Step One: Go to Japan
Step Two: Find elementary school children
Step Three: PROFIT.
While the previous post was a recap from more than two months ago, this little tidbit is Ziploc fresh.
Today I went to my first elementary school visit. I was super excited to go, but also a bit worried as they had only told me a little of what would be happening. I had a rough idea that there would be colors and numbers (as the elementary school English experience is limited to a few kindergarten-esque activities), but how much my own meager stash of flash cards (read: none) would be relied upon remained a mystery.
Anyway, the night before I did not get much sleep (somewhere in the ballpark of five hours), but at least I found the school on the first try and established an easy rapport with the teachers. Once everything started, it turns out I really had nothing to be worried about. Elementary school is easier/more fun than junior high (which I think was the case when I was on the other side of the teacher's desk, too).
The kids are MEGA-genki, meaning they must all have some kind of hidden sugar IV keeping them so hyper. It was strange, though, as every class was a different brand of insane. At the end of my first class, the 30 students MOBBED me, so I had one student on my back, one student trying to get on the back of the student who was already riding me, five students on either arm, and the rest either crammed in the open spots and clawing for any piece of clothing they could find or else clearing the path as they "helped" me back to the teacher's room. The second class was a similar experience, although there were a few kids were even more outgoing than the others, which I had not thought possible. One of the girls REALLY surprised me with English that could put some junior high kids to shame. As a note, these are 3rd graders we're talking about, and JH here is the equivalent of 7th-9th grade.
The final class was one of the most surprising, but also the most ego-boosting. At the end of this class, the kids mobbed be again...but this time to get my autograph. And not only did the want me to sign any piece of paper/workbook they could get their hands on, but they wanted me to sign THEM as well. I can proudly say there are probably about 30 kids right now walking around with my name sprawled in permanent marker on their hands and arms. One kid wanted me to sign his forehead, but reluctantly declined. I charge extra for that, of course.
Anyway, after elementary school I went back to the nearby JH to help some kids practice for various speech contests. After that I bought a long-sought-after soccer ball so my ragtag team could practice for an upcoming sports event, crashed at home for maybe 15 minutes, then wandered out for some sushi. At the sushi restaurant I finally initiated conversation with the sushi guys (more on the sushi place in a different post), and randomly met a cool Japanese guy. He initiated the conversation with very friendly English ("Is that delicious?"), and we managed a healthy banter with our loose command of either language. Turns out he is a professional fire dancer in Fukuoka, the big city near here. I said I'd love to come see him sometime, and we exchanged cellphone info. That should come into fruition in about 22 days, so he said...
Right after that, it was Taiko time. I zipped over and we practiced for one hour. It was more vigorous than usual, and some of my calluses peeled a little, which is going to be a huge pain in the ass if they start to bleed... Still, I'm really beginning to rock ass at those huge drums, and there's a chance I'll get to play at the halftime show of an upcoming soccer game. Booyah!
That pretty much brings us to now. This is pretty much a very standard day in my life here - packed from sunrise to sunset, and then some. It's funny because most JETs "warn" me about the unmanageable glut of free time you get once the school year starts, but my year has started, and I'm lucky when I get home before the sun has set. This is largely my own fault - by getting involved at the various schools (more on that later), I've invested a lof of my free time in the kids. But I'm having a fantastic time...so how can I complain?
PS - Sorry for the lack of pictures. I'm still getting used to the fact that, hey, I'm maintaining an online journal now. Seeing as I want to make this a way for everybody to keep in touch, pictures are going to be key. Expect more in the future.