Thursday, September 16, 2010


Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I blame a total lack of weekends due to an inability to say “no” to stuff. This is going to feedback-reverse itself into a three-day-weekend, immediately followed by a two-day work week and a four-day weekend thereafter.

This change will have little effect on my blogging habits, though; posts will still be infrequent but muse-led.

What could I have been doing that would explain this? Well, let me go in order I suppose. Allow me to whisk you back about two weeks.

Two weeks ago, it was hot as balls. September had just begun, and preparations for preparations for the Sports Festival had also begun. I myself was still in do-what-you-want-at-your-desk land, which amounts to a lot of kanji studying, internet surfing (such as personal vacation-trip planning, or browsing as it were), and valiant attempts to not fall asleep. My focus had just shifted to the September 5th picnic, which was about to rule my weekend.

That Saturday, charged with the task of purchasing hot dogs, buns, cookies, and drinks (we added chips) for 100, JET Upstairs and I made the long drive to Costco in Amagasaki with her little sister and in her car “The Post Office.”

The cart. Carts.

The car.

We left pretty early, trying to make it not an all day affair, but of course, when Costco is two hours away, it just is an all-day affair. It’s unfortunately a total-car affair and is now recommended to be undertaken by no more (and no less) than two individuals, lest there be no place for the third to sit on the way home again. This is assuming you buy stuff for yourself as well as whatever mission you happen to be on that day.

Little sister pushed the pillows down so we could see her seat situation. Awesome.

And don’t get me wrong. Part of the joy of getting to be one of the Costco-goers is that you get to have your own go at the goods for sale. I bought myself space bags, bagels, muffins, cereal, soap, and of course, lunch. Costco lunch is effin’ awesome in any country.

Water balloon toss! We are so USA.


So that was one weekend day down. The next was the picnic itself, also not supposed to be an all-day affair, but we did have to fill a lot of water balloons. The picnic was a pretty fun time, despite it being (still) hot as balls and having way less than 100 people show up. The hot dogs were fantastic, and our ploy to clear out Costco’s bakery of all hot dog buns was a good one. The picnic plus cleanup was day two. Monday? Back to work.

Only it’s sports practice every day from there, so it’s a no-desk-sittin’ solid week of slatherin’ sunscreen, wearin’ hats, and sweating a lot in the gym and on the field (side note: to me, a field suggests that it is grassy. This is more like a “ground” that we are working with.). I got co-opted into the folk dance (which for some reason is the Oklahoma Mixer?!) but I didn’t really mind, because it was easy, and it was fun to see the reactions of the third-year boys who got stuck dancing with me.

We watch from the third floor of the elementary school while the JHS does Soran.

Turns out this is a pretty good vantage.

I spent Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the middle school, and Tuesday and Thursday at the elementary school, but it was basically the same effect. Still wanting to browse for travel stuff, or maybe even book something, or make an actual plan. Fallin’ behind on kanji (I use a timed flashcard-box system, so if I leave it be for a week, I have like 300 kanji to review due). To boot, I was going to have real live CLASS on the following Tuesday when I went back to small elementary (their sports day circa springtime, 2010).

I spent my evenings in the usual way. Which means Wednesday night Japanese (but Osaki-san makes dinner on those nights, so really they are not stressful), Thursday night ikebana and adult English class, and I had added in this trying-Shorinji-Kempo thing, which was Tuesday nights.

I also had to do laundry about every other day, and buy myself some more cool sports wear to last through this hot-as-balls (still) week of all outside all the time.

A word on sports day practice. I like to complain about it, and I did sometimes stand there and wonder, as long as I’m not doing anything remotely useful or important, maybe I could go somewhere else?? But I also really enjoyed it this year. This year, I kinda know the kids, and it made a whole world of difference in how much I care about what is going on around me. I watched the races avidly and even found myself tearing up from time to time. Which is ridiculous, but also pretty awesome of me.

