So a few weeks ago I met the acquaintance of one, Endo san. My boss stopped by my desk one afternoon and asked if I had a few minutes to spare. I gladly agreed and then he was ushering me down the hall to the principal's office. I had been late to work that morning for the first time, which is like serious badness in Japan, and was 5 minutes late for one of my classes (which is bad news anywhere) so i wasn't sure if i was going to get fired or what. But we entered the principals office and inside was a high profile meeting in progress between my boss, and my boss's boss, and this elderly man on an oxygen breather who introduced himself as Mr. Endo in flawless English.
Endo san is a famous graduate of my high school. He went on to be a very successful businessman here in town with his family-owned business, which produces freshwater nori. He is also excellent at English and still seems to be studying even in his old age. He loves it. He apparently just wanted to meet me because i am the new ALT at the school, so we chatted for a few minutes, he instructed me to do a good job teaching the students, and he mentioned that he has some friends who meet occasionally to practice speaking english and celebrate western holidays. He encouraged me to come meet them sometime. We exchanged phone numbers.
Later that week he called me and invited me to a christmas party with his English group. That was tonight. He instructed me to bring a gift of less than $10 and told me he'd pick me up outside my apartment. I met him outside 10 minutes early (i'm getting used to everyone being 10 minutes early) and we drove off to an Italian restaurant i had never been to before, where his friends were waiting.
It was amazing.
There were about 5 of them, and after the usual rounds of being told i look like a movie star, and have stylish glasses, etc (this kind of flattery is somehow just not getting old), they each introduced themselves formally in english. This is a big formality in Japan. I'm always doing self introductions and explaining awkwardly in Japanese that i'm 22 years old and that my family consists of 6 people, etc. It's all a standard set of facts, mostly demographical and about family and hobbies. It was a nice change to hear Japanese people struggle in exactly the same way I do to describe their families and hobbies in English. In good faith, i tried to introduce myself in Japanese anyway. Then we began to eat and talk. Spaghtetti, salad, more spaghetti, pizza, more spaghetti, neverending beer, followed by whiskey, followed by cake, followed by coffee and tea. Wow.
Over dinner i answered everyone's questions and we talked a lot about Japanese and American culture, as well as their personal histories and jobs. It was so strange to be having the whole discussion mainly in English. Something i have gotten less and less used to. They asked me the usual gauntlet of "why did you come to Japan" "What are your plans for the future" "What did you study in college" "Do you have a girlfriend" "Do you eat _____?" "Can you drink ______?" and so on. We even talked about Blood Type personality typing (which is really popular in Japan) and why Japan is so into it
One of the guys was a physical therapist, one of the women was the wife of the owner of the restaurant. The conversation and food and hooch kept flowing and they really, really love english. Actually most of them were over 50 and have been studying english since long before i was born.
They used to do a study group with a former ALT, but she has subsequently left, so i might pick up the slack and start doing conversation classes for them. but theyre really advanced. one thing I taught them was the difference between "nerd" "dork" and "geek." The Physical Therapist guy looked up "dork" in his electronic dictionary and insisted that it meant penis. "Penis. Penis. Penis." he said. This led to a discussion of the etymology of Dork and Geek. (you can look it up)
We exchanged gifts by numbering each gift and then pulling numbers out of a hat. I recieved a tiny stuffed cat with gigantic eyes. It's just shy of adorable, weighing in somewhere between cute and creepy. I brought a baseball hat from Aamerica that says "Chicago" on it. It went to the restaurant owner's wife. After dinner they refused to let me pay, which is almost getting not surprising. Every time i am invited out to dinner where i meet new friends for the first time, I am not allowed to pay and told "next time." Then, i drove home with the physical therapist and his wife. I found out that he plays guitar and loves rock music. His favorite bands are Chicago and Journey. Awesome.
So yeah. Fun night. Sorry this is so rambling. I am writing it all in one go, and in a disorganized fashion, and i can't be bothered to check it for mistakes or stupidity (my god i'm so tired lately). I'm off to sort gifts for my trip home and catch some z's.
Hope you've enjoyed, dear reader!