To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Still more inappropriate conversation


Hi, all,

       My knowledge of colloquial Japanese is growing by leaps and bounds. In the last few days, more students have been trying to trick me into thinking their friends' names are silly things in Japanese. In addition to the perennial favorite, "Shit," I've recently become acquainted with Thief, Idiot, Gay, Lesbian, and Confectionery (the last, Kinako, a soy powder applied to a mochi and bean paste sweet, at least sounds plausibly like a girl's name). Fortunately, the poker face hasn't hit Japan yet, so it's easy to tell when I'm being gas-lighted. Unfortunately, I caused one girl a bit of teasing. I told Queer that her real name, Naomi, was also an American name; unfortunately, Queer is at 14 a most unJapanese 5'10", so her buddies jumped on this new info to tease her even more that she can't really be Japanese. Thief may forever be "Thief" because although I've asked her twice I can't for the life of me remember her real name. Her best friend (I think; they're first years, only been here a month so I don't know much about them) is a really pretty and friendly girl who goes to one of my Japanese friends for English cram school--her English is excellent, much better than most high school kids; I call her "Bunny-chan" because her ponytails really look the ears of a Dutch lop-eared rabbit--although I do remember her name (Hiroe: "Hee-ro-eh), it's not an attractive one (so few here are) so I've stuck with "Bunny-chan" so far. I also have a Bunny-chan at my other school (very cute kid, which is to say homely as hell--big rodenty cheeks and huge projecting incisors). I'd been thinking of her as "Bunny-chan" for a long time, but it only came out when she was calling her friends silly "chan" names to tease them, and when she seemed to get a little vicious about it, I decided to give her a name. Then things got creepy. She didn't understand "bunny" (though they all know the English word "rahbeeto"), so one of her friends helpfully translated: "Sexy. Like Purayboi bunny." Oh, boy. That I don't need. I said in English, "No, not Playboy bunny. 'Bunny' means 'rabbit,' because rabbits are very cute." Of course, she saw right through to the heart of the matter and just said "Big teeth" in Japanese. Fortunately, she didn't seem offended. What else is weird? One girl asked me as I was walking around today, "Do you like girls?" I have no idea what the hell she meant, but when I answered that I wasn't gay, it became pretty clear that that wasn't what she had meant. Very strange.
       And I finally told someone that this is a damned silly country. This as the boys track team was doing an especially outlandash silly walk past the teachers' room. The track team excercises here would put John Cleese to shame. I asked one of the English teachers, "So you don't think that's at all ridiculous?" Around school, especially when it rains, we've got kids practicing musical instruments in all sorts of hidden nooks. There are ping pong tables set up in the halls, and on the floor below these kids are running soccer drills down the corridor. As another group from the track team jogs around the silly-walkers, I can hear basketballs on the floor above me. The basketball team is, apparently for conditioning, dribbling while doing a slow goose-step. As I turn a corner, a tennis ball flies past, just missing me. Around the next corner, shuttlecocks bounce off the windows. The girls' something team is jumping up the stairs, one at a time, each girl with another on her back. Later, they sillywalk up the stairs, still carrying their friends. The ping pong team jogs by (why?). More basketball players lie face down on the floor, flopping just like fish in the bottom of a boat. In the gym, the volleyball team sends four girls at a time running backwards and bent over toward the net; after they pass under it, they begin to run erect, but still backwards, then they run back on hands and feet like monkeys or hyaenas. Then half the girls do handstands, and while the other girls hold their feet they traverse then entire length of the courst walking on their hands. The stuff you see kids doing around here after school is just surreal--it's like walking around in the background of a scene in a David Lynch movie.
       As you can see, it's not hard to find entertainment around here. At work, whenever it's between or after classes and the students are around, I just walk around to random places in the school, and I never fail to find something goofy to amuse me or some kid to bring a smile to my face.

O genki de

Peter

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