Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Keito Sensei...HAI!!!

First day of school! Keito Sensi is here!

Went to bed last night on the earlier side, or at least tried. After a few complete rolls as I tried to get comfortable, and a few rounds of, “If I fall asleep now I’ll get this many hours of sleep,” I decided to give in and read. Something I was trying to avoid, knowing I would get sucked into my book. Fifty-five pages later I rolled over and fell asleep.

I woke up at 6:30 to get ready for school! Ate breakfast and checked I had everything. I needed…
-my lunch, which was my self made bento box
-my Japanese self-intros, one for students and one for teachers
-pictures of home, people and my pets
-a change of play clothes
Kim Sensei!
-indoor school shoes; every kid at every Japanese school has indoor and outdoor shoes. They need to be shoes that have never been worn inside, I got myself some flats in the states but being that it’s so hot here I just couldn’t do it and decided to save them for winter. So instead I bought myself some crocs! They are so cute, not the traditional looking ones, and were so comfy today! Plus, they’re anti-“some word I don’t know” meaning they don’t grow bacteria. I’ll need to take them with me to every school I visit and put them in my assigned locker.

My shoe locker, check out that bow!
Then I hoped on my bike and headed to school! Down the road, right at the train tracks, left at the bike shop, straight till the road ends then left and if you ever come to visit my school those will be the exact directions you will receive as well. I arrived at school with a big smile and said ‘good morning’ in any and all languages to just about anyone who crossed my path. I was shown my desk and escorted to the principal’s office where I sat and talked with him, the VP and secretary. They asked a little bit about me, where I was from, why I was here and the VP, who spoke perfect English said that the principal is going to introduce me to the staff and I will translate my self-intro in English. As we walked out of the room I was about to ask when this was to happen, when he turned and told me to stand here…apparently now. The principal got everyone’s attention and they all stood and rose to face us, arms straight at their side, eyes forward. Mr. Principal told them all about me and I came up and said the rest. When I was done, Hawaii Boy came forward with flowers and explained in English to me that they were all excited to have me and that neither party should be nervous though he’s sure we both were. I smiled, then he went into, “And sometimes we like to drink, and have drinking parties.” God I love this country. I smiled and said I’d be ready.
My desk. Welcome flowers and note and a treat! My fan,
sweat dabber (seriously) and the days agenda. 

Then it was time for the morning meeting, I have no idea what was said, but I was present. Then it was off to the gym for that opening ceremony. Japan, I’ve come to find, has ceremonies for everything. We went to the gym where all 500 plus students gathered and was told it was time for my self-intro in Japanese. I was excited by my heart was pounding. The VP told me that the principal was going to introduce me, and I was to go sit on stage, the student body president came up and gave me a welcome speech in both languages, he was shaking, so cute. Then it was my turn. First English then Japanese. I spoke slowly, a struggle for me, then Japanese. I had practiced my pronunciation before hand and when I was done I thought that I did better than I had before. I went back to my seat relieved it was over. The VP and Namiko told me I did a great job, the VP said that all the students and teachers understood me and I had good pronunciation. He may have been over complementary, but I’ll take what I can get. Way to go Kate!

As I sat back down, we were about half an hour into the ceremony and it occurred to me that the students had been standing the entire time. It was 95ish degrees outside and I was really starting to feel for them when BAMB! A student I couldn’t see fainted. Teachers rushed over to help him and carry him to the back. No one even turned around. The students then sat down, unrelated to his fainting, and as they did a boy near me put up his hand. Two teachers rushed over and helped him to his feet and walked him, as he swayed, to the back of the gym leaning him against the wall near the other boy. Again no one turned and I started to wonder just how common this was.

Students during the opening ceremony.
Feet together in front, arms on knees,
face the speaker.
When the 1.5 hour ceremony was over, I asked Namiko and she said pretty common. I wondered if the kids had eaten breakfast or how much water they have consumed. I then wondered if they were taught about this kind of stuff in school?

In the 5 minute walk back to the school, I was called cute, beautiful, cute, pretty, cute, great Japanese speaker, and cute a few more times, evidently it’s a very popular word for them. It occurred to me that I was going to have to check my ego before leaving this country. Now it was time to get into our play clothes and have sports day practice. While this is day one back at school, the students are not moving up a grade. The new school year officially starts in April, in sync with the cherry blossoms blooming so I hear. Today just marked the being of 2nd semester starting, as the 6 week summer break comes to a close.

