My Special Kids

I think one of the greatest joys I have teaching here is getting to occasionally teach English in the special education classes.

In Kanagi I have two such classes. Since I have no idea how to accurately describe the difference between the two classes in any clinical or psychological terms, let me just give an example. I did an activity recently where I said simple things in English, and they listened and drew a picture of what I was saying. In one class I said "blue house" and my kids broke out rulers, sketched a vanishing point, and went to work on an almost archetectural-style drawing of a blue house. In the other class I got a yellow house. Let me say, I love both of these classes.

My future drafters (who I assume have some form of autism) have an insane command of English vocabularly. Their grammar and syntax aren't great, but I'll be damned if they'll ever need a dictionary to do quick translations from one to the other. They made some really impressive crossword puzzles the other day where they were connecting words at speeds I couldn't even begin to imagine. I really hope they get to put their English skills to use some day. I'm not sure how continuing education works for kids like this in Japan, but my guess is probably not.

My yellow house kids are I guess what would be called "slow" in un-PC terms. They're infinitely charitable though, and they love to greet me in English in the hallways, at lunch, etc. Their command of English is tenacious at best, but it doesn't matter much because they have genuine enthusiasm about it that never fails to brighten my day.

In Asahi two special education students (a boy and a girl) joined the school for the first time in...well, I don't know how long, but long enough that they had no provisions for dealing with them and had to get two new teachers (which is a lot considering the staff topped out at 13 last year). They would probably be in the yellow house class if they were at Kanagi as they seem to have learning disabilities. They are also extremely sweet-natured, and ever-keen to talk to me. The boy specifically seems to have taken a shine to me. We had the following conversation one day after lunch (in Japanese):

Boy: "So...where do you live?"
Me: "Huh?"
Boy: "In Japan...where do you live?"
Me: "Well...do you know Imafuku?"
Boy: "No..."
Me: "How about Kanagi...I live near Kanagi."
Boy: "Oh yeah yeah, I know Kanagi." [pause] "So do you live with your wife, or what?"
Me: [laughing] "No, I'm not married."
Boy: "Well how old are you?"
Me: "I'm only 22."
Boy: "Oh. Okay. That's okay. You're still young then. Don't worry."
Me: [in my head] "Thanks kid...I wasn't worried in the first place."
Boy: [walking away] "Don't worry about it, you're young."
Me: [laughing] "See you later"

So yeah. It's pretty awesome to get to work with the special kids. I think the thing I like most, which is evidenced from the above interaction, is that they don't filter what they say around me. I feel like most Japanese people think over what they're going to say a million times before they talk to me. In fact a lot of conversations start with "Is it okay if I talk to you now." But these kids just talk to me...in English, in Japanese. They don't care. And they will say anything, whether I saw it coming or not.



Bad News?

So I saw on Punknews.org today that Mike is leaving Pink Razors. I was pretty disappointed as I can't imagine the band existing without both vocalists, but then I read a little further and saw who was replacing him...Erin Tobey! No shit. I'm not sure what to think of that, but at the very least it will be interesting. If you don't know what I'm talking about in this post you need to checkity check the following:

Pink Razors
Abe Froman
Erin Tobey
Mt. Gigantic (thanks Jamie)



So it goes...

RIP 1922-2007

EDIT: I've been reading a lot about Vonnegut today and thinking back on all his books and everything, and I just remembered that one of the first Konami Code songs was a sort of tribute to him and the feeling his writing creates. The song is appropriately titled "V" (a reference to both Kurt and the "victory" sign) and you can download it here. Be nice, Ben and I were nascent songwriters at the time.

PS- Ben, feel free to weigh in if I forgot anything.

Gang Control (Worldwide)

Click here for an awesome video of a bunch of cosplayers meeting up to do a sychronized dance routine in Akiba...only to run in fear as a couple of cops stroll up to ruin the fun.

I mean chances are most of these people never even leave their apartments (or the comfort of 2ch). Here they are out in public, creating art, clearly entertaining the bystanders and the cops have to come along and impose boredom on everyone because anything out of the ordinary is obviously bad. I guess for the record it's not just Boston cops who are brainless thugs and morons...it's Tokyo cops too.

(Okay...for the record it's all cops...)

[via BoingBoing]


A Revelation (Of Sorts...)

So literally just a moment or two ago one of the teachers, a jumpy little guy, was getting something from the school safe (where the records and money are kept) when he happened to pull on the safe door a little too hard and open it directly into the glass window of another door. The glass shattered and shock and awe ensued.

Me, I just sat there. The rest of the staff room was up in a tizzy in an instant, but I just felt bad for the guy. He's really quiet and unassuming, and he already has kind of a stutter. The last thing he needed today was to break a plate-glass window in a room full of people. Espeically these people, who were all running around like 16 chickens with heads cut off simultaniously.

It kinda made me think though. As soon as all eyes were on him I couldn't help but think for a second "Phew...absolutely no one is looking at me right now." See, as the foreigner in Japan (especially in rural Japan) you are constantly the subject of scrutiny. People don't just look at you. They stare at you. And it's constant. In the supermarket, in your car, at school, at the festival. You stand out.

But the jumpy little teacher breaking the window...it kinda made me think. I'm not sure it's about the foreign aspect so much as the different aspect. Japanese people are easily surprised. They use the phrase "bikkurishita" (literally "I was surprised!") about 100 times a day, from things as mundane as the flavor of a candy to someone kinda coming up behind them and maybe surprising them a little. They're...culturally jumpy...or something. They all have brown hair and brown eyes...so I guess it's no surprise that they're a little put off by the one blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid in the the produce aisle.

I come from a country where we have all kinds of people. Nothing really surprises me. I used to have this weird fear of amputees as a kid, they gave me the heebies. But then I met more handicapped people and that went away. Now I could care less. I lived in New York City for four years for crying out loud, not all that much shocks me.

So when the glass broke I flinched a bit from the sound, but then I went back to work. The Japanese people ran around in a tizzy making unhelpful comments, while making the poor jumpy guy even jumpier. I'm not quite sure what has them wound so tight as a culture...I guess it could be living on a tiny island for so long with a bunch of people who look and act exactly like you...but I couldn't help but identify with jumpy guy a little today. As well I think I can better understand the staring now...everytime I walk into a room it's like I've shattered a plate-glass window.



I'm Back

Hey you guys, I've been away from the blog for awhile. Sorry if this was inconvenient for you. School was on break for two weeks and I was sequestered at the Board of Education with no internet access. It was pretty boring, but also kind of nice.

Some cool stuff has been going on, and I'll be sure to post pics and stuff later. I just wanted to get back on here and let you know that I didn't forget about you.

Today is the first day of school, so we have new students, new teachers, new ceremonies (no class though, of course)...it's all a bit much. I should go pretend I'm doing something constructive. I'll talk to you guys later.