Kids Say the Darndest Things: Japan Edition

I realized that recently my blogs have been somewhat depressing and not related to the reason I’m in Japan (which is teaching English, if you forgot). For this reason, I’ve decided to share some of the daily perks of being a teacher in Japan.

So first of all, like I’ve said a million times, Japanese kids are the cutest. My favorites are the first graders. The new school year starts in March, so there are quite a few new little kiddos I have yet to meet! I have had the pleasure of teaching the first graders at one of my elementary schools twice now though, so naturally we’re BFFs. The last time I was there, the kids asked me if I dyed my hair. When I said, “No,” one girl ask if I was the same Kori as last time. Yea. Then a boy asked me how to say teeth. I LOVE FIRST GRADERS.

I also love first graders in junior high, which are actually 7th graders. I know most of these weirdos already because I taught at their elementaries, but it’s been really fun getting to know them on a different level. Before I only saw them once or twice a month and now I see them every week! Sometimes three times! WOO! I’m probably way more excited about that than they are, though.

I have this one kid who went to a school that I did not teach 6th graders at, so he’s relatively new to me. The first time I taught his class, I read his name from the seating chart because we were learning the alphabet, and I used his name as an example for a word that starts with “R.” I don’t know what it is about kids, but they love it when you know their names. So, of course, when I said his name he instantly fell in love with me. I knew it was true when he started spelling “SEX” to me every time he saw me. (Side note: If there is one word Japanese people know how to spell in English, it’s sex. Who knows why.) Anyway, I ate lunch with his class recently, and he greeted me at the door with a big, “It’s KORI!” Then he told me to go sit by his desk, but unfortunately for him, the teacher gave me a seat near the front of the room. No matter, little R came over and sat in someone else’s seat. And of course he started talking about sex again.

I do this thing where I pretend like I can’t speak Japanese. I can understand it, but I can’t speak it. Sorry. This works for the older kids, but only because I’ve told them that from the beginning. The 7th graders, on the other hand, know me from elementary when they didn’t know English, when I had to speak to them in Japanese. They don’t like the non-Japanese speaking junior high me. So they all beg me to speak Japanese, and I sort of give in because they’re cute and actually talk to me.

Back to the story, little R was blabbering on about this and that and sex. I told him not to say that, and he asked why. “気持ち悪い!” (kimochi warui=gross or bad feeling. If I could choose one word to describe junior high kids in Japan, it would be this. Or KIMOI. It has a stronger feeling). Another kid asked me if I like milk. “Definitely not,” I said and asked if he wanted my carton. Little R did. Of course he did. So I gave it to him. The other kid freaked out and thought it was all a joke. But little R took my milk and lunch time began. The girls at my table were laughing and saying how weird little R is. Especially because he came back to my table, not once, but twice to try to return my milk. He even asked me from his table if it was okay to accept it. I insisted I didn’t need it, so I guess he drank it. Whatever. After the kids finish their lunches, they’re allowed to talk to their friends at other tables. Little R came back. He said, “It’s KORI!” again. This time I said, “Who are you!?”

He looked straight at me, with the most serious tone, and said, “コリ先生、英語わかんないって。日本語で言って。”

“Miss Kori, I said I don’t understand English. Say it in Japanese.”

Ok. I translated. “お前誰?”

I don’t know what I did, but he got (playfully?) mad and said I was annoying and that he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. He didn’t leave though. He stood and sulked behind the laughing girls who thought my response was hilarious. I said I was sorry, but he told me to never talk to him again. I said okay.

A little later, I caught him scowling, and I asked if he was mad at me. He said very. So I apologized, the whole time thinking this was hilarious. After the bell rang, I left the classroom and discovered him in the hallway. I told him we were friends, but he said we weren’t. SO SAD. We passed the naughtiest 7th grader, who I’m sure will make a reappearance, and we greeted each other. He told me little R said he loves me. I think I’ve officially broken my first Japanese heart.

Other than that, my most exciting moments probably happen when I teach the 9th graders. Most of these kids talk to me, and there are even a few who willing approach me to practice their English. What I like most about this age group is that they know the most English, and they like to practice weird things they’ve learned. One day a student I was thought was creepy but later decided was just pubescent told me, in English, that he’s married. A few days later, after I taught him the meaning of wife, he said at the end of our lesson, “My wife is a beautiful woman.”

I laughed. The grammar was perfect, and his random English outburst caught me off guard. The kids around him asked what was going on and he translated for them. Perfect. He didn’t just learn a weird phrase. He studied it and knew what it meant. He’s kind of up there on my list now. But mostly because he once talked to me for an hour after school in the teacher’s room.

Little things happen like that a lot now. I’ll be eating lunch with students and out of nowhere someone will say, “Do you know One Direction?” or “This dish is made out of fish,” and often a good English conversation follows. I’m seriously going to bawl when these 9th graders graduate to high school. I adore so many of them.*

I don’t know, maybe it just feels nice or whatever, but imagining being popular among junior high kids makes me happy. Even if it is a little weird. Could you imagine if I was this popular with junior high kids when I was actually in junior high. Man, that would have been great.

I think I’m going to start doing little weekly kid updates. Let me know if you like these! じゃね!

 

*Since starting this post, some of the kids have gotten a little weird. Recently, various body parts and bodily functions have become more exciting than boy bands and school lunch. I’ll keep ya updated.

