Hmm…I actually haven’t really had the urge to write. It’s just been about a week, so I’m just checking in.
I miss my kotatsu so much right now. The weather got cold again on Monday, after only somewhat chilly weather over the weekend, and it snowed Monday and yesterday–quite a bit yesterday, though nearly all of it had melted by the afternoon and it’s all gone now. I’m huddled under a blanket currently. I’ll be getting the kotatsu back this weekend, after our musical wraps, and I hope I can still put it to some use before spring sets in.
Yesterday was Pi Day (March 14th, or 3/14…get it?)–I completely forgot until I saw the date on one of those digital signs outside a nearby restaurant when walking to the grocery store last night (I was wearing 4 layers at the time, because I was so cold in my apartment that my hands and feet were numb and my toes were tingling–I got a lot of stares for looking so bulky and just for wearing a hat and gloves, when even the senior citizens weren’t wearing hats; I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so freaking cold). I did indeed eat some pie yesterday, sort of, in the form of an apple pie pastry.
So the Insane Weekend came and went…graduation was Saturday morning, and I headed out the door with my shoulder bag, my costume/change-of-clothes bag, and my ¥1000 Christmas tree to serve as a prop, and while wearing my suit and heels. A strange sight, indeed.
The ceremony was interesting–a bit different from US ceremonies. For one thing, most schools don’t have a junior high graduation, and if they do, it’s not nearly as big a deal as in Japan. It was a very emotional day for these people–while graduation’s a day to rejoice and celebrate in the west, it’s a very tearful day of farewells here. I didn’t cry, but I felt that familiar ache in my throat and twinge in my nose that told me that I was close. The diplomas were handed out first, and then the speeches followed–the whole ceremony was 2 hours long, and there was a lot of kiritsu/rei/chakuseki, enough that I nearly stood up one time when just the students were supposed to, and the teacher to my left grabbed my arm as I started to move. I exchanged a sheepish grin with the teacher on my right, and the teacher to her right, smiling, scribbled on his programme, mata?
After the ceremony, the students and teachers met outside to say goodbye to the students as they departed the school, and the underclassmen had gifts prepared for the graduates. There were a lot of photos, the brass band played, the 3rd-years assembled and sang a song for their homeroom teachers…I sort of hung back because I never had a chance to be the favorite of any of the students, due to my rarely being at that school for a full day. Eventually I retreated to the teachers’ room to kill time till Joe and Jordan would be by to pick me up, and I folded about 100 of the 250 programmes I ended up having to print, due to Jordan running into issues (I didn’t think my school would let me do it, but they were quite awesome about helping me out).
When I finally headed outside, some of the sannensei were still there, and I ended up getting a group photo with about a dozen guys–Naoki first approached me to get a photo, and then another guy jumped in, and another, and another, and then they had me sit in front and crowded around me with peace signs and the like. I wish I’d handed my camera over to get a copy of that photo.
I first noticed that Joe and Jordan were coming when I saw Joe’s green jeep accidentally going up the wrong hill. Anyway, we headed out, with much fanfare from my students, who were amazed to meet other area ALTs. We drove to Mikamo, where we switched cars and Saori drove us the 3 hours down to Hiwasa. I’d gotten a headache at school and started feeling sick to my stomach, so I slept for much of the ride. I woke up about 20-30 minutes before we got there, in mountains that just seemed different, and then we arrived in the town of Hiwasa, which was right on the coast! It was adorable, and I really started liking it just from the drive through–I’d love to stop by another time.
The venue was also cute, if small–we got applause from the rest of the cast when we arrived, since we four had to come the farthest and we arrived a couple of hours after everyone else. The show went pretty well that night, though it had its own erroneous “theme”…the way that the show the Sunday before had people falling off the stage, this was the show of the random/runaway microphones rolling around on the stage. People nearly stepped on them, people had to roll them out to people onstage who’d forgotten them…it was pretty funny.
Bessie, Julia, and Amber were all staying at my place that night–way out west–and we ended up being among the last to leave because nobody else helped us clean up the venue. I still felt headachey and really sick and was a little worried I was going to throw up…until we stopped for dinner, and I realized that I hadn’t had breakfast and only had a meager lunch–I was hungry. After eating two servings of meat/fishless chaahan, I felt much, much better, and stayed awake to keep Bessie company for the rest of the drive (tsukaresama, Bess!), while Amber and Julia dozed in the back. It was a solid 3-hour drive, and we got here around 1:30 AM…but despite how tired we all were, we ended up staying awake till 3 AM, just teasing each other and giggling. The whole night was almost like a sleepover–we even played Truth or Dare in the car (more like Truth or Truth, really), but a very good-natured version.
Ironically, despite being really close to Mikamo, where the Sunday performance was, we were an hour late, but so were a bunch of other people. This show had our least turnout (though six of my eikaiwa ladies showed up!), but the most enthusiastic kids–some highlights include a kid coming up and making tongue-clucking noises at the edge of the stage and Chris as Hook interrupting himself to snarl, “Quiet!” at him; kids actually reading aloud the “I don’t believe in fairies” signs, during the scene where Pan is explaining why you should never, ever say those words; and just lots of giggling and shrieking at the appropriate times.
I also was able to do a brief and pretty simple dedication to Adam at the end, during the time when they were passing the mics around to have people living near the venue give thanks to friends/teachers/etc., so I thanked the people from my junior high (though none were present–my JTE was sick or she would have been there) and my eikaiwa ladies, and slipped in something along the lines of, “And on a more personal note…a couple of weeks ago, just before the first show, a good friend of mine back home in the US passed away. So Adam, this is for you. I love you and miss you.” The rest of the cast very kindly applauded at that (I honestly wasn’t sure what the reaction would be)–thanks, guys. I was a little surprised to find myself choking up a little bit–I guess it’s still a bit raw.
Because of graduation on Saturday, we got Monday off–even though I didn’t stay at school the whole day, my boss kindly let me take the day. I went with Lindsay to see some of her kids put on a rock concert at our community center, though we could only stay for 2 songs because she had to go meet somebody. I also got a small vase at the ¥100 store, and transferred Noam’s flowers into it and used the Old El Paso salsa bottle for the bigger bouquet that Yaemi and Kazumi, two of my eikaiwa ladies, had given me on Sunday (they ran up to the edge of the stage while I was talking–it was so sweet).
And this morning was the first of the three elementary school graduations I’m attending–they very kindly sat me at the teachers’ table. It was a shorter version of a junior high graduation, with no student speeches (did I mention that one of my speech contest girls was kind of the Japanese equivalent of valedictorian, so she gave the final speech, and was crying really hard in the middle? God, poor thing…there was also a speech about how everyone must eat the school lunch and 3 square meals a day, so they can keep up their strength and therefore become the future leaders of tomorrow–kind of funny, actually), but tears all around. I’ll be seeing all these kids in April, but I couldn’t help but think, “Enjoy this free time while you can…this is the last time you’re truly going to have fun in your academic life.”
And that’s all for now. Plans are falling into place for some of the post-musical stuff I’m doing, like the Shikoku frisbee tourney and Mat‘s Lord of the Rings marathon and subsequent day of exploring Kamikatsu. I have two more graduation ceremonies and two classes before I’m done with classes for a month…it’s time to figure out how to either make productive use of my time at the BOE, or how to successfully look like I’m doing work. Any suggestions?