William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

113. New Day

I had a bicycle problem tonight. My back tire’s been having a slow leak lately, and I’ve been having denial about coughing up the $25 or so required to service it. It’ll have to wait until after payday, and until then I’ll just give it a little pump before I go out.

Tonight I’d noticed it was getting a little squishy, but it wasn’t that squishy, and I didn’t want to “waste” a lot of time, so I set out for MaxValu anyway.

On the last few blocks before MaxValu, I notice that I’m starting to swerve unwittingly. But the road’s not slippery. I start to hear a thwup, thwup, thwup from the bike. I stop peadaling and coast. I still hear the thwup, thwup, thwup. I stop. Sure enough, the back tire is as squishy as a month-old banana.

I decide to try and find a gas station so I can pump up the tire. I walk with the bike, and using my map I find a gas station – that’s closed. In fact, perhaps permanently. There are a lot of closed-up gas stations in this prefecture. I’m not sure why; a fair number of people drive (though I certainly can’t afford to).

I start walking with faint hope to the next gas station, and as luck would have it I happen upon a little old bicycle shop, with an even older proprietor who’s lazily watching TV. I park my bike and step into the threshold. “Sumimasen. <pumping gesture> arimaska?”

The man nonchalantly indicated a bucket a foot away from me that held five or six floor-type bicycle pumps. Okay! I was almost instantly pumped up and back on the streets. The rest of the evening was a typical supply run (“<clipping nails gesture> arimaska?”), but I do have to lament the passing of the ¥200 Big Mac, which has gone back up to ¥320. While the sale lasted, it was much more satisfaction for the buck than buying two basic ¥100 hamburgers.

Today was a fair day, especially compared to yesterday.

I had the first two periods free for preparation purposes – I don’t usually get much out of the morning periods as I’m usually tired and not terrifically motivated, but I did refresh myself on my plans for the day while enjoying a few good, incidental jokes from M.*:

(While talking about nationality adjectives)
“We’d say Greek Town, but we would say China (not Chinese) Town, and we say Little Italy, not Little Italian -”
“Oh, I know a little Italian. He’s about five feet tall…”

(That leads to…)
“When I was a paper boy I had this boss who had a sense of humour. Every morning we’d have to count the papers to make sure we had enough, and one time I had two fewer than I needed. So I went to the boss and said, ‘Boss, I’m two short.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll grow.’”


* - Now that the old M. has gone to Kyushu, M2 is the new M.

We went outside for the festival movements again – this time we even pantomimed a flag raising and a tug-of-war, and this time I felt somewhat prepared, although the tip of my nose got a bit scorched. We didn’t have full sun – it was only partly cloudy – but we still “lost” two students for the second half. Honestly, if I had to march that long in even partial sun in this heat and humidity, I’d be a sweaty, exhausted, seared mess myself. Tomorrow I will take a bigger towel – the hand towel I was using was too small, and I had to use my glasses to help keep it mounted around my ears and neck. My face, being out all the time, is hardy enough, but my other parts aren’t.

I think I understand why certain Muslims in much of the (predominantly sunny and hot) Arab World dress the way they do. There is a religious slant to it, but underneath that, covering up is damn practical. Not adhering to code would be asking for a wicked sunburn.

After lunch, as I was coming back, one of the friendlier Year Twos wished me a “Good morn-” and corrected himself to “Good afternoon meeting.” Ha-ha! No, no, just ‘good afternoon!’ He must have gotten it from the afternoon meetings at the end of the school day, which all begin: “This is the afternoon meeting. Please stand up. Bow. Please sit down. Do the teachers have anything to say?”

Oh, and when I got back into the staff room to get some things (though I was going to the gym immediately thereafter), do you know what was happening? AIR CONDITIONING! Finally! Yes, it’s kind of like locking the door after the stolen horse has sired a Triple Crown winner, but it was welcome just the same. The hard-hatted men had been putting the finishing touches on the system and testing it while we were all outside, and bless them for keeping it on for us after we got back.

Of course, it wasn’t on everywhere – not until certain adjustments had been made. M-sensei, my cooperating teacher, anticipating that they’d be putting it on in our room, had the kids shut all the windows before my class. A reasonable precaution, and all went according to plan, except for the part about them turning it on. I swear it was at least 35°C in there – the hottest I’ve ever had to teach in. I sweated buckets, but I didn’t realize why until the class was over – I thought I was just excited or on edge. When the door to the stairwell opened afterwards, it felt like the draft from an open refrigerator – and that area is never air conditioned or heated. Anyway, it was a successful class, and I’m not complaining. Il est juste vraiment drôle.

Irony of ironies, in the staff room they left the A/C running full blast, and by the time 4:00 rolled around, I could no longer stand to be in there. It was too cold, even though I was still wearing long sleeves and pants. I had to grab a bunch of holiday homework and correct it in a secluded spot in the stairwell. It’s just the damndest thing about A/C – a little bit is great, but I’d rather be too hot than endure too much A/C. A/C is kind of counterintuitive to the mind as well as the flesh – what does “turning down” the A/C really mean – the temperature (therefore “upping” the intensity) or the intensity (which “ups” the temperature)? Heat is a lot easier to work with in almost every conceivable way. Warming up in winter is a lot more satisfying than cooling down in summer, at least for me, especially over any significant time.

Mk. gave us a questionnaire today – she wants to open up a section of the S.G. website to host profiles of the foreign teachers. I think that’s a pretty good idea, so I consented to cooperate. She also broached the idea of having a question-and-answer space, and an area for comments. It would be a “free space,” except that we can’t say anything negative about Japan, and we probably also have to keep up the fairy tale that we’re all accredited teachers. Also, if I were to say that my “hobbies and interests” included creative writing – specifically blogging – that might get me into a wee bit of trouble. =) So I may be, um, a little more reticent with this than I normally would be. Now, it’s not like I’m saying my opinionated tirades have any place on any institutional or organizational website – I’m just wondering why the school would think it their business to open up a “free space” for expression. It’s a confusion of interest at best. Oh well. I guess it’s a way for the parents to get to know the foreign teachers, since we’re not allowed to actually speak to them.

Anyway, on top of everything I really must say that I’m happy to be back in the swing of things – knowing that this term will very likely be my last, I can approach it with devil-may-care confidence. I can do what I feel is right with alacrity. I can be bold. It helps a lot.
Tags: air conditioning, air pumps, bicycles, japan, school, sports festival, teaching, tires, work

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