I visited Emily at Fukuoka High School yesterday. Although I would have loved to see her teach a class, I didn't get the chance because it was a Judo/Kendo/Dancing Day and most of the classes were canceled.
I'm sure the day had an official name, but I'm just going to call it Winter Sports Day. Since the kids can't play soccer and baseball during the winter months (I think it has something to do with the 8 feet of snow), the boys practice judo or kendo and the girls learn how to dance.
Yesterday was the day where they get to show off what they have learned (or something like that); The boys competed in a martial arts tournament and the girls put on a dance show.
The first thing Emily did when I arrived was to take me on a tour of her school (the first thing I did was to take off my shoes and put on a pair of guest slippers). She showed me the classrooms, the computer labs, the vending machines, the four different gyms, the library, and the staffroom. The entire school is a bit on the chilly side, except for the library and staffroom, which are the only two rooms in the entire school (from what I can tell) that are heated.
The entire hierarchy of the school can be determined by the arrangement of the desks in the staffroom. The vice principal's desk is up against the windows, towards the center part of the room. He sits with his back against the window, and from that position he can watch over everybody in the room (and ensure that no one can see that he's been playing freecell on his computer all day).
The rest of the desks are lined up perpendicular to the windows and the vice principal's desk. They are arranged so that there are three desks pushed together side-by-side facing in one direction, with another three desks pushed together side-by-side, pushed right up against the other row of desks, but facing in the opposite direction. It reminded me of my seventh grade math class. All of my classmates were at different levels and my teacher would make all the kids that were at the same level arrange their desks in the same manner.
I counted six rows of desks arranged in a likewise manner in the staffroom. The arrangement of desks made an American office, with its endless rows of cubicles, look like a palace.
Emily's desk was pretty small. She, along with all the other teachers, has a two drawer filing cabinet and a really small desk. Instead of describing the desk in detail, I'll just post a picture of it (take note of the Diet Pepsi hidden underneath the desk).
When she introduced me to all of the other teachers, they were all very polite in welcoming me to the school and to Japan in general. The students, well, they were a different story.
The first conversation I ever had with a Japanese student went something like this:
Student: Is this your friend?
Emily: Yes, he is my boyfriend.
Student: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!! (Runs away screaming)
Most of the other students were a little better. While all of them were still shy, most of them managed to introduce themselves. One of them even had the cajones to tell me that I was handsome. I had no idea that beer bellies were sexy!
The student performances were something else. The girls put on a great show. I'm not saying that they were Broadway caliber; I'm just saying that they put a lot of work into them. I'm not the biggest fan of interpretive dance, but I can appreciate creativity and hard work, especially when you have to perform with bare feet in a freezing auditorium in skimpy costumes. I was wearing long pants, shoes, a sports coat, was sitting 4 inches away from a heater and was STILL freezing. Good job, girls!
I didn't realize until I started writing this, but I didn't meet a single male student yesterday. Oh well, at least I got to watch them beat the crap out of each other.
Well, this post has gone on long enough. I don't want to bore my readers (both of you). I'll just end with a picture of what has to be my favorite little eccentricity of the school, the different color shoelaces on student's shoes.
The shoelace color corresponds to the student's grade. Third year's are yellow (not pictured), second year's are red, and first year's are green. I think the laces were the inspiration for the terror threat level colors in America (gotta watch those third years - their laces are yellow).