Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Most likely, as one of the commentors in the previous post implies, the boys were wanting to get away with saying the word pornography and acting innocent about it if I didn't take to it well. Today a group of boys came into my office during their after lunch break and wanted to speak English with me. Eventually one of them said penis. Only you could tell he'd gotten it out of a dictionary because he pronounce it as if it were a pen, the sort you write with. I just corrected him. What the hell, I've taught them nose and eyes and mouth and ears etc. I'm not going to be a prude about another part of their body. If I did, it'd just feed into their silliness. They're curious, just like any adolescents. I'm not going to make their curiousity into something taboo because I think that's where most of adult society goes wrong, and makes it that much harder for kids to take themselves and their bodies as just another natural thing in the world.

I worked from 8:30 this morning till 6 at night. Normally I would hate hate hate my life working that many hours in a day, but I didn't mind it really. I like teaching at the junior high, even though it's draining on a lot of levels. I usually go home by five, but every now and then I don't mind staying a little longer like the rest of the employees. They can't believe I stay that long to help. It's not expected of foreigners, but I think putting in the extra efforts has made them more receptive to me in ways that they might not have been otherwise.

Another language story: Since I got here a month and a half ago, I have not eaten a hamburger. Why? Because I'm a freak and like my hamburgers pretty plain, just cheese and maybe some ketchup. I know how to order food, but I didn't know how to order food without certain items coming with it. So I avoided ordering things I couldn't eat as they come. So last Saturday, before the hanabi festival, I tried ordering McDonald's. I'm not a big fan, but I had a craving for a hamburger. As I ordered, I tried my best to say no tomatoes, etc., and it seemed like the server understood, but then she got her manager who proceeded to ask me a ton of questions so quickly I couldn't understand. And of course I just kept nodding like whatever she said was fine. You know how foreigners who can't speak the language are. So I get my bag of food and I head off to study Japanese with Hiromi. When I opened up the burger wrapper, though, I found inside the buns to a sandwich spread with ketchup. Nothing else. Nothing. Hiromi was right then asking what I wanted to study that afternoon, so I held up my buns and said, "How to order food *without* things correctly." Hiromi's eyes got big and we both burst out laughing, but I was really irritated. I hate not being able to communicate sometimes. Like that time I went to the drug store when I first got here, wanting peroxide, and could only manage to get hydrocortizone after an hour of trying to communicate with the druggist.

So tonight, as I was driving home from work, I got the idea to go test and see how much progress I've made. I went to the drugstore because this morning I woke up with a slight cold, mostly a sore throat. I found my pharmacist and told her I had a sore throat in perfect Japanese. She asked if my head hurt too, and I was able to say no. She asked if my nose was stuffy. I understood and said a little. Did I have a cough? A slight one, I told her. She took me behind the counter and pulled out some medicine and told me to take these tablets three times a day, morning, afternoon and night. I told her I understood. She said to go to a doctor if it's not better in five days, and I understood that also. There was no frantic drawing of pictures or hand waving and gesturing involved. I got my meds and then proceeded to go to my archnemesis, the manager of the next door McDonald's. There I ordered my cheeseburger without any problems. Not only did I say I wanted the burger without sauce and veggies, but I then proceeded to rephrase the whole statement and say hamburger and cheese only! Ha! She was unable to give me a bun with just ketchup on it, and I swear she was a little displeased. I, on the other hand, walked out with a spring in my step.

The other night my friend the terriyaki woman told me she was happy I was learning Japanese. Chris san, she said, you've only been here for a little over a month and you can understand me a little better. This makes me happy because I can tell you you're a nice foreigner. Also I don't have to count out your money for you anymore."

Previously the terriyaki woman had had to sort through my change and help me come to the right amount, before I learned which coin was worth what money. She only had to do that twice (when I first got here), but I visit her once a week, and so it's fresh in her memory. She has this little stand behind a plaza, and you'd never know it was there unless you parked around back, but she has the best terriyaki for miles and miles. She's so little and old and sweet. I'm happy I'm able to chat her up a little now too. I was able to tell her that her terriyaki is the best, and she smiled and put her hands to her heart and made all the cute noises in the register of cute noises possible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your language stories. Some of the Japanese people sound so sweet. Wow 10 hour days are not what you were used to in the USA! I am proud to see your extra efforts,plus you are enjoying it. That makes all the difference in a teaching experience, and a big difference for the kids too. Love you, Mom

8:14 PM  

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