Last week I made a big mistake. I fed the neighborhood kids. You know how you shouldn’t feed stray cats and dogs because they’ll just keep coming back? Likewise, never feed neighborhood kids……they’ll just keep coming back. The previous week, I was working in the flowerbed, and a couple of the neighborhood kids (who are also my students) saw me and stopped by to play/chat. I used some of the rocks in my garden to draw tic-tac-toe and hopscotch on the asphalt. When we bored of those games, I went inside to get Ian to come out and play. I noticed the box of Easter goodies that Kim sent us sitting on the bed, so I grabbed a box of Peeps to share with the kids. They were tickled pink with them, and when it was time to go home, they went. I was so happy to have had a play date. We went to Kagoshima all weekend, and on Monday afternoon when I was working outside, the kids came back again wanting to play. I did again for a little while.
I thought it was cute, and they seemed really, really happy to get to play with me! How could I break a child’s joy? ……but it got very old very quickly. On Tuesday, Ian text me at school around 3:00 saying that they had just knocked on the door and asked if I could come out and play. He told them that I was still at work, so they came back thirty minutes later and knocked again…and again. When I rode my bike home that afternoon, they were sitting on my front step waiting for me. It dawned on me then that I had made a mistake by feeding them. We played hopscotch and had running and bike races around the block. I shouldn’t have let them, but they used my iPhone as a timer. Plus, I showed them how to get American radio stations, and they asked for Lady Gaga music. As if some silent alarm went off, it was time for them to leave around 6:30 and go home. It reminded me a lot of 1950s America when kids would stay outside and play until dark. The parents didn’t worry where they were, and the kids knew to stay out of too much trouble.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ian said that they were back knocking on the door earlier in the afternoon, and he had to tell them that I wasn’t at home. One time they even opened the door and stepped into the house to call my name. (This is perfectly acceptable to do in Japan. Your genkan, (entryway) is considered to be public property.) They knocked on my door as soon as I got home, and I couldn’t tell them no. That afternoon they drug me to the back parking lot of our neighborhood to play this kick the can game. I was confused about what to do with the situation. I don’t mind playing with the kids….in fact, I love it! Recess is my favorite time of the week! However, I DON’T want to do it EVERY day after school.
When the kids rolled around after school on Thursday, I told them that I couldn’t play because I was having a friend over. In truth, Melissa B. was coming over for dinner, and I didn’t have time to play. They seemed downtrodden but okay with that answer. Whenever Melissa arrived, she said that the kids were asking her if she was “the one.” She asked us what that meant, so we told her the whole story, and she said that giving them ANY candy was a big, BIG mistake! She had done the same thing, and she now has to lock all of her doors AND windows so that kids won’t try to get in. She finally had to tell her Vice Principal (who lives near her) about it, and he took care of the problem. After hearing that, I was a bit scared. However, it rained the next day, and they didn’t bother me once over the weekend, so HOPEFULLY it’s all okay now!
As for non-kid related news, this Saturday (21st) is my grandmother’s 90th birthday! My family is having a big party for her, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to make it home. I guess a Skype call will just have to do. Ian and I have been very, very busy working on her gift. Since Ian got the new camera, he has become quite the professional photographer and taken numerous beautiful pictures. We used those pictures to make a photo album for Grandmother. Ian found this program online in which he could create a professional album, and I don’t want to toot our own horn, but it was absolutely wonderful! We were both extremely happy with the finished product. In addition, we’re in the process of making a video for her, but it won’t be finished until after her birthday, so it will just have to be late!
I had to attend three ceremonies last week, an opening ceremony on Monday at the JHS followed by an entrance ceremony at the ES and JHS on Tuesday. What would Japan be without its ceremonies? You cannot simply begin the new school year. Each school must have an opening ceremony to officially announce the beginning of the new term, welcome new staff, and make a lot of boring speeches. Then, each school must have ANOTHER ceremony to welcome the new students. This entrance ceremony is as big of a deal as graduation, and in fact operates like a reverse graduation ceremony. All of the town officials come to it, and everyone is decked out in their best suit. The JHS entrance ceremony was so-so, but the ES one was adorable! I wish that I would have brought my iPhone to it so that I could have taken a few pictures, but I guess there’s always next year. My former nursery school students are now first graders, and they were the ones being featured in the ceremony. PRECIOUS! All of the boys had on their “Sunday best” suits. It was a tiny little suit jacket and tie on top and black polyester shorts on bottom. The girls had big puffy dresses. They all looked like tiny professionals! ADORABLE! My goodness, trying to get those kids to sit still long enough to have a serious and formal ceremony was an act of God! Several sixth graders and the teachers sat beside the class to make sure that no one acted up, but there were still a few that I couldn’t help giggling at!
At the JHS ceremony, all of the teachers had to go up in front of the student body and town officials. The Vice Principal read each teacher’s name and what subject he/she taught, and the teacher had to bow and say “Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (the equivalent of “It’s nice to meet you.”) It’s a simple phrase that I learned last August when I first got here. After the ceremony was over, a group of girls came up to me and were like “You can speak Japanese!!!” and asked me to repeat it time and time again. Ha! I told them that no, I can’t REALLY speak Japanese, but they were just tickled pink that I could say that.
This is long. I’ll stop.