I'm very excited--I just had a fabled visit that every JET is taught to dread, but without any problem. You're actually supposed to pay tax for watching the national TV network here, and the way it's supposed to work is that a guy goes door to door and duns you (if you have a TV). He is supposed to be stupid (so that you can't communicate with him) and stubborn (so that he will try to shove his way in and bill you even if you claim not to watch TV). As it happened, he seemed fairly bright and quite reasonable. He explained what he wanted in Japanese simple enough for me to follow, and he accepted without protest my explanation that I didn't understand Japanese well enough to watch TV and thus used my appliance only to watch videos in English. Then he very politely went away.
What else? We were having kids make speeches so that we could figure out who to send to the prefectural speech contest (I wanted to be very careful since last year one of my schools chose a girl who broke down from stress and exhaustion and had to spend the week after the contest in the hospital and thereafter was too terrified to speak English again, as well as mildly afraid of me [by association]), and one kid gave a very joky speech about how his mother beats him--punches him in the face, hits him with a baseball bat, etc.--but how she's also very nice and loving and he loves her very much. He's a funny, outgoing, and seemingly well adjusted boy, so I assumed this was all a joke, even after I asked him, "Really?" and he said, "Yes, really. It is true." He gave the speech, and everyone laughed, and afterward I mentioned to the teacher that he had told me it was true. She told me that, in fact, it is true, and that his mother is very famous for how much she hits her son--everyone in Shirayama (his village) and at Go-chu knows about it. Having known other abused children, I was surprised--I wouldn't have guessed it about him--and I hope that means the abuse isn't as severe as it sounds. Certainly from the description this kid should be one big bruise, and he isn't. However, I told her than in Illinois a teacher would be legally required to report this to the state, and could in fact get in trouble for not reporting if it was later reported and it came out that the teacher had known about it. In fact, when I was tutoring, I had to do this once, and I imagine for regular teachers in the States this duty must come up occasionally. For this family, the solution might be as basic as putting his mother on some sort of antipsychotic medication. There's also a boy at my other school who's abused--a teacher told me about it--but although he's a nice, mature kid his personality does seem noticeably marked by it. The teacher who told me seemed angered and disgusted by it, but seemed to feel there wasn't much he could do--just that we should bear it in mind in how we deal with the kid at school (e.g., as the special teacher, I should give him more attention to reinforce his sense of worth). Weird country, this. If things are severe enough, the state an be brought in, and here the teacher would serve as the coordinator for all the attention going on around the child, but this is rare, and there aren't a lot of resources the teacher can muster--on the other hand, in the states, once a teacher has reported abuse, he is cut out of the loop entirely. After I reported my student's abuse, I never saw him again, and the person I had spoken to when I'd reported wasn't legally allowed to tell me anything at all about the case.
Other than that, I've scrubbed my place from top to bottom and I've got my packing all lined up, hours ahead of schedule (my usual style is to exhausted and only 90% done at the very last minute before I have to leave). At some point today, I'll ride my bike out the train station, where it will live for the next few weeks, then walk home (actually, I'm going to try to arrange meeting some people at a bar near the station, so the walk home may be much later). At ten minutes to four tomorrow morning, my taxi should pull up to take me to the station; thence to Kansai Airport; thence to America. Life is good (at least, my life is good--I hope yours is, too).
O genki de