 100 yen shops in Japan. 100 yen is about $1 these days, and that is how much it cost us to get each of eight salad plates of the type you can see in this picture. We have been using them for the last two years and really like the pale blue glaze and plum / cherry blossom design. You can imagine how surprised I was at Christmas when I was leafing through a Smithsonian shopping catalog at Abigail's parents' place and came across the exact same design. You can also imagine how surprised I was when I saw the price and figured out what an amazingly good deal we had been able to get!
Wow! I can't believe it has been a week since we last posted. That is why the title is "Hisashiburi", which means, "It's been a while," in Japanese.
I wonder if we just tired ourselves out last weekend with two separate talking marathons: Friday was a public holiday (Founding of the Nation Day - or at least that is how I translated the Japanese for you; I don't know what the official English is) so we had our friends Mike and Andrea round. They arrived at 11 and left at 11:30. We talked pretty much the entire time, only stopping for bathroom breaks and to feed our faces (with particularly delicious food at our local Brazilian store.) Then, on Saturday my former colleague from CESA, Peter, came over for lunch - and left at 9pm after a long chat.
Now, don't get me wrong - we really enjoyed having people over. It is just surprising how much energy your mouth can burn up if it is allowed to run away with itself.
I think the name of a rock band says a lot about the artists' philosophy of life.
I'm just wondering, though, about the one I saw today on Japanese TV.
Bump of Chicken.
Send us your ideas as to the deep meaning behind this name, and we'll buy you some popcorn to take along to one of their concerts. If you have the guts to check out their music while visiting us in Japan.
Our second Alpha course here is now over. Over a year after we started (the 15 week course), we gathered together today for the final session. Fortunately, we didn't all try to share the same sofa usually!
These are Abigail's colleague Natsue (sitting opposite me) and her friend, Arina, opposite Abigail. Here you see us enjoying extending our stomachs with a delicious Abigail pasta creation in between the two halves of the Return of the King Extended Version.
We were just over at our neighbor's apartment wishing Mrs. Saruwatari a happy birthday, when Mr. S (subject of the first "Unlucky for Some" post) popped out. Apparently, he was on his way to meet with his unlucky buddies for a meeting of their yakudoshi kai - The Bad Luck Club.
A homeless man who lived in his car was arrested yesterday for stabbing four people at a local supermarket, killing a baby.
Abigail found out about it at school as the children were being told that they should not play outside.
Fortunately, sad incidents like this are relatively rare here, although it seems that they are on the increase.