So today is a bit different for me (although really, what day isn’t different here?). Instead of biking to my usual Junior High School I am taking a school bus with young children to an Elementary School. The bus stop is quite close to my house, so that is nice, although the bus isn`t so much a bus as it is a van. Kind of sketchy but in Japan things are just done differently. So I get into this van (after confirming this is the right vehicle by stating the name of the school to the driver and him replying `dozo` – like `prego` in Italian, or please i.e offering, in English). So I hopped on in and thus arrived at my elementary school. Now, no one here speaks English, so things have been tricky so far. The English teacher doesn`t even speak English, so he came up to me with the textbook, talked at me while I attempted to decipher what I am supposed to be doing, said “I don`t understand” and he just smiled and walked away. Hmm. Now I am just sitting in the staffroom with no idea what is going on. Although the principal did take my picture for the school newspaper, and the lady who sits beside me brought me some iced coffee, so that was nice. I was also brought some Japanese tea, a delicious CHOCOLATE (yep, actual chocolate exists here, I was estatic) treat, and some ‘blueberry vinegar’ concoction. Without any English from the school, and a complete lack of Japanese on my end, I wonder how I will get by here today. I have a feeling I will be learning just as much Japanese from these young kids as they will be learning English from me. I have spent my morning so far translating my introductory speech (usually given in English to the JHS kids, about Canada and myself) into Japanese so that if I fail epicly with English to these children (and I don`t see how they will understand me if the English teacher can`t) I have some basic words to fall back on. The teachers here are all very nice though, and are very paitent with me. So far we have had a discussion about turnips… I don’t know why or where they had intended to go with that, but it happened. Also, I believe I have been invited to some sort of party on the 30th involving sake. I also have met some kids who play basketball (it was assumed I played basketball due to my height).
At lunch I ate with the kiddies. I actually seem to be enjoying myself a lot around the younger kids. Its much less awkward to use chopped Japanese, and saying even one or two words goes a lot further. You can ask a lot of “what is this?” in Japanese and then the kids can answer so I actually learn a lot. The kids aren’t as afraid of me as the JHS kids seem to be. They more or less just go about their business whether I am there or not whereas in JHS they stop everything and watch me awkwardly.
I only had one lesson lesson in the afternoon (which went AMAZING, the kids ohhhh and awwwwed at all my photos and were much more responsive and involved than the JHS kids, and we spent a good 10 minutes afterwards just asking questions- due to their limited English the questions were just “do you like…” but it was amazing nonetheless), and after that one of the teachers drove me back home! Super nice. I feel so grateful because at the beginning of the day I was so nervous and unsure, but it ended up being one of my more enjoyable workdays. Although the language barrier was an issue here I really enjoyed myself there, everyone was amazing, I loved the kids, and I cannot wait until my next visit back!!