Last Saturday was the annual U.S. Embassy friendship festival in Tokyo. It is something my wife goes absolutely bonkers over. The nice thing about it is that there are gobs of food items usually unavailable to Japan and it is in a really nice area of town. It is held not too far away from the Tokyo midtown complex at the Embassy housing facility. The downside is that it is enormously popular.
Tickets are sold usually a month in advance and usually sell out in a few days. This year it sold out in a few hours. I got there early and within an hour there were ticket scalpers and people walking around with signs asking to buy tickets. I think it may of had something to do with Caroline Kennedy being present as the official ambassador. Last time I went, the former Ambassador Roos, attended these and he hung out, shook hands and just made himself visible… Kind of like an ambassador should do right? During the entrance ceremony, Ambassador Kennedy showed up and gave her speech, and for some reason, quite a few attendees of started to wet themselves like excited puppies, shouting for her attention. Her speech was pretty standard fare that could have been written by an C student in Junior High. She took a few photos with her Iphone of the crowd and then jumped into her car and sped off. Kind of shitty and prim donna-like if you ask me… I liked Roos better than this holier- than- thou political appointee. An ambassador at a friendship festival should… I don’t know… Be there and spread friendship… Not do a Justin Bieber and show up for a second before speeding away. Maybe something important came up? I would think that building good relationship with another country was what ambassadors primary purpose was. Anyways the food was good, and the drinks (including beer) were free. Honestly though, I think I will skip out the next one for the first time… Just too many people jostling around for my tastes.
Anyways, now I am at the final school in my monthly rotation, and the largest; Oomaru-chu. In stark contrast to Chibimaru-chu, the teacher’s room is packed, manic and cliquish. There are many excellent teachers there, but there are also plenty of very negative people as well.
And now for the Dramatis personae of Oomaru-chu:
Ms. Ozarks– She is one of the youngest teachers at the school and is a pretty fun person to chat with. The only thing weird about her is that if you don’t have business with her, she won’t even acknowledge your existence. I worked at the school for 6 months before I had a class with her, and I didn’t even know she was an English teacher. She is open to new ideas and has a pretty good relationship with the kids. To be honest, the not acknowledging thing probably is me over-analyzing things. When things are relaxed, she is different. She is great fun to work with.
Mr. Hex– He is another brand new teacher, but my experience with him is very limited. I have taught with him only once and that was for a special education class. He seems friendly though.
Mr. Blossoms– A teacher with a very strong and clear voice that I was worried about for the last couple of years. This year however, he is making a wonderful rebound and striding with some spring in his step. For the last two years I was watching the stress of the job eat him alive, so I am greatly relieved with this 180.
Ms. Waters– She was recently transferred from another city’s BOE to teach special education and second year students. She is a very sweet and fairly cute young woman with a quick laugh and even faster smile that can easily bond with students. Her English is a little wonky though and she has some odd habits, the most notable is saying yes too much and multiple times. I believe she is using exactly like the Japanese hai, which can be used that way in a redundant fashion. In the few classes I have had with her, she as acquiesced to every request I have made, which lead me to think that A) She doesn’t understand me, or B) She is giving me massive leeway.
Ms. Eastridge– She is an absolute enigma to me. Her English is native sounding and I talk to her as if I would talk with any other American. When I first started 3 years ago, she was really awesome to work with and we worked a lot together. I even did some extra- curricular work at her request. Starting from last year, that dynamic has changed. She now actively avoids me. When she sees me, she walks the other direction. If I corner her to talk to her for any reason, she recoils. I have learned that to talk with her at all I have to respect an airspace of almost 2 meters. In class though, she is friendly, although she still tries to maintain a 2 meter distance at all times. I have actually made a little game out of it; When its student practice time, we both walk around class to check on the students. She engages the students, but keeps my whereabouts in check and will move away if she sees me coming. What do I do? I figuratively chase her around the room, just to test out my 2m theory. So far it still stands, so scientifically I think I can call it a law. A teacher, who was transferred to another city and is a friend of mine told me that it might be because of my teaching style. Ms. Eastridge is a strict teacher while I think that a little chaos is good for class. It’s an interesting idea but I don’t think that explains what used to be a good working relationship to go toxic. Not knowing makes me nuts though… If I had talked shit behind her back, I could assume that’s what happened, but I never did. If I made a mess of things in her class I could understand it, but I never did. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it’s a honne/ tataemae thing… but even that would only explain a little. The whole thing bothers me… a lot.
Mrs. Rich– An older very friendly woman with a younger soul. She exudes Japanese housewife through and through, but she likes a lot of things kind of reserved for a younger generation, like when she told me her favorite movie was: Ted and that she could identify several different kinds of firearms by designation (AK-47, M16A1). She is a little inflexible in her methodology and often makes lessons a little more difficult than her students can handle.
Mrs. Benson– The most excitable teacher on the planet. She will also break her back trying to help with every asinine idea I come up with. She lived overseas for a long time so she is really knowledgeable in English, but not as native sounding as Ms. Eastridge. She is always very cheerful and does her job at 200%. She often tells me she sometimes only sleeps for a couple of hours a night doing work. She is all about her students, but other teachers sometimes take a giant shit on her and treat her like… well… a foreigner. I think the stress of that kind of work environment is going to chase her away. When we have extended time to talk, she often unburdens herself. If we are in private, she tells me things she shouldn’t; Like which children’s parents are abusive and which children are being abused. I had to tell her not to do that for two reasons; 1) I am not sure about Japanese law regarding teachers, but in the US that is a breach of privacy and can get any teacher fired, and 2) Because I love my students, and to know which ones are being beaten by a mother’s abusive boyfriend, and not being able to do dick about it is torture for me. The latter I kept to myself.