Kids are Exhausting, the Food was Delicious

While many internships are the same type of work everyday, my routine varied honestly from hour to hour, let alone from day to day. But I guess that’s the joy of working with (for?) children.

I worked five days a week. Everyone that worked at my school had Sunday off, and then one other random day off in the week. The days that I didn’t have off, I woke up at 7:30, which was surprisingly easy, mostly because the sun was up before 5:00, and my body never really adjusted to the time change (because time-travelling thirteen hours into the future is no mean feat).

From 7:30-7:45 we cleaned the school. This just meant sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. If you didn’t do one of these three things, then you set up the tables and chairs for the day. Once that was all taken care of, you could make your breakfast. Personally, my go-to breakfast was toast. Fun fact: Japanese bread is different from that in America. It’s much thicker, and just has a different taste (I’m no food critic, sorry, that’s the best I can do. Maybe it’s something to do with rice vs wheat flour?). There was strawberry jam that I liked to slather upon my crispy toast, and that, plus fruit, was typically how I broke my fast.

If someone tells you the Japanese don’t like sweets, point them to Hokkaido, where they take pride in their ice cream. On an unrelated note, I ate too much ice cream this summer.

I’m told, however, that this is not the typical Japanese breakfast. The traditional breakfast is rice and fish, but the same way that not everyone in America eats Pancakes for breakfast, not everyone takes the time in Japan to eat a nice breakfast.

After breakfast, things were less routine. I either worked a morning shift or an afternoon shift. With the morning shift, work was from 9:00-2:30. In the hour or so before the kids come in, I just kinda lazed around. I discovered that Rick and Morty is on Japanese Netflix (!!), so I spent a few mornings binging that. I had planned on taking advantage of the massive quantities of anime on Japanese Netflix, but it turns out they don’t sub anything, and my Japanese was trash, so that wasn’t really an option.

Once the kids arrived, we took them to the park. It was only a five minute walk, but the kids were always so rambunctious, it was like herding cats. You really have no control over them, but somehow have to make sure they don’t run into the streets because, you know, that would not be great. You also have to keep a close eye on them at the park because there are things they can climb, and consequently of which they could fall off. So getting back to the school all in one piece leaves you a bit frazzled.

If this doesn’t sum up working with children, I don’t know what does.

It’s about 10:00 that the teaching really starts. There were two groups that I would work with, either the babies (part of the preschool), who were around three. The other group is the ‘older’ kids, who are still only a whopping four/five years old.

With the babies, you’re really just babysitting them as much as teaching. But don’t worry, that’s still plenty of work. Normally, we would build things with blocks, and that would teach them shapes and colors. There were also flashcards, which they loved doing. These ranged from animals to food to numbers.

The other group read some books, did small science experiments, and crafted, such as cutting up magazines and gluing them, or drawing a certain scene from a book, that sort of thing. This group was smaller, but there was a larger difference in their levels, so it was hard to teach everyone at the same time.

Lunchtime started at 12:00 for the kids, so the morning lesson isn’t very long. I had to watch them eat, and encourage them to keep shoveling food into their mouth because they have the attention of a hyperactive squirrel. This whole process took all of 30 minutes, and in that time, I got to smell my lunch cooking. There is a kitchen in the back of the school, and one of the volunteers was a very good cook, so he always made us lunch. My favorite was karage, which is the Japanese version of fried chicken.

Our lunch lasted until 1:00, and then it was time to take the kids to the park again. Luckily, once you’re back from the park, the morning shift is over. Unfortunately, taking them to the park is exhausting, so I normally need a quick power nap/relaxing time before I was ready to go exploring in the afternoon.

The afternoon shift started either at 1:00 and went until 6:00, or started at 2:00 and went till 7:00. I personally was a fan of the 1:00 afternoon shift, because the 2:00 shift had an awkward gap between eating lunch and beginning work.

Park time with my favorite kiddos. Peep the Anpanman hat the child on the left has- it was even cuter in person.

In the afternoon, the older kids came, as they’d finished their day at Japanese school. Because they’d been learning all morning, they normally just wanted to goof off or sleep, which, as you might imagine, made trying to teach them just a wee bit difficult (re: impossible). Normally I did flashcards with them, or something active because otherwise they were just unmanageable. However, they were really bright kids, and always managed to impress me, if also frustrating me at the same time.

Most days, everyone was gone by 6:00. However, sometimes some of the older kids stayed later, and there’s one kid who was normally picked up between 6:30-7:00.

When I was not working, I went exploring. Some days I would just pick a direction and walk, other’s I had a specific destination in mind. I went towards food primarily, and never found anything I disliked. Sure, some things I was mightily surprised by (takoyaki: octopus in fried bread), but nothing that I wasn’t at least willing to try. It was a fantastic city to explore.

Sapporo is known for its miso ramen, of which I ate far too much.

Dinner was normally around 7:00, but that varied depending on how many people were eating dinner at the house and who wanted to cook, as well as a whole lot of other variables. The volunteers were in charge of cooking, though some of us were much better than others. Dinner was typically a group thing, so it took quite a while, as we were quite chatty.

After food was finished and the dishes cleaned, people queued up to take showers and do laundry. Other than that, it was pretty quiet, as we were exhausted from the kids and whatever else we’d gotten into that day. Most everyone was in bed by 11:00, which made it almost bearable to wake up at 7:30 the next morning.