Saturday, January 30, 2010

Class Atmosphere (originally published 2/20/08)

Thinking about taxis again.

In the typical Japanese High School - which I got to know intimately while on the JET Program – the class size is large. About 35-40 students would spend the entire year together. The kids don’t go from class to class, the teachers do. At the beginning of the class, the Japanese teacher of English and I would bow in and at the end bow out. The kids being together for the entire year day in hour out made for a kind of class personality. Maybe more of an atmosphere. Each one was different. I’d look forward to some and not others. I pitied the kids that got stuck in some of them. But the teachers told me that it was only for a year. That it would change. And that it teaches perseverance.

I’ll be heading back to Japan in a couple days. Each month the trip seems to take on an atmosphere too. The country, the people, the work. Last month seemed like one of those classes I would not have looked forward to. Up until the last day.

I just couldn’t wait to get home. I had been sick the entire week. I got in the cab that was to take me to the airport bus terminal. And, as usual, I struck up a conversation with the driver. The guy turned out to be a gem. He had just returned from a trip to Thailand with his wife. They had spent their vacation (in Japan, taxi drivers are well compensated) volunteering at place for kids orphaned by AIDS. The kids’ ages ranged from birth to over twenty. We talked about that, about the rise in gun violence in Japan, and a host of other thoughtful topics including, of course, the election.

I didn’t want to get out of the cab at the end of the ride.

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