Today I cried during cleaning time. The emotional roller coaster I wrote about in my last post has started and there is no stopping it. I’ve been to sayonara parties, dinners and get-togethers and received presents, letters and cards from students and teachers saying goodbye to me. In the last two weeks, I’ve been showered with so many kind sentiments, that I haven’t been able to take them in. They’ve just been words on paper, but during cleaning time I had this conversation with first-year student that really hit home to me.
Me: Today’s class was fun, right?
Him: Of course! But ‘kanashii’ (sad).
For some reason, hearing this from a student and seeing that he was really genuinely sad about me leaving was the final straw that made me well up. I hid my wet eyes by doing some serious sweeping of the room, rather than doing what I usually do, pretending to clean whilst I make conversation with the students!
I assure you the sudden eye-duct filling didn’t come out of nowhere, and I am not the emotional ship-wreck you may think I am. Today I had my last lessons with three first-year classes back-to-back followed by a second year class who were even more genki (energetic) than the first years. We played the old favourite ESL games of charades, pictionary and jeopardy. One of the best moments was when I gave the “Sleeping” card to a girl to act out and she immediately fell on the floor. “Shinderu” (died) the students shouted in hysterics. Then they asked her to do it one more time, which she did!
Students were playing janken (rock-paper-scissors) like life depended on it, and they were out of their seats with eagerness to answer questions. I realise now why teachers usually use a textbook. It might be a bit boring, but at least it does’t sap their energy to oblivion and give them headaches!
After four lessons of screaming students, I had a headache and was utterly exhausted. In the last lesson the students even had to say “Big voice Sophie”, something I always tell them! So when I’d climbed the third-story stairs for the umpteenth time for cleaning time, I was ready to call it a day. But it was all worth it for these kids.
The incoming storm isn’t helping my emotional stability. Typhoon Neoguri (meaning racoon dog in Korean for no reason I can find!) is hitting mainland Japan as I write this. Although it’s not likely to cause much damage in Fukui Prefecture, the warm front and thick clouds have hovered above us for days. This week’s temperatures are above 30’C but it’s the 97% humidity that really makes you feel icky. Walking out of an air-conditioned room feels like walking into a wall of mugginess, and teaching in these conditions is almost unbearable. In my school the top floor now have air-conditers, or ‘coolers’ as the students call them, but the first and second graders only have two wall fans to spin the hot air around, leaving us melting beneath them. Everyone here has a towel to wipe their brow on, more commonly known as sweat rags, and are a necessity, especially for ALTs who cannot take the heat.
I can’t wait for it to rain. I may be a typical British person who complains about the rain back home, but after living through all sorts of other weather systems here in Japan (typhoons, freezing winters, thunder storms and a couple of earthquakes) I won’t be complaining about a little drizzle in England. In this season, the rain is monsoon-like, hot and heavy, but leaves days of clear skies and sunshine after.
Saying goodbye to my students is going to be tough. I know from today’s experience that tears will roll. I just hope they don’t come when I have to make a goodbye speech in assembly. Only two more weeks before I fly home and I really hope this storm passes without too much drama!</p>