Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Okishima Island

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit one of the smallest schools in Japan. Now this is not a verifiable fact, it is just conjecture but a school with only eight students must come close to being one of the smallest. We live in the prefecture of Shiga, and Shiga is dominated by the largest lake in Japan. This in a way makes Shiga the Japanese "Great Lake State" that is why Shiga and Michigan are sister states. The city of Omihachiman, where we live, lies very close to the shores of Lake Biwa. Not far from the shore is the island of Okishima. The population of the island is not large, just a handful of families live there. The school has a grand total of eight students. Two students in first grade, two second graders, two fourth graders, and two sixth grade students.

I was picked up by someone from the Board of Education office in the morning at my school. We drove for about a half an hour to the ferry dock. We had to wait fifteen minutes for the boat to leave, but soon we were underway. We rode out to the island. The boat was a bit small and cramped. It was nice to feel the waves under us and the boat chopping across the water. the trip to the island took about ten minutes. next we had to walk from the dock to the school. It seemed to be just a hop, skip and a jump to the elementary school. We walked into the school and were immediately escorted to the principals office. We were given a nice cool glass of ice tea to cool us off on such a hot day. I had a chance to meet the principal and exchange pleasantries with him.

After about ten minutes in the presence of the principal, awkward silences and crickets chirping in the background, we headed off to teach my one class for the day. I walked into the multipurpose room and was greeted by about twelve smiling faces. There were eight students in four grades, and four teachers, one for each grade. We had a lot of fun with our lesson for that day. We worked on counting. We played games and sang songs. Yup, believe it or not I sang songs with the kiddies. They went screamin' for the hills, but what could they do? They were stuck on an Island. There was no escape from my English greatness. It was interesting to work with such a wide range of students. They ranged in age from first grade to sixth grade. But the levels of the students were about equal. They all worked and had fun.

The saddest part of the day for me was that I had to leave the school before lunch. The ferry boat left the dock before they ate, so we had to make it back to the mainland before lunch. The positive side to this coin is that I managed to make it home earlier. I was able to eat lunch at my own kitchen table. Before leaving however I was given the gift of a bottle of C.C. Lemon. I drank this beverage which is like drinking bottled sunshine on the nice bike ride home. I felt much better after drinking my lemon soda as there are fifty lemons worth of vitamin C in every bottle. Good stuff.

All in all it was a neat day. I had a great day seeing one of the smallest schools that exists in Japan, and possibly the smallest school I will have the opportunity to teach at. It was neat to spend the morning with the students and teachers there. It was doubly nice when I returned to my desk on Monday and in the middle of the afternoon the secretary dropped a nice big fat envelope on my desk. I opened it and spilled the contents out onto the desk and I found that they had all written me thank you letters. Now all I have to do is get some help reading them. Doesn't really matter if I can read them or not though as I will treasure them forever.

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