Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When the Principal's Away the ALTs Will Play, or, "Now You Know What We Did Last Weekend"

Putting in Sod Inserts (Expropriated from the Junior High School's Decayed and Overgrown Grass Pile)
(I also plan to knock down those "plants" behind the fence in order to enhance the view of Hokkaido and the Tsugaru Strait)

We have one neighbour--the principal who "lives" in the principal's residence next door. He goes home to his real house in Mutsu most weekends, and that is when I wander over to his side of the property and ponder ways of "improving" it. This year my goal is to reclaim an overgrown corner tucked away behind the principal's house and the cell phone relay tower. It is a beautiful spot (as long as you keep your back facing the tower) overlooking the sea, with a magnificent view of Hokkaido. Facing the sea, there is a cedar grove to the left and lawn to the right. It is enclosed on three sides by a wire mesh fence, so is should be a good place for Grace to play and for our family to hang out on sunny weekends.

. . . As Usual I Failed to Get a "Before" Photo

But This Should Give a Fair Indication of How Much Brush and Undergrowth I Cleared

Will This Someday Become a Beautiful, Shaded Lawn Good for Barbecues and Croquet?

The Barbecue: I Took All the Exposed Stones and Made a Fire Pit with Them

Viewed from the Other Side
With the Backside of the Principal's Residence in the Foreground and the School Gymnasium Visible in the Distance

We Also Ate Some Freshness Burgers with Baaba in Aomori City

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Fleeting Career as the School Pianist

"But Luke," those who know me might say, "you don't play. You can't even carry a tune!" To which I reply: "What matter if I don't know one note from another? Nothing is impossible!"

Ordinarily the task of playing the piano for school functions falls to a music teacher. However, there is a quirk in the system that can render a small school pianist-less. The thing is, music teachers cannot play at their own post-leaving (i.e. "departure") and inauguration ceremonies. That means that if the only music teacher leaves for another school at the end of the academic year and a new one transfers in, someone else must play the piano for those two ceremonies. I overheard the curriculum coordinator discussing this issue with some of the senior teachers, and at the time I thought: "not my problem." However, through circumstances that I will hereafter describe, it turned out to be my problem after all. I was destined to becom my junior high school's interim pianist!

Red (for ready), Blue (for bow and hold), Red (for return to the upright position)

Admittedly, there is only one piece that needs to be played at the post-leaving and inauguration ceremonies for departing and incoming teachers. They call it shuu rei--the ceremonial bow with which all school ceremonies open and close. It consists of two chords, one of them played twice. (I'm just bluffing here. I don't really understand what a "chord" is, at least not in the lofty way that a music teacher would). Anyway, immediately following the closing ceremony for the third trimester and approximately one hour before the post-leaving ceremony for outgoing teachers, a group of the senior teachers summoned me to the piano around which they were clustered. The curriculum coordinator said to me, "Luke-sensei, try pushing all these keys with the read stickers on them, then push the ones with the blue stickers, and then push the ones with the red stickers again." Like a fool, I gave it my best shot. "Resolved!" said the curriculum coordinator. "Luke-sensei will be our pianist for the post-leaving ceremony."

And I Was (Because I'm at the Bottom of the Teacher Totem Pole, and I Couldn't Say Boo About It)
Naturally, having successfully pressed me into service for the post-leaving ceremony, it was a simple matter for them to publish my name under "pianist" for the incoming teachers' inauguration ceremony a week later. I took these photos while practising my "piece" for the latter. Thank goodness the new music teacher is good and "inaugurated" now, and hopefully I will be "post-leaving" this school before she does.