Saturday, 25 October 2008

From the Mountains to the Rivers

On Thursday, I was asked to stay late -- almost until 5pm -- to assist a few students with their English speeches. I mostly helped with pronunciation and encouraged them to continue practising, so that they might memorise perfectly each part they have to recite in the speech competition next month.

Small things like this are no problem. To have to stay later at school from time to time, or having to stick around in the office past 4.30pm poses no issue whatsoever. Going over and above what your "contract states" is a part of being a respectable person. I hope that any extra involvement with students at either of the chuugakkou will reflect positively on my desire to see them all excel at English.

Yesterday, I went to Kitanokawa shougakkou (elementary school). Kita is Japanese for north -- the kanji used is easily recognisable. Kawa means river. Around here, a lot of places have kawa or gawa (a variant of kawa) in them. The Shimanto river (shimanto-gawa) is well known to a lot of people in Japan, and is regarded as one of the most pristine rivers.

The more I learn about various words, such as mountain and river, the more placenames make sense. Perhaps one day I will be able to read the recommended 2,000 kanji. ^^

My class with the gonensei and rokunensei (5th and 6th graders) wasn't that great. Even with a Japanese explanation of Vanishing Man, it still took me 5-10 mins to clarify how this simple game worked. I had Japanese instructions specialy written up to avoid such frustration but they didn't seem to make much difference. I don't get why people find such a simple game so hard to grasp. Possibly a cultural difference?

My class with the ichinensei (1st graders) however, was nice. We went over jikoshoukai (introductions), especially focusing on "How are you?"; "I am good / great / sad / cold...". the kids enjoyed the English input and the teacher really cares about the kids. I also gave them some Halloween colouring in pictures, which they appreciated.

Halloween is a pretty big thing in Japan. They have adopted the Americans' take on this festival that is steeped in a jaded past. Regardless of how much people try to explain away the druidic, dark nature of the origins of this hollow celebration, it does have a real beginning; even if a part of that beginning has Christian roots (such as trick or treating). But even this has been turned into simply a commercial endeavour.

Making a big deal of the dangers of Halloween and highlighting the reality of spiritual forces won't change the public view of it as a harmless time of fun. It is a choice not to involve yourself in accepting the rituals associated with the festival. But to do so for the sake of kids is, I think, an obligation. As Japan accepts Halloween, I don't feel that there is any harm in entertaining the idea from a purely symbolic standpoint. Degree of involvement is a choice.

Spiritual forces are a reality and it would be well to remember that there are strongholds in this world, and powers that only seek to harm. So long as we are mindful of what is there and refuse to embrace the spirit behind any form of darkness, things like Halloween and what they may represent are not a threat to spiritual growth or the foundations of your faith.

I don't agree with Halloween; I don't agree with the desensitised concept of witchcraft, spiritualism and medium interaction. What I can't argue against is the harmlessness of innocent children wishing to just enjoy themselves with something different. There are other ways to celebrate this time of the year, not all of them a blind acceptance of something with sinister roots.

Halloween has changed from its original meaning to something very commercial anyway. That's not to say that because it has changed its meaning it no longer has a spirit attached to it. There is definitely no way that a Christian should accept such a celebration in its base form. However, even looking past the scary themes and seeing it as simply another excuse to sell goods and candy, there is still a pervasive tone of spiritual disharmony.

A truly hallowed evening is much more preferable to one where ghosts and ghouls are turned into costumes and the powers of magic become simple gimmicks.

I didn't mean for this post to turn into a rant against Halloween. I may never accept it as a decent celebration -- anything that takes what is real and dangerous and turns it into harmless fun is blinding participants to the fact that there is a reality of danger and there are elements and forces in this world that should never be interacted with -- but I can still retain my beliefs, have my opinions and play along on a harmless level for the sake of those whose awareness does not encompass more than the physically obvious.

On Friday afternoon, I took nenkyu (time off) to sort out some books in the JCF library. As the Jet Christian Fellowship librarian, it is my job to ensure that the books are kept track of and that everything is categorised. I updated the booklist and will have it uploaded to the website so that members can request books to be sent out to them.

Michael and I are probably going into Kochi city tomorrow. I keep intending to get my hair cut, but never find the right opportunity to do so. I'm torn between growing it long for Winter and cutting it all off so it isn't in my face. At least a trim would neaten it up; I just have to find the right establishment I can trust to take care of it.


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