Today I visited Ai Kindergarten. Last year there were only 12 students. I visited the school several times, and it took a while for the kids to warm up to me. This year there are maybe 20, and they're all "supah genki" and warmed up to me during my first visit two weeks ago. They're great, I love them. They ask me crazy questions like if I'm going back to America tonight, and how to say 'butt' and 'poo' in English (I said "bottom" for the first, and one of the teachers interrupted before I could answer the second). They're also nuts. It's really theraputic to be able to speak English fluently. As long as I keep my tone cheerful, I can say whatever I want, and the kids are none the wiser:
"I'm pretending I don't know that you're asking me to push you on the swings, cos I've already been pushing you for the last five minutes. I'm going to go over here, okay?"
"And your face is buried in my butt. How 'bout we stop doing that.
"I'm a jungle gym!"
"You guys are insane."
But I can't get by without a little Japanese:
"Itai!" ("Ouch!" This one's really useful.)
"Dame!" ("No good!" A common reproof, like, "Don't do that.")
"Yada, yo!" ("I don't want to!" I get this from the kids all the time.)
"[Japanese word]? Wakaranai. Gomen, ne." ("I don't understand [Japanese word]. Sorry 'bout that.")
Today I had a short break in the morning, and I took the opportunity to call Mom while it was still Sunday in New York. The kids were all outside, so I snuck into the large play room to talk to her. It wasn't long before five-year old Minami found me. She was like, You're speaking English? I said, "It's my mom." Oh, cool. Are you a big sister? she asked me. Yes, I'm a big sister. After a little while, she was like, Why are you speaking English? Why aren't you speaking Japanese? I said, "My mother doesn't understand Japanese." She made the cutest little scowl and stamped her foot. Mom was absolutely tickled. "'Why doesn't your mother speak Japanese?' I love kindergarteners; they're so concrete at that age." A few minutes later, two of Minami's friends joined her, and she filled them in. "Emily-sensei's talking to her mom. Emily is a big sister." So they were all intrigued, and I passed the phone to one of them. "Say 'Konnichiwa,'" I said. With a bit of prompting, she did. Then we passed the phone around between the three of them, and they all had a turn saying "Konnichiwa," and hearing Mom say "Konnichiwa" back to them. Then all the kids came running into the big play room, and Sayuri, one of the teachers, escorted me to the balcony where I could talk in peace.
After lunch, I told Sayuri that the three girls had talked to my mom. "Which girls?" When I pointed them out, she told me to write about it in their report books to their parents. The teachers exchange notes with the parents through a notebook each student has. Whenever I visit, I write a short note in English (Sayuri proofs it to make sure it's simple enough) to explain what I did that day. So today it was, "Today [student] learned animal names. We played an animal game." And for the three girls, I added, "[Minami] talked to my mother in New York on the phone. [Minami] said, 「こんにちは！」 My mother enjoyed it very much. ^_^ "