Yesterday was the day of my weekly visit to an elementary school for some english fun and game time. This week it was time to venture out to Okayama Elementary School. I had a premonition that the weather would be less than pleasant, and I was correct. It started to snow on Thursday morning and it really has not stopped. I knew that the weather would be awful because the one major snow storm that we had last year happened on the day I was to go to Okayama School. I just had a feeling that the time I went there this year it would snow too.
Okayama is about a twenty minute bike ride on a nice sumer day. And it is a lovely ride too. I can hop on the bike path that leads to the lake and ride most of the way with no worries about cars. Last year when about six inches of fresh, wet, sticky snow fell it made the ride unbearable. I was forced to walk part of the way, and where I did have to ride along a street I was constantly splashed by slush thrown up by the tires of passing cars. I arrived at the school forty minutes after leaving home soaking wet and terribly cold.
I was hoping for the best on my bike ride yesterday. Luckily there was only about an inch of snow on the ground and it was not to difficult to ride through. The hard thing was beating the wind. I had to ride against a cross wind that lashed my face with stinging wet snow. I ended up pulling up the hood of my jacket to protect my face. I made it to school in about thirty minutes and this time I was rather hot from all the exercise. In fact as I was sitting in the principal's office in my short sleeved green eggs and ham t-shirt the school secretary asked if I wanted the air-conditioning turned on.
I taught the morning away and was invited to eat lunch with the sixth grade class. I usually eat lunch with the students during my Friday visit. I was glad to eat and goof around with the sixth graders as they will be coming to my junior high school in April. Lunch was a scary combination. It was the usual assortment of rice, soup, salad, and meat. The salad was a very bland combination of wilted and vinegared greens. The soup was actually the best part of the lunch. The boy next to me told me it was kim-chee soup. It tasted like every other school lunch soup I have ever eaten except it had some spice to it. Not a lot, just enough to give it a kick as it ran down the back of my throat. The rice was rice. The chicken was the single worst piece of chicken I have ever eaten. The best thing I can say about it was that it wasn't big. I had only what can be described as a knuckle of stuff. There were about three or four little chunks of meat all held together by connective tissue and skin. It was all covered with a slimy sauce that can best be described as greenish yellow in color. The meat itself had turned almost reddish and to be combined with the green sauce it was not very appetizing. I did it though. I ate the whole thing. I felt like I was eight again. "Plug your nose. If you can't smell it, you can't taste it." I kept telling my self. Well I couldn't plug my nose and still be polite so I went with my other maxim, for eating green beans and the like, from my childhood. Take a bite of something gross, then a bite of something good. So I ate in this fashion. Bite of chicken. Bite of rice. Bite of chicken. Bite of rice. (This is the procedure for eating much of the offerings of Japanese hot lunch, which is often actually served at room temperature or slightly above, never hot.)
After Lunch the sixth graders invited my outside to join them in a snow ball fight. I accepted figuring it would be fun to toss some snow balls around with them. I did not envision that their invitation meant, "Come outside so we can all throw snow balls at you." Which apparently it did. I also forgot what a Japanese playground is constructed with. Playgrounds here are gravel. Gravel has a tendency to turn into mud after a heavy wet snow. So I find myself outside running through the slushy mud with every kid in the school throwing ice missiles at my crotch. How do I know that they were aiming for my swimsuit area you ask? Well the fact that when the whole ordeal was over I looked like I had had an accident in my pants would be the biggest indicator that they were aiming for my "stuff." I ended up retreating to a section of pavement where the school would be behind my back giving me a more fortifiable position. I also managed to make friends with some of the first grade girls who kept me supplied with plenty of snow grenades to lob at the attacking forces. I was very relieved when the bell rang and it was time for the kids to begin cleaning time. They ran off to go and look like they were cleaning, and I ran off to lick my wounded pride.
While I was teaching the day away, and getting blasted by some serious snowballs, Jenny and Logan were off on their own adventure. After school Jenny and Logan wandered off to see what Hachiman Shrine and the canal looked like all covered in fresh snow. Logan's school is about halfway to the mountain so it was not too far to walk after school. The shrine sits at the base of Hachiman-yama, and the canal was built hundreds of years ago to force ships sailing on the lake to pass by the castle that sat on the mountain thus having to pay taxes to the lord of the castle. The canal has a great old world feel to it. One evening we were watching a period drama on TV set in medieval times and we recognized Hachiman Canal in the movie. Jenny managed to get some very beautiful pictures of the snow covered canal. She also took one of the snowman that you see. The snowman was outside of the army recruiting station. As they walked to school in the morning the recruiters were hard at work building the snowman. One of the men was only doing so in a short sleeve white t-shirt. On the way home from "The Yama" Logan fell asleep while getting a piggy-back ride from Jenny.