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March 13, 2007

Well, after spending the last few weeks in a fairly angry state (as anyone who's seen me on Gmail chat knows), I'm finally in a good mood so thought I'd take the opportunity to write something on here (since I'm still stuck at work)

Today was the Graduation Ceremony for my third year students (san-nen-sei)!

Today was the last time they will come to this school together. So they all received little certificates and a few songs were sang and everybody cried and then everyone flashed the peace sign about a billion times for a ton of different photos.

I remember ceremonies like this being dead boring. And, well, it's the same here. There was no end of speeches, or what sounded like speeches – only half the time there was nobody on the stage or at the podium. The MC would just go at it for like 20 minutes at a time. Everybody spoke in that ultra-serious, no-nonsense Japanese Professional tone of voice, and I didn't have a damn clue what the hell they were talking about. I was really struggling to keep awake, especially since I came back home at about 1am from a rather disappointing ceremony in Nara the previous night, which is about 3 hours train ride from here.

In Japanese schools, it seems there is a much stronger sense of community and belonging than I ever experienced in New Zealand. Every student MUST join a club. And because young Japanese people "try their best" at everything they do, there is alot of comradery between all three year levels within the clubs. Outside the clubs, too, they all get along. There is a serious respect for the older students from the younger students, who really look up to them as role models.Older students are often addressed not by their name, but as "senpai" by the younger students, which shares the same first half as "sensei" and is a term of respect for those who have previously trodden the path which these students are now walking. Sometimes the girls are also addressed as "older sister". As gay as Japanese boys are, they tend to refrain from that particular form of intimacy too much. Also, the younger students are often addressed with a "-chan" at the end of their name as a term of endearment.

The kids also really like their teachers. They are constantly coming to the teacher's room and calling teachers out to have a talk to them in the corridor, all laughing and stuff. I've only had a couple of brave kids call me out, but due to the total inabaility of any of my kids to communicate with me verbally, that's pretty much hardly ever happened. Kids also sometimes bring in morsels from cooking classes to gift to teachers, and things like that.

Now, at the end of the graduation, the san-nen-sei all went to the front of the hall and sang a song together, entitled something along the lines of "As we go forth", and sounds really sad. By the end of it, about half the girls were singing through miserable, dripping red faces, and some of the guys were looking pretty uncomfortable too.

Afterwards, some kids came to me and gave me a little something from each sannensei class. One class gave me a little booklet with thank you notes in it, and one gave me a little plaque with a bunch of thank you notes scribbled on it (those ones mostly in Japanese, probably largely due to my kids inability to learn :P) The other teachers got things like that as well, and even the sannenseis all recieved similar things from the younger students who have been calling them sempai.

Then, everyone got a thousand and one photos. Anybody who didn't have one of the latest miniscule super-cameras or a cellphone with a hi-tech camera installed was lugging around at least one disposable. Groups of posed students had to stay put for ages as the poor photo-taker had to try and juggle the barrowload of cameras he or she was given by every person in the shot. The fact that it's springtime, and yet snowing, didn't deter people from mingling and saying thanks and giving presents and crying and taking photos with everyone else for about 45 minutes. I was dressed in a suit for about the first time in 6 months so that flipped all the kids out as well, as I was kakkoid to a level I'd forgotten about. Even a few of the parents wanted photos with me. I kitted it out with a fedora hat so the kids were all loving taking turns wearing that around as well.

Eventually people started to disperse as parents started to take their kids away for special graduation lunches. I got a few final letters from some of the students and finally everyone was gone (including all the first and second year students). I'll transcribe a letter from one of my favourite kids here:

"Hi, [my name]! (*^u^*)/
Thankyou for your e-mail tomorrow! I'm grad 🙂 By the way, today is graduation ceremony! I'm very exciting! I'm sad to graduate from [Name] junior high school 😥 But I don't forget our school, [Name] junior high school. And my friends, our teachers and so on.

When I'm enter new high school, I want to drill translating English into Japanese. And I want to make my Website, draw alot of picture and so on 😀 I think that I'll treasure my precious memories and I'll stay to the limitation!

And you, too!

I hope that you don't sick, hurt and cold. Please walk your road with vigorous strides!

See you!"

Then there's a picture of me, looking decidedly sexually ambiguous. But since that look's so hot in Japan right now, I'm taking it as a compliment 🙂 Since I don't have any photos for you, I'll finish with a pic one of the kids drew (who's a damn good artist, and I really hope to see what she becomes).

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