Work, schmerk; shigoto, schmigoto. Like the summer vacations of my youth, O-Bon (and my family’s visit) zipped by …to use a hackneyed ‘idiom’ I was required to teach my adults a few weeks back. Now I am left to teach these children how to speak in full sentences and to teach these adults how to enunciate “l” “f” and “si.” After Taipei and Korea, I am galvanized and can think only of my next trip – Pepper’s invitation to meet up with her during her upcoming South Asian tour is making the prospect of traveling even more thrilling. Oh, Pepper – you travel temptress; you vacation vixen! My body is in Japan – rooted in a 6×6 classroom teaching adults grammatical points – but my mind is in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
When the recent school term began, I was given a new load of Friday classes to take over for Anna, a teacher who recently quit to return back to the States. There are now classes of cheerful 4-6 year olds, quiet 9-11 year old girls, rambunctious but smart 7-9 year old boys and mostly fun 14 year olds.
I taught that new class of 4-6 year olds for the first time the other day and was startled at the uncanny resemblance between the memory of my Italian/Guatemalan brother at age 4 and this little Japanese boy. It was no matter, however – we had shapes and colors to learn. Professionalism, people. One by one, I invited my students to the blackboard to draw the shape I called out. First, Rina drew a delicate triangle and then burly Shin strode up to scrawl a boxy circle. When I turned to Reisuke to invite him up next, I saw that he was naked from the waist down.
The effect was more frightening than startling, annoying, or amusing – this is also something my brother would have pulled at the age of 4, shortly before he took to gleeful flight. Something had to be done – and quickly!
I cleared my throat. “Reisuke,” I said gently and mimed pulling up shorts. “Pants … okay?”
Reisuke giggled and, with some regret, pulled up his shorts. Thus inspired, Shin then yanked down his own kit. As Shin reminds me of no one, it was easier to jump on the matter quickly – “Shin! Pants! Now!” He, too, giggled and got decent.
An alternative course of action, to be sure, would have been to hold a vote in light of this wave of de-pantsing:
“It appears that we’ve had a de-pantsing movement here today. All in favor of ‘pants-on’, raise your hand. Nobody? Nobody? I see. All right, all in favor of ‘pants-off’, raise your hand. What do you know? The exposed winkies have it.”
Later, I taught the 14 year olds. Despite our getting along quite well, towards the end of class, Miko threw her head back and wailed, “Anna, come back!”
She wailed this in English, mind you, so it is fairly certain that she wanted me to understand. Earlier in the class, she and her friend were talking about my clothes in Japanese, giggling when I said, “Pardon me, now?” with all the severity of one of my own teachers. There’s nothing wrong with talking about someone’s clothes (especially when they describe your new red belt as “kakkoii”) but to talk in front of someone as if they’re not there – and to do so, loudly, while someone is trying to teach – is just plain rude.
“Pardon me?” I asked again, after her English outburst. She giggled.
“No, no,” she said, her eyes wide with false earnestness. “I love Ribu!”
Little liar. Hell no – you leave class last. And luckily for both of us, you resemble no one I know.
P.S. – a box of Pocky Sticks goes to the reader who can find the hidden non-Karate Kid movie reference in this post. Because it’s my day off and I can offer treats if I want to.