Sunday, November 05, 2006

National Day of Sports: Part 1

If you live in Japan, you know what a sports festival is. If you don’t, let me explain. Sometime in late September or early October, every school from pre-school to high school takes one entire Saturday to dress up in matching uniforms and hats, sing songs, do extremely choreographed militaristic drills, and some sports competitions, I guess. As a teacher, if you’re not taking part in the drills, also while wearing a silly hat and using a whistle, you’re expected to go and watch with the rest of the students’ families. I had to go to two of these in one day. The little grabby-hands pre-school was having one at the same time as N Elementary, the school the majority of my students go to, including all four of my boss’s kids. N Elementary’s sports festival was actually scheduled for the weekend before, but had been rained out.

As soon as Colin, Sayaka, and I arrived at the pre-school, we knew things were different. There was a sea of kids in the courtyard, all lined up and divided by their class, which was demarcated by an armband and a different colored hat. They looked like a skittles rainbow. The teachers that I was accustomed to seeing sitting on their asses and hitting babies were standing at the front of the front of the lines with enormous smiles, leading the kids through the words and dances of various songs, usually from “My Neighbor, Totoro”. There was a whole group of them assisting with the youngest class, who were one and a half to two years old. Those kids were in a lopsided cluster rather than an organized line, were barely following the dance moves, and a couple of them were crying hysterically. After the national anthem, the kids cleared out, the orderly, single file fashion deteriorating as the lines progressed toward the younger classes. The teachers scurried out and began making complex marks in the dirt of the courtyard, as Colin and I wondered what game they were setting up. It wasn’t a game. The oldest class, the six year-olds, marched back onto the courtyard carrying flags of various colors, and the markings on the ground were for their incredibly complex flag drill. I watched in awe as the same kids who won’t stop bouncing and screaming for a single fucking second during our class executed perfectly timed flag ripples across the courtyard. They were so calm and disciplined, like little machines. It was a serious shock.

Next came the foot races, starting with the toddlers. The teachers stretched out a tape, with a line of them squatting behind it, encouraging the toddlers to keep going. After the air gun was fired, they began waddling toward the line, some of them walking diagonally, others getting distracted by things in the dirt. In the first footrace was one of the kids who wouldn’t stop crying. He stopped in the middle of the courtyard and refused to budge, his face twisted in the anguish of baby existence. The rest of the toddlers finished, and he stayed in place. One, then three teachers trotted out to him and squatted to his level, trying to console him and convince him to finish the race. The entire event was put on hold, and bored parents began making calls on their cell phones as the pep talks continued for ten minutes. I wondered why the hell they didn’t just carry him over the line and move on, but distracted myself by looking at a nearby puppy that was way cuter than the babies. Eventually I glanced back at the courtyard to see that the toddler had calmed down a bit and was making a few slow steps toward the finish line, then he turned around and tried to run the other direction. The teachers blocked his way, herding him toward the tape. He finally crossed it with his face red and his finger in his mouth. There was a big applause, and the games went on. I’m pretty sure that in America there’s no way anyone would spend fifteen minutes trying to reason with that kid. Japan is different, though. It was symbolically important for him to actually finish the race by himself.

After we’d watched the games for a while, Sayaka led us to the area where the rest of the kids were waiting so we could say hi before heading off to the elementary school. The little disciplined machines in them disappeared when they saw us, and especially when they saw Colin. But none of the kids actually molested me! The worst I got was when one of the boys pointed to my chest and banally remarked, “[Boobies].”

Colin wasn’t so lucky. As soon as the kids saw him, they swarmed him, poking at every possible private area they could. I feel bad now, since he was asking me for help and I didn’t take him seriously. I thought if he really wanted help, he wouldn’t have made his resistance so fun for them. They were all shouting questions at him as some of the boys began climbing him like a jungle gym.

While trying to defend himself, Colin said, “I can’t understand you, you’re speaking in crazy, demon tongues!”

“Don’t say things like that! There’s a chance Sayaka could understand you!” I told him, even though I knew there was no chance Sayaka could understand him. I hugged a lot of kids whose names I couldn’t remember, then we moved on to the elementary school, where more marching and flag-waving would ensue.

3 Comments:

Blogger Carol said...

How incredible!!! I love your writing sooooo much. Can I use your BLOGS for giving readings? Someone told me that I should do readings, and I just had a blast reading it to Paula as I avoid spending every day packing and sorting and moving. Its Sunday here.

Hey, the dogs got away when we were moving stuff in and setting up the biodiesel unit and went over to Reasoners and started barking their heads off. When Paula & I went to rescue the unfortunate kitty or racoon they had treed, we found Ivy, Frankie, and Chloe harrassing a four point buck that had been hit by a car and injured. They were doing the wolf pack attack on reindeer. As soon as I came and started yelling at them to quit and come here, they figured they had reinforcements and attacked the buck! The buck jumped up and took off running on three legs, the fourth rear leg dangling uselessly behind him. That was even better. This domestic pack went into overdrive. Frankie snapped and grabbed the tail, Ivy got a death-grip on the dangling leg while Chloe barked insanely, snapping at the heals. With all three dogs surrounding the buck and barking, the buck stopped and tried to fight them, striking at them with his front hooves and gouging at them with his antlers, just like on Wild Kingdom or Animal Planet. He'd face one, and the other would run in and bite him, finally with all three of them latched onto his hind quarters. He tried to run, dragging all three dogs with him. He couldn't do it. They brought him down. His hind end collapsed to the ground, as he tried to pull away with his front end. He raised his head in a frantic loud baoul, the distress cry of a buck in pain. I ran at the dogs, and scared the deer into action again, and making the dogs drop their grips. They were intent on taking their prey...

..to be continued on my BLOG

8:35 AM  
Blogger GLE said...

I definitely say rock paper scissors

5:53 AM  
Blogger Clayton said...

And you blog too? Holla back!

2:18 AM  

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