Each day, the names of the adult students taking classes are printed out on a sheet and taped to the wall of the teacher’s lounge. At this tender stage in my Japanese cultural training, I still find many of the names foreign. Worse, I often have a hard time telling the difference between male and female names. My own Latin cultural training has taught me that feminine names end in ‘a’ while male names end in ‘o’ but in Japanese this is not the case. I have come to understand that when a name ends in “ko” it is almost always feminine (i.e., Makiko, Eriko, Junko) but the other names still give me trouble. When I look at the sheet of paper, I recognize some names but for the most part, I have no idea what to expect – a class of older men who refuse to communicate with the women? A tight group of giggling ladies? It is still usually a mystery until I rock into the classroom.
The other day I glanced at the sheet and once again, the names were foreign. I prepared my materials for class and when I glanced up, a supremely exciting sight met my eyes: Weird Al of the Five Toed Sock journal – who I had regrettably not seen in months – had just entered the building.
“I recognize you!” she said when she saw me. “Let me see. You’re … Amy!”
“Close!” I said.
“Hmm!” she said. “I know – Judy!”
“Tsk, tsk … uh, Eriko!” I said, with a sneaky glance at the student sheet.
“All right. I give up.” she said.
“‘Eba’!” I told her.
“That’s right!” she said. “Eba. Eba!”
Two other ladies made up the class with Eriko and the day’s lesson focused on discussing the towns where we grew up. I partnered with Eriko and instructed her to ask me at least 5 questions about Crystal River.
“Hmm,” she said. “Is it far from Los Angeles?”
“Yes, quite far.” I said. “Maybe 6 hours by plane.”
“All right,” she said. “Hmm. Is it pretty?”
“It is sort of pretty. It is near the water and there are lots of fish.” I said.
“Okay.” said Weird Al.
“Go ahead,” I said. “Three more questions!”
“I am sorry.” Weird Al said. “I have no more questions.”