Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 08 – Share a funny anecdote about living/working in Japan.

Today's 30 Day Japan meme prompt is a walk down memory lane! I have a number of funny/weird/uncomfortable anecdotes about Japan... but then again, if you're a foreigner living in Japan, how could you not have a dozen waiting to be pulled out for a cocktail party (because being a fancy foreigner in Japan, you also always go to fancy cocktail parties, am I right? haha). I feel like my life turned into one giant circus the moment I set foot on Japanese soil as a worker rather than a student. Of course I have some funny stories from my time abroad at Kansai Gaidai... but none of them are as odd or as uncomfortable as the ones I've collected trying to live a normal adult life in this country. Especially if you're teaching English in an elementary school or junior high school! That's where the best weird things happen. :)

I will never get over the fact that nearly every human being born in this country has ridden a unicycle.
 One of my favorite stories to tell is about one particular day of class I had at one of my larger Elementary schools, Ioki. As an English teacher in Japan, if you teach at a public school and have 5th and 6th grade students, you are probably familiar with the standardized textbook called "Eigo Note" and truly know just how awful it is (it's being updated for the next school year, apparently, but I have little hopes for the new one). The school district I work in enforces Eigo Note in their schools, and to top it off, I have to follow pre-made lesson plans that a non-native English speaker created for me to use in class (I won't even start with how irritating that is to me). Each of these lessons touches upon something covered in Eigo Note and includes extra activities as well as a "daily conversation" to start off the class with. To say these conversations are useless is an understatement. They are redundant and completely taken out of context. But I digress...

Not the 5th graders I'm talking about but my weirdest, most trouble-making classes.
The "daily conversation" that me and my JTE were supposed to be demonstrating that day was something along the lines of:

ALT: I'm Hungry!
JTE: Are you?

Poetry, I must admit. So, seeing that a drunk dog could probably spit out these four words, we decided that the 5th graders we were teaching could do better than that, and we came up with a different conversation: 

JTE: Are you okay?
ALT: My head hurts!

While it's not Shakespeare, we figured it was more useful than the previous tomfoolery, and a number of kids had already been complaining of aches and pains during the "how are you?" portion of English class without being able to properly express their complaints in English. Thus! We started class, with the specific goal of letting them know you could replace head with stomach, arm, back, etc. How useful!

After our demonstration, we always let the kids practice with three or four different partners so that they can play both roles and get the hang of the awkward sentences. At one point, one of my students comes up to me, holding his ass and asking, "先生、けつの穴って、英語で何?" ("Teacher, what is the word for asshole in English?") Stiffing a giggling (because I'm 4 years old), I told him we probably wouldn't reveal information like that in English anyway, so he didn't need to know. Of course, instead of giving up like a good kid, him and his friends decide they needed to figure this out and came up with the two wonderful options of "My hip-house hurts" and "My little black hole hurts." While nearly rolling on the floor with laughter from this exchange, a girl came up and asked how she'd say that her arm was itchy. Of course, this introduced "itchy" to the conversation and quickly, "My hip-house is itchy" was being thrown around the classroom. I don't think I've ever laughed so much during a class as I did during that one. Despite the ridiculousness, it's moments like that, that make my job feel fun and not nearly so bleak.

No sports fest is complete without looking like a complete idiot at least once during it.

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