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Saturday, August 27, 2016

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Looking for interesting things to write about, I’ve plumbed the depths to find stories and articles submitted to the local JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme newsletter, the Tatami Times for Tochigi-ken.

I naturally kept all the issues I was editor in chief of… and I am quite proud to state that even if the issues weren’t always the most chock-full of useful information, I did turn it into something as witty as such a brilliant magazine akin to National Lampoon (the Gold Standard of comedic magazines in the '80s and early '90s - that's when I read'em) I know, I certainly am not suffering from a lack of ego.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share a piece sent in and published by one Dan Brudos, who was leaving the JET Programme at the end of his contract in the summer of 1991.

Dan was always a funny guy, and I wish I knew him better.

It’s a helpful guide to the JTE’s (Japanese teacher’s of English) and how they can best handle their brand new gaijin, er AET (assistant English teacher) from a foreign land.

He paraphrased his opening title from the Douglas Adams book:

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish
How To Ensure The Local AET Will Remember Your School For A Long Time
  1. Make sure their desk chair is the broken one that no one else wants to sit in;
  2. Tell the students ahead of time that the AET’s English will be hard to understand. They should say ‘Wakarenai’ as often as possible;
  3. Change the AET’s schedule just as the bells chime;
  4. Change your lesson plan just after the bells chime;
  5. Tell the AET about both changes as you walk thru the door into class;
  6. At lunch time force students to sit next to him;
  7. Ask them again if they can use chopsticks;
  8. Dish your AET’s lunch early so that it can be served to them really cold;
  9. During cleaning time, have a group of students chant “Gaijin-da” in the hallways;
  10. Be surprised when your Australian AET doesn’t seem to know much about America.
If you want to be mentioned in the next letter your AET sends home, do all of these things on their first day and never let up.

‘Wakarenai means “ I don’t know.” 

Dan’s Australian, so I knew there was a real good reason I liked him. Plus - Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy reference? C’mon! Yeah!

To be sure, I was never sure if Dan was being purposely witty in this helpful handout that should go to all the JTE’s or not.

Did he really get the crappy chair? Did they really have to force students to sit beside him at lunch? Really? He’s so cool! He’s Australian!

The chopsticks thing is actually kind of funny. They ask you that question as you are using it. My sad story is that I actually called a kid “bakayaro (stupid)” in a funny way as I pointed to my chopsticks moving a piece of konyakku into my mouth. Then I dropped it on my shirt. Apparently I can’t use chopsticks. Karma is a bee-yatch.

As for warning the students that the AET’s English will be difficult to understand - well… Dan is Australian. I mean everything sounds like “Geeyr", "G’day" and "Toss another shrimp on the barby, mate.” And I swear every other sentence has the word ‘beah’ in it, which I think means ‘beer’.

No… Aussie's can be difficult  to understand… unlike their southern cousins in Kiwiland…. but especially so after a few beah’s. Holy crap… the Scots too… especially when you get them talking about Football. It’s like, I know you speak English, but…. WTF!?

I’m kidding. Dan’s English was very easy to understand. I’m not kidding about the rest of Oz (or Scotland - I had a Glaswegian and a guy from Aberdeen sit beside me at work… two wild and wooly accents, and while I could pick up the odd word (usually ‘haggis’), it was difficult to understand any of their casual chats. 

Okay - Dan’s list: As a Canadian, I did resent the implication that just because I spoke English, that I must be from ‘Merica.

However, as a non-White Canadian, I was actually impressed that they didn’t immediately think I was from India. Yes, my parents are Indian, but I’ve never been there, don’t speak the language and don’t really care for the food more than once every few months.

Now, some idiot will read this and claim I can never be a Canadian because I’m not White. It’s fine. I’ll track you back easily enough. I’m preparing a list.

The student’s really chanted ‘gaijin-da’? Holy crap. Dan must have been posted to a single school out in the rural-est rural part of the country. That would suck if it happened once, let alone all the time.

If that happened to me, the teachers, principal, my board of education office would be having a discussion. That student(s) would be in soooo much trouble. My bosses and colleague’s would never have put up with crap like that. Never.

Again… I can only hope Dan was exaggerating.

I also want to point out that this adventure was from 1991, and while kids can be cruel and stupid in any era or country, seeing foreigners in torn and in school is no longer a big thing for most Japanese.

Anyhow… Dan Brudos… thank-you, wherever you are!

Andrew Joseph

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