William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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95. Pool + Commonwealth

Today was my first time swimming in the pool, as part of my voluminous day duty responsibilities. (It took me 45 minutes just to water the plants – there are three separate hoses, and they’re easy enough to deploy, but getting them back onto their coils after you’ve finished watering is a Sysiphusian task.) I was also scheduled for pool duty last week, but only learned that it was tied to day duty a few minutes beforehand, so that day I just sat and watched everyone and hoped to get splashed.

It is wickedly hot here. It was 44 degrees inside the pool enclosure. The water was very nice, especially after I fished out the dead fly and the enormous, very much alive spider. As it was with the onsen in Matsuyama, after being in there, everywhere else seems refreshingly cool!

Swimming and playing with the kids was a lot of fun. It was a little bit awkward at first because one First Year girl kept trying to torpedo herself towards my no-touch zone, but one of the Second Years translated for her – what she really wanted to do was swim between my legs. Well, that I could tolerate. Then when others wanted to do it, they’d say, “Mr. Matheson, please, open!” I fought my doctrinarian nature and elected not to teach them the phrase, “Please open your legs, Mr. Matheson.”

Later on, what seemed like half of the Year Three class (all of its girls, anyway) started trying to climb up on me, and have me walk around the pool (with extreme difficulty). This was fun, but my sunburns from last weekend are still healing, so sometimes their inevitable abrasiveness as they kicked and pushed to stay up was rather painful. D. had done this too, but he must have fared better as he is taller and has a far greater surface area that kids can cling to. I remembered what he said about pretending to fall over, and I did the same, walking with exaggerated sways where I could. In the mad scrambles that ensued whenever I knelt or fell down, I had to decide when to breathe and when to go under so that I wouldn’t inhale a gallon of water, or worse.

Somewhat mercifully, after what seemed like ages, the girls got bored and started giving each other piggy-back rides, and Y.Y. (the same girl who won the JAL livery contest) came by and asked me, “Are you alright?” “Yes, thank you for asking.” This kind of thing was good, because she could be kind of stingy with her words back when I was her homeroom teacher. That whole cohort, though, has assertiveness issues, to put it politely. =)

Did I mention it was hot here? Instead of returning my nods and waves with “Konnichiwa,” people are saying “Very very hot!” During the March – April intersession’s day care, the children would play outside a lot. They don’t now! I don’t think any of them would want to leave the air-conditioned log house (where day care is being held since parent-teacher interviews and the ongoing construction works are tying up all the classrooms) even if they could.

“Watashi mo nihonjin no kyoshi des.” I just tried this phrase as a joke; I was trying to say, jokingly, that I’m a Japanese teacher, too. The teacher targeted for this “joke” had passed by me to get to the phone (where the callers almost always ask, “Nihonjin no sensei imaska?” / “Is a Japanese teacher there?”). The joke failed, but we almost – almost! – started to have a “conversation” in Japanese. And then I realized I was missing all the building block verbs that I needed to do so – verbs like “have,” “like,” and “want.” I have “come,” “go,” “go out,” and “be,” and that’s all. I guess I’d better bring Mina no Nihongo along on the ferry!

* * *

What with all the European integration and North American disintegration, Canada is getting left out in the cold. We don’t have access to many of the special opportunities that EU citizens have – the idea of going to university in a EU country other than your own at a deep discount comes readily to mind! In Canada it can work the opposite way - if you're a resident of, say, Nova Scotia, and you want to study in Quebec, you have to pay more! (Quebec, this is a really dumb move. Don't you think the benefits of a legion of Quebec-aware, French-enabled youth dotted throughout Canada warrant the additional outlay for equal treatment tuition-wise? That said, non-resident Canadians still pay much less than international students would there.)

We’re also not part of a customs union, and while our trade union has fair mobility of goods, what about mobility of people? Oh, sure, there are special NAFTA concessions like the TN visa, but there are so many limits and quid-pro-quos that most laypeople (read: 26-year-old liberal arts majors) wouldn’t qualify for them.

While Europe, from Portugal to Poland, is starting to resemble a borderless federation, the barriers between Canada and the United States are ever-increasing. What’s wrong with this picture? Why are we so laughably out of touch with the way things are going in that enlightened bloc across the Atlantic?

I think the most natural avenue for us to pursue at this point is Commonwealth integration, at least to the point permissible given existing commitments - for instance, the special implicit arrangements between Ireland and the UK would have to be put aside if either country wanted to join Schengen. [On a not-unrelated note, here's an excellent CBC report on the current state of affairs in Belfast, and how its past history of terror is becoming a modern tourist attraction. You can see how far Northern Ireland has come, and how very, very far it still has to go.]

I guess I would just like Commonwealth Citizenship to mean something besides access to the UK’s Working Holidaymaker visa, although this is a pretty decent perk, all things considered.
Tags: commonwealth, europe, integration, ireland, japan, pools, swimming, uk, visas, work

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