Trying Not to Sell Us Short

The week has pretty much been a normal educational cornucopia in rural Hokkaido. The usual constant ‘gaijin’ aura of weirdness that draws stares from everyone, including coworkers (the PE teacher looks at me like I’m some sort of hamburger. It’s… unnerving.), elementary school visits, replete with tiny Japanese kids screeching their favourite slogans and trying to scare the bejesus out of me at every turn. On one such occasion, my vigilance was momentarily down as I was walking towards the lunch room, chopsticks in hand, when one Ninsei kid (2nd grade elementary school, so I think about 7 or 8 ) jumped out of thin air and made me scream out like a little girl. Yes, I think I left my dignity sitting next to my pride at OR Tambo!

I neglected to mention in my post on the school festival that afterwards there was a celebratory enkai, or drinking party basically, to enjoy all the hard work done in making everyone cry. Following that was the nijikai (sp?) where we shuffled off to the principal’s house and partook of more foamy beverage and chitchat. From what my JTE english partner teacher Eizo translated, albeit embarrasingly, included the topics of “underhair” and whether I loved Japanese women more than South African women. No pressure!

But then it was my turn to be embarrassed. The science teacher, who also speaks pretty damned good English, and Eizo asked me various things about what I studied (Strategic Studies, which in simple terms means I studied war and conflict!), and how different SA is to Japan. Unfortunately for me, they knew that SA has the highest murder rate in the world (this honour sometimes shared with Brazil) as well as rampant crime across the board. Should they come to SA? The diplomat I’m supposed to be on the JET programme should say ‘sure! It’ll be great!’, but the pragmatist I am realised that, were they to visit SA as tourists, the chances of them being mugged, hijacked or murdered was a very real possibility. My reply? “Sure!”, I said, “But make sure you go with me.” Because while I’m just as likely to be a victim of crime, I would at least know not to go traipsing around Hillbrow at any time of the day with an expensive camera looking obviously foreign! Out here of course there’s no such thing as crime. And what little of it there is is largely committed by those dirty soviets in Wakkanai, so it’s very hard to try sell the positives of SA, of which there are myriad, when the very real chances of them being another statistic weighs heavily on their thoughts.

 It’s tough, but it’s the reality, and I told myself before even coming here that I wouldn’t try and sugar coat the reality of our country’s problems, no matter how much I love it. Before I sound too much like a whiny ex-pat, which I certainly hope I’m not, I would dearly love for the Japanese to see the country I love and live in. As much as Japan has been a major awakening for me, so too would SA blow their mindhole!

Besides, I can’t teach them how to pronounce wildebeest, so I’m just going to have to show them one!

A Wildebeest, in case anyone wondered…

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