Sunday, 24 February 2013

Kyouto Girl Scouts

Cologne has a Japanese friend who studied at his university in Germany, and now he's studying at hers. She's also a member of the Kyouto Girl Scouts, and every year they seem to have a presentation by a foreigner about their country. They asked her to do one this year on Germany, but she figured it would be more meaningful if an actual German did it, so she asked Cologne, who demurred on grounds of insufficient Japanese skill and suggested that I do it instead. I accepted because I like to help out, I thought it might be fun, it seemed like good Japanese practise and I never, ever turn down a public speaking opportunity, because I like to keep my skills sharp.

I got an e-mail from the chapter captain explaining the task and suggesting some contents. I would speak on Vancouver, my personal experience Japan, the Girl Guides of Canada as compared to the Girl Scouts in Japan, etc. So far, so standard. To confirm, I asked whether I was to present in Japanese or English (through translation). She requested that I do it in Japanese.

Ok, fine.

For about thirty minutes.

Holy shit, really?

“But don't worry. You can do your self-introduction in English.”

Lady...what planet do you live on that you were thinking the self-introduction was the part I was worried about? I introduce myself at least 900 per day. That is literally one of the first things I ever learned, right after “everyone, please sit” but before “I go to the bank.” I could introduce myself while fleeing an alligator. But no, she wanted to reassure me that the stupidly easy part would be A-OK in English.

But that was fine. I had over a week to prepare. A Japanese rough draft eluded me, so I bashed it out in English, translated it, had some people look over it for me. Jugs was in Girl Guides for 13 years and provided me with a ton of great material. I ran into a bit of a roadblock in that most of the things that I would want to share about Canada are all stuff like socialized medicine, and multiculturalism, and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which I think are interesting subjects that would probably get a good reaction from university or even high school students, but might not go over quite as well with 12-year-old girls. What are 12-year-old Japanese girls even interested in? Justin Bieber? I considered putting him in there somewhere, but couldn't think of anything to say.

But I put together a script and a PowerPoint that I thought were pretty good. It had a good mix of basic introductory stuff, stuff that was interesting to me, and stuff I thought would be relatable to them. By this point I was tired, really tired. More than once I'd asked myself how I'd gotten myself into this. It's my stupid “do everything” rule. I'm not being paid, I'm not being fed, I might not even be compensated for my transit. But I finished. And then I glanced at the schedule again. Following my half-hour presentation, there would be a half-hour question period.

Rude Boy: uhm. what the FUCKING HELL? they also want me to do half a motherfucking goddamn cocksucking hour of motherfucking questions?! how in the holy name of fucknipples will they ever, in the realm of natural motherfucking possibility, ever ever come up with that many fucking questions? never mind that i will be expected to goddamn listen to, understand, and extemporaneously answer for that period of time? all of this AFTER i'm mentally fatigued from having just delivered a motherfucking presentation in motherfucking japanese? wh, what the hell is wrong with these people...?
Jugs: don't worry though. you can introduce yourself in english

In the end, I pulled it off, if not stylishly, then at least competently. I made a couple of blunders and once, just once, faced a wall of frowning confusion, but it was otherwise reasonably smooth and I got some nice reactions to some stuff, like pictures of Banff and the revelation that, in the winter, my hometown is slightly cooler than Niflheim. Most importantly, I impressed myself by deviating significantly from my script, treating it as more of a reminder of what I wanted to say, expanding and restructuring on the fly. Next time I do something like this, I'm definitely just writing up bullet points. Of course, when I do presentations in English I don't have any notes, or even really much idea of what I'm going to say until I get up there. But I'm not quite there yet for Japanese.

My presentation took about 20 minutes, which was then followed by 45 minutes of questions and discussion. I worked hard on the formal part of my presentation, but I kind of knew that this would be the fun part. The leaders (and one particularly outgoing girl) had to carry it at a few points, but just about everybody came up with something. Contrary to my expectations, by the end of it I wasn't even tired at all. In fact, I was energized!

Cologne had invited himself along when he heard that it was a Girl Scouts meeting, but he ended up being disappointed when he found out they were all chuugakusei. Normally in a situation like this he'd try to tear me down, in what he thinks is friendly ribbing but is actually just really dickish, but even he conceded that I'd done pretty well. And he showed remarkable patience, considering.

As if that weren't enough, the three leaders – about 19, 26, and 35, respectively – were all pretty hot, so there was that. Following the presentation we ate maple cookies while drinking tea, and then made bracelets. The entire time, people just kept coming up with more questions. It was a good chance to disabuse myself of the idea that Scouts are all weirdos and mutes. And at the end, I was presented with an envelope containing 3000 yen plus my travel expenses! The event was great, the people were great, and I kind of want to join Girl Scouts now.

Afterwards, the three of us grabbed a late lunch at Aeon. There was a hilarious soft language barrier in effect the whole meal, as Cologne speaks very little Japanese, his friend speaks even less English, and I speak no German whatsoever, so at any given time there was always one person who didn't know what the conversation was even about. And then the girl went shopping, because Aeon. Pfft.

Since it was still too early to go to a pub, Cologne and I dropped into Round1. We played some DDR, but they only had Evolution X3, and I'm pretty sure we ended up playing on the noob machine because the pad was terrible and some stuff wasn't even unlocked. And is it just me, or are all DDR songs full of impossible crossovers? They're not even spins, they're straight-up double steps. Very sloppy. Then we played both Initial Dick and Wang at Midnight, and I kicked his ass, because driving.

Finally we made our way to the Pig & Whistle, where we hoped to win four Guinness glasses by drinking eight pints of it. Unfortunately, the promotion was over. Way to go, Cologne. We consoled ourselves with less expensive beer and a baseball game on TV, and just as I was feeling gratuitously foreign and ready to leave, some old guy sat down at our table and started talking to us. He was quickly joined by his wife, his son, and, later, some random girl whom nobody knew. She wasn't physically attractive, but very interesting to talk to, and, despite having sat down with us because of her interest in English, was still willing to speak Japanese (a goddamn rarity in Asia, as you may have experienced).

The ambient Nihonjin/Gaijin balance tipped after happy hour, the old guy kept buying us umeshuu, and we partied late into the night and the ensuing morning. I swear, I have all the luck when Cologne is around. Anyway, in a few hours we'll be meeting up again. Should be good.

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