When I first graduated from college, I lived a five-minute drive from work. Never once did I consider walking to work. What? Walk two miles? Alongside heavy traffic? What are you, crazy?
But since we have no car in Japan, it was just a given that I would be either walking, biking or taking the bus to school. I decided that a nice morning stroll would do me good.
It's about a 35-minute walk to my school. The first 20 minutes take me by the bus station (which I pass about the same time the bus leaves for my school) and along a very busy four-lane road. The last 15 minutes are spent hoofing it up the side of a mountain. It seems a lot of the schools around here are built up on the side of mountains. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the only place with cheap, available land?
At first, walking to school in the sweltering heat, I arrived at school completely drenched in sweat every day. Literally. There were days when I soaked my shirt completely through, front and back. I had to wear a T-shirt to school and change into my work shirt after I arrived — and went to the bathroom to dry off with a towel and cool off with a Japanese fan. Maybe I smelled... but then again, so did all the kids.
Nearly all the students ride bikes to school. Under Japanese law, they can't get driver's licenses until age 18.
Dozens of students whiz past me on their bicycles each morning on my way to school. Thankfully, the sidewalks are wide, so there's plenty of room for us to share.
I am not required to be at work until 8:45, whereas the kids have to be in school by the time the bell rings for homeroom at 8:40. So I'm usually trudging up the hill with the kids who are busting butt to make it to the top before the bell.
This is perhaps one of the more amusing parts of my day. That's because one particular gym teacher has made it his business to come out to the top of the hill and scream bloody murder at the kids to be on time.
I've always been that person who gets a little chuckle out of the situations where someone gets kinda hurt or suffers a little bit. I was the kid who really busted a gut watching the cartoons where a piano falls on somebody. I'm rather tickled by that sort of thing.
Somehow this screaming business strikes me the same way. It's just a little absurd. These poor kids have it bad enough dragging themselves up the hill early in the morning without some guy yelling at them to hurry it up, already!
See it for yourself!