18 May 2007

Further adventures of a Gaijin in Shonai

What is it about the air in Shonai that seems to wash away my non-existent good sense?

First I (mis)volunteer as a something or the other to the school board. I found out that I am a Kanji. What the heck is a Kanji, you ask??

Hmmm let me see. Kanji is the name given to the Chinese characters used in Japanese writing. Kanji is also the name of traditional rice gruel. And according to Wikipedia it's also the name of a kind of shrub in Australia.

So which of that applies to me? None of the above, I guess. By some obscure logic, I'm the kind of Kanji that means classroom manager. I have enough trouble being a mom, and I'm a classroom manager?? God help us, why on earth am I paying exorbitant fees to the school if I am to be called a classroom manager? And I'm called Kanji-san.... Darned of that doesn't make me sound like 'respected rice gruel'.

Last week, a friend told us of a very interesting incident. Apparently, her nephew came out second best in a classroom disagreement. And one fine Sunday morning, the winner of said argument came over to his house with a battalion of family, bowed deeply and expressed a profound apology.

I thought that was carrying schoolroom politics a little too far.

Today the PTA called parents to school to observe our little ones in class. OK. Now, I thought, I finally can see for myself what Aditi does at school. Aditi always refuses to talk about school once she gets home.

When I got there, I saw kids running around, playing and generally having a good time in the school's indoor play area. And parents standing around in groups watching kids play. And there was the usual greet-and-bow-thingie going on. Once playtime was on in earnest the tone changed.

For example, Aditi got pushed by one little kid, and his mom came over to apologize, with a deep bow. Another kid hit his friend on the head, and his mom ran to that kid's mom and bowed in apology.

What the heck? People, this is nursery school... let the kids sort out their issues... or non-issues. Is this a school-playground or a corporate boardroom?? I'd rather the kids settled these issues themselves. I realise that in Japan, the sincerity of an apology depends on the depth of your bow, but this is a little ridiculous. Actually, this is absurd.

After Aditi came out second best in another little altercation, I told her to go to her sensei and settle matters. Not ask me to intervene. Call me an ignorant Gaijin, but I told the apologetic mother that it was not our problem. Of course, if she'd bowed any lower, she could have touched her knees with her nose. She could teach Sony Corp a thing or two.

What can I say about my schoolroom (mis)adventures in Japan? Looks like this is just the beginning. Just one month into Kindergarten, and I'm in deep... er... let's just say I have no clue what I'm upto. And in a few years time, Avani will get into kindergarten too, and hopefully by then I'll have developed some good sense. Or I'll be in a country where I don't need to bow to express my humility regarding my kid's conduct.

Hopefully, I won't be called Madame Rice Gruel ever again.


1 comment:

One true thing said...

What happens in Japanese pre-schools seems to be the norm world over. What I could tell you about kindergarden in the UAE would make you cry.

Long mail follows :D