Forehead of Steel teacher (also known as Ms. Big Headed Boyfriend) came over to my desk to talk about the lesson plan for the sannensei this week. It’s the “Would you like another piece of cake?” lesson, which of course instantly reminded me of the “Michael Jackson Juice” incident from last year’s sannensei. I started to laugh about it, and she laughed as well even though she didn’t really know why she was laughing.
I later told her the MJ Juice story, and showed her the picture I’d taken with my phone. She actually remembered it, since it took place in her class. She told me she had asked the two girls what in the sam hill MJ Juice was. Apparently, it’s really sweet… oh! and strawberry flavored.
I. Really. Don’t. Want. To. Know.
I really like the new ichinensei classes. For the most part, they’re adorable and full of energy– a nice, but tiring, contrast to the sannensei who are getting their asses kicked by life. (This will continue, sadly, for the rest of their Japanese lives, the one exception being their 4 years in college.) They also say the most off-the-wall shit, sometimes completely unintentional.
The School of Peace of course means more run-ins with Penis-Boy. Yes, I have downgraded him, I just didn’t feel right calling him Penis-Man yet. Kind of like how Superboy had to work his way up to Superman. I also found out that Penis-Boy has an older brother, a sannensei student. They look a lot alike, but the older brother seems to be radically less enamored with his junk.
We were doing a self-introduction where the students stand up and give a short intro speech about themselves in a decided format. “Hi, I’m [name]. I’m from [city of origin]. I like [anything here]. I play [some kind of sport/activity].” After proceeding through the class, we finally landed on Penis-Boy.
While cleaning my room, I found an old memo distributed to the schools in Kyoto Prefecture. It noted that two students had been killed in separate bike accidents, and urged teachers to stress the importance of bike safety onto the students. The Japanese are big on anonymity, so the students were identified only as “Student A” and “Student B.” “Student A,” a Junior High sannensei, was biking home, when he crossed an intersection at the green light. A driver turning right into the intersection, entirely too fast, slammed right into him. He was thrown off his bike and landed hard on his head. He was rushed to the hospital, but nothing could be done.
The memo gave no further information about Student A, but I know who Student A was. He was one of my students.
Japan has a version of the popular quiz game, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” they call “Quiz Millionaire.” It’s hosted by a guy named Mino Monta. The show runs more or less like its American/British/whatever counterpart, except that when Mino asks, “Final Answer?” and the contestant says, “yes,” he just stares at them for a good minute or so until finally yelling, “Sekai!” (correct!) or, “Zannen!” (Too bad!). I find it absolutely hilarious, because the contestants usually FREAK OUT while Mino’s staring them down. “What? Am I wrong? Eh? What? Unnnnhhh… SAY SOMETHING ALREADY!”
Quiz Millionaire seems to be pretty popular in Japan, or at least everyone is more or less familiar with it. I created a version to play with my students. I write the questions on poster board cards and give them answer cards to hold up for their Final Answer. I even created a CD with the game’s music tracks and gave out fake money for correct answers. The students always ask, “Is this real American money?!” despite the fact that it looks really fake, and I’m holding a FAT stack of it. They must really think I’m loaded to be gallivanting around with so much cash. The game is really a lot of fun, and sometimes I think I enjoy it more than my students do.
I played Quiz Millionaire with the English club at the School of Peace. The English Club is composed of 10 little girls who are unquestionably the Cutest Girls, Ever. Ultimate Sweetness is also a member of the English club, and while she is still the cutest thing who ever has or ever will exist in history, the other girls are not very far behind.
We got started, but then a butterfly with black wings and yellow stripes flew through the window. Butterflies are beautiful, right? Symbols of love and peace and all that? Little girls love butterflies, don’t they? That wasn’t the case for one of the girls, who FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. The butterfly wasn’t even near her, but she let out a scream that I can still hear when it’s quiet enough. I had to put the game on hold while she went into hysterics.
But, it’s just a butterfly, isn’t it?
The butterfly flew around near the ceiling, and in response she dropped down in her chair and put a towel over her head. I suppose maybe, given enough time, she might have settled down and we could have worked to shoo the butterfly out the window. Mr. Butterfly however, must have mistook her screams of fear and horror for shrieks of admiration, and thinking, “Hey, I gotta get me a better look at this,” flew directly in front of her.
There are simply no words in the English language that can adequately describe her reaction.
I was sitting in the teachers’ room, doing whatever it is I do there, probably trying to stay awake and make it look like I’m being productive. It was between classes, so students roamed by in the hallways. I heard my name and looked up to see Watson standing in the doorway. “Watch. Please.” he said in English.
Almost two years now. Almost two years and he is still after my watch. I don’t even think it’s about the watch anymore, now it’s the principal of the matter.
