Back in the fall, there was a special event going on in my Wednesday school: a Chinese acrobatic group was going to perform in front of the entire school. However, it was Thursday, meaning that I was at my junior high school. I eventually found out through the vice principal that the entire junior high was going to be walking to the elementary school in the afternoon to watch the performance as well. Needless to say, I was invited. Naturally, I said yes.
Before I would have a mellow afternoon, I had to get through my classes. As usual, I was somewhat not looking forward to teaching the 2nd years because of their apathy towards English. However, my JTE came up with a brilliant lesson plan involving the grammar “X is (adjective)-er than Y”. We were going to use “stronger” in our activity and she proposed that we have a arm wrestling tournament involving the entire class. I had never seen that class so psyched in my life. People were randomly paired up and had to arm wrestling in front of the entire class. After the match, the class would then declare the winner by saying “(Winner) is stronger than Y!” It was so simple yet exciting for the students. To the student’s surprise, I was also involved in the tournament. They were scared of me, simply because I was older than them. Anyone I took on was nervous and I ended up destroying. I knew this would come to an end eventually because some of the kids in this class are really strong. However, this would never be public knowledge because we ran out of time.
Kouki was not having any of it though. That day, I ate lunch with the 2nd years. I was soon interrupted by Kouki, who walked by my desk:
Kouki: “Oh, hello Mr. Diego!”
Me: “Oh, hey Kouki.”
K: “*points to me and then to him* You. Me. Arm Wrestling. Let’s go.”
M: “Uhh, okay.”
Quickly a mob surrounded us. I had a feeling what the outcome was going to be; Kouki is no pushover. Nevertheless, I went all out when we arm wrested; it probably lasted for about a couple of minutes. Finally, Kouki got the upper hand and beat me. Everyone was shocked, except for me. Finally, Kouki comes up with the coup de grace:
K: “Kouki is stronger than Mr. Diego.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. He’s probably going to memorize that grammar (for once) due to that day’s events and I was happy that he actually learned it.
Finally, it was time to head to my Wednesday school. It probably takes around 20-25 minutes by foot. The entire school gathered outside and began to walk. Not knowing where I should walk with, I ended up just walking on my own for awhile until a couple of 2nd year boys started talking to me. We talked a bit about the arm wrestling tournament until I noticed someone waiting by the school gates.
It was Momo. She was simply standing there, trying to look occupied but clearly failing. As soon as she spotted me, she waved and ran up to me, accompanying me in my walk. It was pretty obvious that she was waiting for me. Teenagers and their crushes…oh well. This was the first time Momo and I had a long conversation. Despite my mediocre Japanese, I managed to talk to her and understand most of what she said, which felt like a minor victory to me. I learned how Momo was witty as I am by giving me smart ass replies, how much she likes to read and her worries about what high school to attend. It was a beautiful day out and walking down the countryside felt awesome.
Eventually, May and her posse caught up with me and started talking to me in English. They weren’t perfect, but they were trying their damn best, which I appreciated. Momo quickly scurried away as she didn’t like interacting with a lot of people at once. May and her friends first started out with simple questions like “How old are you?” and “Do you like One Piece?” I continue to believe that if you know anything about One Piece, you score major points with students, especially elementary kids. Junior high kids still like anime so they were impressed at how much I knew about it.
Eventually the conversation started heading south because, well, junior high girls like to tease.
“Do you have a girlfriend?
“That’s a secret!”
“Huuh? You must have a lot of girlfriends!”
Me: “*lies* Maybe.”
Girls: “Ahh, you’re so popular, we knew it! What kind of girl do you like?”
May: *giggling like crazy at this point* “Diego…who do you think is cuter? This girl or that girl?”
Me: “You girls are such dorks.”
Other girl: “Diego….I love you…I need you…I must have you!”
This proceeded on the entire way to the elementary school. This was my first serious interaction with my 3rd year students outside of class. As simple as the conversation was, it was the base of my friendship with them. Therefore, the walk is now a favorite memory of mine of the 3rd years.
After arriving at the elementary, I said hello to my kids and watched my junior high students interact with them. It might sound dumb, but it felt like there was some crossover as I watched my junior high kids talk, hug and play with my elementary students. Each school to me is a separate world to me so watching two of them interact with each other felt bizarre, yet cool.
The show itself was okay at best. I felt bad for a lot of the performers because some of them screwed up a lot during the act. After the show ended, it was time to head back to the junior high. This time, the students simply walked home from the elementary while the staff and I headed back to the school. It still holds as the best day in my junior high and I’ll probably remember it further down the road. My 3rd years are all going to high school soon and I only have one class(!) left with them before they’re all swamped from preparing for the graduation ceremony. I wish I got to meet them earlier but what can you do? At least I’ll have this fun memory with me.