The Bread Knife.

Before I forget what happened, let me tell you about my day.

Grab yourself a hot beverage, preferably seasoned with marshmallows, and make yourself comfortable. I wish I could tell you to rest your feet by the fire, but I hope my electric heater will suffice.

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Today was a bruiser. Last night, I simply couldn’t sleep. Some kind of light bothered me, a Christmas song kept making an appearance in my head, or I ended up thinking about nonsense. All I did was toss and turn! That, in effect, made my Monday rather difficult. My last teacher of the day commented on my eyes looking heavy and patted my back all the way down the hallway.

After school, I talked the nurse into letting me take a nap in the infirmary. Naturally, there was too much noise for me to fully sleep but I think simply closing my eyes was glorious enough. It gave me the burst of energy I needed for what came next.

Most days, I make it a point to visit with the school secretary, Mrs. E. She was eager to assist me after I told her in casual conversation that I wanted to swing by the stationary store to see if they had what I wanted (Copic Multiliners). At this point, it was obvious I was a wilting blossom with petals too heavy to lift.

4:30 came quickly and off we went and I was pleased to see they had marker paper and a light board! The light board was too expensive, of course, for me to afford immediately, but I did escape with my paper, pens, and two folders with my favorite character on them: Panpaka-kun! (Click on the link to watch a video of his shorts.) You can find more information about him through Wikipedia. I was even able to redeem my point card for 5% off!

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Upon leaving the store, I made the comment about being hungry. No sooner did it leave my mouth Mrs. E. had us swinging into a local bakery. I had only browsed the selection here one time before as I was walking around a month or so ago. She insisted I get the curry bread (theirs was the best in town). I went ahead and indulged in sausage bread, a kind of sweet potato danish, walnut bread, teriyaki chicken bread, and some whipped butter.

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After she treated me to the carb package, Mrs. E. told me they had a campaign going on where you present your receipt, draw for a colored ball, and receive a prize. Luck must have been on my side tonight because I bingo-rolled for my ball and out popped the highest value I could get. What was my prize? A bread knife! The excitement my friend was feeling was contagious and I left there elated.

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With my arms full of assorted bread, art supplies, and my heart full of happiness, I returned home.

School Lunch

Behold, the school lunch! Called kyushoku (給食) in Japanese, it beats out what I used to eat growing up. I’m already recalling the nightmares about the microwaved grilled cheese sandwiches and leftover Special K.

The meals pride themselves on being balanced.  Carbs, fiber, and meat are what make every child in this country fired up and ready to go. That day just happened to be chicken curry, rice, edamame salad and some kind of pickled vegetable. I often find myself trying to emulate what I eat so I can escape from the grocery store with more money in my wallet.

Every day, the beverages are the same: green tea (for teachers only) and milk. Remember me telling you how fatty Japanese milk is? The proof is there on the carton. In the area my local lunch factory operates, I’m served the same lunch no matter which school I’m at during the week. All of Japan, though, dishes up its food in various ways. No tray is the same.

As an ALT, I can either eat with the students or in the teachers’ lounge. I’m lucky because I get the chance to experience both. I wish I could say hanging with the staff is an exciting time for me but I usually turn my thoughts inward and attempt to focus on not falling asleep. Being with the young ones proves to be a similar thing but every once in a while, they will surprise me and ask me questions or chatter about me amongst themselves.  Through this one-sided interaction, I’m slowly becoming approachable. Miracles don’t happen overnight!

Here is the breakdown of my lunches with the teachers:

  1. Sit down to the meal presented on my desk.
  2. Quickly analyze if there’s anything I’m unfamiliar with.
  3. If there’s anything wonky on my tray, I’ll ask about it and attempt to eat it.
  4. If I’m confident about what’s staring up at me, I usually scarf it all down.
  5. When there’s something of obvious foreign origin, there is a giant soup pot in which I can dump my food (if I eat it and don’t like it) or I can leave it for someone else to eat (if I haven’t touched my food yet).
  6. There is no “Thanks for the food!” (いただきます, ita-da-ki-masu) or “That was delicious! Thank you!” (ごちそうさまでした, go-chi-so-sama-deshi-ta)
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Shishamo fish: eggs and everything. Courtesy of David Cox.
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Herring. Courtesy of David Cox.

Here is the breakdown of my lunches with the students:

  1. Walk into the meeting room.
  2. Find my tray (I know because it has my name on it).
  3. Journey to whichever class I’m assigned to eat in and sit quickly.
  4. Wait and…
  5. Wait and…
  6. Wait some more while the students on kitchen duty serve everyone.
  7. Finally! All the students have their food!
  8. The class leader says “Let’s eat!” and it’s a race to the front to get whatever leftovers that are well… leftover (I’m usually grabbing more rice because I think they think I don’t eat much. They can tell my butt that).
  9. We all chow down.

Clean up is the same no matter where I go. Soup bowls go with the soup bowls, rice bowls go with the rice bowls, and the head bone is connected to the neck bone. I never did figure out where everything goes after that.

A post about busy nothings, there are more to come.

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