Here’s yet another entry about my 1998 trip to Japan, inspired by Sarah “The Hollywood North Report” Marchildon’s blog entries about her moving there to teach English for a year.
Depending on how old you are — or what magazines you read — you may or may not be familiar with Saul Steinberg’s cover for the New Yorker titled A View of the World from 9th Avenue, which depicts how a Manhattanite supposedly sees the world:
This cover has inspired a number of parodies. Here’s one: it’s Ted Rall’s A View of the World from Pennsylvania Avenue:
(For those of you outside North America, Pennsylvania Avenue is the street on which the White House is located.)
When I was in Japan, I visited the school at which my friend Anne taught English. I was there as her assistant for the day; my job was to talk to the students, give them English practice and an opportunity to meet a real live foreigner.
The strangest thing about the experience was the sense of deja vu that I got during the exercise: every Japanese person at the school remarked at how good my English was. Until that time, I’d only gotten that reaction from white people — it happened a lot in the 1970s — but these days, it’s incredibly rare that someone says this to me.
They thought I was Japanese and were surprised to discover that I was Filipino. “You don’t look it,” they said.
“Give me a pole to dance around and look again,” I replied.
They didn’t get the joke.
In one of the school hallways, I saw these large sheets on which the younger students had done an English exercise. I got a laugh out of them and had to take these pictures.
The first one was a list of things they associated with America:
Remember, this was October 1998, so Clinton was president, and this only a few months after Clinton’s admission that he’d had an “inappropriate” relationship with Monica Lewinsky. As for “Mr. Big”, I have no idea what they’re referring to.
Here’s the next poster: a list of things they associated with Britain:
Once again, this was October 1998, just over a year after Lady Diana’s death. It’s interesting that the students would associate gardening with Britain; although it’s a fair association, I doubt you’d get that answer from a North American student. I like the “Pank music” item too.
And finally, Canada. How do they see us?