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Moment: Lunch

19 February 2010

We make awkward conversation, the students snickering to mask their own embarrassment whenever I spoke to them in English.  They manage only a nod or, if I was lucky, a ‘yes’ before doubling over in laughter again.  I no longer pay attention, or try to get past it.  This is lunch at every elementary school in Aomori.  We start to clear our trays, carefully sorting the bowls, plates, and plastic into the appropriate bins.  As I divide my utensils, the hancho (and yes, this is where the word comes from), a 6th grader named Ryosuke, grabs me by the arm “Ato de, matte kudasai”.  “Afterwards, please wait a moment”.

I go back to the cluster of desks where we ate.  I wait, as my lunchmates slice their milk cartons in the precise manner–the bottom dangling off the far right side, intact.  Two of them lag behind, and Ryosuke barks at them.  They form a straight line before me, and Ryosuke motions for me to stand up.  “Umm…” he stammers, then declares in Japanese “Thank you for coming and eating lunch with us today”.  I start to say it was nothing, when he says “Rei”, and the six of them bow in unison before rushing off to find their toothbrush kit.

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