As you know, I spent 18 wonderful days in the US over the holidays. Seeing that I was with most of you for the majority of my time there, I am not going to recount it.
I did, however, have to tell some 500 odd students about it. I can't say it was really an exciting vacation, not to say it wasn't fun. But really, sitting at home with my family watching three seasons of the IT Crowd is not exactly something my students want to hear about. While preparing my lesson about my vacation, I was saved by my foresight of taking pictures of pretty normal things in America that I thought might interest or even blow-the-minds-of my students. And blow their minds I did.
While I have told them all that we keep a horse (now horses), it was probably a year and a half ago that they heard it, so they all forgot. In preparation of the first photo, I asked them if they remembered what kind of pets we had, mentioning that two are "very big animals". They most often shouted out "lion," "elephant," and for some reason, "snake." So, as with the response I got the first time around, seeing this photo of me riding Festus made jaws drop and kids start yelling "okanemochi" (rich person).
I didn't expect to get quite the explosive reaction as I did for the next jaw-dropper. I pulled out a picture of this play-set that was in someone's backyard in Ann Arbor. My students spend a lot of time at school and at parks; they don't have yards to play in, so when it's time to play outside it's on the dirt "field" and the jungle gym at school. Every time I showed this picture I had to restate several times that this was in fact not in a park, but in someone's yard. They couldn't believe it and again the "okanemochi"'s rang out.
The funniest picture for me to show was this picture of the mayonnaise selection at Hiller's. Mayonnaise in Japan is not really like the stuff at home. With only a single producer (maybe?), Kewpi (read Q-P), it comes in a squeeze bottle, more like ketchup, it's a little more sour and it's used as anything from a salad dressing to a pizza topping. I asked my students to raise their hand if they liked mayonnaise and surprisingly usually only a handful would, but, regardless, it's a national staple. So then I dropped the bomb shell. I'd point to every row and repeat "mayonnaise". In unison the entire class (and often times the teachers) would exclaim, in the oh so Japanese way, "eeeeeeeeeh?!" I got similar, but not quite as impressive reactions for the Oreo selection and the bread aisle.
It's funny how such simple things in one culture is mind-boggling in another.
I also showed them one dollar bills. To my surprise, kids as young as 4th grade would start spewing the current exchange rate and talking about Freemasons (the latter of which I can only postulate that they learned from the movie National Treasure). I still have no idea why so many of them knew the exchange rate.