Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Santa Jason - the drunk?

So last week was a terrible week. But this week is starting out great.

It started on Saturday with a nice get-together at my friend Rob's place out in Sada for a Hanukah celebration. About a dozen JETs and some Japanese people gathered to eat traditional foods, drink and play games. Fun was had by all and Rob and his girlfriend, Kayoko, were very gracious hosts. Rob has a pretty spiffy two story semi-detached house - one of the benefits of living out in the sticks. Pictures from the night can be seen here.

Going to the party on Saturday, where I ended up sleeping on Rob's tatami instead of heading home, meant missing a kendo tournament on Sunday. I was supposed to show up at 7am at the Jr High to get on a bus to Nita which is about 90 minutes away. I was still asleep at 7am on Sunday, considering I didn't go to bed until 4am, so I didn't show up. When I got home Sunday afternoon, there were 4 messages on my machine with no message - just calls then hang ups. I wondered about it until I got an email from one of my English teachers asking me if I was alright, as she'd come by my place at 2pm and noticed that my newspaper was still in my mailbox. Seems the Kendo team had called asking her to check on me since I didn't show up. I was resting later that day at about 5pm and a knock on my door got me out of bed. 4 or 5 of the Kendo parents were at my door, just checking to make sure I was OK. It was hard for me to explain where I'd been, so I just nodded that I was fine and all seemed well. They smiled and went home. I didn't know if I should be a bit miffed about being so closely watched, since I'd mentioned on Friday at Kendo practice that there was a chance I wouldn't make it to the Sunday event since it was so early on Sunday morning and I'd be at a party the night before. But I mentioned it to a JET friend and he said it was nice that they cared, since he could be missing three weeks and no one would notice. And I guess in light of what happened with the Kendo coach, Ishitobi sensei, the previous week (see last post), it's understandable for them to be concerned.

Monday was the start of the last full week of classes before we break for winter vacation next week. I have to be Santa three times this week at three different kindergartens. Monday was the first at Yokan yochien (Yokan kindergarten). Ironically, the Santa suit was not designed for someone Santa size, so they had to alter it making it bigger so it would fit me. I took part in a little skit about two mice, Guri and Gura, who are famous children's books characters here, that meet Santa. I bring them a cake and then dash off as I'm late. All the 3, 4 and 5-year-olds enjoyed my cameo appearance. I then came back into the room and sat in front of the gathered kids and answered questions in English as Santa. They'd ask, "Where do you live?" or "What is your favorite food?" in Japanese and I'd answer "The North Pole" or "Christmas Cake" in English and the Kindergarten teacher would translate. It was really fun and the kids were super cute. I got to hand out gift bags the teachers and parents had prepared and shake each kids hand and say "Merry Christmas" in my best Santa voice. After I left, the kids all wrote little notes and drew pictures for Santa, which the head teacher of the yochien gave me today - so how cool is that? I get to do it two more times this week in Hinomisaki and at Araki yochien. Monday afternoon all the Jr High attended a concert in the local music hall, featuring traditional Japanese instruments. It was pretty good music and the kids clapped along and enjoyed themselves.

Today was a more normal day, but I was super busy. I taught three Jr High classes in the morning, ate some rice for lunch, did my 15-minute radio show, then it was off to Araki shoogakkoo to entertain 70 3rd graders. After I introduced myself and talked about my family and San Diego a bit, we played color bingo and animal bingo and then the kids got to ask me questions. First question, almost always from a girl, is am I married/do I have a girlfriend? They proceeded to ask the accustomed questions about favorite foods, animal, how tall I am, how much do I weigh - one girl asked what job I had. I said "Ima (now)?" and she nodded, so I said, "Eigo sensei," and she seemed amused, like it was funny to her that I was getting paid to run around and teach 3rd graders how to say "purple" and "monkey." And I have to agree, that some days it is pretty funny that I get paid to do this. Then one boy asked a question that all three Japanese teachers in the room were either unable to translate or too embarrased to translate, so I just looked at him and said, "Wakari nai," which means "I don't understand" or "I don't know."

Making chit-chat to the best of my limited-Japanese abilites in the staff room before my show-stopping performance with the 3rd graders, one of the male teachers offered me some coffee and I politely declined, saying "Kohii nomimasen (I don't drink coffee)." He looked at me strange and then said something about how he thought Americans liked coffee. It's funny when one of the my likes/dislikes get extrapolated to the entire American population. I explained that many Americans do indeed like coffee, I just don't care for it - I prefer tea as a hot beverage, and Pepsi as a cold beverage. He followed the line of inquiry and asked if I liked "sake." Now sake is not only the Japanese rice wine that many of you have heard of, but osake is the Japanese word for alcohol as well, so I had to make sure which one he meant. I explained that I wasn't really a big drinker - that I had a little at the Kanpai (Cheers) but then I usually just switched to cold tea or cola. He looked puzzled and then said "Biiru" (Beer)? I shook my head no, and he laughed, saying in his best English, "That's interesting because you look like drunk." I hope he wasn't commenting on my appearance at that moment, as I'm sure I did look a bit disheveled, having just come off my scooter, and I am sporting my Santa beard right now, but it's clean and not stragely. So I took it that he meant I looked like I'm a big drinker, probably because I'm a big guy and most JETs have a reputation for enjoying alcohol.

From Santa to a drunk within a day - what a job. :)

Anyway - hope all is well where you are. If any of the SDA students are reading this, I encourage you to check out my friend and fellow JET Trevor's blog, which is an interesting read. But the real bonus is that he posts the same entries in both English and Japanese, and everyday he posts a new kanji for that day with it's meaning and reading and examples. Fun stuff to help you learn the language. I got a 98 on my first Japanese language test in the correspondence course I'm enrolled in. I missed one question. It was an open book test so no real big accomplishment, but it's good practice. My next test is due January 28th.


Anonymous said...

Man, I am bummed that I missed the party. It sounds like you all had a lot of fun. That's a bummer about the kendo thing. I think that everyone was just worried about you. My town gets the same way if I do something and miss an event (which happens from time to time.)

What is the SDA?

Anonymous said...

wOOt SDA is this place where jason sensei used to teach before he went to japan... speaking of such, would jason sensei still be interested in reading speeches from his former school?