Aomorian Graffiti

Of the many reasons I love my placement on JET, one of the most practical stems from the proximity of my school to my apartment. While a lot of other JETs have to take the bus, drive, or bike to their schools, my morning commute clocks in at a quick four minutes on foot. (And if I’m particularly in a hurry, I just duck through one of the chain-link fenced gaps near the back of school grounds and shave that down to two minutes.)

Being so close to the field also means that I get a front row seat to the team-building practices that go past 9 p.m. and involve, of all things, taiko drums.
Being so close to the field also means that I get a front row seat to the team-building practices that go past 9 p.m. and involve, of all things, taiko drums.

Anytime one of my students asks me where I live, I just point out the window of the classroom. From my apartment’s balcony to the school’s baseball field, it is a literal stone’s throw. It’s incredibly convenient and has made my life pretty stress-free when it comes to getting to work…

…but it does have one minor drawback. Because the back parking lot of my apartment building butts right up against the school’s baseball field, the baseball players use that area as an impromptu, casual place to warm up. And that’s led to some slightly awkward encounters. (For starters, it’s taught me not to walk around in a sports bra after morning runs on the weekend, especially as I’ve managed to keep my inked status under wraps for almost three years.)

The first time they caught sight of me, hanging up laundry on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, all eight or ten of them froze like deer in headlights. Apparently, I’m a whole lot more intimidating outside of the classroom.

They’d huddled together, casting glances over at me between hushed whispers. After a few minutes, they finally nudged one unlucky delegate to come say hi. “You said you lived close to school,” he explained. “But we didn’t know…” And he’d gestured between my apartment and the school. “Is it okay if we practice here?” As if it was my decision! I’d assured him that it was totally fine and that they shouldn’t be afraid to talk to me.

That was in the beginning of my time in Aomori, and now the boys are used to seeing me around the building. This weekend, though, one of them stepped up their game. See, my kids had end-of-term exams at the end of June. Usually when I ask them how the English tests had gone, the kids respond with grimaces and “so-so…” This time, though, most of them were pretty positive. More than one told me it was the easiest English exam they’d taken so far, and I got proof that it translated into high scores, at least for one creative kid.

Hey, that looks like English...
Hey, that looks like English…

As I was hanging up laundry this weekend, I saw out of the corner of my eye something written in chalk right below my apartment. Not really anything new; several of the families in my building have young children, and they use the parking lot as their own personal canvas for drawings galore.

I'm choosing to believe that the little blob below it is a heart.
I’m choosing to believe that the little blob below it is a heart.

But this one was in English, and I know it was directed specifically towards me. Sometimes my kids will leave me notes on my desk at work, but this new  medium for messages is definitely a favorite. I never really minded my kids knowing where I live, but this instance made me actually glad for it. One more sappy thing to file under the ever-growing “this is why I love my job” file.

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