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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Andrew's First Enkai

Here's a fun re-written chapter of my life... written when I was getting something like 400 hits a month on this blog... and now, thanks to all the sex-related blogs I have populated Rife with, I now get something like... well... a lot... I get 400 hits sometimes in one hour... or sometimes over eight hours... I can't effing figure out this whole blogging interweeb thing.

Did you know, that I often write the best funny stuff when I'm not feeling funny? Total oxymoronic stuff, but whatever. It's like some part of me wants to be funny, but another part of me says to stifle myself, Edith. I don't know when my life became a sitcom.

No... waitaminute... I do know.

Submitted for your approval, here's a revised rendition of Andrew's First Enkai in Japan.

And should you be wondering how the hell anything that follows could have possibly happened if I was as 'confused' as I purport to be, all I know is that I maintain my memory when having a few drinks... with only one time ever where I had some memory loss. This isn't that time.

And, if it makes you all hate me even more... I never get hangovers. Ever. I might puke, or barf, and even vomit, and get the spins... but I never awaken with a hangover. As such, I never learn my lesson.


Lesson Plan:
It's Friday, September 1, 1990. I still haven't taught a lick of English yet - but I have been told I am expected to teach the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) members some English.
Hell, no. I haven't even taught the kids yet, and I get to do that with a Japanese Teacher of English--but to teach at the OBOE, oy gevalt! Aside from Hanazaki-san, my next best student is Kanemaru-san... and he's the fastest man in the Far East with a dictionary.
However, because I am anxious to make a favorable impression of Canadians on the Japanese, I agree. There is much celebrating. OBO(Y)E.
At lunch, my class of seven anxious OBOE women and two men (my bosses) stare at me with rapt attention. I have no idea how to teach or even what to teach. I ask Hanazaki-san if there is anything they would like to learn. The men say: bad-o words. The women giggle. I wink at the men and say, dame ("da-may" = no way). I give them the basic conversational: "Hello. My name is. - " and "What is your name?" stuff. They are surprisingly good and after 60 minutes are able to say: "Herro. Mayonaise is add your name-o hee-ya. Whato izu yo-a name-o?"
Better than any Japanese I know.
After class Hanazaki-san tells me that they are having an enkai (party) in my honor tonight, and ask if I can attend. I didn't have the guts to create a joke answer.
After work, Kanemaru-san drives me to my apartment throwing my bike in the back of his van. It's NOT a white van, and that confuses me.
I get dressed and we drive over to the Ohtawara Banquet Hall a mere two minutes away from the OBOE.
If you've seen one banquet hall, you've seen them all... they all sort of have this crappy Italian look to them. Fake. I'm not saying Italian architecture is fake or crappy... I'm just saying that the hall is crappy. Inside, all the walls are covered in gold wallpaper, but not real gold, because that would me getting kicked out of Japan for theft. The carpeting is red. And it's all quite jarring to my foreign eyes.
Along the far wall is a lectern sitting atop a two-inch high stage that I discover after tripping over it. On the wall behind the stage is a Canadian flag on the left, a Japanese flag on the right, and a poster with Japanese kanji (one of three alphabets) that I hope welcomes me—who knows, though. The Japanese, as I have been quick to discover, have a delicious sense of humor.
The people at the enkai are the OBOE, plus a whole bunch of people I think might be English teachers from the schools I would teach at.
I think.
I don’t know about you, but I get lost when meeting new people.
You walk in some place, they introduce everyone to you… they all know who you are, but because you have to memorize 47 other names, you pretty much just say “Hey!” or “Hi!”, never making things personal.
Well… now add in the fact that my introductions were done in Japanese… and then when they did introduce themselves in English, they spoke their name IN JAPANESE. And they did it quickly.
Like anyone who has no aptitude for languages, I had no idea who I was listening to, and, as such, did not learn their names.
While this would change over my stay, the names of the non-English teachers would invariably remain an elusive mystery.
It sucks, but it 75% of the time it’s true in 96% of the cases.
Anyhow… although I am not required to sing my national anthem to get this party started (I have a nice voice, just not a nice singing voice), Hanazaki-san (I only recently learned he used to be a junior high school science teacher) stepped up to the microphone and gave a short introductory speech in English.
“Welcome Andrew-sensei...”
... and then pointed to me and with two fingers mimed walking and then pointed to the two-inch high stage, pointed at the microphone and said his next sentence:
“Please.”
I have to say that in what would eventually become three years in Japan, this was one of the few times I was NOT surprised to learn I had to do something. As I began speaking – in English, I was surprised, however, when Shibata-sensei of Ohtawara Junior High School began translating my words into Japanese.
Remember, pretty much everybody there was an English teacher and could speak and understand English, right?
No… they wouldn’t need the translation… I'm sure it was translated for my few fellow OBOE staff who came out to celebrate my inaugural meeting with the city's middle school English teachers. Excluding those that I met a couple of weeks earlier in a drunken stupor during Obon. Of course, many of the people I met at that time were also in a drunken stupor, so it's likely no one remembers our first meeting.
