Thursday, October 06, 2005

I am a Japanese Schoolteacher

Some of you may have seen this, since it seems to be widely linked. It's new to me. I'm sort of hoping this doesn't turn out to be a spoof or a work of fiction. These are little stories told by a self-described "big black guy" from the U.S. who has spent the last couple of years in Kyoto, Japan, on the JET program, teaching English in three junior high schools.

Here he is trying to connect with his students:

I tried the overused peace sign along with a cheesy "Yayy!" (think of Ken's win pose from Street Fighter) but this was also met with blank stares. Ok, moving on. I tried the peace sign again, but modified the sound effect...I was thinking something along the lines of a sparkling effect, new and exciting. So I boldly thrust out my peace sign and said "Ching!" ...And here is where the girls badminton club nearly died that day from too much laughing.

Another quick Japanese lesson. I said "Ching!" thinking of a "ching!"-type sound effect. You know, like "Mr. Clean! *ching* Sparkle!" However, you don't really hear the "g" at the to Japanese ears, I said "chin"....which is slang for "penis". So, in effect, I thrust out my peace sign, and with a big toothy grin, excitedly said "penis!" to a group of 15 year old girls.

If this had been America, I'd probably be writing this from jail right now. Luckily it's Japan, where declarations of "Penis!" to underage girls is A-OK.

It took me a minute to realize what I'd said and the staggering rammifications of it all. After the girls (and subsequentially, I) recovered, I begged, I pleaded them to forget I ever said that. "I didn't mean that! That never happened! Cultural misunderstanding! PLEASE FORGET THAT! ...Don't tell your parents." They nodded OK, but I kind of knew an everlasting damage had been done.

I went back on my rounds, and as I circled back around and encountered the girls badminton club once more, they greeted me by thrusting out their peace signs, grinning heartily, and exclaiming "Chin! (penis!)"

Dear Lord, what have I done?

And here they are, trying to connect with him:

For the ichinensei, they JUST started learning English. So this means they know nothing. Well, they know "Good Morning" and "I go to school by bike", but that's about it. Some of them don't even know that. It's not a bad thing, try to think about how much Spanish/French/German you knew after 3 years of it in High School. I took HS Spanish for 3 years and all I took out of it was "Yo quiero taco bell". My apologies to Mrs. Gonzalez, Ms. Kuchinski, and Mrs. Mach.

You know what's kind of funny though? Some kids can't say "Good morning", but damn near all of them can ask if I have a big dick. Or, "bigu dikku" in Engrish.

Y'see, Japan's an island no bigger than California, where everything is filtered. There are so few foreigners here, their only impressions of things outside of Japan comes from the media. And to be honest, they don't really give a damn about anything other than America. So yeah, try to imagine a country where the perceptions of you are created by your movies, music, and MTV. And when you stop crying and shaking at the sheer horror of that thought, I'll be here waiting.

....Okay? Ok. So anyway, the whole "black men have big dicks" stereotype stretches far and wide, even to the nation's 12 year olds. Part of why I'm here is not just to kind of sort of help teach English, but to "broaden cultural perceptions". Break stereotypes, challenge preconcieved notions, all that jazz. That's good and all, but this is one stereotype I think I'm just gonna let slide.

So anyway, I get asked "bigu dikku" A LOT. Every 2-3 days in fact, which is amazing considering I got asked this question about 2-3 times *in my entire life* in America. Locker room jokes aside. How do you answer that anyway? To a 12-15 year old? I wave them off and say "No no no." Then they say "Oh, sumaru dikku?" (trans. "Small dick?") and OF COURSE that's wrong so I have to correct them. It's just a no-win stiuation.

They're not all sexual. But I gotta say, so far the best ones are.