Friday, July 11, 2008

Two Stories About Friday

This first story comes courtesy of Kamihoronai kindergarten. While patiently waiting as a group for a student to return from the washroom--trying to fill time as there is little point in progressing when classes are so small--the kids were more anxious than usual to ask questions of me. However, upon asking them to stand and state their questions, they repeatedly offered comments instead. Being so young--all five and under--they seemed unable to grasp the concept; but they came close. Example comments include what one boy wanted for his birthday and that a girl had seen a cat on the way to school, etc. This brought quizzical smiles to the teachers' faces. Finally a teacher stepped in and explained, as only a kindergarden teacher can do, what was expected. But still something was missing. "Questions" from that point onward included a length query about how my car could carry pets if needed and one of the youngest kids there, rising to his full stature, summoned all of his courage to say in a big voice he loved bananas.

I bring this up because it's an interesting language point and, furthermore, I intended to melt the hearts of my readers with a simple story of the curiosity and boldness of youth. Having not yet been exposed to years of conditioning, young kids are not shy about much, and so when studying clothes today the grade 1 and 2s were immanently interested in the fact "zubon" were called "pants" in English, whereas the same terms, "pants," in Japanese means "underwear". Being the shy Canadian I am, I was hoping to leave the discrepancy there, but as they weighed with this new language oddity in their minds, they turned their eyes toward me, the inquisitiveness and curiosity in them impossible to ignore. I knew teaching the word "underwear" was unlikely to corrupt them for life, but the homeroom teacher seemed to think it would be a good idea if we drew pictures first to make the connection. The boys did an admirable job, drawing the boxers in great detail on the blackboard, making sure to including both the elastic waist and fly. The girls debated about the details too long and so that also fell to the boys to represent, but here the drawings ended up looking more like eyeless unrecognizable animal outlines. I think we are safe for a bit longer to call their minds unsullied by the complications of adulthood.

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