Things have been kind of crappy for me as of late. I had a death in the family, and have been feeling the wear and tear on friendships that being half the globe away can produce. But today I feel really great. The reason? Fukono Elementary School. Along with my duties here at Tanigawa, I am occasionally called upon to visit the elementary school that feeds into the middle school. Fukono is absolutely fabulous. I had the most fun time I have had in a long time. I have a goofy smile on my face despite all the bad things. Fukono was just what I needed, but I am a bit ahead of myself.
I almost didn’t come to school today. I have missed two days now. I haven’t been sleeping particularly well, I have a lot on my mind and it is a curse in my family that when that happens I don’t sleep. So I was feeling exhausted and not happy come 7:40 am. But I had missed the last two days and I am taking off when mom and dad come so I got it together and came to school. At 11:30 or so a teacher showed up in her pimped out car. It is brand new bought in August. This car was pretty impressive, in that tiny Japanese technocratic way. The car had a display built into the dash that was probably a foot wide and half to three-fourths of a foot tall. It could play DVDs, when you put the car in reverse the screen switched to a backward facing camera so you didn’t have to turn around or use your mirrors, AND while driving it was a GPS road map system. This must really come in handy in Japan sense you, for the most part, can not use addresses to find stuff because the roads are every which way. The amount of info on this system was really impressive. It marked shrines, temples, schools and post offices. I was really impressed and also slightly appalled at the use of technology for merely technologies sake! Ohh who am I kidding, I LOVED IT! We drive a while which is always heart racing in Japan. I don’t know if it is because there are no sidewalks, the roads should only fit one car and frequently fit two or three, motorcycles simply do not obey any road laws, or the fact that everyone drives like an Indy car driver – hard acceleration break at the last minute for the turn – but it all adds up to a thrill ride, I tried to look at the LCD screen and hope that it had autopilot.
We arrive at the school and it was recently renovated so it is really swank. I was nervous at first because it was clear it was anarchy. But it was little kid anarchy. Unlike the Middle School brand of anarchy I am use to, this was tamer and cuter. But most importantly little kids still want to please adults, where asking a student to do something fails here, it works very well there. All in all I think Japanese elementary schools are the way to go. They remind me of the Montasory (spelling error!) approach to education. Middle school needs to be reworked in my opinion, but I dig the philosophy behind elementary. But I digress. I was in the music room when the three classes started filing in. I had to say hello to everyone. One kid would be brave and say hello, and I would say it back, then EACH had to say hello individually. It was precious. I had the privilege of teaching all 3 fourth grade classes the “Do, Ray, Mi” song from The Sound of Music. I still can’t sing, and people still think I can. The Fourth graders though could belt it out, they were brilliant. My time was mostly going over pronunciation. They had practiced the song for some time prior to me coming so knew it very well, just needed some help. It was a blast. The kids were so immensely cute and funny. After singing we had some time for questions and answers. I got the usual slew, “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Are you married?” “What do you like to eat?” “How old are you?” “When is your birthday?” some of the kids spoke really good English, others asked in Japanese and had it translated. Then the fun came. The bell rang and the kids ran towards me! I was waste deep in a sea of little kids. They waved at me and I waved back. They screamed “Goodbye!” and I said it back. Then one kid and I exchanged a high five, and chaos ensued! Every kid needed a high five. Then what I had previously thought was chaos truly evolved into chaos, a pen was thrust towards me as well as a music notebook. “Sign! Sign!” a screaming girl yelled. I signed the book. Suddenly pink music books and pens were coming at me from all directions. I was a signing machine. As I would sign one book another would be thrust to overlap it. It was madness. But I tried to take note of who waited patiently, they got special treatment most kids got “Andrew” the quite kids that let others have a turn got “Andrew Magrath.” A line formed and around 7 minutes after class stopped I was done with my impromptu autograph session. It was the funniest, most ego boasting, and, strangely at the same time, most embarrassing thing to happen to me in some time. Needless to say, I still bare the smile that my screaming adoring fans brought to my face. They were all sweet hearts. I would not want to work at an elementary school, or this magic would no doubt fade a bit, and I imagine some of the kids would start to drive me crazy, but this was wonderful and I can’t wait to do it again.
After class I was led back to the principles office. He was a great guy that spoke English very well. He got me a school lunch, what a great guy! I had seen the kids lugging the lunches up to their respective classrooms on the way down. They were dressed in little white aprons and hairnets and looked so funny. I had some kind of a stew with lots of veggies, rice, and a Chinese dish called shochu (I believe) it was a dumpling like thing with tasty spiced meat inside. It was great! When it was all over I got to ride back to Tanigawa. I then had a bento (Japanese box lunch) waiting for me. It was yucky boiled chicken, so I was glad I had eaten so much at Fukono. I polished off the rice that comes with the bento and had to run off to class. I am exhausted from the lack of sleep due to recent events and all the running around I did today, but I have a smile that will not be fading anytime soon.