I spent this weekend at Maruko's school festival. On the Friday before the festival, all lessons were cancelled in order to devote the day to preparations and classroom decorating. I am certain that I was the happiest girl in Marugame that Friday; to spend an entire day cutting and pasting,sewing bunting, colouring in and getting covered in glitter glue and felt tip pen in the process is the closest thing to heaven for me. I helped to make this display with the Art Club:
I also helped Aya and Haruko, two of the English Club members with their room decoration. Aya and Haruko are funny little things; they spent half of the afternoon cycling to the 100 Yen Store to buy pens, pencils and fabric...these proved to be unecessary trips as they spent the other half of the afternoon cooing at pictures of Zac Efron. As a result, the room of the English Club was very poorly decorated, or rather hilariously so; at half past seven, Aya began to panic as she saw how beautiful the other rooms looked, so decided to do some research on Thailand. This choice puzzles me slightly, since the theme of our room was 'England' but she seemed quite intent on her choice. This is Aya's last minute attempt at room decoration, I love the caption underneath so much ('he is not Thai) -doesn't it portray the sheer last minute attempt so perfectly:
The festival was ace. I spent a lot of time talking with the students and I am starting to put names and personalities to faces now, which feels really nice. I took part in the Tea Ceremony, played lots of party games for Japanese snacks, made a hairslide at the Art Club,and iced some biscuits at the Home Ec club.
Incidentally, I noticed an interesting cultural difference at the Talent Show;there were so many groups of boys who did dance routines to pop songs and what is more, by no means were the routines half hearted or sardonic. This was something that would never happen in the UK and it did make me wonder about gender constructs in different parts of the world. In the public sphere, women tend to be somewhat subservient to men here in Japan, so by implication, does that mean that men exert their masculinity? Perhaps so, but my encounters with my male colleagues and students seems to disprove this. I find men and boys here to be as kind hearted and gentle as the females. It seems also that compared to the UK, 'macho' culture is not so pervasive in high school culture here; my male students are just as enthusiastic as the female ones about activities involving glitter glue and making things and groups of 18 year old boys were (shamelessly) crying with joy when they won the Talent Show on the merits of their dancing this afternoon. Hmm, I am beginning to ramble a little and lose track of the point I am trying to make, but I hope you understand!
Anyhow, back to Maruko School Festival...
Tonight was also my first experience of the staff party (enkai). I was so intrigued to attend an enkai as some of my fellow ALTs have had interesting experiences at theirs. Our enkai was at a famous chicken restaurant in Marugame called Ikkaku. My vegetarian comrades, forgive me, I am now a meat eater. I found my diet of tofu and a poor selection of vegetables to be insufficient for long days of teaching and biking around everywhere. Ikkaku is a very traditional Japanese eating place with low tables and tatami mats. The evening began very formally with speeches, lots of toasts and bowing but as the beer flowed, it turned into a real party...
...it was hilarious.
I sat with my favourite teacher, Ohmiya-sensei who got progressively drunk as the evening went on. Williams-sensei had warned me earlier, with her sharp tongue and rolling eyes, that Ohmiya-sensei gets drunk after about two beers and his personality becomes magnified x 10. This was indeed true and by the end of the night, he had bitten my arm, suggested that I take a trip to Thailand next weekend with him and his wife and told me that because I am here on my own in Japan, he wants to be a father figure to me (he said this with such sincerity that it made me want to cry).
At the enkai, I sat opposite another English teacher called Yamaguchi-sensei, who yesterday invited me to share a meal with his family at his home next week. Yamaguchi-sensei spent some time studying in Birmingham and empathised with me when I told him that I often felt frustrated at my inability to express myself in Japanese. He told me that his solution to this when he was in Birmingham was to go to the pub, get drunk and talk to people. Alcohol = confidence in language. He then shouted really loudly 'Yes, and when I left Birmingham, my friends bought me a pint glass with 'Pisshead' printed on it. I lovu biiru!!'.
After being at work for seven consecutive days, I am so exhausted, but I have had such a happy time this weekend. .