Archive for June, 2010

Naivete vs. stupidity: An Inakadelphia rant
June 10, 2010

I’ll start this by admiting that I was already having a bad day before I sat down to write this. I ordered a new bicycle online, and the shop failed to inform me that it was out of stock, and that the shop was on holiday all week, even further delaying shipment. Eight days later, and I haven’t received a single email or phone call. And I won’t even get into the fascist “no cancellation” policy.

Naivete is defined as a lack of sophistication or worldliness. The sohpistication part has nothing to do with the naivete I’ve experienced on a daily basis in my Japanese juinor high school classrooms. The complete and utter lack of worldliness has everything to do with it.

I’m beating a dead horse with the whole marijuana symbol, but I just noticed today that the new class banner for one of my 2nd grade (8th grade in the U.S.) classes is a giant pot leaf with “Enjoy & Happy” written underneath. And, of course, it has the classic red-yellow-green “Rasta” background. Again, when I made a comment about it being the symbol of an illegal drug that is rather frowned upon in Japan, the teacher told me she had no idea what it was. Just read my previous post if you want to know how I feel about this whole situation.

In several schools, I’ve used a “guessing game” worksheet as part of my self introduction. Instead of boring them with a long speech, I allow them to take guesses about general questions; i.e. what is my favorite food or how many brothers and sisters do I have. One question was “Where am I from?” The most common response? “France.” When I explain that French is the language of France, and people in my job must be from ENGLISH-speaking countries, I get the typical “EEEEeeeeehhhh!?” shouts of disbelief from my students. I also got India, Finland, Germany, and Italy (and again blew their minds when I said that English is not their native language).

Granted that white people often look older to Asian people, I was rattled when a student gave a honest guess at my age and came up with 48 (his father is only 42). I’m 24… And I’m gonna be looking for him on the dodgeball court.

It is finally summer here in Hokkaido, and today is a scorcher. I expected the interior of my school to be a bit cooler than the outisde. Unfortunately, when I opened the sliding doors into the staff room, I was blasted with heat as if opening the oven after preheating to 400 degrees. All 24 windows were closed and locked. Half of the inhabitants were visibly sweating, fanning their faces with notebooks or folders. “Hot, isn’t it” replied one of the new guys that sits behind me.

Surely you guessed that this is the stupidity part of my rant. If you are uncomfortably hot… maybe you should open the windows. But, no. I interrogated my English teacher as to why the windows aren’t opened, even cracked, and she replied that “I wish we could, but the men don’t like to have them open. I don’t know why. Even on the hottest days of summer, they usually keep them shut.”


Furthermore, students wear track suits as their school uniform here in Kitami. Long pants, long sleeves, with full-zip “turtleneck” style tops. After gym class, my students were panting and sweating all over their desks. But more than 3/4 of them had their jackets zipped to the top of the neck. I suggested that they take off their jackets. They said no. I suggested that they unzip it a little bit. Nope.

Stupidity is being uncomfortable for the sake of being uncomfortable. I don’t care what country you are in. There is no rule against taking the jacket off or unzipping it. They are all wearing baggy t-shirts underneath, so I won’t accept “being uncomfortable about their bodies” as an excuse.

I don’t call something stupid because it is different from my own ideals or my own culture. I call something stupid when it defies logic, reason, and the basic notion of common sense.

I could live in Japan for 1000 years and still never even begin to understand the bizarre, backwards, and utterly insane ways of thinking that I’ve encountered. All I know is this: thank GOD for the exceptions to the rule. You keep me from getting completely jaded by weirdness.

That’s more like it
June 7, 2010

The only downside to perfect weather is spending the whole day in a window-less office.