Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goin' Camping

Just finished what's probably my favorite week of the whole year.

Every summer, I take as many of my students as want to go out camping at the Oregon Coast. We've had as few as 7 and as many a 60 takers over the years, with this year coming in at about 25.

I always love watching the kids spend endless hours just digging in the sand, jumping waves, exploring the dunes, finding sand fleas and jellyfish and starfish. This year, through the lense of having recently read Last Child in the Woods it was particularly interesting and powerful.

We really don't let kids spent enough time out doors.

Come evening, it was campfire time. Most of the kids took turns to tell campfire stories. Ghosts and farts, mostly, while we ate our s'mores. Then came my turn to tell one, which I'll share here. This is the true tale of Sifu Jason and the Japanese Gangsters.

While living in Japan, I would often stop at an all-night noodle place on the way home from whatever adventures I had that day. This particular night (my birthday), at 1 or so I stopped in. Waiting on a bench were three men in nice suits, clearly liquored up and having a great time. I smiled and placed my order.

In walks a very attractive (and distinctly mammalian) young woman. The three men glom onto her, surround her. They're talking to her suggestively, touching her. She walks away from them. When they follow, I step in between. Not looking at the men, but looking at the menu on the wall.

One guy puts his finger on my shoulder, sort of pushing me. I don't move. He starts talking to me. "Yakuza des!" He hollers, basically telling me he's Yakuza, or a member of the Japanese mafia. I have no idea to this day if he was telling the truth.

Me, I grab his hand and shake it. With a big smile, I say "Hajimemashte, Yakuza san. Jason des!" ("Good to meet you, Mr. Yakuza. I'm Jason".)

What followed was five or ten minutes (give or take an eon) where this guy threatened and insulted me. Every time he said anything to me, I answered in Japanese as though he had asked me some inncuous tourist question:

"Oh, I've been here a little more than a year."

"Yes, I love Japan. It's a little hot in the summer, though."

"I'm staying over by the Suwa Temple."

"I work at the English School."

Stuff like this, with a big dumb tourist smile on my face. Finally, this gangbanger grabbed my finger (my ring finger, not my pinky) and threatened to have some people cut it off. To which I responed "O-keikon genai" (No, I'm not married.

At this, he threw his hands in the air, shouted "Bakagaijin" (Dumbass foreigner) and stormed out of the restaraunt, his friends in tow.

I tell that story when it seems appropriate. I'm pretty proud of how I handled that. Nobody got hurt. I protected the lass. I didn't get killed by Japanese gangsters. And all it cost was a little verbal abuse.

Thanks for listening.

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