Sunday, August 09, 2009

Looking at shoes

On Friday I had to do a speech/workshop entitled "Communicating with children". Throughout my "talk" I made some references to the way that a lot of Japanese people answer questions by looking at their shoes. I don't mean looking down at their shoes and mumbling an answer, I just mean looking down at their shoes..... and not answering. It is one of the things that frustrates me a lot about "communicating with children" here. I had the audience in stitches, tears rolling down their cheeks as I described some of the conversations I have had with children here. Unfortunately I wasn't joking and the group of girls we have staying tonight are living proof that such shoe watchers are alive and well in rural Japan. After an afternoon of talking (very one-sided), making cookies, jam and hamburgers they finally started to say more than one word answers and they took less than one minute to actually get that one word out - occasionally they didn't even consult each other before getting that one word out! They managed to introduce a couple of card games and there was a hint of a smile every now and again. I have lived here long enough to know that they are actually really enjoying their time here - they just don't quite know how to show it yet. There still hasn't been one question asked from them, but I guess we need to take things very slowly... I think Megan and Nathan are now even more worried than ever about what their classes are going to be like - what it will be like to have a class of 40 unresponsive children. (Un)fortunately for them my experience shows that most Japanese children are actually the complete opposite and you spend far more time getting them to shut up rather than speak up! I guess as time goes by they will discover this for themselves..... and then they may be praying for a class full of girls like the ones staying here tonight!

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