One of my duties as a new ALT in a Shougakko ( or Japanese elementary school) is to have lunch with the kids everyday. I just finished having my first school lunch with about 25 second graders. You might think that would be intimidating, but it was SO much fun. There were three other Japanese teachers in the lunch room with me. The kids were extremely well behaved during lunch and during souji (cleaning time). They were as curious about me as I was about them.
I started to notice that after lunch, kids became slightly more “friendly.” After lunch, I started to feel a bit like the classroom pet (it was all in good fun, though) as the kids kept touching and petting my bald head. Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though. Do you know the kancho (かんちょう) game? Sounds like a fun game to learn more about Japanese culture, right? WRONG!! It’s a part of Japanese culture, but it’s not a fun game to play…unless of course you enjoy enemas (hey, I’m not gonna judge you if you do, I’ll still be your friend).
Kancho, かんちょう, can have several different meanings. The meaning in this case it’s an expression for an enema. If you’re not familiar with the game, by all means let me teach you the basics. A person, usually a small kid (or gang of kids) whose fingers fit just perfectly, will walk up behind you put their hands together with both index fingers touching and extended like so:
If a child actually succeeds in poking you with all four fingers, I do know the numbers of several good hospitals here in Japan.
If you hear “Gan”…I’m sorry to say…but your anus has probably already been poked. Why on earth do kids do that, anyway? Since when does being gang-“analized” by young child fingers constitute a good time?!? One kid even poked for my crotch!! No sir! Not Mr. Ash!
I remember the first time it happened to me when I was working at the Eikaiwa, I just didn’t expect it at all, and it was so forceful…I spent so many nights in the fetal position crying myself to sleep at night. No, but seriously, the very first kid who got me must’ve been a pro: he had speed, stealth, timing, and placement…every element necessary to be a “winner” at this game.
When he actually did it, I got so mad because it hurt (my pride more so than my posterior). I turned around and I was like “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? THAT AIN’T FUNNY (notice that proper English has gone out the window at this point)! DON’T DO THAT!! You don’t poke anyone in the butt!!” All I got was a blank stare. After fuming a bit I realized that my words were falling on deaf ears. This Japanese child probably understood about two percent of what I was telling him. I think he got the picture from my facial expression and body language, though.
After that happened, I wondered just how I could prevent myself from being a victim next time. Now, I am always on the ready; you might say I suffer from an extreme case of PTP syndrome or post-traumatic poke syndrome. If a child is behind me for any reason, I start sweating, my heart starts pounding, by blood pressure elevates, my adrenaline feedback loop starts to kick preparing me for my fight or flight” response (flight is probably the better option as striking a child is frowned upon in many countries). I figure if you Heisman a few kids, everything will be fine (No!…don’t actually do it!).
All in all teaching in Japan has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience. Being poked is never fun, but if you’re alert or if you wear underwear with a protective metal strip (I should invent those) where your crack is…you should be fine.
Oh kids…they do the darndest things.
Watch your back…no…really.
After my first lunch, I am very encouraged. I don’t know if every class is going to be like this, but after finishing up my first week at my elementary school I can tell that I made the right choice going to an elementary school over a junior high and leaving the Eikaiwa scene. LOL.