Tuesday, September 15, 2009
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen- nobody knows my sorrow…” Okay, enough with the melodrama. I’ve been suffering from Stage Two- culture shock for those who didn’t read my last post. I was fed up with Japan, its rules, and the way people never quite said what they were thinking. Every time I thought I was settling in- boom! Some new problem blew up in my face. I resorted to food, (but not wine-unfortunately. I now know what it must feel like to have paparazzi following your every move. Yesterday my local baker asked me if I was going to Nakako- my second high school. Apparently everyone knows my schedule so well, they know what days I go to what school. And if I deviate, they ask me what’s wrong. So no wine- if they follow me that closely, I don’t want the baker knowing when I’m having a drink.) I resorted to movies- anything American- so I could hear some familiar sounds. I resorted to the internet. The movies were ruined by subtitles. The food gave me acne. And the internet was in Japanese. I have never felt so far from home. But then today, another surprise. A good one- one that was a long time coming. My students had to do a skit- using American expressions and idioms. They had a list to choose from, four team members and twenty five minutes. At first, they were confused and scared. Getting up in class is always scary. Getting up in class in Japan can be traumatic. But then one boy raised his hand and in English, asked for my help. And all of a sudden I couldn’t stop smiling. Someone had asked for my help- I had a purpose!. As it turned out, he wanted me to pronounce the phrase “I’m constipated.” “I’m constipated.” I still don’t really understand why that was on the list of phrases to teach a class of high school boys. They proceeded for the rest of class to use that phrase in every way they could. And every skit was about someone having to go to the bathroom. (By the way- I learned the Japanese phrase for going to the bathroom while constipated-remind me to tell you one day. What kind of people have a word for that!?) At any rate, the kids had a lot of fun, they actually wrote some clever skits, they learned good pronunciation, and they made me laugh. It seemed to make them happy- the more I laughed, the more they played it up. And I remembered, that I’m not here just to be an example to them. This journey- selfishly enough , is also about me and what I can learn. I will always be able to compare the image of the stiff persona of the Japanese people, with the laughable image of a Japanese high school boy squatting in front of a classroom. (Another phrase they learned- “That’s disgusting!” They used it too!) There are always two sides to every situation. I lost perspective for a little while there, but teenage boys can always be counted on to bring out the funny side. So, I took my little walk on the dark side. Fortunately, I had someone- a class of someones, waiting to bring me back.