It was time for the second Japanese class, the last one before the summer break.  I was determined not to be late, and not be intimidated by the foreign language and peculiar customs.  I had been to one class before and now I knew what to expect.  I would be fearless and ready to conquer.  Watch out Japanese ladies, I may have lost my fancy man bag, but I’m ready to participate and sing your songs.

To show that we weren’t the random American people who decided to take this class on a whim, I had dressed Ellie in her Japanese gear; her Miki House shirt with matching jeans and silver shoes with a giant rhinestone on them.  I thought about wearing one of my Japanese T-shirts too, but I thought maybe that would be overkill.  I wore a short-sleeve button-up to look a little fancier than just a T-shirt and jeans.  All the other moms would be done up and such, so I didn’t want to be the doofus American Dad with a Budweiser T-shirt.  I had packed extra snacks and diapers and made sure her water bottle was full.  I was feeling prepared and ready to go.

We were getting close to the high school when I saw one of the other Japanese moms at a stop sign.  I waved her on to go first so I could follow her.  Maybe there was a secret entrance I didn’t know about instead of the student parking lot where I parked last time.  And sure enough, there was!  I got out of the car and changed Ellie quickly because I needed to see where she was going.  By the time I grabbed Ellie to start walking, she was way ahead of me walking down this long descending sidewalk.  I started walking quickly trying to catch up to her.

When I got to the end of the sidewalk she was nowhere to be found.  I was a bit puzzled as where to go next.  I was in the middle of a courtyard with at least ten doors to choose from.  Eeny meeny miny moe… This really was a secret entrance.  How could she be so stealth with a stroller?  Did I need to make hand signals for someone to open up a trap door?  I looked around at all the doors and decided to try the one by a stairwell.  I remembered a stairwell from the last class.  Dang!  It was locked.  When I turned around I saw a lady far in the distance waving me to the right as if to say, “Hey white guy, wrong door!”

We wandered down the hidden sidewalk and found the door.  I took great comfort in knowing that we weren’t the last ones there.  We were even a little early!

When we entered the room, all of my confidence shattered when I quickly realized, again, that I don’t speak or understand Japanese.  The room Sheriff slapped a name tag on me and then one on Ellie’s back and was telling me something while one of the teachers was asking Ellie to come play and her shoe kept falling off.  What?  That was an intense 15 seconds.

I got Ellie’s shoe on, let her loose and I went to put my diaper bag on the table full of designer diaper bags.  After seeing them neatly in a row, I felt like mine didn’t belong there so I put it on the floor on the other side of the room.

It seemed like forever as I waited for the other moms to arrive.  And then finally, it was time for story time.  Still feeling hopeful to be a participant I sat in the middle of the semi-circle around the teacher.  Front and center.  Ding ding, let’s do this.

The teacher started by bringing out a stuffed Anpanman (A Japanese cartoon) character that says “good morning” and things like that.  I’m assuming we sang a morning song or let’s get started type song (sounded very similar to this) and then had Anpanman wave goodbye.  This is when Ellie jumped off my lap, ran up and gave Anpanman a hug and kiss.  Everyone said, “aww” except for the teacher.  She brought Ellie back to me and very politely said, “Please keep her in your lap.”  Ouch.  But just last week I was trying desperately to keep Ellie in my lap and one of the teachers said, “It’s okay.  They are babies.”  So wouldn’t you think it was okay for her to do a little bit of roaming?  I wanted to defensively say, “But the other lady said it was okay!”  But I just nodded my head and said “okaay.”  We weren’t even five minutes into class and I already got called out!  This is going to be a long two hours.

What happened next was a little crazy.  The teacher pulled out a saw.  A real metal sharp saw! And then a hammer!  What I saw in the next few minutes is really hard to describe in words.  Japanese people can be very animated and over exaggerate things when they talk on TV shows and especially in this baby class.  The teacher’s eye were all big and excited and her speech was elevated and excitable.  So she presenting this hammer and saw as if they were the first ever invented and we were the lucky ones to see it for the first time. “Ahhh sugoi  neee! Hammer go ton ton ton!” (WOW! Look at this crazy hammer!  It goes wham wham wham!”  And then “Sugoi nee!  Saw go giko giko giko” (WOW!  Look at this saw!  It goes zzz zzz zzz!  WOW!!”)

What!?  Saws and hammers!?  What are we going to do with these, I wondered?  One of the moms had brought her parents and her dad was enlisted to demonstrate.  He took the hammer and pounded the nail into a piece of wood.  Wham wham wham.  The room erupted into applause.  “AHHH sugoi sugooooi!!” (Amazing!)  He did the same thing with the saw and had the same reaction.  I kept thinking, “I could do way better than that guy.”

But where was this all going?  Most of the kids there were barely crawlers.  Were they really this riveted by a saw and hammer demonstration?  I guess it made sense when we sang the next song and it had hammer and saw noises in it.  “ton ton ton, and giko giko giko.” I tried to follow along as best I could and throw in my “ton tons” and “giko gikos” where they seemed to fit.  I was right about half the time.  Good thing I was mumbling.  Ugh, this was a going to be a long two hours.

To continue reading to part two, click here.

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