Nihon: "He hopes you'll come."
Jeff: "Uhh... no..?"
Mr. Nihon: "But.. he HOPES.. you'll come."
Jeff: "OK. Let me think... (J pauses for .1 second)
No. Sorry! Maybe next year."
Nihon really pisses me off. I call him Mr. Nihon ('Mr.
Japan') because he is the living embodiment of everything
that is frustrating
to foreigners in Japan. The hesitation. The misdirection.
The "I do these things this way because 'I am Japanese'"
mentality. We have a history of diagreements and minor confrontations
and he is also the teacher who caught me teaching my English
club how to gamble
two years ago. His English is at an unfortunately low
level (I remember half of my old English Club students
had better English than him) and for that reason I intimidate
him at the same time I aggravate him. Perhaps our past has
made him take such an aggressive posture in this issue.
backtrack a bit. Give you some background.
visiting Seiwa to help the English recitation conest participants
and Mr. Nihon tells me about this visit to an elementary
school after I arrive at the school on rotation in a couple
of weeks. The problem is that they have chosen Seiwa's Sports'
Day for my visit.
the thing. I'm supposed to visit
elementary schools on test days (when the junior high
schools I'm at have no classes). In conference with Glen,
I realized that this is what we agreed to when we signed
our contracts for the next year. We agreed that we would
visit these schools once per term if at all. Our first priority
was the JHS. The whole point of our visits only being on
test days was so that we wouldn't be missing anything at
the JHSs. This year on Sports' Day, the entire school is
being bussed to a stadium. It's a big deal for the school
and the students, usually sports days are just held on their
small track. So, when Mr. Nihon brought up the elementary
school visit, I naturally voiced this objection.
Nihon: But Mr. T says that you can go on any day we don't
have classes. (he smiles, the little bastard)
was visiting Seiwa today to help the students prepare for
the recitation contest in a couple weeks and all our time
together is valuable. They have juku after schools so we
practice all we can before they have to go. And Mr. Nihon
comes into the meeting room every 10 minutes wanting me
to get on the phone with my supervisor and once with the
elementary school principal.
supervisor was very puzzled as to why I was at that particular
school, off rotation, in the first place. Especially when
I was supposed to be at a different school across the Kinokawa
River (that's far). I told him what I was doing and he asked
if I had asked permission to leave from the principal of
my other school before I left and I said, no, in fact, I
hadn't. He started the
in this entry). I then told
him that I didn't see the principal when I left, but I got
the permission of the head JTE to leave (actually I had
just told him I was leaving). He said that that was
probably OK, and he asked me why I was giving Mr. Nihon
shit about going to the elementary school (not exactly
in those words). I told him that I thought he told us
that sports festival days and culture days were really important
for us to go (true, he has denied us taking days off
on those days before) and so I thought it didn't qualify
as a 'no class' day. It's obviously important to the school
so we shouldn't be made to miss it to act like a buffoon
for hundreds of elementary school kids.
been thinking more and more about why I didn't like
that elementary school visit lately... it has to do
with the fact that the kids just don't know how to treat
a foreigner like an actual human being. Well, that's how
I felt, anyway. No effort was made by the teachers to reprimand
kids for manhandling the foreigner. I guess I would feel
better about it if the teachers of each class I was going
to visit would lay out some ground rules. Write some mighty
commandments on the blackboard before I got there that should
be obeyed or the wrath of the foreigner will be visited
Thou shalt not touch the foreigner on the buttocks
2) Thou shalt not karate chop the foreigner in the groin
(my friend Glen has an interesting story about this)
3) Thou shalt not pull out the foreigner's arm hair
4) Thou shalt not dogpile on top of the foreigner
5) thou shalt not poke the foreigners large eyes
list could go on and on.
made several calls to the principal of the elementary school
coming back to me each time to relay his pleas. Eventually
Mr. Nihon came out with his dictionary and told me that
the aforementioned principal was just about demanding
for me to go to his school.
managed to haul me away from practice three or four times
before I asked him if we could handle this after the two
students (whose names are Natsuko and Mariko, by the
way) left for juku. This is a major issue for him, he
really wants me to go to this school visit and I'm not sure
why. After Natsuko and Mariko left it was resolved that
I would go on a day when I had few classes (a rarity
at that school). I reluctantly agreed. If I flat-out
refused that it would have cause much more trouble.
I got back home I talked with Glen about this and then with
the other city ALTs later. I had set a precedent. I had
agreed to go to an elementary school on a normal day when
I had actual classes. Glen and I saw the problem almost
immediately after that realization. This could quickly escalate
into a once-a-week e-school visit, which we most certainly
did not want. G and I thought we should put our foot down
immediately to avoid non-test-day visits. I was not shocked,
but a little annoyed that the female ALTs across town didn't
share Glen's and my feelings on the matter.
can get quickly out of hand unless we (the ALTs) set some
ground rules for the frequency of these visits. Don't get
me wrong, I love kids. Just as long as they're my own.