To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Mash notes

Hi, all,

      Last week, when I wrote about the "mash note" I'd received, I didn't actually have it in front of me. Junka and Yoshiko had left it on my desk after I left, and one of the other teachers picked it up and brought it to me at the teachers' party that night. I read it, but then I left it at the restaurant. The next day, I was sick, but I called the school and asked my supervisor to call the restaurant and have them save it for me; the day after that, when I was still sick, my supervisor picked it up and left it on my desk. It's more elaborate than I'd remembered. It's a big cardboard Jack O'Lantern all painted up, with the mouth saying "HAPPY HALLOWEEN DEAREST PETER." It's covered with real leaves, which, because they haven't turned yet here, are painted in fall colors. There's another smaller Jack O'Lantern stuck to it, and for some reason an eruption of newspaper strips (from an English-language paper, yet) in one corner. Taped to it is the note. It's not really a mash note, of course--to begin with, the pumpkin's a collaboration from two girls, although the note is really just from one of them. I don't want you to think I'm making fun of them. I'm not at all. I'm describing this because it's the sweetest thing I've seen in a long time--I can't tell you how huge my smile is right now as I look at this. I'd scan in the Jack O'Lantern, but it's too 3D and a bit fragile (some of the leaves and twigs have already come off). The note says:

(smiley face with arms and legs)
Dearest Peter (heart)
Hello! How are you? I am fine very much! Thank you for Halloween's snack. I like "KitKat" very much. I ate it yesterday. So I am very happy! I come home, first, maybe I'll eat KitKat.

Yoshiko and I like speaking English. I'm sorry that I didn't say "Thank you for English speach contest." So I am saying!
Thank you very much! I enjoyed it with you. I like you very much.

I must study more and more! But I'm tired very much. Help me! Let's talk together!

I want to know about you, America, your
(crossed-out attempt at spelling "hedgehog," followed by phonetic "Honey" in katakana alphabet, followed by small drawing of hedgehog with arrows pointing to it saying "this," in case I can't read katakana, I suppose) and everything!! Please tell me. I'll tell you about me.

Keeping good smiling! See you,

From Junka

Happy Halloween!

When I was nine years old, I go to Canada for a month. There are Halloween season. So I exit when I hear about Halloween.
("exit" I'm reading as "get excited")

If I ever had a kid this cute, I'd be the happiest parent in the world! And usually her English, both spoken and written, is much better (her mother's an English teacher, and a good friend of my Japanese teacher and some of the other adults I know around a town). I'm sure she just spun this off the top of her head, but most of the other kids would work for an hour and still not come up with anything this clear. On the back of the pumpkin it just says the two girls' names.

      When I got in this morning, hidden under some other stuff in my in box was another note:

Dear Peter,

How are you? I'm very exiting
("exciting" for "excited" is my favorite common mistake--kids always tell me how exciting they are to talk to me). Please tell me. Who are you? I want you (heart)

From Aki (heart)

I want to ("thke" and "give me" crossed out) take KitKat! Please! come on!!

Unfortunately, we have a glut of Akis at the moment, so I don't know who this is from yet, but it's also sweet. It's very safe to assume that she (and it is a girl's name) has no idea what "I want you" means. I don't think she really wants anything more than another candy bar.

      Speaking of cute kids, I helped out at a local international club's Halloween yesterday. It was for about 120 first through third graders (maybe a few fourth graders), and they were also pretty irresistible. Some of the homemade costumes were great. My vote for best costume was for a pair of girls (friends, not sisters) who were just wearing several layers of roughly cut squares of material draped over them to different lengths. It probably took only a few minutes to cut them and cut head holes, but the way the different layers looked and hung was quite classy. There were also a pair of brothers in Santa Claus suits; many witches, both Japanese and Brothers Grimm style; a few characters from Japanese folk tales; trash-bag ghosts; and, of course, Pikachus. My job was to get kids to say anything that sounded even vaguely like "trick or treat" and then give them candy. Next to me was a booth for bobbing for persimmons (apples being expensive here, and everybody's yard is overflowing with persimmons right now--they're the Japanese zucchini). Persimmons are pretty firm; I don't know how many baby teeth were lost in the course of the day. There were also a haunted house, balloon shaving (have you ever heard of this? The Japanese tell me it's very American. I hope they note for the future that kids this age are not coordinated enough to shave balloons with straight edge razors), and two very solidly built pinatas. Nothing says fun like giving a blindfolded seven-year old a stick in a crowded room and telling him to swing away. Every time candy would fall, this one overfed little monster would dive on top of whoever got to the candy first and try to pry it away from him or her, and I got to try out the "how to yell at bad-mannered children" lesson I'd received before I went to elementary school the first time (I haven't needed it there).

      Oh, yes, last week I mentioned that I'd pretended to think one boy's name was "Kuso" ("shit," but it's not as strong as the English word) and called him "Kuso-kun" throughout the class ("kun" being the honorific for boys and close male friends) because he'd tried to tell me his classmate's name was "Kuso." I'd wondered afterward if that was entirely appropriate (I would not have done it in class with either of the other two teachers, just with this one--of course, in either of the other two's classes, no kid would have dared to say "kuso"), so today I asked that teacher if what I'd said was inappropriate. With a big grin, he said, "Actually, yes. But in my classroom, it's OK. I also call that boy 'kuso.'" I said, joking about another teacher, my fairly strict supervisor, "so I shouldn't say that in Yamada-sensei's class." Bigger grin: "Shhhh! Shhhh!." Another (young) teacher asked what the shhhhshing was for, and he told her in English, "Ahhh. Secret." So if you ever find yourself teaching in a Japanese junior high school, don't address the children in Japanese as "little shit." Unless, of course, the little #§&¥ really begs for it!

      As you can tell, I'm having a great time here. I even like the little #§&¥. I hope you're having as much fun back in the real world.



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