Monday, October 4, 2010
and there shall be tug of war...
Oh you can be indifferent, strong willed and hard to sway
But hear the drums and feel the march, I dare you not to stay.
Yes sports day at my school was interesting enough to lead me to poetry; I apologize for this and will not let it happen again.
Ah but what a show. It flirts with you at first, just a little music, just a little speech, and then it courts you more earnestly with every student in the school starting to march on the spot in perfect unison. All the third years are dressed in blue, the seconds in green and the first years all wear red. Even their sneakers match their designated colour and depending on what team you are assigned to, you wear a red or white headband. I was in team the-colour-Ducky-goes-when-she-dares-to-look-at-the-sun-without-sunscreen.
Now the show gets a little more handsy and everyone starts to march with astonishing precision, around the track while holding flags and when reaching the principle giving, (forgive me for not having a better description), a damn near perfect Nazi salute. Nobody is completely impervious to these kinds of theatrics and eventually I could not help but feel proud of the competing students I have only known for two months.
Sports day is not a sports day at all, and is much closer to a games day if we were going to split traditional hairs. The only sport my high school back home and my new one has in common is the relay race. However even here Japan likes to adhere to the maxim of go big or go home. One race involved an entire grade which led to my students going around that track enough times to make Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote dizzy. This inevitably led to the wrong team getting the wrong baton or just a good old four lane pileup. With so many students taking part, there was ample opportunity for one team to gain a substantial lead. The Zac Efron of my school, who is top of the class, top of baseball and top of flirting with the ladies was so far ahead, that when he reached the finish line he turned around and crossed it in reverse. He was later kind enough to serenade me with a moving rendition of `we will rock you`.
The tug of war was a pretty fierce affair that had the girls clinging onto the rope like little monkeys and the boys doing most of the heavy lifting. Where Hudson had long jump, my new school has fight over the huge bamboo logs and instead of boring old high jump these kids have a jump rope competition involving a whole class at a time. Why have a three-legged race when you can have a forty-legged race marched to the beat of one, two, one, two, instead.
Then suddenly all the boys, spaced perfectly apart, stood silently on the field and started to perform some very acrobatic stunts. I do not think I would have gained admittance to this school if one of the requirements was being able to balance on your friend`s shoulders, followed by a somersaulted dismount. It was obvious something was up when all the chubby boys made their way to the front of their little group and sure enough the field of boys transformed into twenty or so human pyramids. I felt for the aforementioned bottom tear when all the pyramids collapsed on command.
And then there was war… The legion split into fighting teams, four man strong, three men acting as cavalry with the rider perched on top of their shoulders and hands. On opposite sides of the battlefield commanders rallied their troops, telling them to fight for honor, glory and the potential girlfriends watching from the stands. The men adjusted their red and white headbands as they listened for the call to arms. All the men rushed towards the enemy, all strategy lost under the sound of thundering feet and the desire for the opposing team`s headband. They crashed into each other as waves and wind, leaving few men not trampled by their own three horses. The heroes of the day shouted with hands held high, clasping the red strips of cloth which assured their victory. The white team would also go on to conquer the day with a mere 10 points.
Isn`t it strange that after only a few months I found myself cheering and shouting for my giggling girls, king Bob and even that kid that keeps calling me freezer. Every day I grow more invested in these buggers and it goes a long way to validating my foray into teaching. As one of my particularly chatty girls ran up to me saying Sensei, Sensei, Sensei and lifting her hand for a well deserved high five, I realized that I like it here, I really do like it here.