Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hustling Culture

A is for active, B is for busy, C is for Culture [festival], and that's where I'm at, or rather was last week. In the Japanese education system there are two standard events the students spend years looking forward to and simultaniously dreading: Taikusai (sports festival) and Bunkasai (culture festival). Both of these celebrations take up months of the student's and teacher's lives. They meet every day after school and exams, club activities, or home lives all get pushed by the way side for the glory and perfection that must be these events. Now, you may be imagining, much as I was, that culture festival would be based on paying tribute to the richness of Japanese culture (or at least pay tribute to it!). It isn't. Not even close in fact. What it is, is a break from the monotony of lecture and test preparation the students shuffle through, and much, much more.

Last Tuesday afternoon my classes were cancelled to help prep the school for this monster that had been lurking in the flickering flourecence of Susaki's High School's storage rooms and long locked coradoors. The school is rarely as bustling as when all the students are clearing class rooms, decorating towers of stacked desks, and transforming the plane everyday walls of virtually ever part of the school with color, and hand made signs, and balloons! It felt like we were preparing for a huge party. I was conscripted by various favorite students to come help them with the more vertical problems that popped up. . . hanging curtains, wrapping colored plastic over florecent light covers (to set the mood?), and killing hornet infested upper corners of previously mentioned long locked or neglected classrooms (horrifying yes?). After all of this making ready the whole school went home quite late, a bit tired, and ready for the day one of the culture festival.

*Enter RAIN [center stage].

The next day came, and with it the constant drip drizzle of a not so cool, humidity inducing, rain that only just let up yesterday. The first day of the festival can be summed up by my students responces to my question of "How are you today?"

Answer 1: I`m so, so.

Answer 2: I'm tired, and hungry.

Answer 3 (most poppular of the day) : I am bad. No funs. Not fun!

This is quite the reply to hear, and as it turns out Wednesday was't meant to be fun. The first day of Bunkasai is a practice day. You see, Bunkasai roughly translates to culture festival, but it is really more like a giant team building excersize for each home room class and club. They plan, decorate, create, and manage a means to make money in a festival setting held at the high school. Wednesday was like the trial run without anyone there to practice on. A dry run to iron out all the wrinkles, and, let me tell you, it is a good thing they did this (despite overly bored responces from students) because the actual event went off flawlessly. Delicious festival foods were eaten, fun carnival games were played, classrooms turned haunted mazes were staggered through, and three of my mountain dwelling taiko friends managed to come meet some of my students too. The photos say more than my words will, but it was really a very well thought out and suprising event that, for me, highlighted the importance of solidarity and group effort. This event worked so well becaue the students work together and don't want to let their fellow effort oozing friends down. I am talking 100% participation. The smiles say it all if you ask me.

As always,
More to come

(up next: the wedding)

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