Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kaisei What?

I don't mention much of what goes on at school in this blog, primarily because I am always so exhausted by the end of the school day that everything I learnt/absorbed/experienced during the day ekes out of my ears and is replaced by Facebook status updates and La Roux lyrics; and secondarily (a word? perhaps) because at least one fluent English speaking Japanese teacher is an intermittent visitor at my humble URL, and sometimes I am subject to blog-vomit, whereby the censorship of material that could potentially get me ostracized/fired/deported is abandoned in favour of deference to my typographical gag reflex (that was a long sentence, but you made it, congratulations).

But weird things happen there. Oh yes. Many things I can't explain. Some of them aren't even interesting enough, or striking enough that my brain makes a conscious blog-memo ("Blemo"), but they are, in fact, unusual. In this blog post I will try to recall some of the more poignant instances for your reading pleasure. I mean to pleasure you as best I can. For as long as possible. Take your clothes off.

1. The Fox on the Soccer Field


I am living in the fifth biggest city in Japan. Sapporo is home to the entire population of New Zealand (not literally, obviously, otherwise it would BE New Zealand). Geographically, it is fairly small, which means that all four million residents live on top of one another, like Japanese Jenga. And they all, every single one of them, have cars and schools and houses and garages and favourite restaurants, which means that Sapporo is an extremely urban city. There are many bridges, roads and highways. The school in which I work is located in an area called Motomachi, which is no exception to this rule, surrounded on all sides by supermarkets, apartment blocks and busy streets.

So you can imagine my surprise when, upon incidentally looking out the window whilst turning on the photocopier (I work HARD), I saw a large, tawny, bushy-tailed fox frolicking in the school fields. And he really was FROLICKING. He was making a positive SPECTACLE of himself. First, he played with the crows. Then, they got their friends and ganged up on him. So then he ran away from the crows. Then he got himself tangled in the soccer net (soccer cage? soccer goal? the place where you try to kick the ball). Then, he found a baseball and began playing with it. Dribbling it around the field and whatnot (exaggerating a little - he dropped it and accidentally kicked it, but you enjoyed the mental image didn't you?).

This was my first experience with a wild fox, and I really did expect it to occur on the mountains of Hokkaido. Something picturesque and Laura Ingalls-Wilder-esque.

I also expected, given the Japanese penchant for cleanliness and order, something more of a furor when said canine was discovered. These were, after all, fenced in school grounds. Children were due their PE lessons on the very grass on which the fox was standing. But when I walked past the principal's office he was laughing at the foxes high-jinks just as I was, and displaying no obvious concern for - oh I don't know - RABIES?!?! But what do I know?

Anyhoo, this was two days ago and Fantastic Mr Fox has not been sighted since, so I can only hope that he packed up his baseball and took to the road with his crow-nies (geddit?). I remain utterly bemused as to how he came to be in the middle of such a densely populated area, but no one seemed to share my concern. I even went to lengths of pretending to BE a fox in front of my English classes, but I think this may only have produced greater fear of ME rather than regard for the welfare of the fox. I labour in vain.

2. Someone Stole the Mouse Balls

That got your attention, didn't it? But this was not some biological experiment gone horribly awry, but rather a rare student prank. One of the classrooms (called the "Call Room". Like a hospital. For no obvious reason) contains about forty computers. And during one of my lessons, one of the mice (mouses?) was discovered to have its "ball" missing, thus rendering it useless. The SHAME of the ball-less mouse! The reaction of the teacher in charge of said ball was pure anger (very quiet, restrained anger. I had to imagine it forming and raging within him, like a little wee typhoon, because the only external reaction was slight downward tilt of the head). Apparently this was the latest in a spate of recent ball thefts (it's a CRIME WAVE), and it was the last straw. So what did he do? The only thing he could do. Secretly, without informing any of the other teachers scheduled to teach in this classroom, he removed the ball from every single mouse. And put them in bags. Who's laughing now, ball thief?! Anyhoo, the "Call Room" is now no good to anyone, the computers being entirely emasculated.

Everyone complains, but the balls have not been replaced.

Possibly the best thing? The bags of balls (ball sacks) are sitting on the desk at the front of the classroom. In plain view. If one ball was so tempting, should not the bag o' balls be removed from view? Imagine the trophy value of forty balls!

One could make a necklace.

(I am getting delirious).

3. Arthur Miller in Japan

My students are smart. No two ways about it. They know their shit ("shit" in this instance being a synonym for 'English"). The English room is therefore stocked with myriad texts to keep their spry minds occupied, should they desire. Abridged versions of every classic imaginable are housed therein (I should know, I've read them all. NB: Abridged "The Secret Garden" is JUST as boring as the full length one. A ridiculous book. What is with Dickon? No one loves the outdoors that much! NO ONE. Why has no literary critic discovered that he is clearly an undiagnosed sufferer of Down's Syndrome?).

While I was hunting for an unread butchered work, I came across the collected short stories of Arthur Miller. I was delighted. But stumped. Where did he come from? How did the leather-bound beauty come to lie in Sapporo? What misguided English teacher thought it the best prose with which to titillate the novice English learner?

Whatever his/her motivations, I thank you. Arthur has been a real gentleman to me. And reads much more smoothly than the Level One "Matilda" with which I had formerly been occupied.

4. To be continued. I am tired and this blogging is preventing me from consuming my fine $8 Chilean red. Unfair.

In summary: foxes, mouse-balls, Arthur Miller.

Just another day in the life of a JET.

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