17 December 2003

Santa san

Yeah, I know. No, I'm not drunk. It's a long story:

So I got up this morning and was eating my Charlie Brown cereal getting all pumped up for this whatnot and Hagino san, our middle-aged woman translator, called to ask if I wanted a ride to the Kindergarten. She's pretty aggressive about giving us rides which I'm cool about, but I'm trying to cut the cord as it were. So I told her I could make it over myself and thought I had cut the cord, but when 10:40 rolled around and I was leaving to go to the Kindergarten, she was there, waiting to drive me.

We pulled around the back of the school like I was told (by the way, the back side of the school is right on the bay. It rules). I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell like 4 times, but no one showed up. Eventually, Hagino san decided to call them, which she did and instead of the back door opening, the window opened and a couple of old ladies told me that they wanted me to come through the window. "They're kidding, right?" I asked Hagino san, and she said that they weren't. So I climbed up into the window and had to take my shoes off in the process because you can't wear your shoes inside. I guess the coming through the window was important because everyone here is paranoid that the children never learn that Santa san's not real. If I came in the door, they might see me. Paranoid, kids. To an unhealthy degree.

I waited in an office that had all the curtains drawn, though I could hear a mass of children running around outside. Hagino san and I sat and had tea while we waited for the festivities to begin. The old ladies decided I shouldn't put the costume on until before the actual event as to not risk the children seeing me so I just sat around in the red pants. After sitting around for a while and a rather long silence, Hagino san looked at me and said, "Are you trying to grow a beard?" and I touched my burgeoning moustache awkwardly and said, "Yeah, well a moustache really." Then there was another long silence and she said, "Why?" "Why?" I said "Yeah, why?" "Well, that's what you do when you turn twenty-one. You grow a moustache." She looked skeptical. "What, didn't you grow a moustache when you were twenty-one?" and Hagino san just laughed.

Throughout the waiting, people came in and out of the office, all with pleas that I not be found out. After about a half-hour, the old women decided to get me all guised up (note the picture). You can't see the boots they made me wear, but they were those old-school rain boots that were about three sizes too small. I made them fit though. So we waited another half-hour until he kids started singing the Santa san song and I made my way out of the office.

Now, again so that I wouldn't be noticed, they made me take off my glasses. I'm not real graceful as it is and given the lack of my glasses and the shoes that didn't really fit, I was having a hard time walking and had to be guided by the arm. I got into the auditorium and the kids went wild. I couldn't really see, but there were probably seventy kids plus another hundred, hundred twenty adults. I hadn't really practiced my Santa san voice, but it came right out when I got going. So I made my way to the front of the auditorium and there was a kindgarten teacher up there sort of leading things with the Principal behind me translating. I greeted the kids with some crap about how I was happy to be in Fukuoka and how I couldn't wait to see them next week. I can't underplay how shocked the kids were. I mean, they were convinced duder was Santa san. No question.

After the nicities, six kids each got to ask a question (I had been supplied the questions earlier). You know, why does Santa san wear red? or How do you know where everyone's house is? I think I relied a little too heavily on the, "Oh, it's magic" answer. The kids finished asking their questions and then I gave three gifts to three kids out of my bag. Then the principal asks me, over the loudspeaker if I have gifts for the other kids. I answered saying that I would have gifts for all the good kids next week. He looked like that wasn't the right answer, and the teacher started talking and the Principal translated, Now, Santa san, don't you have gifts for the kids today? I was really confused, so I asked him, I don't know, do I? Again with the secrecy thing, he didn't answer and looked more worried so I dug around in my bag seeing if there was something I had missed, but it only had empty boxes in it. The teacher kept talking while I was looking and smoothed things over, I guess, because they told me I could go and sang the Santa san song again.

Okay, so I don't think duder has a career in this, but it was good fun. Plus, they gave me fifty bucks. That was pretty cool. Sensei's son who goes to the kindergarten apparently talked to his sister about Santa san being a foreigner. His sister who has recently been disillusioned when she found out Santa san was a fraud said, "Oh really? Last year Santa san was Japanese." I don't think Kento figured it out.

So, that's all, really, from this week.