Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Standing Guard

Well, here I am sitting alone in the main office at Ye Olde Academy.  It's my turn to shoulder the burden of the rotating role known as "Sunday Day Duty" (fanfare consisting of a single, uninspiring note).  

Day Duty is something that pretty much every teacher in Japan has to deal with at regular intervals, but it doesn't always mean the same thing.  When my wife takes her turn, she has to unlock her school in the morning and then, at the end of the day, wait until everyone else has left before locking up again.  Things are a bit different at Ye Olde Academy.  We have a front office manned by professional staff employed by the school's corporate owner.  They take care of opening the school in the morning.  That means that the Day Duty sucker teacher only has to take care of clearing the buildings of students and locking up at the end (but if another teacher plans to stay late, as is often the case, it is perfectly acceptable to turn the keys over to them and bolt).  On Sundays and holidays, however, the office staff is off, so the Day Duty teacher has to man the guardhouse, so to speak, remaining in the front office all day to keep tabs on who goes in and out.  That is a bit different from what the public schools do, and it can be a lonely job.

I've heard that, back in the '70s and '80s, the Day Duty teacher actually had to spend the night at the school and play night watchman.  Next to the staff entrance there is a little bedroom with bath and toilet facilities that was originally used for that purpose.  (Now the maintenance workers use it as a sort of breakroom.)  There is a TV in there, but I'm sure it must have been an agonizingly lonely and boring night for many if not most.  Sunday Day Duty can be bad enough as it is, and I have the luxury of internet access.

I also have a stack of newspapers to cut through.  These days I've been hard pressed to find time to read them, and they keep piling up.  Since the start of the current school year in April I've rarely sat down and read a single paper.  Most of the time, if I can make the time, I'm having to read them three or more at a time.  This time I have a whole week's worth.  In other words, my newspaper reading has become like my posting on this blog; it just don't happen too much these days.

Only a few staff members are here today.  All of them checked in with me first.  Both the junior and senior high staff rooms are open now, but there are only a few teachers in each.  Most are no doubt here for interviews with parents.  It's yet another time of year for that sort of thing.

Yesterday was my son's 9th birthday.  He seemed pleased enough, but it all seemed so hectic and tentative.  My MIL's death last summer still looms like a shadow over my family, and the Christmas season this year definitely has a very bitter undertone.  In my FIL's case there may even be some resentment; according to Japanese tradition a bereaved family isn't really supposed to celebrate anything for a full year, so the Japanese festive events like the all-important New Year are off.  However, since Christmas is a (somewhat misunderstood) foreign import, it is strangely immune to the ban.  We have our little tabletop Christmas tree set up and surrounded by a pile of packages (most of which came from my parents, thank you very much!).  The usual ornaments are also up, as is the string of multi-pattern lights I always hang around the front window.  FIL tosses his head at all of it when he shows up for meals every day.  He also stated grumpily that he "won't be here" when Christmas Day arrives.  My wife is more glum and less motivated than usual this year, too.  Meanwhile, my collection of Christmas CDs is largely gathering dust.  It is turning out to be one very cold winter even though the weather has been relatively warm.

Tk birthday 2008
Here's a nice family shot of our little birthday celebration. It's pretty easy to tell who's happy and who isn't.

One side effect of all of this is that my usual Christmas splurge hasn't been happening.  My shopping has been tempered (and late), so Santa Claus is going to be a bit more conservative this year.  It has also been difficult to find time and motivation to do much of anything.  I'm afraid my usual Christmas package is going to be arriving Stateside a bit behind schedule.  I'm also uncertain as to what my annual Christmas/birthday present to myself is going to be this year.  Last year I got my digital studio setup, i.e. a Roland Sonic Cell, a new laptop dedicated for music use only, and various kinds of music-related software such as Sonar 7.  This year I'm at a total loss as to what to get...or if.  There is a possibility of my replacing the six-year-old Vaio desktop I use at home with something a bit more current, though it still serves my needs adequately (though the C partition once again has space issues despite my having more than tripled its capacity - accidentally wiping out the boot sector in the process - a few years ago).  That used alto flute I found at one of my favorite music stores last night is also haunting my id right now; I'd never tried playing one before, and I seriously fell in love with it (but I know buying it would probably be tantamount to a death sentence as far as the Mrs. is concerned).  One fact that is very much on my mind is the fact that my daughter is going to be taking Ye Olde Academy's entrance exam next month.  If she passes, it'll take a whopping bite out of my budget.  This school is many things, but cheap is not one of them.  Maybe my gift to myself should be a full tank of gas and a case of beer.

It's sunny outside now, though the sky is a bit on the hazy side.  That's kind of unusual, too.  The sky is usually clear as a bell and deep blue for most of winter here.  Oh, well.  At least I still get a wonderful, colorful view from the office window!

view from the office 2008

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stack of newspapers to read...and some music to compose. It's gonna be a lonnnng day.


  • heh heh heh

    somewhat misunderstood

    heh heh heh

    You are very polite man Moody

    just saying

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 1:37 PM  

  • Happy Birthday to your son...

    Feeling a bit sorry if on a happy moment, there are people that can not feel the happines together...

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:00 PM  

  • Well, I'm glad your son is enjoying himself. May his spirit never be dampened by cranky grownups. I don't think your FIL will be happy (well, maybe not "happy" -- how about approving) unless you are all as dour as he is. Do you always ship packages home to family? What kinds of things seem to please them?

    By Anonymous nikkipolani, at 5:23 AM  

  • I'm sorry this is a difficult Christmas for your family, but it seems the whole planet is in a holiday funk so we're all making an extra effort to feel festive it seems.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:49 AM  

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