Today was a break from Japanese class! We got to go visit a Lutheran school in Urawa, which is in northwest Tokyo. It meant waking up at something like 4:45 this morning in order to get ready and catch an early enough train, but it was all worth it. We got to observe and help out with a bunch of different classes. The school we visited has seven class periods in a day and was a combination elementary school, junior high, and high school. When we first entered, all the elementary school kids were in chapel in the gym. We entered from behind, and a sea of almond-eyed faces turned around to stare at this odd flock of white people. Throughout the day, we got to help out in a wide variety of classes. We helped fourth graders read and answer questions such as, "What do you want for dinner?" and in the 9th grade oral communications classes, we were interviewed and then introduced by the students to the class. I was asked the priceless question, "Do you have a child?" I told them 'no', but the way they reported this back to the class was, "She does not have her child." Which caused much confusion among those with a good understanding of English. :)
The kids in the school were super friendly, and it was so nice to be around kids again. During lunch break we went to "go mingle" with the elementary school kids in the corridor. I was approached by two young girls who stood about three or four feet away from me and backed up if I got any closer. They told me their names in soft voices, giggled, and dashed away. Later, I saw them again, and they tripped over each other hiding behind a wall where they could peer around the corner at me. :) For the most part, though, the kids were very willing to come up to us with huge smiles and practice saying, "Hallo!"
I did meet a couple kids who completely verified the "all Japanese kids are too smart for their own good" theory. One fourth grader had some advanced English homework that was talking about "antecedents" and "superlatives". I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard the word "superlative" until high school and that I didn't know what it meant until college Latin or linguistics, but here is a Japanese fourth grader reading about them. Another fourth grader had written her name in romaji (the Roman alphabet) instead of Kanji. I praised her for this, and she just looked up and told me, "That's because I lived in California for three years." Oh. Sheesh. Here she is, practicing lines like, "What do you want for dinner? I want rice" when she's already lived in the States for three years???
One part of the day was a little bit disappointing. We had just been introduced to a class and the teacher, a Christian, decided it would be a good idea if we shared our faith. Now, as missionaries, you'd think we would have been ready for that. And, truthfully, some people in the group were. It is so difficult for me to be concise in moments like this, though. Especially when I have to use simple English. I also have to think a lot about what I should share and what I should be gentle about. This time, I think I erred on the gentle side.
A very encouraging part of the day was that the missionary who was leading us around the school was very awesome. I knew I liked him right away, and that was only confirmed by when he had us all pray together before leaving. Yay for group prayer! He also got points from me because he has done things like bring his wife and kid to work with him, showing his coworkers his priority and why he leaves after the afternoon teacher meeting instead of staying long into the evening working like the other teachers often do.
I also had an amusing translation experience today. I was asked to explain the J-3 Program in front of all the teachers, and then thank them for having us that day on behalf of the group. I thanked them with a typical for me detailed explanation of how we had enjoyed talking with their students and their students smiles, and just the chance to have a day seeing the school. This was all translated: "Arigato gozaimasu." (Thank you.) Hmm.
Thank you to those of you who have sent me emails and the like recently. You will be getting individual replies, but for now, it is late and tomorrow I am leaving for Kyoto for our ELCA Missionary Retreat. So, there is not time now. But *hugs*. You are all so special to me. Thank you for the extra love and attention you have shown me recently. It is one of the big reasons that I am back to smiling and bouncing and happiness today.