Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let the tears begin

Finally the day had arrived.

The final day of school (for the students) before the summer holidays, meaning my last closing ceremony and my farewell speech. I had prepared two speeches. One for the teachers in the staff room (Japanese) and one for the closing ceremony (Japanese and English) held in the gym in front of all the teachers and students.

I don't know what happened but when vice principal-sensei called me up to do my speech in the staff room, something clicked - I think reality switched [ON]. All the teachers stood up and faced me and I started to feel nervous. I smiled and said "Ohayou gozaimasu" then bowed. They did the same.

And then it happened. The tears just started flowing. I couldn't blink them back. I guess I was 'overcome with emotions' but I couldn't continue with my speech for about 2 minutes (though it seemed like forever). I looked up at Principal-sensei and said "sorry, excuse me" and he told me to "take my time." So there I stood, giving my speech in Japanese with tears running down my cheeks. I was so embarrassed and must have looked dreadful.

After my speech I had to 'freshen up' before the ceremony in the gym but each time a teacher would come over to me to say "Thank you" or "You spoke Japanese very well" or gave me a goodbye present, the tears came back again.

Mystery writer-sensei gave me one of his books and he even signed it for me. He thanked me for all the times I spoke English to him and for taking the time to talk to him. Music-sensei gave me a miniature pair of wooden geta. She said they weren't new but knew I would appreciate them because I was really interested in Japanese culture (she had made such a fuss when she saw my wannabe maiko photos). Another teacher gave me sakura tea and matcha milk packets. Another teacher gave me a Japanese tea ceremony whisk because he knew I was part of the tea ceremony club.

I think the teachers must have thought I was a nutter after my waterworks show because before I headed to the gym for the closing ceremony, they all told me to "stay calm," "do your best," and "good luck." This time I was a bit more prepared for my emotions as I had a pink Burberry handkerchief with me (another gift from a teacher).

Just looking at my students' smiling faces, their shouts of "Hey Chris!" and their polite little bows made the tears well up again.

"Chris, is this your last time at Maiko?"
"Will you go back to Australia? Please come back to Japan."
"I am shocked! I am very sad."
"I will miss you. Please don't forget us."

How could I not get emotional when my kids say these things to me? Especially when they try so hard to say it in English.

I tried really hard not to cry during my speech, I didn't want to leave that impression with them. I wanted to leave a happy and thankful one, not a sad and emotional one. Switching back and forth from Japanese to English, I could stall and pretend I was having trouble with my pronunciation but really I was just buying time to calm myself down so I wouldn't start tearing again.

I did much better than before. I thought I was home free but then some members of the student council came up and did a thank you speech in English for me (in English!!) and presented me with a huge bouquet of flowers. Hello tears.

I think what gets me is that I probably won't see many of them again. I hope to be able to return for the 3rd years' graduation ceremony next year. They were my 1st years when I first started teaching, and now their already 3rd years! I'm going to miss them a lot.

In the afternoon the tea ceremony club had a last practise. Tea-sensei gave me a farewell present; a bamboo tea whisk and the proper powered green tea used for tea ceremony. I performed tea ceremony for the last time at Maiko. I concentrated really hard to get it right that I forgot about how sad I was and how much my legs were hurting.

Here are photos of the new 1st year students learning the basics, while the older girls and I happily ate the brown sugar manju sweets.

That evening I was invited to Sakamoto-sensei's house (part-time English teacher) for dinner. She made a delicious home-cooked dinner (yellow coconut curry and cold shabu-shabu pork salad) and I brought Reve Chef's strawberry shortcake for dessert. Her English is really good as she lived in Canada for a while.

When I got home, I was cheered up by what was left on my doorstep. Cheryl, knowing that I was upset from my closing ceremony, had left me a colourful pot plant and a tasty, Japanese style dessert that came in a beautiful, Japanese clay cup. Thanks sweetie, you made my night! I'm going to miss you heaps!

My kitchen floor and red table - oh how I will miss you.


At 3:06 am, Blogger sy said...

waw you taught those kids well hun! thats pretty awesome they did that speech in english to u! oh how much it seems like they will all miss you (are missing you), and the teachers too of course!

man i don't think i remember you ever crying..? but i don't think many would have been able to keep it completely straight yo! what a journey..sounds like you did well at assembly though! nice stalling tactics hehe

At 10:49 pm, Blogger Adriene said...

sounds like you really made a difference at the school. wonderful.

wishing you many more adventures in australia and beyond. perhaps when you next come to japan, and pass by tokyo, we could meet up!

take care.


At 5:47 pm, Blogger Christine said...

sy - I think one of the English teachers wrote it out for the kids to read out, but they did a really good job. Missing them already.

adriene - Thanks, can't wait to return to Japan. Not sure when I'll be in Tokyo though. Kobe will be first on my list. Hope you continue to have a blast there and all the best in your studies.


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