(As the tittle suggests this post is several days old, and has been sitting unintentionaly in the drafts folder. A more up to date one on the happenings of this most recent weekend will follow shortly)
It's chilly and wet here. Most days I feel like I live in a place where winter doesn't exist, or rather it exisits in the chill that sinks into you before you recognize the need for another layer (because no buildings have insulation). It settles in the tips extremities, and lingers far longer than it should. A place, where if the sun shines in mid January you only need a sweater, but the nights and little hours of the morning leave your breath suspended momentarily before you as though it wished to share some secret from somewhere within your chest.
I still think winter without snow is a damn wrong feeling winter.
Last week saw several things happen: my best and brightest 3rd year students fell victim to the trials of Japan's national standardized tests (more on this in a bit), I went to Nakamura to visit Mr. Colin for is big birthday (30 years the old man), and also had myself a wee birthday party. Yep I'm 25 and feeling about the same as I felt at 24. Though I will admit that post holiday tavels I am feeling more purposful and a little clearer in thought process.
A quick note on the test taking thing : Depending on your chosen course of study as a high school student in Japan, you may have to take up to 6 (I have been told) different 80 minute standardized tests. Think SAT and ACT combined into one giant test, and (here's the kicker) you only get one shot at it. There are no retakes. You either make the cut, or you don't. For me, this seems cruel. I have watched many of my favorite students crumble slowly under the pressure this week. One student in particular so much so that she broke down in class. Water works, quiet sobs, and a bumbling giant hairy foreigner telling her that she is very smart and shouldn't worry, but the language barrier is always there. My new years travels showed me how much my Japanese has improved since I came, but it is still . . . childish and broken at best. Perhaps the most appropreate word is functional. In instances like this though, where I wish to god I could comand all the grace and comforting powers of any language, I am left again scrambling to conveigh that I am at the least understanding and interested in listening.
I should mention that this student was more embarassed by her own break down, than eager to talk about why she was crying. So counseling, and offering the old teacher's shoulder are not always welcome. What can you do though?
Thats all for now
a quick picture of the birthday party crew.