Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The new issue of The Third Alternative has my story "A Resurrection Artist" in it. The cover is beautiful, too. I can't wait to get my copy of it.

Yesterday a boy told me his name was Karaoke. I think I must have heard him wrong. I *had* to.

I not only teach english, but cultural lessons about America. Those are my duties. When I was complaining about that one elementary school with the bad kids to Hiromi, my coordinator at the office that hired me to come here and teach at Edosaki, I told her that I was telling Miyamoto sensei, the second grade teacher with a little English at that school, how the fourth and sixth grades were really good. I didn't say how bad the fifth grade was, or how sort of indifferent the second and third graders were, and thought that was fair. Hiromi said, "You should have told Miyamoto sensei that her second grade class was excellent." I said, "Why?" She said, "Because you taught in her class that day," as if that is reason enough to give out a compliment I don't actually mean. I think this must be that whole Japanese politeness thing. So I told Hiromi, "I'm not just teaching English, but cultural lessons, right? Well Miyamoto sensei will just have to learn that I'm American and I'm not going to say her class was wonderful just because I taught in it."

Cultural lesson one: I don't care if that's offensive. To me, I was being fair. I didn't say her class was bad, I didn't say it was great either. I did mention the fourth and sixth grades were good. I imagine in Japan I probably said her class was bad by not saying anything at all about it, when really I just had a neutral reaction to her neutralized classroom. So no complaints, and no compliments. I just don't always have that ability to go around like freakin Mary Poppins to everyone.

(Although Ben is right, as usual. In the nation of cuteness and delight, I am at my glowingest).


Actually I really do have to write about all the cuteness and delight stuff here at some point. It's both sweet and ridiculous at the same time. I think the two favorite English words the Japanese like to use (in completely weird ways too) are 'together' and 'enjoy'. Let's enjoy soccer together. Let's sukiyaki together. Happy together. So happy together! and on and on and on and on....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the story in The Third Alternative. Just a bit of teacher "mom" feelings. A teacher always likes to hear how good their class is, if in America or Japan.My guess is Hiromi doesn't want to hear that "any" Japanese class is "bad", or doesn't measure up.Cultures are much different and she may have taken offense to your comments about that elementary school more than the second grade teacher. It probably is a woman thing.:) Email you soon. Love, Mom

11:46 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Nope, Mom, you're wrong on this one. Not a woman thing. Miyamoto sensei and I were fine. This is just Hiromi. She's the Emily Post of Japanese manners, many of which seem antiquated even to the Japanese.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Also, my words aren't any good if I tell people things I don't mean, so I won't tell people things I don't really mean, just to grease their wheels, and that's anywhere, in America or Japan.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always have this problem in Switzerland. The Swiss get the silver after Japan's gold in the Politeness Olympics, and it used to drive me crazy that people wouldn't just come out and say what they mean. They speak in a lot of allusion and euphemism. A lot of that "oh no, I couldn't possibly", which means, "ask me a couple more times and I will". Or, "thanks so much for cooking", meaning "this isn't really edible".

For a long while I would rage about how nobody was being honest and human relationships were impossible and must be strained and frigid if no one was honest with each other, etc.

Eventually I learned that it's just like a cultural volume button. The Swiss are being perfectly candid when they talk like this. Everyone knows what they mean. They're just communicating it in Swiss cultural language. I have to turn up the gain when I'm in Switzerland, and turn my own volume down.

Chris at his glowingest! Wow, the mind boggles. :->


11:59 AM  

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