Ramen regulars & misbehaving boys

Mike started work this week so I’ve been doing a lot of things on my own around Oyama.

Aside from errands, I’m now a solo diner. There’s a 24 hour ramen shop across from us that we frequent quite often because of the convenient location and pretty good food. Korakuen was actually the first place I ate in Japan, and I’d wager I’ve eaten there at least once a week for the past four months I’ve been here.

Since Mike and I eat there so often (and since we’re gaijin), I know the workers there recognize us. What I didn’t realize was we’d become regulars.

I walked in on Wednesday and was greeted with the usual chorus of arashaimase (welcome) and one worker making a 2 peace sign with his right hand.

As I smiled, shook my head, said iie (no) and gestured one, I could see a somewhat surprised look cross his face. He was wondering where Mike was.

I took a seat at the booth I like and whipped out the menu; I was starving.

Miso negi ramen hitotsi, onegaishimasu,” I said. (One miso scallion ramen, please).

As I stumbled through the menu to find a single gyoza order (Mike and I always split a set of gyoza and fried rice), the woman taking my order asked, “gyoza?” and pointed to what she knew I wanted.

Not only do the workers at Korakuen recognize us, they know our order. I was really touched by the whole experience.

L vs. R
I wrote a post a while back about the difficulties the students have with taking dictation. You can read the full post here. In short, they write crap instead of clap and cloud for crowd. Well, I have another to add to the list.

Atsuya, a second year junior high boy who runs track and field, is studying a chapter on Easter Island. The original sentence reads, “There was not much fresh water, the temperature was quite high, and the land was unsuitable for growing their main food, taro and yams.”

What did Atsuya write? “There was not much flesh water…”

I stayed much more composed than in the past, but it still made me chuckle a little.

Misbehaving boys
There’s an 8-year-old boy in one of my elementary classes named Yuki. Yuki is a trouble maker. He likes to climb on tables, run along them and jump off. He trows pencils and bag hooks. He runs straight out of class sometimes. He’ll turn around in his chair to face his back to me or pretend to sleep under his desk.

I made him cry two weeks ago. The boys (there are 4 others in the class) were taking a test. It’s a listening test on a CD, so unlike class I can’t stop if someone’s horsing around. For whatever reason, Yuki didn’t feel like paying attention 3/4 of the way through so he missed a few questions. Then he didn’t understand some. I could see his little fave contorting in frustration and anger. Then I watched his test contort as he crumpled it up in a ball and walked clear across the room to throw it out.

I fetched it from the trash and tried to calm him down. No such luck. Repeat the crumpling, stomping, and discarding, except this time he threw two chairs on the way back. He sat under his desk crying his little eyes out and I let him. He ignored offers to play Chutes and Ladders one the test was finished and snubbed my offer to let him randomly choose answers.

These sort of situations are when the language barrier becomes a real issue. I’m the only one in on Wednesdays from 3-5, and this class just happens to be 4-4:50. I can’t explain to him if he wasn’t goofing around this wouldn’t have happened or that I don’t know what part of the CD he was at since the directions are in Japanese for the kids.

This problem got a lot more complicated this week when Yuki slapped someone in class. Yuki and Taiki thought they were being real cool when they hid under their desks, leaning toward each other and resting their heads on the chair between them while we were practicing flash cards. Taiki sat up and jerked the chair a bit to mess with Yuki who promptly walked over to Taiki, said something in Japanese, and slapped him across the face. Oh crap.

I went out into the hall where parents and students wait. Taiki comes with his grandfather, Yuki with his grandmother. Neither speak a lick of English, not even hello. It’s konnichiwa (hello) and arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much) all the way with these folks. I tried to gesture to gma that Yuki slapped Taiki. Both grandparents stared at me; they clearly did not understand me. Worried about what was going on in the room in my absence, I turned to Mayu, Yuki’s older sister and a student of mine. Fortunately, Mayu understood enough aznd went into the room to question Yuki, shaking him a bit back the back of his collar. Class went smoothly afterwards.

Words of encouragement
Masako is an octogenarian former English teacher in my Thursday afternoon conversation class. Her husband, in his late 80s, is rather ill. She takes sleeping pills each day because she worries about him and can’t rest herself.

He entered the hospital this week and isn’t doing very well, so Masako has been at his side all day. She took a brief break yesterday to come to class and rest her worries a bit.

I hadn’t seen her since the week before the big earthquake, so I asked after her daughters and other family. Everyone’s okay, but she expressed deep concern for the people in Sendai and Fukushima, making light of her own problems.

“They give me strength,” she said with an authorotative nod.


About Michelle

I lived in Japan for a year & a half teaching English. Now I'm blogging about learning to cook in NYC.
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