*gaijin - foreigner (only, rude, like "freakin ferners")
**Furusato - the countryside hometown to which you return from your cityfied life to like.. say hi to grandma. And stuff.
What a week so far!
Tuesday, of course.. speech contest. My yessir-I'll-win-you-that-speech-contest kid took 3rd place. Today one of the teachers in my desk cluster said "He got third? But he's just in judo club. His English score is like 30 something?" which confused me because the judge scoring system was out of 40 points and I think our kid must have gotten in the thirties, maybe. But actually, he meant his English grades. I laughed because that's the beauty of it.. this kid is not good at "English" as English gets taught and tested around here. But he is good at communicating and speaking and has personality to spare.
All in all, the contest went pretty well. The school that has won 1st and 2nd since speech contest inception did not even place. A surprise ringer appeared out of our remotest village to deliver a speech that actually made the English speakers in the audience (our sister-city visitors) laugh out loud. His intonation and rhythm were just too good, and everyone knew he had to take first.
The kid who got second was the very last speaker, and I wasn't especially impressed, but I didn't want to push too much because my kid was in third and it would just look like I was pushing my own school into second. But honestly, honestly, even though I had seen my speech kid do better in rehearsal than he did on that stage, he did a really good job, and I was super proud. I was really proud of my speech girl, too, although she looked pretty sad and disappointed after. I kept telling them both that they did so well. Just because some other kids happened to have done better doesn't diminish that.. but it does prevent them from carrying home the big trophy. All in all, I was really pleased with their performance.
Last year, I wasn't sure what to give my students as presents for being my speech students, but this year I realized that one of the best things you can give someone doesn't always have to come just from you. I asked their classmates to make them cards in which everyone wrote a little message to them, and they did a superb job of that. The cards weren't decorated enough for my tastes, so I took them home to add ribbons and origami stuff, and to write my message on the back. My message was honest, so I didn't bother to try and make the English easy enough for them to read. I figured the important thing would be for them to get the encouragements of their friends while they were waiting in the pre-speech room with all those nervous teenagers.
Anyway, the following day (aka, yesterday) was the Furusato Matsuri/Gaijinfest 2010. Since there are nine Americans in our town, and one Canadian, I got "bumped" to Canada's booth for the festival. I didn't mind at all because I love our Canadian JET, and we had a host of Japanese ladies helping us, to the point that we basically didn't have to do any of the real work. The festival was pretty fun. It was a beautiful day up at Sponic Park, and being so close to my schools, a bunch of my students were around and about.
We cooked up a mess of pancakes and poutine (which is Canadian for "fries with gravy and cheese") and sold out just after midday. My speech boy's mom stopped by our booth to tell me they had read my message to him and thank me for being so sweet/awesome/whatever. It reminded me a lot of GHP, when the parents get their kids at the end, and they say thank you for "giving up your summer," or thank you for taking care of our kids, or whatever, and you just want to say "No no no no, thank YOU~" ... I actually found myself halfway through saying "No, thank YOU for .. um.. letting him.. come to school..." before I realized that it made no sense at all. HA!
Later on, I snagged some free tissues outside the blood bus (er.. the place where you can give blood), and the dudes were like, hey give us some blood. And I thought about it, and how I hadn't been drinking a lot of water that day, and how that might not be the best idea. I went and bought a gatorade and thought about it. Then I decided I ought to, and when I told my friends I would do that and then we could go home, their reactions confirmed my decision.
I realize giving blood is something not everyone is able to do, whether because of nerves, or blood issues, or whatever. It's not difficult for me, so I do try to do it when I have the opportunity. It reminded me of being a senior in high school and giving blood on Halloween in our costumes. I threw down my blood donor card (Japan version) and got to skip part of the information sheet. Which is good, since it's all in Japanese. I had to get a team of volunteers to help me answer the yes/no question part though. Which is awesome since some of the questions are like "Have you had sex with X Y or Z in your life?"
Today I was assigned to hang out with our visitor from the sister city and "translate" for her. I thought that was kind of a joke, as I thought the rest of our English speaking staff would be coming along. But then they didn't, and it was just me, her, and our principal to visit Iwa shrine and then go make soba out of buckwheat flour. I was amazed at the simplicity of the ingredients, but it was fun, making noodles like that. At the end we ate some of them! I don't have photos from that yet, but I might get the files later from the principal or soba guy.
One fun thing that happened later in the day was our visitor (14 years old, mind you) asked me how old I was. I said 24, then corrected myself to 25. She was surprised. "You look like you're in your teens." Hell yes I do. I get mistaken for being younger than I am a lot, mostly at the airport when kindly airline workers are concerned that I am flying alone (and/or abroad). But now that I've reached my quarter century marker, I guess I can just be pleased with that.
There are other things about being 25..! One of them is, I am finally okay with admitting that I am no longer "too young" to think about certain things, like careers or marriage and families and what have you. More on that later, I think.