Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Part One: This Isn't What I Was Going To Say

This year I'm Vice-Administrative Officer for a Children's Group that is connected to our Neighborhood Community Association which is also somehow tied to the PTA. Don't ask me. I just attend meetings and try not to get in the way.

Every summer all the elementary kids in the entire city participate in a game called Medicine Ball. Each Children's Group is a team, or two teams depending on the number of kids in the group. We have forty kids in ours. Two teams. A and B.

There are tournaments and the winners move up and up until eventually the fastest Medicine Ball team in our city is determined. I believe they receive some trophy or certificate. Believe me when I say, we've never gotten that far.

What is Medicine Ball? It is simple and has absolutely nothing to do with a medicine ball as you and I know it. Something more like a volleyball is used. Here is a brief description:

Twenty kids in a straight line.

This is what twenty kids in a straight line looks like after thirty minutes of coaxing. The wee little kid sitting off by himself is crying. But don't worry he's done his fair share of making other kids cry. He made one of the mothers cry our second day of practice.

A long set of rules made short: first person grabs ball, runs to head of line, ball is passed up, down, up, down, up, down...all the way to the back. Run to the front, up, down, up, down, up, down, repeat until the first person is last and runs with ball across finish line. Oh also, your butt can't touch the ground.

I was seriously worried I'd have a nervous breakdown doing this. There were four mothers altogether and remember, forty kids.

It turns out, I had a blast. At least so far. Our first tourney is this weekend. It's like a combination of The Bad News Bears meets Seven Samurai. These kids are nuts.

Just a few examples: one kid found a shattered bottle and began stuffing his pockets full of broken glass, two boys climbed a tree and proceeded to pee from it (a distance contest, I presume), some soccer boys kept putting their soccer ball into the window of some old woman's house and then hiding whenever she came out to see what had happened. We're talking sand throwing wars between team A and team B that escalated to dirt clod and then rock throwing wars. Oh, and how about my favorite child (we've had run ins before), the boy who walked around the whole time collecting various beetles from trees, filling his pockets and them bringing them over to me and sticking them under my nose and saying, What do you think this bug is called? [Note: no matter how terrified you are, always act calm and cool when a child shoves a giant bug under your nose. If you show fear they'll chase you and eventually toss it into your hair when you aren't looking.] After he tired of that he asked if I thought they could fly and then began throwing the poor creatures as far as he could into the air as he could. In reality he only tossed one that was an obvious non-flyer. I persuaded him to empty his pockets and return to the line. There was also the one child who found a long length of rusty wire and became a tetanus-inducing helicopter for a few minutes.

Now, don't think us moms aren't yelling. Oh, we're yelling.

Here's a conversation I had with one astute boy, the third day of practice:

Him: So, I just noticed. Are you trying to tell me your a foreigner?

Me: Um, yes.

Him: Okay, so you know all about the roba then? (note: roba means donkey in Japanese).

Me: Um, huh?

Him: You know (winks), the donkey?

I stare bug-eyes as he walks away.

The below pictures is what happens when you turn your back for a second. Torturing a first grader. Typical.

Eventually, we get two practices in. No major injuries or deaths. One of the mothers left early and came back with Popsicles. Below is the picture of everyone playing 'paper, stone, scissors' to see who gets the extra Popsicles. I asked her if she injected the Ritalin. She said, What?

After practice some boys discover a couple of bases laying around -- bases like you use for a baseball game. They've been dug up and just kinda lay there. They looked really, really old. Suddenly they become punching bags, kicking bags. The conversation goes something like:

Mom: Hey, I wouldn't piss off those bases if I were you.

Boys: Why?

Mom: Well, you know.

Me: Oh, I know! I know!

Boys: What are you two talking about?! (punch, punch, kick!)

And THAT is what I was going to post about. But now it's gonna be Part Two.

~to be continued~


Anonymous said...

I've always hated that stage in Japanese kids' lives between the time they learn to walk and talk and the stage when all their independence has been ground out of them and they become automatons, preparing for the next entrance exam. I've had kids call me "pig" and "stupid foreigner" and throw rocks at me. All this before they even had a good reason to, the little savages. Real "Lord of the Flies" stuff. When I complained to the mom's, only a rare few would have their kids apologize to me. Most of the parents apologized, but I think that was just because the neighbors were looking, and they wanted me to go away ASAP. They probably gave the kids a Kinoko no Yama as a reward for saying what they couldn't. (!!!!!!)

Kappa no He said...

I went into this with a stomach full of dread but ended up actually liking most of them, despite some of the crap they pulled -- of course that was because the crap wasn't aimed at me. And the fact that the one kid didn't even recognize I was a gaijin ended up being a queer sort of compliment.

Yesterday my friend (a beautiful red head) said the other day at the supermarket a kid saw her, pointed, screamed "Scary!!" and ran crying to her mother. It really broke her heart.

The good news is it is so much better than it was ten years ago. You'd be surprised at how many foreigners are rubbing elbows downtown. You can't throw a rock without hitting one...da da dum!

Craig and Lotta said...

And THAT is why, when I coach kids at anything I alway show up drunk.

jean said...

Chuckling over Chuck's comment...

I'm not getting the donkey thing. ???

jean said...

Meant to say Craig and L's comment.

Kappa no He said...

Craig: Oh, I'm tempted...I'm tempted!!

Jean: I am so glad you made it! I had my fingers crossed, believe me! *phone, don't ring; phone, don't ring!*

That is actually funny when I tell it in Japanese. I'll re-tell it to you when you get back. And I'll also tell you previous run ins with him. *shiver*

AND!! today was the first tournament. I learned two things:

1) Fifty-one kids (I finally know exactly how many kids we got) divided into two teams neither of which can form a straight line or listen to a simple direction CAN go on to WIN the tournament. Both teams even! Out of about twenty other Children's Groups. I was so proud.

2) When you are trying to gather half of those kids into a group for a photo and at the same time keep the other half from getting into the bags of snacks, and a little first grader comes up and tugs your sleeve and says, I need to go to the bathroom, you do NOT say...Just a minute sweety. You smile big, grab her under your arm and bolt for the nearest toilet.

MDK said...

Seems as if you had a blast. If you don't mind sharing, how long have you lived in Japan?

Frank Baron said...

Jeepers! I'm about worn out just imagining dealing with a herd of ankle-biters for hours.

That you've done so with humour and grace tells me...you're young! ;)

Kappa no He said...

MDK: 'bout sixteen years now.

Frank: Young!? I think I'm on the fence with that one. I can go either way.