Last Saturday morning was another rush, rush, go, go morning. After the icing debacle of Friday night that had us blending regular sugar in a feeble attempt to make powdered sugar, we gave up around 1AM and decided to finish it in the morning. I woke up around 9:30 and made a quick breakfast of toad-in-the-hole. After Ian and I ate, I Skyped my brother, Aaron, who was at the KC Hall enjoying the fish fry. He was nice enough to get Daddy, who was washing dishes in the kitchen, so that Daddy could also talk to me. It was really nice because while I talk to Mommy almost everyday, I don’t get to talk to Daddy nearly as often. When I Skype Mommy, it’s generally my late night, her morning, and Daddy is already at work. Anyway, as I talked to the boys, I simultaneously iced my cake. The icing was ridiculously grainy and runny Never, ever, ever try to make your own powdered sugar! It will NOT work out despite what you read online! The panda on my cake looked a little “herpdy-derp” as Melissa B. would say. I posted a picture on the last blog.
We had to play beat-the-clock to get out the door. The backseat of our car looked quite hilarious. We had the giant panda piñata, a kendo stick to beat it with, panda cake, and panda candy. We drove to Justine’s to pick her up and drop everything off then over to Melissa’s to pick her up. None of us told Melissa what we were doing…only that she should not make any plans for the day. Okay, maybe we told her that we were going to a magical birthday kingdom where we would ride rainbow unicorns. Regardless, she had no idea. We drove to Mary’s and switched cars. Mary has the only five person seating car out of all of us, so she drove us to Kumamoto so that we could take Melissa to Reef Burger. All of us have been there at least once and we all rave about how delicious it is! Melissa always said that we should go there sometime, and Justine had the idea to take her there for her birthday. We drove two hours out of our way to eat a good burger. Unfortunately when we got there, they were packed. It’s a tiny little restaurant as is, but the owners know us and are really nice to us. We told them that we would come back in forty-five minutes or so. There was a clothing store beside Reef Burger, so we went to explore that. We found all kinds of great Engrish shirts with inappropriate things printed on them. Oh, Japan!
Our Reef Burger experience was excellent as usual. Thick burgers and steak fries….it’ doesn’t get much better than that! It was a nice day, so we sat at one of the picnic tables outside. Once the owners caught up from their busy, busy lunch rush, they came outside to say hello and even brought their cute little baby for us to see. That kid had a head of hair on him!!
We drove back to Nishiki for part two of the birthday celebration. Everyone from the gun (pronounced “goon”) came and brought snacks. We spent the rest of the night talking and eating. It’s so funny whenever we’re all together because the noise level rises…and rises… and rises as we all try to talk over one another. The cake was okay…it was a little dry. The piñata was the pinnacle of the night. We didn’t hang it or use blindfolds for fear of what could get broken. Instead, we took it to Justine’s upstairs tatami room that she never uses, propped it up on the floor, and took turns whacking it. I caught it all on video, so it’s posted to facebook if you care. I honestly didn’t think that it was so strong, but it took nearly ten minutes of beating for it to finally break! Everyone had a good time!
Sunday was graduation. I know that seems weird, but graduation here is in March, and the new school year begins in April. I had to be at school at 8:15, but graduation didn’t begin until 9:15, so I had to make myself look busy for an hour. I wore my cute black dress, but I was freezing the whole time because the nice spring-like weather decided to get cold again! All of the teachers were dressed in their best clothes, including Ms. Fukushima, the history teacher, who looked absolutely beautiful in her traditional kimono!
Ian and I were so surprised at how sad graduation was. EVERYONE was crying. At the end of the ceremony, the first and second graders had to stand up and individually tell the third graders thanks and give them well wishes. Then the third graders had to do the same to the student body. Most of the third grade class was in tears and frantically trying to compose themselves as they spoke. Teachers, parents, and other guests were crying as well. When the third graders walked out of the gym, each girl was wiping tears from her face, and half of the guys were putting on brave faces. Graduation at home is such a happy occasion, so it was weird for me to experience all of the tears. It wasn’t until later that we found out why.
I guess I should explain the educational system in Japan. Mandatory education ends in junior high school. The students who graduated on Sunday technically can enter the work force. Most continue their education since education is so important in Japan, but some will probably take over the family farm eventually and won’t go to high school. Getting into high school is more like us getting into college. It’s very competitive, they want to go to a good one, and they have to take all kinds of entrance exams to prepare for it.
The afternoon I had off, but Sunday evening was spent at an enkai (drinking party) with teachers and parents. I’m not a big fan of enkais because I always feel so awkward there. Everyone constantly feeds Ian alcohol, but it’s easy for me to get out of it because I just say that I’m driving. We talked with a lot of parents. It was difficult for me to match up who was the parent of ________, so I had to ask. Whenever the parents said their son/daughter’s name, I was proud to have an image of the student come to mind. If he/she was a good student, I made sure to tell the parents. The funniest response I got was from one of the dads. He told me his son’s name, and I pretended to be asleep. He shrugged his shoulders and nodded as if to acknowledge “yep, that’s my boy!” When I asked the parents where their students were going to high school, I was amazed at some of the answers. While most of the students are going to local high schools in Taragi or Hitoyoshi, some are going to Kumamoto, and even as far away as Saga (four hours away) or Kagoshima (two hours). I was amazed! These kids are fifteen! That’s quite a far distance for a couple of fifteen-year-olds to be away from home! No wonder they were crying at graduation! Another thing that baffled me was that a lot of the parents didn’t know that Ian and I were married. They asked which one of us was the ALT, and I said me. They then looked at Ian like “so you’re……?” I told them that he was my husband, but I was really surprised that they didn’t already know this. We’re the only foreigners in town, we live together, shop together, take walks together, etc. Plus, all of the JHS girls swoon over Ian, and the boys think he’s awesome, so I was quite confused as to how the parents DIDN’T know about us.
I’m going to end it here. This is a relatively longer blog, so if I don’t stop, I feel like I’ll just keep rambling!