Summer is upon us here in the land of Rising, Scorching, Hot Sun. That endearing, humid heat that’s oh so characteristic of Japanese summer is starting. Granted is not as bad as it’s going to get, but we’ve had a couple of those “more humid than normal” days already. Today, it rained ever so lightly, and then the sun started coming out. I felt kinda sticky going to to work. Do you know the kind of weather I’m talking about? The kind of weather that makes sweat in your no-no places, that weather that makes you have bad hair days (not me, because my head is as smooth as a cue ball), the weather that makes you feel irritated for no reason. Well, It’s back!!
One concern I had about working in the Japanese public school system was all the hearsay about there being no air-conditioners whatsoever! By and large the reports ARE true. Here at my elementary school, I’d say over 90% of classrooms don’t have an A/C unit to speak of. Why? I couldn’t really tell you. But I can tell you that teaching in those classrooms is going to get really hot, very soon. This is how I know…
Today I was teaching a second grade class, and the kids were doing quite well with my lesson on colors. They weren’t particularly rambunctious today…not at all. About 15 minutes in, my brow was starting to bead with sweat. The sweat from my legs was becoming like a glue for my “good pants” making them stick, uncomfortably, to my legs.
Near the end of the period, I stopped the colors worksheet activity I was doing, and had the children sit down to finish class. “See you next time!” I said. “See you next time!!” they responded in unison.
A few children helped me to gather my things. While I was packing up. I student lifted my arm to reveal an unsightly and very embarrassing wet spot, that had formed underneath my right armpit. I had sweated through my deodorant and didn’t even notice. I wondered how long it had been there.
Luckily, the sweat stain was only underneath one armpit. Every time the cute little girl would try to lift my arm (by pushing up on my elbow), I would force it down, kind of like somebody doing the chicken dance. She pointed and kept repeating the Japanese word “ase,” あせ or 汗, which means sweat. I tried to hide it as best I could, but it was a losing battle. I had put on copious amounts of Degree deodorant, the “temperature-activated stuff” (but then again isn’t all deodorant kind of temperature activated? When it gets hot, you sweat, when you sweat, the deodorant does its thing).
I went back to my classroom with my new vocabulary word. It was embarrassing to have this wet spot showing, because it makes it look like I’m stinky or something. I promise I did shower and put on lots of deodorant, but teaching a group of 35 kids in a room with no air-conditioner can test the limits of even the best anti-perspirant.
I think embarrassing moments make for some of the best learning experiences. I’ve mispronounced words, been laughed at for saying things wrong, and created learning Opportunities) for myself without even trying to. For example, the Japanese word “ase” is now stuck in my brain. Or learning the Japanese word for traffic light (shingo (しんごう or 信号)) from a Japanese police officer when I purposely biked through red light while rushing to the gym. Or there was that time I ripped a gigantic hole in the crotch of my pants just before having to sing the Hokey Pokey Song for a kid’s English class (“You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around”)…but I didn’t learn any Japanese from that experience. But I did learn to be careful when getting into vehicles. I guess the approach I take, is not to take things so blasted seriously. Embarrassing moments are really what you make of them. If you use them right, embarrassing moments can really cement things into your memory.
Do you have any embarrassing moments that helped you to improve your Japanese or learn a valuable lesson?