近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Dirty Towel Races

Mistakes are bound to happen, whether I like them or not. Having said that, I absolutely hate making them. With all of my being.

But mistakes are something that I simply cannot dodge during my duration here. They have happened, are happening and will continue to happen for as long as I’m in Japan (or regardless where I’m at!). Just as water cycles through the sky, my parade will eventually be rained on.

Let me take you back to the day of my first lessons. All that was required was my self-introduction (which had been done for at least three weeks) and I just had to make sure that it was going to be long enough for the full 50 minute class. While I had the assignment completed, the night before my mind and body was not content: I could barely sleep and stayed up an extra three hours just to work on the damn thing. Maybe it was a simple case of the jitters, but, either way, some force in me was not satisfied.

After the morning meeting and cup of coffee, I wish I could say I simply headed to my first class. Rather, after the whole staff was astonished that the TV I would be using could not, in fact, fit in the small school elevators, I (along with 6 other students) had to carry the appliance up a flight of stairs. Our group did eventually accomplish the task (and to keep the story shorter, yes, we also had to carry it back down) and I brought the TV into the first-year class, quickly setting everything up for the presentation.

Everything started out smoothly, until I decided to make a quip about my mother. “My mom is 50 years old. She’s basically becoming a grandma!” I joked to the kids. My teacher piped up, saying “actually, we’re really close in age…” I stood there frozen, not really sure how to continue due to the sheer embarrassment. Then the teacher translated what I said and her response into Japanese to the kids. They all sort of gave out a nervous chuckle. I’m not sure if they still didn’t really get what was said or just felt really bad for me.

After the first class was over, I would be giving the same lecture to a group of second-year students. I had read previously on another JET blog that it might be interesting/funny to throw in your blood type in the “basic information” section of one’s self-intro, so I decided to say it for fun. While I didn’t write it into my powerpoint, I told the class both in English and Japanese this ever-so-important information. I got the most awkward, “Wow, I really can’t believe you just said that” look from all of the students. I decided just moved on and never mentioned it again (in that lesson and all the future ones). Needless to say, I maybe don’t recommend saying your blood type.

While the rest of the second-year lesson didn’t have any other mishaps, the kids were nothing but quiet beings. For all the jokes and interesting tid-bits about me that got reactions out of the first-years, silent, lethargic stares were the only expressions the second-years could muster. I’m not really sure as to why, but of course I questioned why there was such a stark difference. It sure didn’t help my morale.

During lunch, I was feeling a bit down about the first two intros, to say the least. While in hindsight some of these were very minor or simply out of my control, I still worried about it. I really wanted to leave a good impression on the kids and the first in-class self-introduction is one of the best places to do so. I quietly finished my meal and returned to my desk.

One of the things I’ve been forcing myself during school hours is getting involved with the school activities. I had been subtly doing this previously with the sports clubs, but the “cleaning time” at the school was another chance for me to get out. The “cleaning time” is just 10 minutes after lunch where the students clean their respective classrooms and other areas of the school they may be assigned that day. Despite my lull, I still got out of the teacher’s office, wanting to help out somewhere. While most classes were done by the time I passed by, I asked one teacher I ran into if there was anything I could do. She started to think, when a group of second-year boys came up and said “Let’s race!!” A classic cleaning activity the students are required to do is take washcloths and run across the floor, sort of like a human-powered Swiffer. The students have made this activity pretty competitive, racing each other around classrooms and hallways (though, this is not just exclusive to my school). Whatever gets the job done, I guess.

I was given a cloth by a student and got into position. The student racing me looked pretty fit, but nothing I couldn’t handle, I thought. “ANNNNNDDD GO!” a student yelled as we both dashed forward, to the screams and cheers of other students watching. The student and I were pretty tied, until I slipped on the wet trail behind me and slipped, giving the student a clear lead to the finish. It also didn’t help that I fell on my knee, so with a slip-up and an injury the victory was no longer in my sight. I lost. Hardcore.

One could interpret this as another mistake that I fretted over for the rest of the day, but in fact it was quite the opposite. In a matter of seconds, with all that energy surrounding me, with so little yet so much on the line, every mishap during the day was simply erased. Everything wrong I had done that day was overwritten by 20 seconds of a required chore. I can’t really pinpoint as to why, but I’m glad it happened. While I’m sure the tactic may not be as simple for others as it was for me, but all it took was standing up and forcing myself to get active somewhere else that wasn’t the secluded, pale-green metal island called my desk. Sometimes that’s all it takes.


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One thought on “Dirty Towel Races

  1. Christine on said:

    Thanks for sharing! Glad I`m not the only one with quiet students. When I talk to my ichinenseis, sometimes they look like they are about to hurl before answering me.

    I think one of them told me that the food I like is gross, but I`m not really sure, something like `tabemono something something kirai desu`…

    Interesting about the blood type phenomenon…I guess it might get the same sort of response horoscopes get, like `Oh, you`re into that?`

    Anyway, you seem to get all the interesting responses in Japan.

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