Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh, Summer...

That time of the year when the heat is just hot enough to make you drench your shirt in sweat while sitting still in your desk, but not hot enough to kill you. When the air is filled with the sound of large bugs rubbing their legs together. Bugs so large that if they were to fly up and land on my face, the sheer shock alone probably would kill me. The time of the year when the children are gone from school, but for some reason I apparently need to remain behind; to hold down the fort and guard the English room or whatever.

This time of the year in Japan is known as Natsu Yasumi. It’s basically Summer Vacation. My Japanese could be better, so I’m not sure the exact literal translation here. I know Yasumi means Rest, or Time Off, and therefore Natsu apparently means “Drive Whitey Fucking Crazy From All The”.

I sit in my desk for the last week of July and entire month of August, 8 hours a day, in sweltering heat, with officially Fuck All to Do.

I’m not alone. Every teacher does this, but they seem to follow a discreet schedule that I’m not privy to. They drift in around 10 or 12, and a few of them maybe leave at 1 or 2. Are they taking those other hours off using vacation time? Is there a system in place to log these hours? I have no idea. I come in everyday from 8:15 to 5, and usually find myself stuck in the teacher’s room with the vice principal and one or two random teachers, and we all avoid eye contact and pretend to look terribly busy for 4 hours at a time.

Look busy.

Eat lunch.

Look busy.

Go home.

I can’t even escape to the solitude of the English room, because really… what would I be doing up there when there are no classes to teach? Each of us knows that the other 3 people aren’t accomplishing anything, but we need to endure in silence and never ‘let on’, lest the illusion be shattered, and the entire Japanese work ethic be brought into question. If eye contact is made (heaven forbid!) the go-to phrase is just a default “Otsukaresamadeshittaaaa---“ (‘Thank you for your continued hard work!’) with the last A dragging out and trailing off into oblivion.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t for a second believe that Japanese people are lazy; far from it. They work very hard when there’s work to be done. It’s just that… when there isn’t shit to do, they have a hard time mustering up the gusto to stand up and say “Hey! There isn’t shit to do, let’s lock up the school and go get a fucking beer! It’s Miller time! Fuck, the kids are at home playing Pokemon, what the fuck are WE doing HERE?! It’s hot as hell, I say we make like nine months pregnant and head out! WHO’S WITH ME?”

Maybe if I was an honest to god teacher, with a class full of kids all year round, I would seize the chance to get a bunch of stuff done before second semester started. I mean, I am a teacher, but I don’t have a dedicated team of children under my command. I teach all the children of the school… 1st thru 6th grade, once a week for 45 minutes. All my lessons are pretty basic, we do a lot of singing and games, and they don’t do anything in English class involving a pencil or book until junior high. All my materials and cards are already made, it’s just a matter of executing the plan in front of the children at this point. If I was the 4th grade homeroom teacher or whatever it might be different. Probably not, though, as I can look out in the playground now and see the 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Yokoyama, out there on her knees picking weeds out of the dirt underneath the slide, using a solitary disposable chopstick as a makeshift spade. Ugh.

It's not Solitaire, but it's as close as I'm getting today!
To add to my situation, the internet is out today, I’m sitting at my desk, typing this up in Word to be pasted to NA later tonight when I get home. I was futzing around, reading the Warrior forums, when all of the sudden it just crapped out. Awesome. What do you do with a computer with no ‘net connection? Not so fast! Don’t forget The Rule: It can’t be Command and Conquer’s single player campaign, and needs to look like some semblance of work. Typing in Word fits the bill here. I used to have a computer way back before the internet. I was young, and did the whole 8086 to 286 to 386 to 486DX thing. What the hell I did back then, before my computer went anywhere, is best left in the past. I taught myself DOS, and would edit my AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files over and over, trying to squeeze every byte of extended memory out of the system to make Wing Commander run faster. Load DOS high! Tweak Qualcomm’s EMM386.SYS! Then run “mem” and see how much I had free! Good times! Not really!

I get two weeks of paid vacation days each year, but to waste them when I really have no intention of doing anything but going home to raid Karazhan seems pretty sad. The other option is to take the time off unpaid, which is what I usually end up doing. One teacher recently went to the Board of Education (against my recommendations to the contrary, of course) and brought up the subject of having fuck all to do for a month. Kirsty (from Adelaide! Go Australia!) went in asking for the whole month off, paid (!), and ended up getting summarily rejected, and landing us summer classes to ‘keep us busy’. Now I can’t even take the time off unpaid, because I’m expected to be here every Friday to teach the junior high school kids (something I have no experience doing) in these marathon 5 hour classes where both the teachers and kids both have no interest in attending. Ah, the miracle of education!

I’m bitter. I’ll be better when regular classes start up again in September. Until then, though, it’s Cranky Pants McIsobelle all the way, baby. Fuck, I need a beer.

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