Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Search of a New Normal...Part 1

We are getting closer to "normal."  

Girls scope out their new campus.
Jenna and Heather started school on Monday, Jan. 21st with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation.  It's their 3rd school in the last 12 months, but thankfully it should become "normal" for them during these next 4 years.  We took a tour of the campus the previous week, being led around by the gentle-spirited principal that both girls agree, "is so much like Aunt Kristin."  The first week was as hectic as we expected, with the girls getting accustomed to a new school, new teachers, and a techno-centric new "system" for communication and tracking assignments.
The "Aunt Kristin" principal, Mrs. Tanya Hall.

The girls now walk 20 minutes to a train station, take a commuter train a handful of stops, then disembark and walk another 10 minutes to their school.  We accompanied them the first two days, giving them less assistance each trip so that they learned the routine for themselves.  On day 3, Stew and I had a morning appointment that we could not get out of, so the girls ventured out on their own -- and they did it!  

On day 4, Jenna's homeroom was scheduled to conduct a homeless outreach at a major railway station in Tokyo.  We bought meals and drinks for the homeless who sleep in the train station overnight.  Each student brought and handed out 3 meals to various men, some who were bundled up and sleeping on their cardboard box, others who were already disassembling their bed for the day.  

The Tokyo police allow these homeless men to sleep in the interior corridors that link several train and subway lines -- space that is even kept heated during the night hours.  The only stipulation is that they vacate the corridor by 7:00 a.m. as the morning commuter rush begins.  This meant we woke up at 4:30 a.m., took the train to the station to arrive at 6:00, and handed out our meals before the 7:00 a.m. moratorium.  Afterward, we commuted back to school and were treated to a breakfast of pancakes and sausage, served by the school's Honor Society. 

Word gets around when the kids come bearing breakfast.  In one instance, a homeless man ran up to one of the parents, pointing back at his friend who'd received a meal, and asking (hopefully) whether there was one for him, too!

Stew and I passed through this same train station a couple of hours later.  Nobody would guess that the corridor served as sleeping quarters for homeless men, based on what you saw at 9:00 a.m.   It looked like a typical Japanese subway crossing:  immaculate, orderly, crammed with commuters, with the distinct feel of cool, conditioned air blowing overhead.

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