This weekend was school festival (文化祭) weekend in Towada.
Saturday (Oct. 16) morning I went to Ofukanai JHS from about 9:45-12:00. The most memorable event: I was mistaken for a junior high schooler by students' parents when I was eating lunch in the 食堂 shokudo--twice!!
Today (Sun., Oct. 17) I was at Kirita JHS from 8:00-18:00. As usual I helped out in the 喫茶 kissa(ten) (coffee shop). It seemed like this year was a lot busier than previous years. Once things got started I didn't really have a chance to go off to take pictures of other places... But it was a lot of fun. Seeing former students (from three years ago to the most recently graduated) especially made me happy.
The first, second, & third year plays, the (first ever) culture club violin performance and the song presentations were also particularly well-done this year, I thought.
And the 当夜祭 toyasai (a kind of wrap party for the students where groups present song and/or dance routines, comedy skits, trivia games, etc.) marked my first actual performance. Well, technically I performed "More Than Words" with another teacher last year but that was a spur-of-the-moment encore request when some of the other teachers realized I was singing along during that teacher's performance...
Some of the third graders and I planned it (on Friday afternoon) as a surprise "guest performance." I was actually really flattered that they asked me to perform something, particularly since when they asked first asked me, they said something along the lines of 「もしメリッサがでればみんなはメッチャ盛り上がります」 (basically, that it would liven things up/make the other students excited/happy if I performed).
So I wrote out the lyrics and practiced singing the theme song for Evangelion (残酷な天使のテーゼ Zankokuna Tenshi no Theze, "Cruel Angel's Thesis") for something like 2 hours in preparation yesterday.
[I chose that song because a) I already knew the melody and first verse/refrain and only needed to learn the words for half the song; b) they play the song all the time during lunch/cleaning so I knew that all the students would be familiar with it; and c) no one else was already scheduled to perform it. ]
Since I didn't want to perform entirely solo, one of the third years who was in on the plan kindly agreed to sing along with me. Even though we never actually practiced together, I think it went pretty well.
But still, I felt a little bad because the 当夜祭 ended up running late (*shock* *horror*) and so the last two scheduled "performances" had to be cut short as a result. It wasn't entirely my fault--we were 10 minutes late and the song couldn't have been more than 5 minutes--but still... =( That was my only regret from the 文化祭.
Another thing that I found flattering--even if it was simply a coincidence--was that for the final song performance by the third years (a 当夜祭 tradition--at least since I've been at the school), they chose the Porno Graffiti song that shares my name: メリッサ.
So I think that this year's festival will probably end up as my all-time best 文化祭.
Seeing as the 文化祭 is the last major school event before graduation, it also made me think about how much I'm going to miss this year's third year class when they're gone.
Just thinking about that makes me realize just how blessed I am to be at Kirita, where I can truthfully say that I'll miss the students when they graduate every single year.
And considering how terrible I am with names and what a poor memory I have in general, I think it's also a testament to how great the students are that I can still remember the name of every single student I've taught at the school.
Although I've had a lot of great experiences in Japan--seeing festivals, traveling to different places, learning Japanese dance and taiko, etc.--it's really the job and being able to interact with students (particularly my Kirita kids) that has kept me here for so long.
For a while--around the end of August when I was exhausted from the super hot weather and the busyness of work and other things and was starting to feel like I was plateauing out in terms of my work ethic/motivation-- I wondered if I'd actually made the right decision in re-contracting, but today I can unequivocally say that I am happy that I stuck around for a fourth year.
And thinking about today also makes me feel like I should stay for a fifth year because how could I possibly pass up the chance to attend one last Kirita 文化祭? Besides, if I stayed for a fifth year, I'd be able to see my first class with students whom I've taught since elementary school (6th grade) graduate... Sure there will probably be times ahead when I will struggle to stay motivated and...fresh...but I think I would really regret leaving my Kirita students by my own volition.