I took my lunch in the staff room today. It was a half day for the kids and that meant a shortened lunch period. The teacher in charge of setting my schedule just decided it would be easier for all involved if we didn’t do that escort the English teacher guest to the classroom dance today with all that less time on hand.
The reason we had a half day was adorable. It was screening/testing/initial orientation for next year’s incoming first graders. They all showed up just after lunch with their mommies, many wearing their adorable button-up and jacketed kindergarten school uniforms. I watched the parade, did some prep work for the next week, then ran out of stuff to do and read the newspaper on my phone for three hours. Not terrible, all things considered.
Oh, right. Lunch.
Today’s lunch was another new menu item. I think this one was the brainchild of the new, young lunch room manager guy. The square covered in tomato sauce is actually fried swordfish (kajiki maguro). It looked beautiful. I was very impressed. It just smelled like ocean so I kinda passed it up. I wanted to apologize to the guy. Because I ate in the staff room, he was right there a desk away. And there I was, unnerved by the fishy smell of fish and munching on the giant piece of bread instead. I have so much shame.
In the afternoon my patron saint, the cleaning lady, looked after me again. I’m starting to think I’m one of her projects. She gives me these looks and polite smiles like in her mind I’m a wayward child that needs tending to and looking after. She went out of her way twice today. The first go around, she gave me a gift bag of Tokyo Disney Resort branded Halloween treats including spooky Minnie mouse strawberry jam stuffed marshmallows. The mug she has personally assigned to me is also from Tokyo Disney Resort. I wonder if she goes a lot? Has a family member that works there? I’m not sure how to broach the subject. My Japanese level is rather childlike and lacks subtlety. Don’t know how to turn that into a politely prying conversation.
Maybe she was bored, too, while the incoming 1st graders were tested on animal recognition and ability to draw a circle and react to visual/auditory stimuli. After the Halloween candy, she gave me a plate of fresh cut fruit including a Japanese pear and what was probably a persimmon from the school gardens. And, when I was just minutes from leaving the building at the end of my work day, she had a third mugful of tea ready for me. My own grandmother was not this kind!
All the Halloween stuff lead to the most odd conversation in the last few minutes of the day. One of the teachers asked me about the words “jack o’ lantern” and “skeleton”. Another teacher heard this and it clicked. Jack Skellington! Which lead to him asking me just what a “Nightmare Before Christmas” was. In classic Japanese fashion, he had no idea the character was from a movie. I had to explain the plot of the movie to him in sad, kiddie Japanese. He’s jealous of Santa, you see. And… Yes, it was comical. In the process of explaining that holidays are magical realms in that film, I said the word “Easter”. Turns out, none of the teachers at my desk cluster knew what Easter was and why they have decorated eggs at Disneyland during that season. It was equal parts hilarious and awkward. I did my best.