Here is the third in my Tuesday mini-series of reflections on my experiences in the JET Program, lazily culled from e-mails sent to friends and family at the time. Seeing as how there’s a Halloween reference, this one was probably sent out in September, 2003:
On Halloween I finally finished up the last of my self-introduction classes. Basically I’ve been doing the same lesson, with small alternations based on the age group, since I got here. Thank God I’m done. If I have to say Mississippi, nurse, Snoopy, 10,000 lakes, “get married”, Post-it notes, illustrator, 26 years old, or Mariah Carrey one more time I’m going to puke.
It pains me to stoop to this, but I have a cute kid story. I think making a cute kid story actually interesting to someone that wasn’t there and doesn’t know the kid is probably about as hard as telling about a dream and making it interesting, but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway. Because this kid was really cute. To give you an idea of how cute she was, she probably could have melted even Arik’s dried up heart of stone. She was cute, I tell you. Cute.
Anyway, this “story” (okay, it’s really little more than an anecdote) begins with me teaching my first day of first grade classes at a school I had never been to before. I taught three in a row, and then was done for the day (well, done teaching; I have to stay at the school until 4:15 no matter what because that’s the way it is). I ate school lunch, and thought I’d use the remainder of the lunch/recess hour to leave school grounds to find a vending machine to get something to drink. I read somewhere that there’s one vending machine for every 23 people in Japan, so they’re generally easy to find.
Anyway, as I was putting on my outside shoes in the front entrance, one of the first grade students I had taught earlier that day walked up to me. What are you doing, she asked me in Japanese. I shifted through the small pile of Japanese words I know and picked the ones that came closest to what I wanted to say. I’m going for a walk, I said. A walk! Ha, ha, ha, a walk! she said. The idea of taking a walk was a very amusing and novel prospect to her. Yes, let’s go for a walk! And with that she led me by the hand back into the school (forcing me to quickly change back into my indoor slippers) and down a dead-end hallway. Okay, nothing going on there, so we continued our walk by doubling back and heading up some stairs, towards the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classrooms. As it was lunch/recess time, so most of the classes were empty. When we came, on the course of our little walk, to a classroom that had a couple students in it, she would lead me inside, holding my wrist with two hands above her head. She would then shake my wrist vigorously, thereby creating a crude waving motion, while saying “Harro, Harro” (“Hello hello”) to the shocked student/s. I joined her in greeting them in English. She would then lead me over to them to shake their hands and exchange pleasantries. Then she would lead me to the next class. Sometimes she would call out “Gaikokujin, Gaikokujin!” (“Foreigner, foreigner!”) to alert interested parties of my presence. In one class, she had me demonstrate to a group of sixth graders how I could pick her up and hold her in the air. Amazing, isn’t it? she asked them. They seemed unimpressed that I could pick up someone that weighed a little more than a medicine ball.
I wanted to write about something else, but I’ve already written a novel about a cute child that isn’t even my own. Dear god, I’ve become what I despise. Please await my next e-mail for pictures of my cats dressed up as pirates.
Next Tuesday will feature our forth installment of these reflections. Teaser: Japanese TV is covered.