Kori in Korea: This is So Not Japan

Much to my mother’s disappointment, I went to Korea over Golden Week. Let me tell you, I was super excited, and the fact that it was sort of a secret made me all the more anxious to go. I left Tuesday night of GW for Seoul with the one and only Anya, and we stayed for about a week. Boy, was that too much time.

I’m not saying Korea wasn’t fun. Looking back, I really did enjoy it. But because we stayed in a hostel with some rather inconsiderate girls and because I don’t speak Korean, it was an interesting experience. On top of the lack of sleep and language barrier, Korea just simple is nothing like Japan. I’ve grown to love Japan, despite its quirks, and Korea just doesn’t live up (in my eyes). So with that, I would like to show you a few pictures from my trip and explain why the K and the J are so very different.

Seriously, what is this?

Seriously, what is this?

1. Japan is cleaner. I will not lie to you; I’ve seen people throw empty bottles and trash into the bushes in Japan. It happens. But to counteract that, I’ve seen many more people, including security guards, cleaning staff, and even just nice old men cleaning that trash up. In Korea, apparently, people just line the buildings with their half drunken beverages. Japan:1 Korea: 0.

vacay and stuff 393

2. Korea is really into its idols. Again, I’m not saying Japan doesn’t fall victim to idol syndrome as well (the number of times I’ve seen an Arashi member on an ad for something is uncountable). BUT I’m pretty sure Korea does it better. KPOP group members sell everything from pasta to skincare. They’d probably make idols sell condoms if the country wasn’t so censored. It’s honestly a little ridiculous, but who’s complaining. Not me.

Young men dancing in Myeongdong

Youths dancing in Myeongdong

DJ Dance Party… in Myeongdong

Guess where these sexy behinds are…

3. Korea knows how to party. I’m pretty sure this kind of little “Night Festival” that was held in Myeongdong only makes the trash problem worse, but man was it fun! Dancing in what is technically a street in Seoul’s touristy shopping district was probably my favorite part of the trip. Everyone in attendance (small children and old ladies included) got down to the music spun by five DJs, and a few local dance groups used the night as practice. It was really cool see young people test out their moves in front of shop windows…and just generally check people out. Score 1 for Korea. Also, Japan sweetie, can you do more of this? Thanks.

Gyeongbokgung Palace korea 070

4. Korea has palaces. Japan has the Imperial Palace where the Emperor lives, and I’m sure it’s lovely. Unfortunately, his family lives there, so it’s like the White House. Seoul, however, is home to (I think) 3 historic palaces that you can explore. This particular one is Gyeongbokgung. It’s a huge complex featuring a museum, zodiac statues, and a new fermented clay jar exhibit (YAY!). Okay, Japan has castles, so really this isn’t that cool. And Japan has freakin’ awesome World Heritage shrines and temples. I could spend a week in Kyoto alone looking at that stuff. So in this respect, I guess Korea is a little like Japan. It’s got that whole Chinese influence thing going on, ya know? Palaces are pretty beautiful though, so if this post seems overly negative, it’s not! Ten points to Gryff…Korea! Just joking, only one point.

5. OMG PDA! I didn’t realize how weird it was not seeing people sucking each other’s faces off until I thought it was weird to see people sucking each other’s faces off*. Korea, unlike Japan, is actually pretty okay with public affection. I saw couples feeding each other at Pizza Hut, walking with their arms around each other (as opposed to the popular Japanese pinkie hold), and even lovingly making out in the street. I wanted to puke. Only joking (sort of). I think I’ve gotten really used to people keeping their hands and tongues to themselves in public, so it was very bizarre to see that again. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s probably one of those things that I would appreciate more if I wasn’t single. *exaggerated for effect

6. Man, say “excuse me” I don’t speak Korean, so I wouldn’t know what “excuse me” was if I heard it, but when people run into you or step on your feet and say nothing, you know something’s wrong. Japanese people are some of the nicest in the world I’m sure, and Korea people are just…normal I guess. Pretty American…as in there are nice people there that will help you carry your heavy bags up stairs or direct you when you look lost, but for the most part, people just carry about their lives.

Onigiri-type thing with egg in it!

Onigiri-type thing with egg in it!

80% of this was super spicy!

80% of this was super spicy!

CHOCOLATE TOAST

CHOCOLATE TOAST

7. FOOD: It’s spicy. I prefer Mexican. Dukbokki is good with pizza. The end. Japan wins.

Classic-comfy.

Classic-comfy.

8. WHAT are you wearing?! Korean people, for the most part, dress nothing like KPOP stars. I saw a good hand full of people each day decked out in some pretty nice clothes, but the overwhelming majority paired their trendy tops and dresses with tennis shoes. Usually, these were New Balances. Just regular ole New Balance running shoes in bright colors. I saw this girl in what appeared to be a nice vintage dress….and tennis shoes. This is not the eighties. Those shoes aren’t even cute.

Okay, that about sums up my week in Korea. There really are some awesome things that I love, like the millions of coffee shops and good, affordable skincare products. I also didn’t mind eating at On the Border. I would like to go back to Korea some day, but I think I’ll study a bit more about it before I go next time.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and you learn from it. Korea is probably really awesome to visit from America, but I did experience a bit of weird culture shock. But then again, maybe I’m just being pessimistic lately because I’m still getting fat and it’s starting to bum me out.

Also, keep a look out for a post with photos from my trip! またね!