My more favorite kids hung around the main tent (the student leader group had their chairs there, actually) and talked to me sometimes, and I cheered them on and learned to appreciate that it’s totally Sports Festival, not just field day, and it’s kind of a community event, and that’s why they practice. They’re hosting an event in addition to having some game competitions along the way. So it’s kind of like graduation to me, in that it’s not really for the kids entirely. But it is kinda for them, too, and they did have fun (when they weren’t standing there wondering, as long as I’m not doing anything remotely important, maybe I could go sit in the shade??). I loved seeing their faces. I also loved on actual sports day, seeing them run the show. The entire shebang is driven by the student leaders, more or less, and that group is a good bunch.

Some sports day photos:

Some of my favorite kids, pre-festival.

Carrying the school flag! I love their faces. These are some of my favorite kids, again.

Getting ready for the relay.

This is from the giant jumprope competition. I love the look on the kid in the middle. He pretty much looks like that all the time.

Kibasen, or "chicken hat fights without a pool" commence.

Kumi mans the drums for kibasen.

Our announcers have opposite reactions to the camera but neither is rendered recognizable. (This is another couple of favorite kids)

This was something I hadn't seen: forcible crowd-surfing. That kid is flying because the lines are throwing him forward.

Soran dance is about to begin.

Here, they've finished the dance. Check out both the pyramid of boys and how low the girls are into their do-kai-shos. They did that every time. Also, the girl in front. Yeah, another favorite. Check out her face: that's her attitude on most things.

After lunch: the march of the clubs is about to commence. These are some of the banner bearers; each object is because we recently won some sporting event or other. Next time that event occurs, they add a ribbon with our school's name and the year, and pass it on to the new winner.

Getting ready for the folk dance. The boys make their team marker bands into neckties. The girls made theirs into bows for their hair. One was also pushed upon me (blue).

Every year, mukade (centipede) relay is a hazard and a thriller. Here, the first groups charge toward the leg-tying area. This is the last sport event of the day.

The blue-team teachers (classes 3-2, 1-2, and 2-2, left to right) prepare to cheer on their mukade teams and perhaps help keep them in rhythm.

Typically, third-years do best in mukade, being the most experienced. But on this sports day, 3-2 is running in dead last (note the other kids just kinda sitting by the finish line). Our cap-gun weildin' class president awaits their imminent finish.

But 3-2 is taking longer than anticipated and is actually slowing as they approach the finish line.

Then we see them do this.

Aaaand.. finish! They all leaped/fell across together.

It was Wednesday, in the wake of a typhoon that swung way north and pretty much didn’t cause much more than a light rainshower, that the summer’s persistent heat broke. I mean, from about 9:30 on it was hot as balls again until evening, but I knew something was different because I began waking up chilly (I understand our perceptions of this word may vary.. mine means only that I woke up with the fan on and immediately turned it off) in the morning, and have from Wednesday on.

So fall is on the way, and that’s my favorite (though it’s the most melancholic of them) season. Sports Day finished with an enkai, one of those work drinking parties at which I (as usual) consumed much more beer than is my wont because they just kept refilling the tiny glass. And it’s such a tiny glass. There’s a new teacher, come to replace the guy who quit at the start of the year in spring. The new guy is my age and is pretty good at English, too, so he talked to me through about the second half of the dinner party. He was about as beer-i-fied as me, and that was kinda fun.

I’ve spent the rest of my afternoons in lots of ways where I did a lot of work but feel like nothing is actually done, finished, complete.

Today, it’s cool for real. The kids are complaining that it’s hot, and I guess if you run around in the sunshine, it is, but if you cling to the shade like a redhead who forgot her sunscreen, it’s perhaps the most perfect bright-clear early autumn day you could ask for.

Highlights include the attractive special education teacher inviting me to sit under the giant cherry tree with him and have a conversation like a real human being. I guess otherness doesn’t scare him, anyway. He told me his specific student is in “his own world.” I watched the kid playing in the sand and dirt making happy noises and pondered the term “disabled.”

On the 9th, I decided firmly that it was a good day to be alive. On the 16th it kind of seemed like that was true with or without my consent.

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