Turns out I was mostly correct. I was drunk and couldn't remember anything. My Japanese counterparts (IE teachers... at this time, I still considered them my equals—ah, ignorant foreigner)—they knew who I was.
The speech was fine. I apparently said all the right things, and did not have to apologize to anybody. Bottles of wonderful Kirin Lager beer were opened up, toasts were made (in Japan, rather than 'cheers' or 'salute' the Japanese say 'kanpai' which is pronounced: kahn-pie), and food was served.
I had a great time meeting the English teachers—and I must say it was a fantastic idea of the OBOE to even think about doing something like that. Sure, any excuse for an enkai, but still, the OBOE really looked after me.
By 10PM, it was over. I didn't realize it at the time, but all of the good little English teachers had to head home and get some sleep because they had school the next day (Saturday). I had no idea. I had the day off because that is what Westerners do.
Anyhow some of the bad little English teachers and various members of the OBOE said we should hit the local bars.
Someone drove us to the drinking area of Ohtawara, which as it turns out is a three-minute walk or 11-minute stagger from my apartment. I recall Kanemaru-san buying me a bowl of hot ramen noodles and beer before we staggered off to a karaoke bar... which doesn't translate well for karaoke...which you might not know means, drunken idiots trying hard to sound as loud as possible.
I really do have a decent, powerful voice and a face made for radio—but that mot to sing crappy songs.
I probably had enough to drink  about seven beers prior we got to the place—who knows how much I had, as they kept topping up my glass as I drank it down!)—and I knew I had to stick around because it's my party and I'll die if I want to. Plus I wanted to fit in. Doing one’s best to fit into life in Japan is how best to have a successful time in Japan. There… hopefully I didn’t spoil the end of the book or anything. At some point after the bar, and before the karaoke, Kanemaru-san, Hanazaki-san and a few of the English teachers (Tomura-sensei had smartly packed it when the original party broke up, but Shibata-sensei and Inoue-sensei of Ohtawara Junior High) were definitely there. The place only had three karaoke songs in English: Country Roads, Love Me Tender, and My Way.
I'm not partial to country or western music or Sinatra but I do love Elvis, so I was going to sing his Love Me Tender. Unfortunately the Japanese teachers of English teachers decided to show off and got up on stage to butcher Elvis in English, whereby if he wasn't dead, he would have killed himself.
It's not their fault... but the voices that stood out were the ones who were either the most drunk or the ones who had a heavier Japanese accent when speaking English. Love Me Tender when sung that night became one of my favorite memories—such as they are—of Japan. Spoiler – here’s the origin of the book title and my blog: The inability of many Japanese to say the letter "L" and transform it into an "R" and the letter "V" into a "B" turned the song into Rub Me Tender.
I was on the floor and rolling under the table either very drunk or howling with laughter. Still, when they finished I bought each of them a drink.
It was then my turn. I have always liked The Sex Pistols. I had always imagined myself as kind of a suburban punk, which is why I dressed normal and sang My Way as though I was Sid Vicious, late of… well… everything. I did all of his patented leg kicks, lip snarls, and even the cracking of the voice, just as he did when he covered this Sinatra song. I was superb, and even Sid’s squeeze Nancy would have been hard-pressed to tell us apart – especially if she was nodding on some black tar heroin.
Let's just say that when I finished and staggered back to my stool, the applause from everyone was genuinely mild as almost everyone had passed out from alcohol poisoning.
At that moment, for some reason Kanemaru-san's wife came into the karaoke bar.
I thought he had left. Oh yeah… there he is right beside me with his arm around my shoulder pouring more beer into my lap and a bit into my glass.
That was my fault. I shouldn’t have held the glass over my lap like that. If I don’t die tonight, I’ll never… what was I thinking about?
So… Kanemaru-san’s wife… what was she doing there? She wasn’t at my party… no spouses, eh… still… she came in, said something… and everyone said something back and everyone bowed to each other.
She then put an arm around her husband and dragged him out into a waiting van (this one was white!)… and as I said bye-bye and bowed to them, Kanemaru–san grabbed me and said “Home” and pulled me into the van.
Too drunk to care if I was being taken home or had somehow agreed to some sort of MMF sexcapade, before I could think of something coherent to say the van stopped with a jerk and I got out.
More like poured myself out.
Mrs. Kanemaru stood in front of me, bowed and said her first English words to me "Sayanora" (which sounds a lot like Japanese for 'good bye') and drove away as the sun rose. It was 4AM.
Thank goodness there was an elevator… but I staggered over to the stairs and walked up instead. I fumbled with my keys, dropped them, nearly peeded myself as I bent to pick them up, continued with my Foster Brooks impression (look him up) and somehow got inside… I kept my shoes on as I staggered to the washroom and smartly sat down, because standing would have been a messy option when I awoke from my coma in a few days…
Sid Vicious… what was I thinking? Then again… they may never invite me out for karaoke again. Win.

-30-


Okay... what I did learn from this true tale, however, is that I really like the Japanese... Also, everyone's English gets better when they are drunk.

Somewhere doing it my way,
Andrew Joseph

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