Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm also available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs...

The ALT leaving ceremony took place last Friday, and old muggins here was roped into giving the after-dinner speech - a task which seemed simple enough until I actually started trying to write it.  Have you ever tried writing a speech? It's bloody hard, I can tell you. Anyway, Angela and I eventually managed to come up with a half decent bit of prose (Angela was giving the speech with me) and we sent it off to the board of education for translation, but we were dismayed when it was sent back with about a third of it missing: It had been decided that the speech would have been far too long to translate, and that some of the cut sections may have been deemed "offensive".

I was pretty annoyed at the time, considering how hard we worked on the speech, but in the end I think it was a good idea to shorten it - it lasted just about the right amount of time, and both me and Angela were given lots of compliments on how well it went. However, I was quite fond of some of the sections that got chopped out, and it seems a shame that no-one ever got to hear them, so here, just for you, is our closing speech reprinted in its entirety:

By Lewis Packwood and Angela Lehn

Lewis: So here we are. The very last official JET function. The last time we'll be treated to free booze and food by our wonderful employers. The last time we will have the opportunity to gaze upon the shining beacon of manhood that is Mr. Mizutani. Truly, this is a sad occasion.

Angela: We were welcomed into this country with a raised glass of free beer and now we've come to our last. I know I will definitely miss my last kampai, my last nomihoudai. Taking the last sip from my glass, emptying it to find no more friends left to refill it. I will miss my last free drink paid for by my job, them freely helping me to intoxicate myself …..to then wake up at four in the morning on a Katamachi street bench, alone, with no shoes, no money, no I.D., no self-respect, no dignity, no clue how to get to Chris Hall's damn apartment… only to crawl in the freaking kitchen window at the very same time the door opens after twenty minutes of drunken pounding. Yeah, I'll miss that free beer.

L: It's all "lasts" now isn't it? The last time I do this, the last time I do that… It's not all bad of course – I'm quite looking forward to the last time I have to drive into Fukui city for example. I'm not saying that Fukui drivers are bad, I'm just concerned that they may be too busy watching TV or doing their make up to even notice that they're actually driving. As one of my fellow JETs observed: "It's easier driving in New York city than driving in Fukui. At least in New York drivers do their best to avoid you. In Fukui it feels like they're actually aiming for you."

A: I know I won't miss my last garbage pick-up. The tri-weekly garbage days when I guiltily walk my trash to the metal cage in the parking lot, hoping not to run into any neighbor, being or animal alike surely to condemn me and my horribly separated trash. I won't miss that last walk to the metal cage to find my thrown out food scraps left behind just because I happened to double bag it because the green food scrap bag always leaks all over my garbage can and stinks up my apartment, but they don't want it like that because it's not following the rules, and it's rotting and growing things that even a raccoon would turn up its nose at. I truly fear I will cause the largest maggot infestation my neighborhood has ever seen. Even after Jesse Green lived there  I won't miss saving up my recyclables to only realize I missed the month's date and a midnight run to Family Mart would surely be seen as suspicious since I had already stopped there twice before for milk and ice cream, and heaven knows I don't need any more ice cream…... No, I won't miss my last garbage day at all.

L: These kinds of lasts are definitely in the minority though. Most lasts are like the last I had the other day. It was the last time I saw my Japanese teacher, Mrs. Kinoshita. Mrs. Kinoshita is great. I'm a terrible, terrible Japanese student, but my weekly visits to Mrs. K have been one of the highlights if my JET career. She's just so damn nice! She's taught me so much interesting Japanese too – check this:

(Aside to Mr. Mizutani) "Mo kari makka?"
(Mizutani replies) "Bouchi bouchi desu wa."
(Lewis replies) "So da na."

See what I mean? I'm not too proud to say that I was actually in tears as I said goodbye to Mrs. K for the last time. I'm sure most of you have probably been through something similar recently with your teachers.