The other teachers, meanwhile, laugh and say, “Oh, he wants your watch huh?” Yeah, it’s funny huh? I was laughing too… two years ago. WHY THE FUCK AREN’T YOU DOING ANYTHING TO DISCOURAGE THIS?! When this kid is a beggar on the street I know who to blame now. That, or one of the old guys who stands in front of the sex salons trying to usher guys in. But never us Gaijin guys. Cause we’re diseased and dirty and we’ll probably beat the whores up or something. Old dudes are probably jealous of our Gaijin Power™ at any rate.
Noisy Fucker came up behind Watson, who is no small kid and was more or less blocking the whole door. Noisy Fucker took one look at him, then without even thinking about it, reached up, grabbed Watson’s wrist, and twisted it a little. Watson recoiled, and Noisy Fucker walked effortlessly through the door. Of course, he didn’t forget to make his obligatory “WAAAAAAAAAAAUGH” “Coming Through the Door” sound.
I like all of my English teachers, I really do. I’m lucky in that respect; not all JET’s can say they do. But working with the Big-Headed Boyfriend teacher and the Americanized teacher at the Ghetto School is especially fun.
One day I was in an ichinensei class with BHB teacher (I really have to think of a better way to refer to her). The ichinensei were playing a “Who are you?” game. They pick one of 4-5 historical Japanese families. They then walk around asking other students, “Are you Nobanaga? Are you Ieyasu?” If yes, then they are members of the same family, and united. To start off, me and the teacher demonstrated how to play. We showed a successful example… after finding out that we were of the same family, we shook hands. Improving a bit, I went to give her a half-hug, to effectively show the “family” concept. She went to give me a half-hug back, but she wasn’t really paying attention to what she was doing. So as she leaned in, she wound up headbutting me. Pretty hard, actually. It took me a moment to stop seeing stars and remember where I was.
Natsumi is a sannensei at one of my schools. By now I’d known her two years, since she was an ichinensei. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was her wit – she could keep up, and many times even outwit me. So it was always a pleasure talking to her in the hallways. The other thing that made her really memorable was, one day early on she asked me to teach her a regular American greeting. (I think the kids kind of know “Hi, how are you?” “Fine thank you, and you?” is a little too stiff.) I thought about it for a moment, then settled on the casual guy greeting “Yo.” Complete with the slight hand raise and casual look on one’s face.
Every time I saw Natsumi, she would give me the “Yo” along with the hand motion. It was hilarious, because at first she was trying really hard to get it right, so I’d get the “Yo” (coming from a 12-year old Japanese girl, this is already funny), but then she’d also have this serious look of determination on her face as she did it. Later on, she got the hang of it, and became more natural. Well, as natural as she’s going to get anyway.
Yuki is one of Natsumi’s friends. They’re both in the brass band, and were in the same English class as ninensei. Yuki is one of those girls who finds everything funny. She is just always laughing, and she has a laugh that is especially loud.
This year, I wasn’t teaching Natsumi and Yuki’s English classes. Their teacher was busy with many other things and didn’t have the time to plan team-teaching classes. One day I was going to the bathroom from the teacher’s room, and I ran into Natsumi and Yuki heading back to class after running an errand for the teacher.
“You never come to our class.” Yuki pointed out.
I told her I really wanted to, but it wasn’t up to me, and it seemed the teacher had many things to do.
“Well then, come now.” This wasn’t so much a request as it was a warning. Yuki took me by the arm and more or less lead me back to class. There wasn’t anything for me to help with, so I simply took a seat behind Natsumi and joined the class. While they took notes on the English content, I took notes on the Japanese content. Yuki, of course, laughed a lot. I asked her what was so funny, but she couldn’t stop laughing long enough to actually tell me.
I went back to Heiwa Junior High for the first time since the groping incident. I was a little nervous, but really, it was only one kid, and I figured I could handle one kid. I mean, after all I’m still a really big black guy. Sometimes I tend to forget that. Hey, you’d forget yourself, too, if all you ever saw in front of you was Japanese people. Once, while walking in a crowded train station, I passed something that completely freaked me the hell out… until I realized it was my reflection in a mirror. “Whoa, you don’t see that shit everyday!” was my very first thought, and for an instant I completely understood all the staring.
The boy who groped me, as it turned out, didn’t pose any sort of problems for the week I was there. Instead I faced two completely new ichinensei boys. The first is yet another Kancho Assassin, except he’s really Japanese about it. I was walking around outside with the sports clubs, when I caught him sneaking up behind me with his fingers in the classic pose. I raised an eyebrow and gave him the universal “Nuh-uh” look. What happened next though, I have to say is a first for me at least.
He lifted his Kancho-ready hands, got the “I want a bicycle for Christmas, Santa!” expression on his face, looked up and me and politely said, “Is it alright to Kancho you?”
In the almost two years I’ve been in Japa… no– over the 24 years I’ve existed on this planet, that is most definitely the first (and hopefully the last) time anyone had politely asked if they may stick their fingers up my ass.