On Saturdays, in Utajo, I teach two classes of kids. First come the 3 year olds, who are fresh and chubby – dripping snot as they play with alphabet blocks, wriggling in their parents’ laps and howling what they think are the words to the songs we sing. Next, there are the 7 year olds, who giggle, cheekily shout out the Japanese words for objects when I drill them with noun flashcards, call my board drawings “creepy” and try to erase the feet off of my stick figures when my back is turned. They enjoy the games we play in class but cannot be stopped there. They are creative masterminds, you see, and must be allowed to explore their own powers. Imagine my pride as a teacher: my kids at Utajo have recently pooled their considerable talents and invented a whole new game of their own: “Stare at Liv Through the Classroom Window as She Sets Up For Class and Run Away Shrieking When She Catches You.” Pure genius – deceptively simple yet rife with layers of underlying complexity that are constantly built upon, never failing to create full minutes of pure, wholesome entertainment. Each week, I watch the evolution of this brilliant game with a keen interest. As the teacher of these young minds, you see, I have a duty.
Yesterday, a new and thrilling twist in the game developed which I must report for posterity, since I feel sure that “Stare at Liv Through the Classroom Window as She Sets Up for Class and Run Away Shrieking When She Catches You” could very well be the next “Hide-and-Seek.” I sat, cross-legged, on the carpeted floor and gathered my materials for class; a handful of flashcards (today’s lesson: junk food), a bell, a witch hand puppet. As I checked Wee Ann Coulter for any injuries from the previous week’s class, there came the familiar knock on the glass. I swiveled my neck to catch the tops of Yoshi and Takashi’s bristly heads, seconds before they disappeared in a fit of giggles. I went back to my work, keeping my ears perked for any new taps that might demand my attention but the glass was uncharacteristically quiet. I shuffled the junk food cards and checked the clock – 5 minutes before class was to start. This should have been peak Liv-Spying time and yet, the little rascals were nowhere to be found. I peeked around the corner and saw three of them – Yoshi, Takashi and Hitomi – hunched over a desk in the reception area, thick in a conspiratorial hush.
Fine by me. I lounged on the classroom cushions, wondering if I had enough time to do a couple of stretches.
A sharp tap came on the glass window to my left, and I got into game mode – I turned to look, prepared to catch another little imp as he scampered off but this time, my attention was drawn to a piece of notebook paper that was pressed to the window by a small, splayed hand. Puzzled by this new development, I peered closer and saw that on the paper was scribbled a stick figure of a man who appeared to be exploding from between the legs, as evidenced by dozens of ink scribbles. The muffled giggles from behind the piece of paper piqued my curiosity further – was I missing something here? It looked as though Yoshi was showing me a picture of a man who had just suffered an attack of explosive diarrhea. As if in answer, a second sheet of paper was pressed against the glass, probably by Takashi. This sheet of paper showcased a stick figure of a grinning man standing next to what could only be a massive pile of fecal matter – and just in case I couldn’t tell, the word “unchi*” was helpfully scrawled next to the pile in hiragana.
The giggles were growing louder – because I am actually 20 years younger than the age on my gaijin card, I, too, had begun to snicker, my stifled laughter mingling with that of the little scamps crouching beneath the window. They were too proud of themselves – they couldn’t contain it any longer and burst, popping up to make sure that I knew the drawings had been done by them (and here I’d thought it had been the principal). And then we laughed, my friends. Oh, how we laughed!
Poo – the great equalizer. It brings all ages and all races together.