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Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Today read lots, just not "The English Patient."



I am wording together a departing speech for this August and an introductory letter to my replacement. With both I am struggling to avoid imbuing with the cynicism that wants to reveal itself. For the former, I am piecing together a satire on local mores, while for the latter I am still not sure if I should be upfront and critical, or insinuating and optimistic.



My public side is experimenting with the following:



The Japanese are easier to decipher than the American or the Canadian, in part because there is so much written already. What you will find in O- and M- Junior High Schools, as well as the Board of Education, is a hierarchy based on relationships, seniority and personal charisma that is more navigable than its counterparts back home. Imagine in our countries a foreigner being as readily accepted and included as happens here.



The dynamics of the hierarchy can change every April with the start of the new year. At O-, for example, we have a new principal, The Pencil. The Pencil, a sombre man, seems more enmeshed in school activities much to everyone's detriment. Another two additions have yet to make their presence felt in my part of the office.



But the other addition, whom I'll call "Eriko" (not her real name), has a very oppressive presence. She is younger and, by dint of her youth, more charismatic, or at least the students seem warmer towards her, as they were to myself prior to her arrival. She is a perfectionist and I admire that. She prepares - usually that verb can't follow other teachers - and she is active in improving her teaching methods. But a perfectionist can't bear to share space with an upstart. (Here, my snarky side adds its perspective: Eriko is the upstart) Eriko ignores my presence in the classroom. Recently when I am noticed I become the human tape recorder. (Again I must add, this must have something to do with my dawdling in the back of class flipping through art textbooks, moral studies textbooks, and home economics textbooks. She wants to keep me busy. I find it harder and harder to smile even though she said she wants to give me pickles from Kyoto.)



At M-, the new principal is very welcome. I call him "The Hedgehog." He is modest, humble, and is sincerely friendly. He carries his own lunch tray. The others, led by the wily Sexual Harassment Vice Principal, begin lunch without him. Tragic Maria, the other new addition, is just as careful as Eriko, but more receptive to suggestions. Despite the unfortunate events that she has overcome, she smiles all the time. (Rather unnerving. But I must keep thinking about her past.) Unfortunately for her, she is teaching the most useless bunch of whiners.



Dinner is calling. Oops, my public side lapsed into snarkiness. Apologies.

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