Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eventful Weekend

My weekend started off well with dinner with Bryan and Juliet and Julie and Taylor (ALTs living in Noheji). Even though my throat was still pretty bad at that time, it was nice to get out, eat a real meal, and talk with fellow English speakers. =P

The next day I was at Kirita before 8am to help prepare for the school Culture Festival. I helped make a heck load of tissue paper flowers to use for decorating the cafe (in the library). I also made random origami things (cranes, turtles, lilies) for the ninensei classroom.

It was funny watching the ninensei set-up the classroom because a number of students forgot to hand in the assignments that we were displaying: their English "My Summer Vacation" piece (5 sentences and a picture), and their baby photo with comments from themselves, their friends, and parents. For those students, Tomabechi-sensei made a sheet of paper that said "Tadaima shucchou chuu. Shousai wa kochira made (student's name)," basically "Currently away on business. The only details so far are: (student's name)." The students were embarrassed enough thinking their parents would see that sign that they actually handed in their assignments without further prompting. =P

I left school around 6pm and went home, ate dinner and relaxed. A friend had heard from Aaron that I was sick so she messaged me to ask if I was OK. I guess I wasn't convincing in my reply (that I was fine), so she very kindly made me a tofu/carrot/meat dish and brought it over for me. I'd already eaten, but I was able to have it for dinner the next night.

Sunday, of course, was the big day: the Kirita Junior High School Culture Festival. Again I was at school before 8am. We did cleaning and final preparations until about 9am. Then I had some time to walk around and look at all the classrooms before the cafe opened at 10am. Once the cafe opened, it was just work work work for me.

Maybe it's the Chinese/Protestant work ethic instilled in me, but I actually enjoyed working during the culture festival this year more than just walking around the culture festival last year. And it's not like the cafe was particularly hard work: taking drink orders, bringing drinks to people (apple juice or coffee), clearing/wiping tables and bringing dishes to the students washing them.

After all the food places (cafe upstairs, hot foods--udon/soba--downstairs) closed, we had the play (each grade performed one) and song presentations. Maybe it's because they found pre-made skits rather than writing their own, but I thought the plays were a lot better this year than last. The song performances, though...

Their singing was pretty decent, but watching their faces somewhat soured the performance. Most of them looked SO serious, and they were mostly looking up or to the sides--anywhere but the audience. Moreover, among the boys especially there were a couple of students who looked downright sullen! Well, I guess it didn't harm the performance that much for me because I chose to be amused at their expressions, but really, they didn't look like they were having fun at all! I know that when I was in choir, our conductor always insisted that we look at the audience and smile while singing, but maybe Japan doesn't have that culture for performances? Or maybe it has to do with the fact that my school choirs were voluntary (so presumably the people in them actually enjoyed singing) whereas singing for events is compulsary for my students. *shrug*

That was pretty much the end of the Culture Festival. After that, though, was the touyasai (like an after party--literally, "that night's festival"). I missed a bit of the beginning because I was still cleaning up a bit in the library, but it was pretty similar to last year in terms of types of performances--songs, song & dance, skits, quiz game--so I didn't miss much. Somehow, though, last year it seemed like the students enjoyed the touyasai more. Maybe it's just in my mind, but it felt like last year there were more performances, more students involved, and generally more energy from the students. But maybe part of that is because this year we didn't really have that much time to prepare for the festival, so the students were more tired this year than last. Then too, Eiken (the standardized English test) was right before the festival (the Friday before), so it was really stressful for the students taking the test--having to stay late to prepare for the festival but also having to make time to study for Eiken on top of their regular homework load.

But yeah, overall I had a good time at the Kirita School Festival and it was worth all the work/time I put in! Check out my Facebook album for pictures of the Festival: Part 1 & Part 2.

There was another event that occurred after I got home, however. When I pulled into my parking spot, I noticed that a light was on in the apartment next to me. I guess I was pretty brain dead from the festival, since my first thought was: "it's rather late for someone to be doing repairs, isn't it?" To be fair, though, there weren't any cars in the parking spaces next to mine, so I had reason to think that it wasn't a case of someone moving in.

But of course, it was indeed someone moving in. A short time after I came home, while I was sitting at the computer uploading pictures of the festival, my doorbell rang. It was my new neighbour, coming to greet me! He even gave me a small box of cakes!! (Have I mentioned before that this is (more traditional/older) Japanese culture? When you move into a house/apartment, you go to greet your neighbours and, particularly in apartments, bring a small (food) gift for them?)

Anyway, I was far more surprised than I should've been, so I really didn't know what to say. Plus I was really tired, so I couldn't think to do more than nod and say "yoroshiku onegaishimasu." Once he'd left and I'd sat back down, though, I felt like a complete idiot since I realized I hadn't even told him my own name in return!! @_@ I also looked into the box and saw that it wasn't just one piece of cake I'd received, but THREE! (Given that I'd received the giant cream puff and other assorted sweets from the festival, plus I'd bought some cakes for myself, I found myself with an excessive number of desserts! =P)

I was really happy and appreciative that my new neighbour had come to greet me, particularly since none of my previous neighbours had bothered with the courtesy! And I wanted to convey my thanks (not to mention tell my name) to my neighbour somehow. I asked my friend (the one who made me the tofu/carrot/meat dish) what would be appropriate, and she said it'd be fine if I just rang his doorbell and said "Thanks for the cake. My name is ~. I can't speak Japanese very well, but if we meet, I'd be happy if you greeted me (ohayo, konnichiwa, etc.)."

But I felt it'd be weird to ring his doorbell just to say that, so Monday I decided to bake cookies and bring some over. (No worries, I'd pretty much recovered from my sore throat/cold by this time, so I wasn't passing along anything extra with them. =P) Well, he wasn't actually at home when I tried ringing his doorbell that night, but I saw the light on in his apartment when I came home from dance practice on Tuesday night, so I screwed up my courage and rang his doorbell.

Even though I stuttered and left sentences incomplete a lot, I think I managed to convey my neighbourly good will well enough. We chatted a bit--he asked if I was a student; I told him I was an English teacher; he told me he was working at the Univers grocery store--and that was that. The only thing is that I had wanted to ask him his name again (since I was too surprised/tired to catch it when he'd introduced himself on Sunday night), but I was so nervous during my conversation that I completely forgot to ask. ^^;; Oh well, I doubt that we'll meet/see each other very often, so it probably won't be a problem that I don't know his name. If we ever get friendly enough that I feel I really need to know it, I can always use the trick of asking him to write the kanji for me. =P

So that was my eventful weekend!