Monday, October 6, 2008
I’m at Ansho Shogakko today, working with the 6th graders to teach them all about Halloween. If I thought Halloween was something worth celebrating I might be more excited. Don’t get me wrong, folks, I enjoy playing dress-up just as much as the next hobo. However, I vehemently dislike anything whose purpose is to startle me, scare me, creep or gross me out, or give me the heebie-jeebies. I do not take candy from those trays with the hand that grabs at you when your fingers near it. I do not like horror films. Heck, people, I hated R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps when I was a kid, and nothing has changed. That series scarred me for life, that and Stepmonster with the Tropopkin.
So here I am, making copies of Halloween word-finds and flashcards, wondering if I’m even qualified to speak with any form of authority on the subject at hand. I also keep trying to stick my pen in my hair, but since my hair is no longer, I end up just looking like a monkey scratching its head with a stick. I also rub my head a lot. I should stop before that becomes a habit. It’ll look like I have to manually warm up my brain before it works
I interrupt this post for a moment in Engrish:
I'm surfing you all time? I only hope the "you" in this sentence a body of water. Also, I'm pretty sure that "all time" does not exist, unless it's in the Antartic during the summer.
So, for a little weekly update. Last Monday and Tuesday I was at Minamitsutsujigaoka (Mee-nah-mee-tsoo-tsoo-gee-gah-o-kah) Elementary School, one of the largest in the district. I was supposed to help the students prepare for a trip to Kyoto, during which they would run around and ask foreigners questions. It was the first time that I was actually frustrated with teachers. I wanted to have more of an authentic setting, and stray from the list of questions (as anyone they approached would), but was naysayed. The teachers felt it was too difficult for the students to do anything more than interrogate passersby with a barrage of questions like, “What was the first Japanese word you learned?” I was tempted to call up whatever Bureau passes information to incoming travelers. WARNING: Japanese schoolchildren will approach you. They will ask you many questions and possibly record your answers for further study. Do Not Ask Them Questions! They Will Be Unable To Respond (or to comprehend your answer)!
Wednesday was an office day, and I did nothing. No worries there. On Thursday I went to Shotoku Shogakko in the morning and had a blast. I was working with both the sixth and the second graders on Thursday, and I hammed it up for the good of cross-culturalization. On Friday, now. Friday. Oh, Friday. I was with the whole 3rd grade (two classes of 25) during 2nd hour, and I introduced myself before reviewing animal names and playing a game. I wasn’t surprised by their questions—Do you like Japanese food? Do you like Japan? Do you live in Kameoka?—but when we got to the standard boyfriend inquiry, I got a shock.
I do wear a ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. Even in the U.S. I answered a lot of questions about the nature of my choice to wear a ring there. However, the concept of a purity ring is a little difficult to translate (and entirely inappropriate) for elementary and middle schoolers. I usually just say it was a gift from my parents. Ultimately the mere presence of a shiny object encircling that ring finger is almost guaranteed to generate questions. Thus I was well prepared for when the students pointed to my hand and asked if I had a boyfriend.
“No,” I said.
There was an uproar.
The entire group of third graders started yelling at the male teacher, pointing to me, to him, and nearly jumping out of their seats. I looked at the sensei in surprise. He laughed and translated, “They think, nice couple.”
I gave a cheesy thumbs-up and laughed, as did the teacher. I thought that was the end.
Two hours later I joined one of the classes for lunch, which happened to be the class with the teacher who should be my boyfriend. We got about halfway through lunch without talking about my relationship status. I suppose the students were unsatisfied with my simple, “No,” from earlier, because they asked the sensei to translate the following.
“Do you have a husband?”
I shook my head, my mouth full of disgusting jako.
“Do you have a…” he thought for a moment, “a special, person?”
Do I have a special person who is neither a boyfriend nor a husband? What, like a lover? “No!” I answered quickly.
What followed was nothing less than an attempted matchmaking. Twenty-five nine and ten-year olds pointing to the teacher, to me, and dropping “Laian-sensei” and the word for boyfriend in dangerous syntactic proximity. The teacher just chuckled and waved his hands
The girl sitting next to me tried to get to the bottom of things, asking me rapid-fire questions in Japanese. When I laughed confusedly she simply asked, "Sensei suki des ka?" Do you like the teacher?
The room got a little quieter.
Afraid of answering in the affirmative, I said, "He's very nice. He's a good teacher." The class looked to the teacher and he translated. Again, the students started yelling something about sensei and Laian-sensei, then indicated to translate. He declined, but I got the jist of it. We should date.
The teacher then left the room to dispose of his milk carton, thereby throwing me to the wolves. Almost immediately I was surrounded by eager nine-year-olds, asking me about sensei, sensei, sensei, and pointing to his desk, and clasping their hands to their chests. Thankfully, the teacher returned posthaste. They asked him to tell me what they had said. He gave a hearty negative, sat down, and changed the subject to dodgeball. I was safe.
So that's the story. I’ll be Mrs. Third Grade Teacher before the year is over. Wish me luck; I hear the loneliness strikes in force during the dark winter months.