A: As for me I'll miss my last autograph signing: the last time hoards of elementary students rush to my desk with all their worldly possessions for me to sign. I'll miss the last scrap of paper, the last notebook, the last ruler, the last stajiki, the last book, hand and even the last arm. Never will I be more famous. I'm almost positive Tom Cruise has never signed a stajiki. But I have. Lots. I'm going to miss all that attention, that rock-star like fame that can drive you crazy and at the very same time make you feel like the luckiest and most important person in the world. I'm going to miss that last gasp of breath, that last " I-na" or "Kawa-ii" for just doing something that to you, may be quite trivial, or quite normal, but most of all I'll miss that last "sign kudasai", the last autograph.

L: Then there's the last time I'll get money out of a Fukui Bank ATM. I just love that little lady that bows to you when you take your cash. When was the last time an ATM bowed to you in your country? Never. Other lasts… It's going to be a sad day when I eat my last bowl of convenience store soba too. I love that stuff. And I've become strangely addicted to the mysterious "Third Way" beer as well. No-one seems to know exactly where it comes from – it just has something to do with peas and it's cheap. I've even started liking natto, much to the delight and amusement of my peers.

A: As much as we might find it odd, uncomfortable, annoying or even at times meaningless I will miss my last bow. This is the only place where a simple bend at the waist, one single movement, can truly mean so much. A thank you, an excuse me, a humbling apology, an offering, a welcoming, an agreement, and of course, a goodbye. Its been a long year with many bows, many ups and downs, and head bobs in between but now as I say goodbye, I bow knowing I can convey a feeling probably better than I can say it, especially since I don't speak Japanese. So, everyone, take your final bow with care. This is the one thing that says so much without you saying a word.

L: Of course, the big last for everyone here will be the last time you go to your school. Are you looking forward to giving your closing ceremony speech in Japanese? I can't wait for mine – I just know I'm going to balls it up fantastically. It may surprise you to learn that, despite the patient teaching of the wonderful Mrs. K, my Japanese isn't actually that good. Like the time one of the teachers at school asked me how my trip to Tokyo for the recontracting conference was. I was trying to explain to him that Tokyo seemed a lot more crowded after I'd lived in Fukui for so long. The sentence I meant to say was: "Tokyo niwa hito ga ippai imasu ne?" (There are a lot of people in Tokyo, aren't there?). What I actually said was: "Tokyo niwa hito ga oppai imasu ne?" (There are a lot of breasts in Tokyo, aren't there?). He paused, looked me up and down for a few seconds, and then said: "Haaaaaaiiiiiii." (Long, dirty, drawn-out "hai")

L: Anyway, the goodbye speech at school is going to be the big one. It's going to be sad enough saying goodbye to all the teachers, but I know I'm really going to miss the students most of all. In my last week of lessons each of my students wrote me a goodbye letter, and reading through them all was heart-breaking, not to mention surprising. Here are some of the things they said:

"I liked your guitar playing and sideburns."

"I think you are every bit a gentleman. You are always smile. I have no remember you get angry at us. I love you. Goodbye for now."

"I don't forget you and you don't forget Nyu High School. Your face is like for Beckham. England is good country. I want to go to there. I'll meet you again. You should take care of your sideburns."

(Those sideburns again)

"Goodbye Lewis, I'm very miss you. So, please stay here a little. But, I think it impossible. You are forever my ALT!"

Gotta love those kids.

A: Students aside though, probably the worst goodbye is going to be saying goodbye to you lot. In Fukui we're blessed to have a really close-knit group of ALTs, but unfortunately that makes saying goodbye all the more difficult and painful. You're fantastic, all of you, and it's been an honour and a privilege for us to know you. Thank you. "Sayonara" is too formal and final a word. Let's end this speech with a far less formal phrase that implies the hope of meeting again. A phrase that means the same in English as in Japanese:



Blogger Ian said...

Think Andy and me plan to leave Vancouver doing 'Bring Me Sun Shine' and doing the dance.

12:48 am  

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