Today, a group of 18 American Fulbright Scholars visited Sakai JHS.
They were all teachers from the U.S., participating in a special one-week visit to Fukui. Sakai JHS has been abuzz for weeks preparing for them. And as the token American at the school, I finally became useful outside of English class. I was the go-to for all things USA: the principal consulted me on which snacks he should buy for the visitors (do Americans like seaweed flavoring?). A social studies teacher asked me about activities he should prepare for his class (do Americans know how to play karuta?). And a head sensei requested my help in preparing a program book (are Americans interested in student demographics?).
It was nice to feel helpful, but the best part was realizing how far I've come. When the visitors arrived this morning, they fumbled at the door while changing into their indoor slippers. Their bows were awkward at the school assembly prepared for them. And their "ohayo gozaimasus" were heavily accented.
I'm not being critical. The visitors were lovely, and were genuinely interested in our school and the Japanese education system. It's just that these fine folks reminded me of, well, myself about three months ago. In seeing their newness, I realized that I'm actually getting it. It was an exhilarating feeling.
As the afternoon wore on, one of the Japanese teachers entered the staff room where I was working and announced that several of the American teachers had left the building. They'd gone in search of Diet Coke, he said. Was this normal for Americans?
I smiled as I took a sip of the Diet Coke sitting on my desk. As there are no vending machines at school, I've been bringing it with me for weeks, cleverly disguised as tea in my Nalgene bottle.