One of the worst/funniest things about working with middle school aged Japanese kids is their obsession with finding me and or inquiring about a girlfriend. It is not common for men and women to talk in Japan. The exceptions are professional relationships (to an extent) and (mostly) intimate relationships. Therefore if I am ever EVER seen with a woman it is assumed she must be my girlfriend by student and staff alike, but mostly students. Contextual example: when Katie came to visit me she had the privilege/horror of visiting fair Tanigawa. Instantly she was mobbed by some girls and they started yelling, “Girlfriend? Girlfriend?” I explained several times Katie was not my girlfriend. To which some of my students sighed and perked up. I can only assume because they thought they still had a chance with me [Ick!] Well, this trend continues. But they have developed far more cunning tricks as they have learned more English.
Today 5 foreign university students (3 Nepalese men, 1 Taiwanese woman, and 1 German woman) came to Tanigawa to talk to the kids. The university students spoke in Japanese, which TOTALLY stole my geijin thunder. The German woman was fluent in English, German, Japanese, French, Latin and one other language which I have forgotten. She was also the more “foreign” of the two women having red hair and light brown eyes. Her name was Jannette Fuk. “Fuk” is very easy for the Japanese to say, “フック”. Needless to say, my kids swarmed her, and, also, me. It started with the usual round of “GIRLFRIEND? GIRLFRIEND?” “No, no, no… still no… WE JUST MET…. NOOO!” Then they got clever. My little match makers started asking me, “Andrew, Fuk-san pretty?”[Linguistic aside: -san is an honorific title attached to the end of names, it is roughly equivalent to our use of “Mr.” “Ms/Mrs/Miss,” though –san is not gender specific] The “is she pretty” question is a difficult question. For the simple reason that she was, in fact, quite pretty. Plus the whole speaks SEVEN languages thing tends to give you a special feeling inside when you think about it, it’s not the “she can integrate and differentiate” feeling but it is up there. Yet, this question is also very loaded. And I just met the woman for crying out loud! Not to mention she is leaving for Germany tomorrow. Yet, the kids were very eager to hook us up, so any wrong answer could prove embarrassing. My response to this question in the past has been “everyone is pretty in their special way.” That wasn’t going to cut it this time, you know it, I knew it, and SHE would know it. So I changed the subject. It worked for a while but after school she stuck around and talked to the kids. She was really good with them. As I was leaving for the day, I said goodbye and there were more rounds of “GIRLFRIEND? GIRLFRIEND?” and also a few calls of “Sh-e-k-shi rei-di” [sexy lady] from the, self-described. “number one danger bad boy of Tanigawa.” As I turned the corner out of the school grounds I heard the girls around her proclaiming, “Andrew is good boy.” “Andrew is cute boy.” “Andrew is nice boy.” Then they started asking her if I was cute. Well about this time the ambulance pulled up to Tanigawa so I don’t know her response.
While all this was happening one of students punched a window and received a rather large gash on the forearm. I ran back into the building, switched into inside shoes, and talked to some students who, rather cutely, told me I couldn’t go any farther because “teacher’s only!” I reminded them I was a SENSEI(!) and they were kind of like “ohh yeah” and let me pass. The kid was okay, but taken to the hospital. But Japan does not really have private doctors because of nationalized healthcare. They just have hospitals. None of the teachers I talked to were upset so I set out for home again. I left passing Fuk to more questions of “Girlfriend?” and “Pretty Girlfriend?” While she received more sparkling endorsements of my character from 14 year olds screaming broken English from all sides: “ANDREW SUPER NICE GREAT BOY!”
It is nice to know that I have approximately 200 match makers ready to spring into an elaborate “let’s encircle and inspire via yelling” battle formation all for me. But, I mean come on, what else do you expect? I am, after all, a super nice great boy!