Friday, April 27, 2007

Pretty Terrible Alright aka PTA Japanese style

Seems like a long time since I have written anything here. . . writing has sort of suffered the same fate as my "I will work out every day" and "I will experiment with cooking new and tasty foods" and "I'll make weekly menus" and . . . well most of my good intentions to do anything on a regular basis. Kids get sick, visas expire, applications for permanent residency must be submitted (which means gathering a pile of paper work from official offices all over this island nation) and the ultimate death knell for personal plans and "me time", the husband gets sick and takes a week off work to recover at home.

Oh, and the start of a new school year is always loads of fun. I don't know what it would entail in the U.S. (my Native country) but here in Japan it meant that I got to go to parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings and spend many evenings labeling small objects with my children's names. And this year I got to sew "loops" onto nearly every piece of clothing my Miss 4 wears to Pre-school--except for her socks! The school has them wear their uniforms to school, then upon arriving at the school every morning the kids change out of their uniforms into their gym shorts and smocks. . . so everything has to have a big "loop" on it so that they can hang things in their cubbies. I'm not so sure about all this time being spent on changing into and out of clothing. . . seems like one sure way to kill about an hour of the school day.

Although, I have to admit, the pride and confidence that radiated from Miss 4 the first morning here at home when she declared herself able to "do it myself" when it came time to don the pleated wool skirt, tights, long sleeve blouse, jacket, and bow tie was something I curled right up to and basked in--while it lasted. She did end up nearly strangling herself with the bow tie and in a towering rage threatened to "cut it up". But otherwise, she looked so grown up and determined attiring herself all by herself like that!

So. Currently my husband (who has influenza B) is out with Miss 9 (who also has Influenza B) at the local pediatrician. I think it is cute that my husband is too busy to go to a regular doctor. He gets seen by the pediatrician too! He left complaining about the cute little kitten holding a balloon on his patient card and I had to smile. . . I mean, "Honey, she is a doctor for children after all!" And Miss 4 passed out on the carpet while watching Madeline on the T.V. for a short nap. So I decided to just sit and do it. Blog something.

There hasn't been anything terribly exciting in my life recently. There was the PTA meeting. It was the first I had ever been to as when Miss 9 started elementary school I was working full-time and unable to go to them and then when we moved here last year I was just too overwhelmed by everything to subject myself to that kind of thing. For those of you who live in your native countries to help you get an idea of what a PTA meeting for me in Japan is like, first imagine the longest and most boring meeting you've ever been forced to attend. Then imagine the whole thing was conducted in a language that to you sounded like one word of English mixed in with the sound of nails on a chalk board (I'm trying to get you to my level of frustration with my lack of Japanese conversational skill). Next, imagine that everyone at the meeting didn't want to volunteer to do a single thing and the fact that you didn't understand what the hell was going on just looked like a bad attempt to get off easy in their eyes.

Yes, they actually nearly nominated me head of my class committee. And mothers actually did play rock, paper, scissors to decide who HAD to fill certain positions. And--no one laughed.

I, of course, sat with my committee for the full 40 minutes that we were supposed to--mapping out our plan of action for the year. No one introduced themselves to me. No one looked at me. They talked and laughed for a good 40 minutes while I played with my electronic dictionary and kept raging to myself "I am NOT a moron. I just can't speak Japanese. I am NOT a moron." Then I took out my glasses cleaning kit, took off my glasses, sprayed one side of the lenses and then, without flipping them over as I didn't want it to drip all over me, proceeded to spray the other side and since I am blind as a dead mole without my glasses I leaned in and ended up spraying myself directly in the eyes. My eyes instantly teared up and I think I made some strangled noises indicating great pain. Of course for the class PTA meeting we were all sitting in one large circle. . . when I put my glasses back on I could see several amused glances being cast my way. When the tears finally cleared up the lady next to me finally spoke to me.

"What country are you from?"


"Oh. America. I have an exchange student from, how do you say Kangoku?"


"Yes, from Kangoku. Your Japanese is much better than it was last year."

"Oh?" this one threw me and I must have expressed all my confusion plainly on my face as she finally laughed gently and said, "I called you once last year for the class phone list."

Oooooooohhhhhh. One of those calls. How embarrassing. I wonder how much I had not understood that time.

"Your Japanese is much better now."

"Thank you?" (you have to ask it like a question when it just seems like an absurdly apparent bald faced lie kind of compliment.)

"Can you understand?" she asked while waving her hand in the direction of the still laughing and speed talking other mothers on our committee.

"No. Not when people talk that fast."

"But . . . if. . . they. . . talk. . . slowly. . . and . . . . clearly?"

"Yes. Then I can understand."

It was kind of a funny conversation, a bit irritating in places, but the major feeling I came away with was happiness. Someone had finally talked TO me! And thanks to her I found out a way to contribute to the PTA this year. I will go to the school once in July and once in February and I will help clean windows. I will bring a zoukin (a Japanese dust cloth) and I will clean class room windows.