Stuck Somewhere in the Middle

Monday, November 13, 2006

An interesting weekend indeed.

First, Sunday morning I woke up around 6am and caught the first bus into Odochi (that would be around 7:30am). Odochi finally had it's culture festival. Unfortunately, the grand majority of all the activities were outside and thanks for a down poor the night before, it was quite chilly. In fact, it was the coldest day thus far. How ironic that everything was outside!

The English club had Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Pink, and Hillary Duff lyrics up on the wall accompanied by the music that follows along with them. For my part, I had the one student help me make milk bottle turkeys. I then, with the help of my JTE, made up a few paragraphs about Thanksgiving and what it's meaning is. The students and parents were then supposed to write down in Japanese or English what they were thankful for and put it in the Turkey Jars. I was surprised to see about 30 all together. Quite impressive since I didn't think anyone would do it. I think there were about 150 to 200 people in attendance as well. I also bought a bunch of candy on the Internet (dum dums, butter fingers and tootsie rolls) which I thought would be gone by half the day but close to the end, the JTE and one student actually took pockets full of the stuff and started passing them out to people because there was so much left. Go figure.

The day was quite different from Tosayamada's culture festival. First, it was really cold! But I think I already said that. Second was that the majority of all the activities were food related. All but one class was selling food. There were franks (hot dogs for the Americans), crepes, cotton candy, udon, and some traditional soup which I didn't like because I don't like Konnyaku. All in all it was very delicious and the hot food really helped to deal with the cold issue. The kerosene heater also helped ;) I spent a grand chunk of the day sitting by it shooting the breeze with people. It wasn't really working per se, but I got an extra vacation day out of it so I have no qualms.

Today was my day of rest. The entire school was closed so I didn't have to come in. Instead, I stayed at Kae's place and slept under the warm sheets until 9:30am. WOO sleepin in!

Actually, it's really freezing in Odochi (to me). It's such a double edged sword(phrase of the month). It's quite cool in Tosayamada but still pretty comfortable. In Odochi, it's only getting colder and colder but they also keep the house warmer...for the most part. So, I guess I'll have to deal with it. It'll make coming home to Tosayamada better since no matter how cold it gets, it'll always be warmer in Yamada.

Despite being on a one day vacation, the Odochi Middle School English teacher invited me to check out her class. She's a very nice woman and I had no issues with coming in except that I kept forgetting my materials in random places but what's new. I went in and showed pictures of my home and a menu of American foods. (I don't remember if I wrote about that. I found a random menu in my apartment. It's really been working well for me too!)

I really liked working with the middle schoolers too. They were all first years which is about 7th grade. They couldn't speak a lot of English since this is their first year to study it but they were very excited about just being alive! All they wanted to do was play around and talk constantly and if they were forced to speak in English then it would take a little longer but dadgumit that wasn't going to stop them.

In the end they weren't scared to make any mistakes or screw up. They were completely care free.

Looking at them, and then looking at my students at Tosayamada, I realized that the first years at Yamada must be stuck in the middle somewhere. They have already studied English for three years. It's not new and exciting anymore. On top of that, they've learned enough to know that it's difficult and there are too many ways to screw up. I'll admit, English is ridiculously difficult at times. I don't blame anyone for having a hard time with it.

Then I look at my second and third year students and they've started to have a little bit more excitement about English. First, they choose to take the English conversation classes that I teach (they have no choice about that actual writing and grammar class) so first of all they want to be there, but secondly, they've learned enough that they can have a little more fun with it and they are overall a little bit more confident as well.

The poor first years just have too much trouble it seems. They don't want to speak up in class because they don't want to make mistakes. I was looking at the conversation book that the first years in Odochi were learning from. They were learning things that I thought my first year high school students had never seen before! It was simple stuff but the majority of the time, my first years don't understand a single word I'm saying. I just assumed they had never learned it... maybe they forgot it all...

Right now, I feel a little stuck in the middle too. I'm much better at my Japanese, but not enough to carry on interesting conversations. It's more of the necessities that I can speak. I've also started getting a more relaxed attitude towards the majority of things that happen during the day. I've gotten a routine down. I don't worry about my lesson plans so much and I don't dread going into work so much anymore and I have a little more time everyday as I get used to living here. I also don't have to go into the city so much anymore to buy necessities such as a couch ;) It's nice to have the free time! But at the same time nothing is exactly the way I want it (though I doubt it will ever be). I still have an overwhelming amount of Japanese to learn and I still have yet to actually enjoy my work. Sure, there are some days that are fun and exciting, but I have yet to wake up and not dread coming in. Some days I just dread it less.

I do have a little bit more free time though now that things are finally settling down. But too much of a good thing can be bad. I didn't get out of the house until 3pm this past Saturday. I spent the entire morning and a big chunk of the afternoon in my jammies talking to family and friends. I finally got a hold of everyone when it was convenient for them. I then got out of the apartment long enough to throw a massive load of washed clothes into a dyer at the coin laundry and go grocery shopping before it completely clouded over and got dark around 5 in the afternoon. Adam tells me that pretty soon it'll get dark when I'm getting out of work at 4. How depressing.

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