I'm so ready for this vacation. Tomorrow night I'm going to get on a midnight bus to Tokyo to see Kirby and others, and it's going to be awesome. I haven't been out of Morioka for more than 24 hours in months, I don't think, and I'm really ready. Part of it is that I need to be around people who aren't so dang nice all the time, and going somewhere where I won't be aware of how much I stand out. Lordy.
This is on a slightly negative note, but one of the things about Morioka that is both really awesome and really annoying is how nice they are. It's really nice because you can ask just about anybody for just about anything, and they'll be glad to help you out. I once saw a bus driver get off the bus to point out a landmark to a confused tourist. But the other thing is that they don't really ever leave you alone. At an elementary school I went to a week ago, I was offered coffee 4 times in 2 minutes, and really my face hurt from being "on" and being a smile-y teacher so much I wanted to be left alone so I didn't have to smile any more, but every time I had to smile and bow my head no, thank you. (A side note. I've seen a few times waitresses and people like that whose mouths are twitching really funny or something else that makes it look like they're in pain from having to smile so much all day.)
Another part of it really is being a celebrity. I get stared at every day, and today I gave 40 kids my autograph who were all lined up for it, and before that at the school at the end of class the little kids ran up to me to grab my hands and I stumbled and very nearly fell on them. So tiring. I can really understand how celebrities snap at paparazzi sometimes. :)
I was also asked (only!) twice today if I was married, and when I said no, all the kids made a sound of surprise and astonishment in unison. Right after being asked if I was married, I was asked if I had kids. -.- Morioka is country so people get married and settle down young here, but I'm still asked if I'm married at a very unsettling rate of frequency. Even by other adults. Other ALTs I've talked to agree, and we are actually really weirded out by it.
I also am conflicted in my job here. I thought I would get a little more used to it, but I'm only getting more amazed that the kids can't answer "Is this a pen?" and "Do you like music?" after six months of classes. Somehow in the 80s and 90s Japan gave the world a very good impression that they had a good education system in place for it but really the opposite is true. When grading quizzes, I'm told to count an entire sentence wrong if they forget a period, get wrong capitalization, or misspell one word, even if it's the only kid in the class that had the correct word order so is obviously really smart. Most kids write something like, "ken no math study" instead of "Ken doesn't study math." (Doing a google search right now for [Japanese English education] I got about 3-4 results on the first page talking about how terrible at it they are.) And the worst part is that at every turn in the class, I know that with no educational training, I could plan a lesson that is a million times better than what I see with this one teacher. There is hardly any English in the classroom at all, just lists and tables of grammatical rules explained in Japanese, and the kids getting singled out if they make a mistake and say "I am like music" when really they need a whole review of the fundamentals. This teacher, however, just rings his hands and asks the kids to be quiet when they're acting up and I'm the one that steps up and has them settle down. He has absolutely no confidence, and slouches so much that his tie hangs over his belt and one time he raised his hand and his shirt had tension in the area under his armpit because it had been tucked in when he was slouching and there wasn't enough extra cloth outside of the pants to allow any slack.
Ok, I'm sorry. That was another rant. I get so saddened though when I see these kids lose patience with themselves because of something that's not there fault, and it makes me wonder what I'm here for. Although in the times that I can get the teacher to use my games (when he gets over being scared that I'm talking to him and gathers up the courage to try something new in the class) I've already noticed a remarkable difference in how the kids are doing. When I got there a few weeks ago, they could say hardly anything, and even if they are scared of me because I'm the only one that puts them back in line, kids that didn't want to try at all in the beginning now get stuff right and high five their friends. Yay, go me. Somebody pat me on the back. :)
I just wish that they would give me more responsibility. The most I can do is somehow suggest activities without it sounding like I think he should be doing something different.
This post wasn't supposed to be about work either. Oh well.
I've been having trouble riding my bike. It's really weird, Japanese people ride on the left of the sidewalk, same as pedestrians. But say that because of pedestrians, that rule doesn't always hold. You have to pass them. So say two people on bikes are coming towards each other, because one had to pass a pedestrian or whatever, and because of circumstances it would make more sense to just hang to the right and go back to the left after you pass each other. No. Japanese people will put themselves back on the "correct" side of the sidewalk, even if there's somebody already there coming from the other direction and going to that side causes two oncoming bikes to almost crash into each other because it's making a criss cross instead of two straight lines. Here. I will show you with a cute little picture I just made because I don't want to clean my room:
So then Kim, why don't you just keep that in mind and act accordingly? Well, when I do that, I run into the person who thinks the way I do and would rather stay on their side! Every. single. time. Yesterday when I was riding my bike I thought to myself, "You know, you probably just run into this situation because people see that you don't have a clear goal in your head so don't know which direction to go." So I tried to just look straight ahead and let other people pass me instead of us trying to pass each other. Like crowded mall maneuvering, where you just have to go and not try to avoid every person. I got really good at this in high school. But no, because every other person I met soon after that was doing the exact same thing. So I almost crashed into somebody. twice. in the same block.
This is another funny thing about Japan that I don't understand, and probably never will. I've asked another person about this, too, and they had the same experience. No matter which side we go to, it's wrong. Another person we were with said, "Well, why don't you just go to the other side and pass each other?" No, that's the problem. It's the toy is broken until you take it in to the extreme. Or something like that.
Anyways, I'm going to go to Tokyo tomorrow!!! Maybe I'll go to Yasukuni since I've never been there before, and it's controversial and stuff.