on wednesday i went to play volleyaball with the young women of Ogimi. i invited myself through a friend because i've been wanting to get more involved with the locals but haven't been getting around to it. the women's club plays on wednesdays from 8 to 10pm at the Ogimi elementary school's gym. Some members are high school students and others are 20something women that live and work in Ogimi village. This week they were practicing with the men's team because at the end of February they have a tournament and so apparently are getting more serious with their practices. I haven't played volleyball in a very very long time, but apparently still remembered how to hit the ball and was able to serve over the net every time. Two high school girls and me were put on the men's side, and at first i was fairly nervous, but as we started playing i realized that no one was extraordinarily good and everyone made mistakes. We played 8 on 8 and there was lots of confusion sometimes, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. Everyone was in good spirits and joking with each other and the game wasn't taken that seriously and we all had a good time. So even though my forearms now are bruised and hurting, i'll be joining in on the volleyball practice again in the future.
Just found out that the 3rd grade student who won 2nd place at the all Okinawa Story contest last year will be presenting his story on Sunday at Shioya elementary. No one told me and he hasn't approached me for practice. Hmmm. I guess i'll have to get a hold of him today and practice. We have school on Sunday and then in the afternoon we'll be going to observe classes at Shioya elementary. Gabrielle will be teaching a 5th grade class so i plan on observing that.
This week and last have been rather odd for me. My co-worker has been brought down with a serious flu. He has taken two sick days and a couple of afternoons last week and hasn't been to school at all this week and actually might not come back until thursday of next week. I have been teaching on my own and that has been lots of fun, but when it was found out that he'll be gone all this week and through next, it was decided that from today (friday) through next week other teachers will take over the scheduled English classes. Teaching on my own has been going really well with almost all classes, especially the 3rd graders. But i have hit a wall in a way. I can't move in the textbook because i can't explain grammar properly and playing games every day for two weeks is tiring and stops benefiting the students after a while. So I taught through thursday this week and had to resign to the fact that other teachers will have to take over. But now feel rather guilty as they have more classes to teach and i have nothing to do. It's odd. But now have time to sit down and write up a lengthy blog, and that's a positive, right?
So, we have classes from sunday through thursday this week, and friday is a day off as a substitute for working on sunday. Sunday classes will be short because of the afternoon visit to the elementary school and Monday classes will be short because the lunch ladies are taking a day off since all 4 of the elementary schools will have a day off, which means no lunch for junior high school students and so they can't be kept at school past 1pm. Anytime i think i've gotten used to the flexibility of scheduling and the bendy logic behind it, something like this will come up just to reassure me that the japanese education system has lots of tricks up its sleeve and they'll do most anything to avoid actual serious academic pursuit. ok. that was slightly exaggerating but not by much. This week thursday i will be missing out on one of the funnest concerts that take place during a JHS school year, in my opinion--the 3rd graders goodbye concert. It was supposed to be on wednesday and so when i planned by trip to Taiwan i knew i couldn't miss out on it and didn't take the wed. off, instead took the thursday and the following tuesday (february 12th, monday is a national holiday)...but at some point during the crazy school year, the event scheduled was rearranged and the concert moved to thursday and i will be missing it! am not happy a bit about it.
and so it is that time of the year. the hectic time for 3rd grade homeroom teachers when they have to make sure that all their charges' paperwork and high school applications are in order and ready to be sent off to high schools of choice. JHS students who want to go to high school have to take an entrance test in math, science, japanese, social studies, and english. the tests are tough and those who want to make it into their high schools of choice have been studying since before winter vacation. some students can bypass the testing process by attempting the early addmissions option. Some high schools that are generally tougher to get into, allow a few students to be recommended for attendance. So homeroom teachers and administration send glowing records of recommendation and student's records. The high schools look them over and decide whether to grant the student an interview. All the students from Ogimi who applied for the early admissions got to the interview stage. I coached two of them for the English portion of Koyo HS's interview. I am happy to say that they both got in. Actually out of 7 students who went throught the interview process only one was denied automatic admission. She now has to take a test like the rest of her regular admission classmates. When it was announced that 6 other students made it, the yelling and cheering was near ear splitting. It was quite exciting for all. And i felt that i had a part in it. These students i have known for a year and a half. Some of them i have worked with more than other, like Yuu who was in the story contest and is now slated to attend Koyo high school in hopes of becoming a journalist some day. It's exciting being a part of shaping a young life.
oh yeah. the weather. almost forgot to mention how cold it's been.
the temperature may only be at 10C but the wind and lack of central heating are doubling the effect of the cold. Yesterday i was unprepared for the cold and shivered all day. Today i have three layers on, including a thermal undershirt, and so am doing better. Two pairs of socks are also helping. The sun is shining but it's deceptive. Nothing warm about it today. I wish i brought a pair of fingerless gloves for easy typing. I tried typing with gloves on yesterday but it's a slow and mistakes riddled process. I hope you appreciate that this blog has been typed up with nearly frozen fingers.
and so i come to the end of the blog, and i still haven't shared with you the saddest news from the last two weeks.
Some of my dearest friends on the island are not recontracting for another year. For a few it was unexpected and others have known for a long time that it would be the case. But we have nearly half a year left on the island together and we shall make the best of it yet! Plus, i don't believe that when they leave it'll be the last time i see them. Knowing people all over the world is only a plus, right? :)