Internet at Last!

I finally have an internet connection that is likely to be stable and consistent. Although much has happened since I arrived on August 20, for now I will focus on the events of the past week as it is only since then that I’ve been teaching in the classroom. There are no scheduled classes prior to September 8, as the students spend weeks preparing for Undokai (Sports Day). Without any classes to attend to, I spent most of the time at my desk in the teacher’s office trying to learn polite Japanese phrases, “crib” together a Power-point introduction to the students and attempt to put together some class “warm-up” exercises. Undokai is a huge event on the annual school calendar with massive preparations, parental attendance and even food-vending concession stands. Interestingly enough considering the scope of the event, it is entirely intramural with each junior high holding its own Undokai. Opening Ceremonies had the (very good) school band playing martial music  (including The Halls of Montezuma), while the entire student body deftly marched around the playing field. Emphasizing the importance of cooperation, and communal effort, virtually all of the events involve teamwork: The races for example are all relays. The students never gave less than a hundred percent and it was a very entertaining day. Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) as foreigners, are not as constrained as their Japanese teaching counterparts so my friend Andrew and myself spent the day walking about wearing Spiderman and Hulk masks. Andrew has been an ALT for four years now so I deferred to his judgment on that.

Because Undokai was on a Sunday, we had the following day off work. I spent the Monday with an impending sense of doom and dread knowing that I had no internet connection; was “on tap” the following day with three class introductions, three Power-point presentations and various other “front of the class” teaching responsibilities. My ace-in-the-hole was that fellow ALT  Andrew, had helped me with the Power-point and it might serve as a distraction from the sheer terror of standing alone in front of a class with virtually nothing to say (anyone remember Ralph Kramden?). Ooh, showing my age there eh?.

It worked. As I scrolled through the screens I found I could make a few self-effacing humorous comments, try to keep it interesting and hope that, when it was all over, I’d get a few questions (I dreaded the prospect of stony-faced silence). I even became quickly aware of the extent to which the Japanese English teachers were inclined to translate my comments. Some were prepared to “go” with the sense of humor and some were not.  When I suggested that a picture of an ax-wielding “lumberjack” was cliched there was clearly no forthcoming translation from one teacher.  On the other hand, in another class I got a great laugh when I cracked up at a student who thought the classic bottle of Canadian maple syrup was whiskey. If the teachers were prepared to freely translate my comments the students were terrific; if they were not, it was still ok. I was really moved when one of the older classes really cheered, pumped their fists in the air and chanted the school cheer when I finished. I could sense how the power-points were going and, for the most part they went well.

In any case, in just a week I have gone from being a curiosity, obliquely checked out in the hallways to someone who is getting high fives, fist bumps and back pats in the halls. The kids really are great! My only regret is that I cannot speak to them at greater length in their own language. That will change!

Now that I am connected to the internet I will be posting far more frequently. Niimi is a fascinating place and Japan is an amazing country. The  unfailing kindness and consideration of the people never ceases to amaze me. I will be writing about this in the very near future.

Ta for now!



One thought on “Internet at Last!

  1. Hi Terry: SSCA meeting last night. Your blogs were lauded so I just read them myself. Good job.
    If you ever travel to Okayama, which I understand is quite near Niimi, there is a young man(35 yr)from Sidney living and teaching there. He married a Japanese girl and they have 2 sweet little boys. I can give you his contact info if you are ever travelling there and are interested in a Canadian contact.

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