Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The End of Summer

You can generally tell a lot about the pace of life here from the frequency with which I update my blog. The fact that it’s been almost a month since my last post says it all: I’ve been desperately clinging onto the fleeing summer with no time to keep you updated.

But it’s time to face the truth. Summer’s over. I thought that back-to-school blues were something I’d left behind years ago, but nope, showing all the maturity of my twenty-two years, here they were again, creeping up on me. “I thought you loved your work” was the response I got from a Skype call home when I aired my frustration at having to force myself back into the 9-5 mould. “Well I do”, I said. “But no work’s better”.

I spent my last two weeks of summer back in familiar old Matsuyama, attending a language course put on by the Ehime Prefectural International Centre. Of course, the course itself was great, but the real lure was the chance to spend two weeks away from the office with all of my friends here. 

Don't ask.

One thing that hasn't gotten old a year on: puri kura.

During our time in the city, we began to (worryingly) build a list of “Places We Can Never Return to (At Least during This Stay)”. By the end of the two weeks, it ended up becoming something of a mission to think of places we could legitimately haunt. Most notably on The List was the bar where Jesse ended up rolling on the floor, covered in ice and howling with laughter, whilst the furious patron leaned over the counter and yelled “DAME!” (“STOP!”) at us. We took it as our cue to leave, counted out our exact change and scurried away. (This was the same night in which Jesse, wanting to prove the durability of his new case-clad iPhone, raised it overhand, yelled “FUCK THIS PHOOOOOOOONE!” and threw it, like a baseball pitcher, some thirty meters down Matsuyama’s shopping parade. We couldn’t quite believe what we’d just seen. But hey, he had a point: the iPhone survived without a scratch).

Arriving back in Ainan, there was little in the way of time to readjust. First off, it was time to catch up with all the friends I hadn't seen in two weeks with a yoga class, followed by a nighttime BBQ at Kei's house!

Afterwards, it was straight back to school…. and straight back to this year’s Sports Day! This year, it seems they’d upgraded the theme music to include “Eye of the Tiger” whenever Things Got Tense. My role was limited to running in the PTA relay: a three-legged race which saw me tied to a fellow teacher by one foot, wearing an oversized welly on the other. One year on, I’d forgotten just how entertaining Sports Day is here. Even in the relay I was running in, the race itself was such a shitshow of props, music and tangled limbs, that I don’t even know where we ended up ranking. Not to mention that there was a dubiously “blacked-up” Japanese parent running the track as Ussain Bolt (oh, Japan). As you may have gathered, then, hardly any of the events that the kids took part in could legitimately be described as “sports”. In one  the kids, all wearing different coloured Mickey Mouse ears, had to bow in front of a screen and ask a demon (another parent) what colour his pants were; once the screen was drawn back and the demon revealed, the lucky kid wearing the same colour Mickey Mouse ears could race to the finish line whilst the others had to trail behind him in an egg and spoon race. WHAT THE ACTUAL.  I loved it.

This being the third years’ last Sports Day, things got pretty emotional by the time it was all over. Each member of the third year classes was asked to take to the stage in turn to deliver their reflections on the day to the lower year students… and it wasn’t long until the tears started flowing. A few students – boys and girls – were too choked to even say anything comprehensible. It certainly gave me pause for thought seeing kids who are usually the class clowns suddenly overcome with emotion. Once the third years had given their speeches, they turned to the teachers and called them up to the stage one-by-one. I was more than a little surprised when I heard my own name called! Luckily, a year on the job has given me a lifetime’s supply of think-on-your-feet-edness, so I took to the stage and rustled up some elementary Japanese to tell them all what a great day it had been.

And with that, "Sports" Day was over for another year. Next stop, Culture Festival...!

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