Today at school, all of the students were lead to the gymnasium for a schoolwide assembly. This day marked the last day of school before their summer break. It also means that it was the last day I would be attending Ryukoku High School. I can't believe how fast the past 5 weeks of school has gone by. It is even more shocking to know that this is the "beginning of the end" with all of my goodbyes having to take place within these final two weeks of my stay. (The students have a short break during this time through August, but they still received thick homework packets to work on. Along with that, school clubs still take place over break... so it really isn't TOO much of a vacation.) At this assembly all of the classes formed lines and sat on the hard wood floors. I was very impressed with the respect and attentiveness that the students gave at this seasonal assembly. Whenever the principal or another speaker (various teachers) would walk on the stage, the teacher that served as the "Master of the Ceremonies" would command everyone to kneel in seiza position (the same position used during the tea ceremonies) and bow. You did this when the speaker walked up and off of the stage... for every speaker! During the assembly the principal talked about topics which I think dealt with events taking place during this time of year at the school (I couldn't comprehend it). The other speakers honored and congratulated Ryukoku athletes of different sports and disciplines for their successes at a recent all-city sports festival. The Ryukoku kendo team received top honors, which was a big deal for the school. I was also later recognized for being a visitor at the school for the past month and a half (as if know one knew, haha) I didn't have to recite a speech to the student body, but I was able to thank the school staff and students, and also bow. It was very neat. Later that day I made a few speeches to some classes, and to the teaching staff thanking them for such a great summer. At this time, I passed out lots of gifts and candy, and took pictures with many of my newly-made friends from the past few weeks. For some, it may be the last time I see them, for others, we may get together next week during their vactation. Either way, lets just say that I have many pen pals! It was a good day, just in a different way than other days. After school I visited my teachers that I had become close to, to say goodbye, and gave them some Michigan souveniers. I also went to see the principal in his office ( a room that I still feel is very intimidating. It is as large as a classroom! I guess that shows the level of respect for superiors in a Japanese sense). We chatted for quite a while about my past summer, and my personal background in America, and were even served green tea by a secretary, wow. I was very, very grateful to everyone for granting me such a great oportunity to attend school as a guest for so long. I really appreciated it. Ryukoku High School may have been very different from American schools, and slightly weathered from age, but it will still be remembered as a special place during my stay here in Japan. So many new things were experienced there, and so many new friends were made. The pics are of me and Takuji (a good pic of us two this time!), me with other friends in my class, and finally a picture of me with the "Kocho-Sensei", the school principal.