Love letter for いも [Episode 4]

Lets continue this open letter to my favorite starchy veggie, sweet potato or いも.

One thing that I really loved about the high school that I taught at for my two years while living in Japan was the treats. Someone was always traveling to one place or another and bringing back omiyage (souvenirs). And if there was a travel lull and everyone was hard at work we could always count on the Special needs school to visit our high school and sell baked goods.

I fondly remember the buzz about the teachers room whenever they came to our school. Just before lunchtime a few teachers here or there would disappear. And when they returned they’d have treats. As an avid people watcher I learned early on that even if I didn’t understand everything that was said, I could watch people and figure out what to do or not to do. I quickly learned that the local Special needs school made monthly trips to surrounding schools to sell their goods and raise money to support their projects and programs. All of the baked goods were made by the students and sold by the students along with their teachers.

They usually set up shop in a classroom on the lowest level of our school. There you could find baskets full breads, cakes, and cookies. The best thing about this was that you could help contribute to a good cause and thereby remove any and all calories from the foods you consumed. Ha! Nah, just kidding. But I wish that were the case. Everything was priced at 100 yen or around a dollar or so.

The challenge was to finish teaching your classes or grading your tests sometime within the period before lunch. If you could do that then you were guaranteed to find a plethora of sweets to choose from. However, if you got caught up talking with a teacher or student, or grading papers you stood to miss out on the goodies. I learned the hard way that waiting too late was a mistake. Once that lunch bell rang, you could hear the hordes of students charging down the stairs towards the baked goods. And you did not want to be caught in the fray.

Some of my favorite memories at the school were of watching the reactions of teachers who just learned/remembered that the treats were being sold that day. Seeing them get up from their desk and sprinting out of the teachers room was hysterical but warranted given the quality of the treats.

You can see in the picture below tiny example of the goods for sale each time. Of course, my favorite treats were those with sweet potato inside. I always made sure to grab one of those along with anything else that sounded or looked good. It was a test of my Japanese reading and deduction skills to determine what each treat was. They were clearly labeled but my reading training hadn’t progressed past hiragana and katakana. So anything written with a bit of kanji in the description was up for interpretation.







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