A different sort of day

We woke with a jolt at exactly 7:17 this morning. It was yet another earthquake! Though this one was only 4.9 on the Richter scale, the epicentre was just 35 km ESE of Tokyo, much closer to us than the others have been. It didn’t last long but it gave us a couple of very good shakes!

I really wasn’t looking forward to today. Sunday is usually a day off but Richard and I were both scheduled to work. According to our contract, we’re obligated to work three of our regular days off during the year. Most MIL schools are closed on Sundays so there are usually very few teachers working that day. A new term begins on Oct. 1, however, and the school is actively recruiting new students this month. For this reason, all the schools are manned on Sundays in order to accommodate students who want trial lessons.

When we do work on Sunday, we’re usually required to be at the school from noon until 6:00 pm but the schedule at both of the main schools showed that I had a 2 hour private lesson beginning at 4:30. For that reason, I was told that I didn’t have to be there until 12:30. Since the school I was spending the day at is only 17 minutes by train from the station closest to our church, I decided I’d go for the first part of this morning’s service. Since there’s always a short break just before the sermon, it would be easy to slip out then and make it to school on time.

I am so thankful that I made the decision to go. When I got to church, I discovered that my wee Japanese “grandson” was being dedicated this morning! Fortunately, the ceremony took place shortly before I had to leave. It was truly a beautiful dedication. Before taking wee Ayumu from his father’s arms, Pastor Steve asked Atsuo to pray for his son. It was very moving to hear a young father publicly ask God’s blessing upon his son and say to his Lord, “I place him in your hands.”

When I arrived at school, I discovered that the 2 hour lesson was actually only an hour and a half, ending at 6:00 pm. Had I known that in advance, I would have felt obligated to be at the school by noon and likely would not have gone to church! I have no doubt that God intervened and allowed me to be there.

Though the day was to be a fairly easy one, I was concerned about the lesson mentioned above. All I knew about the student was that he’d had a few introductory level lessons about a year ago and that he had signed on for a one time lesson today because he’s going on an overseas business trip and wanted to learn “table manners and over-dinner conversation.” How does one plan for that? We do have a textbook that was designed specifically for Japanese students going abroad so I chose a number of things from it that I hoped would be useful. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The student knew exactly what he wanted and came prepared and so it was that I taught a 38-year-old police officer who has never eaten with anything but hashi (chopsticks) how to eat with a knife, fork and spoon! He literally brought dishes, cutlery and food to class! He really wasn’t looking for English at all. He’s never travelled outside Japan and was terrified that he wouldn’t know what to do or how to behave appropriately at a foreign dinner table. We practiced everything from how to summon a waitress – in a Japanese restaurant you shout sumimasen! (excuse me) – to what to do with the napkin and where to put your silverware after you’ve used it. It was the most fun I’ve had in a classroom in a very long time and I definitely appreciated the table manners that my father drilled into me as a young child!

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