All work and no frisbee makes Smitha a grumpy girl

Seventh straight day of doing something work-related, with three and a half more ahead.

Yesterday we had Human Rights Day (pfft, like it actually does anything). I had no class and didn’t think to go watch any of the demo lessons so I just sort of sat around all day, chatting with my neighboring teachers and checking out the caterpillar the science teacher was keeping in a box (the latest of the critters he likes to bring in and show us–I think he’s happy to have a science-friendly ALT as his neighbor) until the big assembly at the end of the day. I caught about 40-50% of what was said, but the guy was a good and enthusiastic speaker, and I was watching the kids from my vantage point in the back and none were dozing off, a very admirable thing considering how stuffy the gym was (freezing in the winter, sweltering in the summer…goody).

The reason why I don’t believe in Human Rights Day is because they’ve obviously been having these for quite a while, and yet the bullying and foreigner-relations issues still exist, almost worse than before, at least as far as bullying/ijime is concerned (it’s like it’s all talk, and the people make no connection between these talks and the real world).

(I should add that I’ve spent about 20 minutes trying to think of the word that describes that lack of connection between the concept and its real-world application, and I’m coming up frustratingly blank. My vocabulary has rotted considerably since moving here. Math? No problem; any time I fork over a note of any kind at the grocery store, I always calculate my change mentally, and there are so many other opportunities where I can keep up my mental math. But keeping up my university-level English is really rough in a country where I:
1. don’t speak English as my primary language,
2. seek to constantly simplify my English, and
3. teach and use a really strange and almost antiquated/archaic form (“Shall we enjoy some tea?” or “How do you go to school?”/”I go by bus.” as well as words like “difficult” and “very”).)

Oh, and another reason I’m bitter about Human Rights Day? It was in October 2005 that I received my first and worst “gaijin” comment in my entire time in Japan, at an elementary school whose HRD I attended inadvertently when the school forgot to let me know classes were canceled. I’ve told this story–the “Sensei, it must be such a burden on you to have to take care of this gaijin!” one–so many times since then, and it still makes people’s jaws drop. The sheer irony of the situation still amazes me to this day. Human rights, indeed.

Well, anyway, that was yesterday. (I wanted to play frisbee afterwards, to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather, but everyone was busy and I was exhausted from my sixth full day straight of going in to work.)

Today I had a two-hour volunteer eikaiwa–an adult student of Brian’s has started a club for area teachers who want area ALTs to do occasional 2-hour elementary school English activity sessions, and my day was today. I guess it went well, though there were only three teachers present, one of whom is the former JTE who’s now a teacher at one of my shougakkous.

I tried to get people together for frisbee together, but it was threatening to rain (ARGH! I’ve been trying for weeks to get a group together, but Japan seems to be conspiring to not let me play again while I’m here…), and Kiet was the only one who was free anyway. We met up in Wakimachi, trying to figure out what to do, and he had the idea to go check out the (evidently internationally renowned) Dochu Sand Pillars in Awa. They were less than impressive–we figured the impressive part must have been in how they were formed, or something. Finally, having killed enough time, we headed to Yoma’s for the weekly Ugly Men dinner.

The Ugly Men are a rock group (they aren’t all men, and they certainly aren’t ugly) that get together on Sundays to practice and then invite ALTs over for dinner. I’ve written about them before; they’ve had a few concerts and open mics where they’ve invited ALTs to play their own music and to front the band and sing along. Genna and Ange persuaded me to finally come out this week. They had to make me a slightly separate set of food, even from the other regular vegetarian(s?) present (they were actually pescatarians), which I felt really guilty about and which was why I’d avoided coming before (plus, Waki’s 45 minutes from Ikeda, and it’s mainly the ALTs within a 20- or 30-minute radius who make it out). But it was fun–I really would like to go again, but I feel really bad about making people go out of their way to prepare food for me. It’s actually the same reason I haven’t been invited to many teachers’/Japanese friends’ houses for meals; some have admitted recently that they had no idea what kinds of food they could prepare for me. It’s a shame, but the last thing I want to do is inconvenience anyone–though it would’ve been cool if they’d told me earlier in my JET tenure, so I could have suggested we turn those events into joint cooking nights so I could show them vegetarian cuisine firsthand! Oh, well.

So that’s been my weekend. I called home a couple of times this week, to wish my mom a happy birthday this past week, and to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day today. I have a class tomorrow morning, and then I get to spend the rest of the day at the Board of Education, prepping for the week, getting the last of my trip info together, and calling around inquiring about rates from Seoul to Osaka for a friend who’s hoping to come over and isn’t having any luck finding cheap rates on his own. It would be cool to see him–it’s actually been about 8 years since we saw each other last.

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