Friday, August 21, 2009

My Community Center Class in Hisai

Yesterday I went to Hisai, a town between Tsu and Matsusaka, to teach a once-a-month class for a group of middle-aged people/senior citizens at the community center.

Pause: I turned my iTunes Shuffle on, and a piercing scream was the first thing I heard. It was a track from Bernarda Alba, but the volume was too loud and it just scared me half to death.

Speaking of scary (こわい), I rode my bicycle (Nice Friend) home after dark yesterday. As I was locking NF to a pole under my steps, a cat jumped out of a trash area directly towards me, like a flying monster, except it was a cat. I shrieked, then apologized to the adorable cat that was then cowering in fear, waiting for me to go away. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.

Back to the elderly. Most of my classes are 50 minutes, but the Hisai class is 90 minutes. At first I thought, "OH GOD what do I do for 90 minutes with senior citizens?" Now it's one of my favorite classes. I have a text book and a CD that are pretty basic, with questions like "What is your favorite baseball team?" and "Are you retired?" We barely used it at all. The class shouldn't be an English class so much as The History of Meg Delcher.

They had met me during my observation week and learned my name, that I had lived in New York, and that I studied art, but that was about it. Then yesterday a student showed up with a map of New York for each person, and asked me to point out where I went to school and where I lived. Then all twelve took turns asking me questions about my life or about American culture (ha). I'd correct each question, write it on the board, they'd all write it down, we'd repeat and practice it, I'd write my answer, they'd repeat that, and so on. There was also a lengthy discussion about each topic, or a long period of confusion while I tried to figure out what was being asked. They were all over the board, asking things like:

Where did you play in your childhood?

Were you in New York for September 11th?

Why is your nickname "Meg" if your name is "Margaret"?

In the song "Hey There, Delilah," what does "Hey There" mean?

How many people can fit in Carnegie Hall?

Here is a brochure; will you go see my friend's artwork at the Mie Museum in Tsu? She painted on the Berlin wall. I told the gallery to expect you.

I loved trying to answer these questions. I walked away with a Japanese map of New York, a museum brochure, and a note-to-self to google Carnegie Hall, origins of English names, and the Mie art museum. I'm going to try to go see the show next week; after all, they are expecting me.

I should also mention that to get to this class, I take a train to Hisai where someone should be waiting to pick me up and drive me to the community center. Yesterday, the first thing my driver did when I got into her car was to hand me a photo album of her granddaughter. I thought, okay, she's a proud grandmother... and then I realized: her granddaughter is the adorable girl in my Tsu class of 3-year-old "favorites"! I asked if she knew the little wild boy, and I did an impression of him by flailing around. She laughed and said she knew him. I told her how great I think that class is, and how smart her granddaughter is. Small world! Thank god she didn't show me a Matsusaka student - I have more there, and I'm still having trouble learning who's who. But her I certainly know her granddaughter!

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