It is a Japan-wide tradition to have sports day. The literal translation, I learned today, is P.E. festival. This P.E. festival takes place Sunday, we have practice everyday this week, Saturday included, though we have off Monday and Tuesday to compensate. Sports day consists of the school being split up into two teams, red and white in my case, and duke-ing it out in various sports. There is a track competition, something akin to the ‘chicken’ game we play in pools and a relay of some sort. The ceremony itself, like everything else I’ve seen thus far is extremely precise; the kids looked like little soldiers.

But before practice could begin, we had to prepare the field, which meant weeding. Ego officially checked. Let’s just say it shall we, weeding blows. It is by far my least favorite choir, right up there with vacuuming. Despite the blazing heat, dirt blowing everywhere and the fact that I was weeding, I was able to get to know a few students. I talked to a few girls who were clearly daring each other to come say hi to me. I learned some colors from them, and answered all their questions. No, I don’t have a boyfriend, I am 23 and my favorite Disney character is Ariel. It’s a safe bet to say that we’re BFFs now.

I was careful not to get too chummy with them, it’s just too easy and especially since I don’t know the language I didn’t want it to seem as though I couldn’t hold my own. One of the girls, whose name I can’t remember though I know her favorite Disney character is Winnie the Pooh, took a pile of her weeds and tried to blend it into the ground, allowing her to skip the walk to the trash. She was far from subtle, she made eye contact with me the moment she was done and smiled as though she knew what she did. I smiled and pointed at it and said in Japanese, “No, No, No” told her to come with me and pointed to the bag and said, “Here.” She threw it away and as she turned, I gave her a look and a smile and shook my head. She looked down, smiled and walked away. Too cute.

Then the practice began. Already there were 5 kids sitting in the shade, unable to handle the heat. It seemed every 20 minutes another kid was staggering over with the help of two teachers to sit in the shade hydrate as the mother type teachers moistened their neck with water. Namiko was right, this was common. Wow. Two hours in the 95 degree weather finally ended and it was lunch time.

I ate at my desk and talked a bit with the teachers around me. I had filled up my water canteen before coming to school but downed it the minute I walked in the door, the heat bike ride combo was a killer. I asked Namiko where I could get more and she said for 500 yen, 5 bucks, a month, I could have unlimited cold barley tea (my latest fave) or this popular sports drink this I don’t like. They keep a fridge stocked and just need us to chip in. Sold. And I have to say, best decision I made all day.

After lunch, girls and boys were split up. Boys out on the field, poor guys though I did see that they were shirtless if that helps any, and girls in the gym. Namiko and I had agreed to participate in the dance the girls were doing, so it was dance practice time! A few of the 3rd years, middle school seniors if you will, had choreographed this dance during the summer and it was their job to teach it to the rest of the girls. First they performed it for us. The girls wore huge pink polk-a-dotted Minnie mouse type bows, a very in thing here, though I have yet to figure out why. The bows doubled with a “sexy” type move they busted out had Namiko and I on the floor. Too funny!

We practiced for the next two hours, and in between tries, I said hello to many of the other girls which generally sent them blushing and giggling. Precious. I kinda got the hang of the dance, then school was over. It was back to the teacher’s lounge. I had no tasks and was trying to make myself look busy to fit in but was failing. I basically begged Namiko for something to do as I had to stay till 4 and was told to help a kid with his English speech. So we read and practiced his pronunciation, he did great and I will most likely be attending the speech contest to watch.

All in all the day was fabulous! During my bike ride home I got a couple of “OOOHHHH Keito Sensei!!!!” Yup, here I am!

I got home sweatier than I have ever been in my life. Within 30 minutes of being home I had showered, cold water only, downed a water bottle and eaten an ice cream cone. Plopped myself in front of my fan and started writing this…

Just got myself a McFlurry...choice (for all my NZ friends out there:) 

Mata ne till next time! 


  1. First of all, LOVE the title. I can just hear you yelling HAI!. Secondly, we will definitely need to check these egos of ours. Just wait until you arrive in's going to expand exponentially. Thirdly, yay for Sports Day! And lastly...I'm jealous of your McFlurry. I was promised a trip to McDonald's this weekend so we'll see how that pans out. Can't wait to talk to you on your NEW PHONE!

  2. Keito: first day at school went well, except for the heat! love ya Mata ne



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