The 7th School – Suehiro Elementary

As a foreigner in Japan you realize there are two main classification groups here—Japanese or non- Japanese. This means that non-Japanese people do not have access to certain things in Japan—which means you might not get invited to a few things or you aren’t welcome in an establishment. While this can be a troubling concept to a foreigner living in Japan, I’ve learned to accept it. Being excluded is not anything new for me given my own experiences in the United States, .  In 6 out of the 7 schools I attend I feel just like I’m classified—like an outsider. While I have a desk in the office and everyone greets me, I still feel out of place.  Not that I’m trying to ‘become Japanese’ ( that’s just physically impossible).  But, I think it’s one thing to visually stick out like a sore thumb and  another thing when you actually FEEL like the sore thumb.  There’s nothing anyone said. It’s solely based on how I’ve notice people interact with me at my schools. Most of the time, I feel a lot of tension between us.  Given the fact that we both have a small command of the other person’s native tongue, I can understand a little bit why there’s tension. But, if the scholars conclude that the majority og human interaction is non-verbal there HAS to  be a reason why there’s tension.  My only conclusion that makes sense is I’m a foreigner so I’m approached as such (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that). People tend to be more careful with how they interact with me. It almost appears that they are scared of me or something. There’s absolutely nothing about me that’s intimidating, yet people are quite hesitant when they approach me.  A lot of it has to do with the language barrier. Because of the tension between us, I’m not invited to school events or work parties. Most of the time, I have no idea about what’s going on in the office or the school.  All of this is completely ok with me but noticing this allowed me to point on the reasons I loved one of my schools. The 7th school.

608Suehiro Elementary School is a very small school. I think it has a total of 20 students, 1-6th grade. My English class has six students and I love it. I only visit this school twice a month but those are some of the best days out of the month. Not only are the students energetic ( they always scream help when I walk pass their class) but the teachers are just as excited. The teachers are so friendly and do not hesitant to engage in conversation. Even though we don’t speak the same language, it’s fun making gestures and then laughing at how silly we look doing it.  One woman in the office ( I think she’s the lunch lady) never gives up on trying to get me to eat the school lunch. I normally bring my lunch to school/buy at store because I do not want to waste food if I can’t eat something that day. Every time I enter the office,  it 100% chance that the lunch lady will approach me about the school menu. She knows I don’t eat pork or beef, so when it’s a fish or chicken day, she’s so excited to share the menu with me. Most times, she’s quite successful in her endeavors and then asks me if I enjoyed the meal . She definitely makes sure I’m taken care of at the school…to the point where I expect to go home with a bag of fruits or vegetables every time. Outside of meals, she’s asks me about driving in Japan ,the winter weather or my health. I’d go as far as to call her the mother of the office.435

The secretary who sits diagonal from me speaks a little English. On my first day, I needed to buy lunch. She  drove me to the convenient store and pointed out all the chicken and fish meals. One day, we were eating chestnuts in the office ( this places always seems to have food that’s grown and freshly picked by the ‘janitor’ in the office). She asked me what they were in English and then I proceed to introduce her to the song  “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”. Judging by their facial expressions, the people in the office enjoyed the song.  Later, she asked me about my favorite artist. I told her India Arie. To my surprise, she knew who she was. Actually, she said she liked her too and youtubed her favorite song.  (by the way she definitely won some cool points for that one)

There’s this warm feeling I get when I enter the classroom area. As soon as the students see me, they greet me with a burst of energy.  Sometimes, they follow me around, hang on to me, mimic me, and try to ask me questions.  One student likes to teach me Japanese words. I just feel so much love when I’m at Suehiro and a part of their community. They are excited to invite me to their school events and activities. In fact, it’s the only school that has invited me to any of their events—music competition, school festival, and mochi  ( rice cake) making.  It’s such a pleasant environment. I wish everyday was a Suehiro day.

Southern woman experiences a REAL winter

This is only the beginning- Yikes!

This is only the beginning Yikes!

(singing) “I’m dreaming of a whiiiiitttte christmas…” Pause-well, don’t really have to do that anymore since the snow piles up right in front of my door step.

First week back from my amazing time home and I’ve already had quite an eventful week. I only say it’s eventful because the energy behind admiring the fresh snow fall can take a toll on the mind and body haha. In the beginning, I thought I’d be a Grinch about the snow–seeing that I’m from one of the hottest areas in the United States. Surprisingly, it has brought me great joy. Besides how pretty my town looks covered in snow, I’ve enjoyed figuring out the proper attire and proper protocol for handling the snow. I’ve already learned that gloves are gonna be my best friends in the winter. This morning, I thought I’d tackled the snow single-handedly (bare hands and all). I quickly learned that wasn’t such a great idea. After cleaning my car gloveless, I sat in my car feeling my hands tense up almost to the verge of being frost-bitten. Luckily, I found these cute one dollar mittens I bought a while back to hold me over–have to dig through my clothes to find my other mittens.

Cars at work-- remember this is only the beginning

Cars at work– remember this is only the beginning

I also learned when I should shovel the snow.  After layering up for the chilly winds, I did a mental victory dance because it looked like I wouldn’t have to shovel the snow this morning. Well, I was SO wrong.  Just when I put the car in gear, I saw my neighbor shoot across the parking lot with his shovel trying to clear the way. In my head I said, :”Oh ,you supposed to do that?? I just thought you supposed to wipe off the snow from your window and shovel the snow only if it’s covering the tires.” Pressing for time, I hopped out the car to help. Let’s just say, shovelling snow is not an easy or fun task. As soon as my shovel hit the snow,  I was ready for snow shoveling  to be over.  After a few minutes of shivering and blowing my hands from the over exposure to the cold, I was ready to hit the road.

Main road in the town

Main road in the town

Pause: WAIT, where’s the road.  Yup, couldn’t see the road much. This is when I realized that this winter I will have to implement my granny driving tactics. So far, the slow driving has worked BUT that’s another post.