Thursday, October 06, 2005

State-sponsored binge drinking

On the Friday night after the sports festival was a party held in my honor by the other teachers in the English department. These sort of parties - usually not for any specific purpose - are a fairly common occurence throughout the academic year, I suppose as a way to build friendly relations among teachers. This is encouraged to the point that part of my pay is automatically deducted every month to go towards these parties; about $30 a month. In my reckoning, this means that they are basically taxing me to buy me alcohol later. Another way to look at it is that it mandates that a certain amount of my paycheck is put aside for alcoholic beverages. Anyhow, this amuses me.

We meet up at a local western-type bar where we've got a whole section covered. There are the 12 teachers and 3 college students who have been undergoing teacher-training at the high school for the last couple weeks. One teacher stands up and gives a brief thank you for coming and let's welcome the new teacher bit, then the nomihodai begins. A 飲み放題 (nomihodai) is an all-you-can drink deal where you pay a set rate, usually around $20, for 2 hours of unrestricted drinking. This makes sense in Japan from a business perspective, since most people are unable to really have more than a couple drinks anyways. Being an American though, I have always felt it is my obligation to try to really make the place lose money on the deal. In this particular case, I feel a certain bond placed on me as both a foreigner and as the new guy to really drink more than in any way necessary.

So, I order drink a couple beers along with the other teachers and then up the ante by ordering an entire pitcher for myself. Then I am invited by one of the teachers to drink sake, so I polish off a bottle with him. At this point, going back to the menu, I notice they also serve scotch, and I start getting a little obnoxious, as I am want to do when I am a bit tipsy. I order a scotch and water and then nonchalantly ask the Beach Boys Sensei if he'd like to join me in a glass. He feigns reluctance, so I make the decision for him and order two. This becomes two more and two more. By the end of the night he goes home hanging on the shoulders of me and another teacher, while they make fun of each other like two frat guys. I retire, dignity intact, though in a sense not so much since I essentially goaded a guy into drinking too much. Anyways, it's just harmless drinking, but it's interesting that they can still get away with this kind of thing while fully adults, if not nearing retirement age.

The main interesting thing was seeing how the teachers behave outside of class. Other than the aforementioned lack of restraint, I managed to get into political discussions with a few teachers that I would never have expected could have occured in school. I also saw that some teachers, alcohol or not, are just as boring and lame as I imagined, whether in English or in Japanese. The best part of the night, however, was when one of the teachers cornered me at a table set aside - seemingly the designated representative from the group - and said, "So...I hear you have a girlfriend." Once I confirmed it and offered him a picture of Maiko, he snatched it and an over to the rest of the teachers, saying "Look look look!!! It's a picture of Adams Sensei's girlfriend!" Two of the teachers that are usually so exhausted during the day that their vocabulary consists entirely of sighs leapt to their feet and cried out "OOOOOOOO Let me see let me see!" The pictures were passed around for the inspection of the entire department, and my reward was a serious of winks and smiles for the rest of the week. Still, every time I mention going to Tokyo to see Maiko, I get a comment like "Ohhhh, tell Maiko-chan 'hi' for me! (heeheehee)" The hilarious thing about this is that most of the teachers reacted, to a degree that is almost uncanny, exactly like their students did when I told the students about my girlfriend. People at the school really love gossip, it seems.

No comments: