Snapshots from today:
In class, students are working in pairs preparing a skit; writing, asking for pronounciation and practicing. I'm walking around the room helping them out when I find this girl's bag. The bag is in the colors of the Jamaican flag, with CANNABIS written right under a large picture of a marijuana leaf. I kind of do a double-take, and then laugh and ask if I can take a picture. (She responds by looking down, because she's embarassed. This is why there are so few pictures of students on the blog; it's certainly not from lack of trying, just that putting lots of shots of black hair face down on a desk adds little to a story) She eventually ventures a question of why I'm laughing. I ask her if she knows what "cannabis" is. She doesn't, she confers with several friends, they don't either. I tell her it's the latin word for the plant that produces marijuana. She doesn't know what that is either. Rolling my eyes and changing gears, I ask why she bought the bag in the first place. She says her friend got it for her because it was "so colorful and adorable." The teacher in the class, coming over to see what we're chatting about, hears this part and agrees, "What a cute bag!!!"
Incidentally, students are constantly using multiple exclamation points in their papers, which I always erase down to one or just a period. Recently I've started thinking that maybe the way they talk really does require this sort of emphasis though.
Grading papers from students on the topic of "What country do you want to visit most?" I find in this informal survey of 200 second year students that an alarmingly large amount of Japanese kids age 16 or 17 years old polled, think:
1. Americans are tall simply because they eat so much beef
2. The two main tourist attractions in the US are: the Statue of Liberty and cornfields
3. London, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, and Africa are all countries
Incidentally, the kid who wanted to visit the "country" of Africa was - and this is a direct quotation - "particularly interested in running with cheetahs." (emphasis mine) I understand that students here in Japan - and in the US too, of course - have a limited, if not myopic, worldview, but I would hope this guy would know that if he ever does get close to a cheetah on the African Steppe, the last thing he'd want to do would be to provoke its hunting instincts by galloping past at full speed.
Later, chatting with the Beach Boys Sensei about a poem, another English teacher comes up to use the printer. He studied abroad for a year in college, and loves using profanity. He especially likes saying "fucking," which he pronounces more like "fuh - KING" with a stop in the middle and the second part almost spit out. He also hates working, or perhaps loves talking about how much he hates working. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) he really doesn't know how to use profanity. So this conversation ensues between these two Japanese men in suits with tweed sweaters, one in his late 30's and one in his 50's:
Sensei 2: "Hey, what's fucking?"
Beach Boys Sensei: "Ah...(decides to respond in kind)...I don't...fucking know."
S2: "Fuck! This school is bitch!"
BBS: "Who's the fucking bitch?"
S2: "Bitch! Fucking tired."
BBS: "Are you smoking marijuana?"
S2: "No, I am sober, but this fucking school! Fucking tired. Well, see you later."
Then he walks back to his desk, and the other teacher resumes talking to me without skipping a beat. Nobody else minds either, not understanding any of it - in fact, several look at me strangely for laughing.