While at the travel agency

We played Jeopardy! with both the second-year classes today, and it was a pretty big hit, though somehow, there was one team in each class that either only scored at the very end or who we had to help along with scoring. It was fun, though. I think we’ll be doing something similar for the last first-year class next week, and I have to come up with something for them tomorrow, too.

I just booked my plane tickets for my July/August Hokkaido-Tohoku trip today. I’m flying into Sapporo and out of Sendai, and I have about 7.5 days up there. Now, what to do to fill the time…

While I was at the agency, a British family of about 6 came in–the daughter spoke some Japanese and was the appointed speaker, and the father was fidgeting (there was a lot of nervous tension in the air, from both the family and the train station/travel agency staff) and knocked over one of those tall metal brochure stands, which hit me as it fell. It didn’t hurt me or anything, and I got up to help pick up the fallen brochures. He apologized and asked if I was okay, and I replied that I was fine and asked if he was okay–and then realized as soon as the words left my mouth that that actually sounded pretty rude, when I really was just checking to make sure the stand didn’t hit him or he didn’t trip or anything like that.

Also while I was at the agency, a kind of scruffy-looking guy was waiting in line to buy train tickets at the adjoining counter. I suddenly heard a shriek and a burst of excited laughter and chattering, and I saw several high school girls staring at him and freaking out. They and a boy they were hanging out with rushed over to the guy, gushing over him and giddily shaking his hand. I asked the staff a few minutes later, and it turns out he was some kind of famous comedian or something. It’s funny how celebrity is such a non-universal trait. I’m well past the point that I would go into freak-out mode if I saw a celebrity, because when it comes down to it, the only thing separating them from us “common folk” is widespread attention (and occasionally, hopefully, some kind of cool talent/skill).

Well, anyway. It’s evening now. I’m still trying to finalize my first-year lesson plan for tomorrow, and my second cake for tomorrow just finished up. I have two major elementary school sayounara lessons to deliver tomorrow; I foresee it being another very draining day.

Sayounara, friends and students

I had a really emotional farewell at today’s shougakkou. It’s a really small school, and as such, I know all the kids, but especially the 8 that I teach (3rd-6th grades). We had class in the gym today, with most of the teachers in attendance; I played a few Studio Ghibli tunes and some fiddle music on my violin, then led the class in several music games (dance while you hear music and the last one to stop has to sit down–not sure if that has a name or not–and musical chairs) and about 10 minutes of the game of their choice (fruits basket)

We then started the closing ceremony they had in my honor. They sang me a song, gave me some sweet gifts (a Tanabata Matsuri wreath made from a plastic bamboo stalk with individual notes tied to it, a little Naruto coin purse, and a book with drawings and notes by the students, with the Japanese, Indian, and American flags and a photo of me teaching the international greeting class on the back), recited a speech, and all shook my hand and said their own individual closing comments one at a time, before forming an arch with their hands that I walked under. I cried quite a bit. Several of the girls were crying too, and the boys looked really serious. The principal also slipped me a personal gift (a really beautiful red, peach, and purple silk cloth), and the teachers were surprised by the cake I baked (it’s not customary for departing people to give gifts here, but I had to do something to thank them…the cake turned out tiny, but I hope they enjoyed it).

I try not to play favorites, but that’s consistently been my favorite school and one of my favorite classes. They invited me to come back and visit anytime, and the kids interrupted their next classes to run to the windows and open them and wave and shout farewells at me as the vice principal walked me to my car (it was raining and she refused to let me go out without an umbrella, since my hands were full and I’d forgotten mine). If I have time while Caitlin and I overlap, I may bring her around to all the shougakkous to introduce her, in the same way that Dave did for me.

Today was also the day of my final classes with the third-years at my junior high. We did a fill-in-the-blank activity with Angela Aki’s “Your Love Song” (her one English-language track off her “Home” album) and a listen-and-count activity with The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be” (they say “I’m gonna be” 21 times in the song), as well as teaching the kids the sentence structure present in the line, “I’m gonna be the man who goes along with you.” (“I’m gonna be a person who is positive,” etc.) It didn’t feel quite as final because our closing ceremony isn’t until next Friday.

A lot of other stuff’s gone on…Friday was the last Ugly Men open mic, and I’d gone without intending to participate but ended up singing two songs (“The Sound Of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, though the key was awkward so I kept switching octaves, and I backed up James on “Hotel California”). Rob rocked the sanshin, and he and Lance did a couple of awesome sanshin/ukulele collabs, and Genna sang Janis Joplin brilliantly. I stayed at Olivia’s that night and then headed down the coast Saturday for the big sayounara party…which wasn’t really all that big (only about half the prefecture came out, and while I saw a lot of people I wanted to, there were plenty who didn’t come who I was hoping to see), and it didn’t really feel so final, either; it felt a lot different from last year’s, for sure. (And thankfully, nobody in a drunken stupor tried to set fire to the campsite this year, either.)

Sally and I stayed at Bessie’s that night and then slowly made our way back out west, stopping to go to an onsen (yes, I went in, mainly because I only saw the private showers after I was already in; it actually was all right, but I don’t plan on going again), have Indian food in Hiwasa (the owner took my photo “for memories!” Awww!), and get coffee and other stuff in the city. I was really fading by the time we got to Sally’s and had to drag myself up the stairs to my apartment.

I still haven’t recapped Kyushu. Is it worth it at this point?

This week…not much, besides lots of mad packing, applying for jobs, cooking for our eikaiwa potluck parties Friday, and seeing Genna and Kiet Friday night, both for the last time. Genna leaves Japan Saturday, and Kiet’s busy up until he goes home and only gets back a day or so before I leave. I saw Ange for the last time this weekend. Not sure who’ll be around for Awa Odori, but that’ll indeed be the end.

The end is in sight

Sorry, been a while…I’ve been a bit busy, with packing, trying to get all my photos online, and the like.

To the former Miyoshi-gun ALT who posted a really kind comment a few weeks ago: thank you so much! I responded in that comment box itself, so please visit the June archive (from the dropdown to the left) and check it out. My time is short or I’d repeat what I wrote there in an entry.

My final classes begin next week. After two years of teaching, here I am. This is feeling very strange and surreal right now. I have 3 final elementary classes and 4 final junior high classes, and the following week should see the remaining 1+4 final elementary classes (visiting school plus base elementary school) and my final junior high class. My JTE’s asked me to prepare whatever I’d like for my final classes, and I’m really finding myself at a loss, in part because I’ve never really planned a junior high class before (the last one resulted in a fight and a broken window), and in part because…how do you adequately sum all this up?

I’m equally at a loss for my final elementary classes, and I’m totally used to planning those every week. Some schools have requested that I bring my violin and play for them, and I want to figure out a way to integrate that well, so I’m not just playing at them, but so they’re actually doing something, like dancing or something.

It’s also coming up on time for the final speeches. I need to work on those this week–today, even, while I have my JTE here to help me.

Our big prefecture-wide sayounara party is this weekend, and the westie sayounara party was this past weekend. I only teared up at one point last weekend, but I can foresee lots of tears in the next couple of weeks. I’ll arm myself with tissues and hope for the best.