Drums please! *drum beat* Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah!
Think back if you will to your school days. Which, for some of you youngsters, you’re still in. It’s that last day before summer vacation. Your very last class. The teachers words melt into nothing as you stare at the clock. Just fifteen more minutes! The kid in front of you farts and blames it on you. Ordinarily, you would extract revenge, but not today! Today is special! Ten more minutes! You and your buddies exhange looks. No one’s said a word but you’ve all just arranged where and when you are going to meet later today. Five more minutes! The girl besides you hands you a note – “Wanna make out in the bathrooms afterschool?” Fuck you trick, ask me later….IT’S SUMMERTIME! You leave school for a whole 2 months!
“No more homework, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks” – I believe that’s how it went. Everyday is nothing but sleeping in late, meeting your friends by the pool, or the beach, or by Cletus’s front porch to do some good whittlin’, whatever floats your boat. Sure, there’s summer homework or whatever nonsense, but *everybody* knows you’re going to blow it off until the absolute last week/day/hour/pay the honor students to do it before summer vacation ends. Now is your time. Now is…summertime. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The way summer should be, right?
Nuh-uh sucker, not in Japan. Why do those loafish activities when you can continue to work!
The kids actually do get a break from classes. But they still come to school everyday (Saturdays too…sometimes Sundays as well) for their sports clubs. It’s hotter than slow-roasted Death, especially in Kyoto, and there the kids are, out in the sun, laboring away in their baseball/track and field/soccer/tennis/whatever club. …And Japanese people wonder why they have smaller bodies, YOU ARE KFC-HONEY ROASTING YOURSELVES.
As a result, all of my kids develop these wonderful tans that make me completely forget who they are.
Student: Hey! Hey teacher! Hey, it’s me!
Me: ….OH MY GOD DARKNESS IS SPREADING!
Me: ……….Oh. Oh! It’s you, Tanaka-san. Heh, didn’t recognize you for a second there.
(Cultural note – when some of the girls get older, they’ll walk around under umbrellas to actually prevent themselves from getting a tan. Cause in Japan, White is Right.)
And while the kids are out there sweating and getting cooked in the Colonel’s special seven sauces, the teachers are right along besides them. Well, in the air-conditioned teachers room, but they’re out there in spirit damnit. Not even the teachers get a break during the summer. Before classes let out, I actually decided to pay attention to the daily morning meeting for once. The principal stood up and said something to the effect of “Now, summer vacation is coming up. Of course, you are all entitled to your paid vacation time, and you’re more than welcome to take it. But, the kids will be coming here everyday for their sports clubs, and I think they might be happy to come to school and see your smiling face. …Of course, it’s not *mandatory* to come to school, as I said, please, if you want to take your paid vacation, please do so. But I do think the students would be happy to see all your smiling faces over the summer.”
Run this through the Japanese Indirectness Translator…
“Come to work. Everyday. The kids will suffer, we will suffer, we will all suffer together splendidly. If you are not suffering, you are not Japanese.”
Of course it’s not all bleak. I sometimes see kids coming and going to various fun events, so they do get somewhat of a break. I even caught two of my students from the Ghetto School on a date at a fireworks show. …….And I soooooooooooooooooooooo wanted to ruin their date too, sweet sweet revenge for all the embarrassing girlfriend/sex questions they hit me with on a daily basis. “Hey Mr….Ms…..OH MY GOD ARE YOU ON A DATE? HAVE YOU KISSED YET? WHEN’S THE WEDDING? I’M COMING, RIGHT?!” But again I decided to play Mr. Nice Teacher and not ruin their shit. Night-time fireworks on a hot summer night, sounds almost magical doesn’t it? Last thing they needed was their big black English teacher jumping in the middle of that.
But I did make sure to snap a picture of them holding hands with my camera phone. Blackmail material – you can never have too much! *thumbs up*
As an assistant English teacher, having no classes or sports club responsibilites, my job shifts to the Board of Education, where I spend seven hours gazing lifelessly into a computer screen, and having the 34,947th conversation (since morning) about how hot it is with the office lady who sits next to me (then in the winter, Japanese people will constantly talk about how cold it is. The Circle of Life). Oh yeah, they also ask me every 5.2 seconds if I’m going back to America this summer. Nope. Japan’s hot, isn’t it? Yep. Unfortunately, there are no news crews around to ask us if it’s hot. ……..Yet.
Conversation isn’t just limited to “it’s hot”, no no. Interesting point about Az # 43 – I’m allergic to fish. Deathly allergic. I eat it, and my throat swells up, I can’t breathe, and I die allergic. Just the smell of fresh fish is enough to send my skin crawling allergic.
…Boy, did I come to the right country, huh? Two years later, I’m mildly surprised I’m still alive.
Anyway, the fish allergy is something the Japanese have the hardest time comprehending, because you know, all humans eat fish (I actually was hit with this at one point). The BOE Division Chief in particular couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the concept.
Chief: You’re allergic to fish? All fish?
Me: Yep. If I eat fish, I die. I kind of don’t want to die, so…
Me: Wouldn’t eat that even if it didn’ t kill me, but yep.
Me: Well, no…
Me: But I hate shrimp.
Chief: …..Oh. ….Crab?
This conversation takes place once every two weeks.
Every now and then, he’ll just randomly throw a sea-faring animal at me, maybe he’s trying to catch me off-guard or something. My general rule of eating is if it doesn’t walk on land or fly in the air, I’m not putting it in my mouth. He, much like many other Japanese people, just can’t comprehend this. “Fish is delicious!” they say. Well, good for you. Hey, me not eating fish is good for *you*! More for you. And it means more steak for me too. Hey, everybody’s a winner.
When it’s not about the fish allergy, then it’s random assorted questions about America. Which usually have to do with the weather. But occasionally they cover other things too. Which is kind of cool, but really show just how sheltered/isolated Japan is. Like when the office lady next to me was talking about the various different fireworks festivals that were happening in Japan. She turned to me, and asked, “Oh, does America have fireworks too?”
…………..OF COURSE WE HAVE FIREWORKS TOO! WE HAVE *LOTS* OF THINGS! WE’RE NOT GILLIGAN’S ISLAND!
And y’know what? Dare I say it, our fireworks are actually *better*. We’re America. We’re very good at blowing shit up, as many other countries can attest to.