Unfortunately, prices for almost everything else are going up today: Milk, soy sauce, cooking oil, beer, natural gas, electricity, air fares, imported wheat, tissues, shochu… you name it! The individual price increases aren’t dramatic, but together they add up: the average household costs for a family are expected to rise by about $130 a year.
The price changes are getting news coverage again tonight. Many stations have taken off 25 yen a litre – the lowest price I’ve seen reported is 115 yen (just more than $1.15) a litre. Prices are jumping wildly. Some retailers are keeping their prices steady until they sell off the fuel they purchased at the higher price; some lowered their prices on March 31st and sold at a loss before the taxes lapsed.
And now they’re covering the road and infrastructure projects that are in danger of being suspended due to the lapse in the revenue from the fuel taxes. Those who know me know how this pulls at my heartstrings.
The news has been giving a lot of attention to the plight of the families of the Japanese abductees in the DPRK. The Japanese government requested that NHK pay special attention to the abduction issue in international broadcasts. I’ve been seeing new reports about the abductions every time I watch the domestic news, especially the hour-long late evening edition.
We had all hands on deck in the gym today for the introductions of the new teachers. “New” means any teacher who began after the start of the last academic year, so it applies to anyone who started from May 2007 onwards. D. is the only foreign teacher who wasn’t “new” for this academic year, but he spoke anyway.
After the ceremony, we got our new teaching assignments. This past “year” I had Maths 1 and 6 (I could barely keep up with the Year 6s!), Sciences 3, 4, 5, and 6, and Year 4 was my English homeroom. This year I’ll have Maths 7, 8, and 9 (yes, the junior high! I hope I’m not in over my head!), Art 2, Life 1, Sciences 3, 4, 5, and 6, and Year 3 will be my English homeroom. The workload will be a bit greater, but the upside is that everything but English and Art is once a week, and Art is only twice because there are two Year 2 classes. I’m happy not to have to be losing my voice trying to keep two classes of year one students focused on math three times a week – each. Let’s see how they do with art.
Before and (mostly) after lunch, we were changing desks. This caused a great deal of chaos and commotion as the teacher’s office turned into a giant Rubik’s Cube. A few of the other teachers were more patient than others. But somehow we got through it. I wish I’d known that this would have to happen – I was caught completely off guard and I would have liked to have prepared for the move in advance. Do you know how much stuff teachers generally have in their desks? And it goes double for the Japanese teachers – so I automatically forgive any impatience on their part.
Things got quiet for a while when the Japanese teachers had a meeting. Then it was time to move things again, but this time it was fun. Years 1 through 4 are moving to the junior high for this term. I guess I’ll call it the “Shogako annex.” This is happening because the primary school’s air conditioning system will be undergoing repairs this summer. They even had a guy in today to reroute the appropriate junior high speakers to the primary school’s PA system. [Update: I've since learned that this building used to be the junior high - it's currently vacant. The junior high enrolment had gotten so small that the whole operation was moved to the high school.]
As D. put it early this morning, “Just accept the fact that it’s going to be chaotic today – we’re not going to get any work done.” And he was right. But tomorrow is another day!
* * *
Last night I went searching for a place to get a cheaper haircut – L. told me about a string of places across the river. I found one barbershop that looked kind of sketchy, so I kept going and I found a large barbershop that took the whole first floor of a three-story building. Perhaps…? Well, I don’t read Japanese yet, but I saw “4000” in pink numbers and “3500” in blue numbers. In other words, it was $40 for a ladies haircut, but “only” $35 for men. That’s just crazy. I want a haircut, not a gourmet meal.
D. had suggested that I should just by a pair of clippers, so I went to my favourite electronics store further down the same street and looked around there. I found a really nice clipper with a rechargeable battery and an adjustable guide for $39. They had cheaper clippers too, but either the guides were flimsy or the unit had to be plugged in to an outlet for use.
The funny thing is, this very morning I found another pair of clippers while I was fumbling in the closet for my suit. I briefly considered returning the unopened new ones, but then I thought the better of it – firstly, clippers and shavers and hair things like that are kind of personal items. Secondly, the new clippers would be mine to keep forever.
I was telling F., M2, and C. [C. will henceforth stand for the new primary school teacher, and its usage will be retired for the former kindergarten teacher who will hereafter be known as “Co.”] about this this morning, and D. agreed that keeping my new clippers was a very good idea. The ones in my apartment actually belong to an unknown third party! And… um… they were last used for a “Shave [former intern] Birthday Party.” That in itself doesn’t sound bad, but D. was careful to mention that they shaved only his torso at Ingrid’s.
And on that note, I wish everyone a happy April! The truth is way more interesting than anything I could make up.