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Softball!!!

Last Friday I was invited by the Vice-Principal from 如水(jyosui) elementary school to play softball with his team and him at 8:30 PM on Monday. I had expressed interest in baseball earlier, so he asked me if I played softball. I told him (or tried to anyway) about my experience playing for the Harvard Law School softball team when I worked there for a number of summers, and so he invited me to play. At the time, I thought I had brought my glove with me, so I was very excited to meet some new people and play some good ole American…er…Japanese softball! I even brought my cleats from home, so I was super psyched. On Monday after school I put on my Sox jersey and went to hang out with my one and only Yankee fan friend, Emily. As it turns out, I did not bring my glove, it’s in fact en route to Japan right now along with some books and such in a box. Crushing any stereotypes I had ever had about Yankee fans, she let me borrow one of hers.
At 7:50 or so I get a call from my Vice-Principal. Quickly fishing out my name cheat sheet, I recall his name, ゆるぎ先生 (Yurugi sensei) So I answer the phone.

Me: “Moshi Moshi”
VP: “Ah hai, ダシールさん, (Da-shi-ru san) are you coming to the game tonight?”
Me: “Yes, definitely.”
VP: “Great, I will see you there.”
Me: “Great, I’ll see you there as well, 教頭先生。(kyoutou sensei, VP)
VP: “Eh? I am 校長先生(Principal)
Me: To myself: “CRAP!” Ah, すみません!(sumimasen, sorry) I made a mistake, please forgive me.
Principal: No problem, see you at 8:30!

UGH! I have met so many Japanese teachers these past few weeks it’s been really difficult to keep them all apart. It’s not that they all look alike, far from it, but there are just too many people! I’m probably working with about 50-60 people, all of whom know my name because it’s the only one they have to remember. I even started a teacher seating chart cheat sheet in the back of my address, but so far I’ve managed to only catch about half of the people’s names. They speak so quickly and meekly (especially a lot of the women) that I don’t catch their names. I don’t want to make them repeat themselves, so I’m stuck in the situation of having to get their attention some way other than their name, which is devilishly difficult in Japanese. In fact, it’s quite impossible. There is no real polite way to say: “Hey you” in Japanese. Anyway, I am sure I’ll be forgiven because I am new, and a foreigner, but it’s frustrating none the less.

I set off for the field on my bike at around 8, figuring it will take me about 30 minutes to get there. The road it’s on is before one of my schools, 和田(wada) elementary school. By 8 it’s pitch black here in Japan. Apparently even during the height of summer it doesn’t stay light out much past 8:30 here. My bike has a light, but it doesn’t work. Half the time biking to the softball game I am praying to something that I don’t fall into a ditch, or a stream, or a rice paddy or something. The bike paths are so narrow, and I literally cannot see a thing. To add to this, there are cars coming towards me with their lights on, blinding me even further. At one point, on one of the sidewalks there are a whole bunch of poles, no doubt there in order to prevent cars from driving there. In actuality what it’s doing, however, is making yours truly slam on his squeaky breaks every two or three seconds to make sure he doesn’t go tumbling over the handlebars. I made it there (thank my lucky stars) at about 8:35 PM.

The softball game itself was a lot of fun. They were mostly older guys, in their thirties and more. Some were wearing Yankee shirts, not realizing the implications of my Red Sox jersey and their Yankee T-shirts being on the same team together. I played center field and hit first. No balls really made it out to me so I wasn’t able to flash any leather, but I did go 3-4 with a run scored. We lost 6-2, but it was great fun. One of the opposing team, when I got my first hit (an opposite field double) said he remembered me from the udon shop. I must admit at first I thought he was telling me his name, so I may have called him うどん屋さん (Udonya-san, Mr. Udon shop) once or twice. I did not remember meeting him at any udon shop. After the game as I was starting to bike back my principal pulled up in his station wagon and offered to drive me back. Stuffing my bike in his car, he gave me a ride home which was great, because I probably biked more than two hours that day already. I biked approximately 30 minutes from home to school in the morning, and the same amount back from school in the afternoon. Then I went over to Emily’s house, which is about 15 minutes away, and of course I had to bike back as well. Then after the softball game I biked another 20 minutes to Natalie’s house to watch “Lost in Translation,” which by the way was doubly appreciated because I am in Japan at the moment. Though it doesn’t really put Japan and Japanese people in a great light, I was definitely cracking up a lot because I can definitely see that happening to just about anyone coming to Tokyo for the first time. Grand total biking minutes: 30+30+15+15+20+20=130, two hours and ten minutes of biking! I am definitely feeling it this morning.

There is one thing I must complain about, however. At the schools in Japan, the internet is severely restricted. At my big school, I am not allowed to set my computer up to the network, and there is no point in me using the school’s computers because literally everything is blocked. At the moment I am trying to make a little bingo game for my introductory lesson. I’m making cards with things on them that I like, and don’t like, for the kids to get to know me a little better. The problem is, I can’t get any pictures from the web, because every single picture is restricted! At one of my other schools I was able to bypass the system somewhat and collect a few clip art pictures, but I need more in order to make this thing work. I spoke to my vice principal at Monday’s school, 三保 (miho) and he said that maybe next Monday I can get my computer connected. If I can do that, I’ll be able to use the internet from my computer with no restrictions (unless they insist on installing the internet block thing on mine, in which case I’ll just say forget it.) I can understand blocking the internet for kids, who should be doing work, but restricting it so severely for teachers is unbelievably counter productive, I think. If they want to make their own worksheets, or add some pictures and color to their lessons, where are they supposed to get the pictures? From home? There are ways to restrict certain photos that maybe they don’t want used without using this blanket block first ask questions later approach. We’ll see whether I’m able to finish my bingo game. I’ll have to come up with a contingency plan that may or may not involve me drawing the pictures myself. This would not be desirable, but I am not really being left much choice.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. The outcome has yet to be decided.

-ダシール

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  1. Peri
    August 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    hmmm. biking without lights. please don’t do that! love, peri

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