Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The James Visit Japan: Day 7

On the 7th day of the James' visit to Japan, God looked down upon Takaoka and said, "I think this place needs some snow." And then there was snow. God looked upon the snow and said it was good. The James' looked upon the snow and cursed God. Literally.

The 7th day of the James' visit to Japan was also the day we all went to Emily's school to meet some of her students and fellow teachers. They (still not too sure on exactly who 'they' is) set us up with a group of rising second year students, two JTEs, and Carl-sensei.

Keep in mind that the kids are all on their winter break. Graduation was two weeks ago and the new school year doesn't start until April (the new school year coincides with the sakura blossoms). The kids come to school everyday to study for NEXT year. The kids we spoke with were working on thier English, but there were also kids playing musical instruments, working on math problems, and quietly reading in the library.

You just don't see that in America. The only time American students go back to school during a holiday is to steal metric scales from the science lab to weigh their drugs or to tag the school with their gang's symbol.

But I'm getting off the subject.

They put us in one of the few rooms in the school with a heater (yeah!) and lined up 4 chairs in the front of the classroom. The kids were all sitting at tables that had been pushed together to form three conference tables. The boys were all huddled together at one end of one table and the girls filled in the rest. The chairs in the front of the classroom were for Jerry, the gramps, and me.

The four of us introduced ourselves and then we all had an impromptu American geography lesson from Carl. He explained that the James were originally from Maine, but that the gramps lived in South Carolina and that Emily and Jerry lived in Florida. Carl drew a map of the US on the board and outlined Maine, South Carolina, and Florida.

Then Carl asked the class if they knew anybody else from South Carolina.


He repeated his question, "can you name another person THAT YOU KNOW who is from South Carolina?"

More silence.

Then he added, "can you name another person THAT IS IN THIS ROOM who is from South Carolina?"

Still more silence.

I'm sure Carl would have liked to have added, "All of you are from Japan. NONE of you are from South Carolina. None of your teachers are from South Carolina. We have determined that the gramps are from South Carolina and that Emily, Jerry, and Angelo are from Florida. Who else IN THIS ROOM could be from South Carolina?"

Once again, silence.

Finally, Carl had to say, "I am from South Carolina!"

The class erupted in "Ahhhh Sooooo" followed by fits of giggles.

After this initial hiccup, we were barraged with questions from a dozen excited students bursting at the seams to use their English. They asked so many questions that we didn't know where to start.

Just kidding.

The kids were really shy and nobody wanted to ask any questions. Carl had to whisper questions into the kids' ears to get them to say anything. We answered them as best we could and told them important things like what type of Japanese foods we liked and disliked, where we had visited in Japan, and what we thought about the Japanese people.

After that, we broke up into three groups to continue the interview. At the end of the interview, each kid would be responsible for standing up in front of the class and introducing the person they had just interviewed, so they all had to participate.

I gravitated over to the boys table with Carl. We started off by going around the table and introducing ourselves. Each kid said their name and then added a little fact about their lives. They told me important things like "my hobby is listening to music" or "I like soccer." I asked each kid a follow up question and amazingly enough they were all able to respond.

The interview questions came slow at first. Carl had to plant the seeds for a few of the questions by saying things like, "You should ask him what his hobbies are." They would whisper to each other, giggle, and then one of them would say, "What are your hobbies?"

After a few more questions, their confidence was buoyed and the good questions started to roll in. They asked me, "why do you love Emma?" and "when are you going to marry Emma?" They all giggled at my answers. They also found great pleasure in the fact that I like tako (octopus), but not tarako (grilled fish egg sac) and natto (fermented soy beans).

The subject of Razor Ramon HG (aka Hard Gay) even came up. I figured out that the boys loved him and the girls hated him.


After that enlightening discussion, one of the boys pointed at another boy and said, "He is gay." Then, while pointing at a third boy, he added, "He loves him."

This was obviously hilarious because the boys erupted in laughter.

The subject of one's sexual orientation came up again during my introduction. I have illustrated what was said in the following picture:

After that fun experience, eight of the female students, Carl, and Emily took us on a tour of the school...but not before we took a group photo:

Carl did a great job of explaining everything on the tour (thanks, Carl!). He even translated the school's alma mater into English for us. I asked the eight girls who were following us around to sing the anthem for us...and they did!

I thought that only happened in movies starring Morgan Freeman!

When our tour concluded we were given gifts from the school and caught the train back to Takaoka, where we had dinner at Ruru (again) with Chiharu.

Sorry for the abrupt ending to this post, but I have to go take a shower now.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you explain the origin of doing the Peace sign in every photo, which seems to have existed since the founding of Japan in 600BC?

Why do they do this?