(The title is a reference to Pitagora Suicchi (Pythagora Switch), this adorable and clever kids’ program that comes on when I’m getting ready for work in the mornings. [NHK site/English Wikipedia] The “Yokudekimashita” is what’s really stick ing with me right now for some reason, in that prolonged and memorable way young kids have of saying words like this.)
(And wow, who in Yamaguchi searched for me on Google by name? I don’t even know anyone there!)
I spent all morning worrying over my speech, and my boss went over the whole thing to catch any strange grammar or errors. She really saved me–she’s amazing. She came with me this afternoon to serve as an emergency translator–did I mention she rocks at English?–in case somebody asked me a question I couldn’t understand. I ended up starting over 40 minutes late because the previous talk went way over, and in that time we just sat and chatted, which really put my nerves at rest. She’s actually just a year older than me, which I just found out last week, so it was definitely cool getting to hang out with her for a bit away from the office.
The audience for the speech was around 60 strong, with maybe two or three men and the rest all women, roughly the same age as my eikaiwa students. Once I got up there it was fine, and they were a warm and receptive audience, nodding and “mmm”ing along and even “ohh”ing at new and unfamiliar information (like the fact that gelatin is made of cartilage/bone, and the nutritional information I gave them about various vegetables/legumes) and smiling and making sounds at interesting stories (like the stories of the ALTs who had people–a JTE in one case–intentionally trick them into eating meat/fish! Thinking about that makes me so angry). They also took notes, which I was very gratified to see–they really took this subject, and me, seriously.
Ironically, the one question I couldn’t understand came from Gasping Lady (who I’m sure will come by tonight; we’ve joked that we should put black blinds over our kitchen windows so she won’t know when I’m home)–she was kind of the coordinator of the event, or at least of this specific talk. I asked her to slow down and say it again, and she used exactly the same difficult grammar forms, even though we both know she can speak basic English–but my boss hurried up to the front and reworded her question in far simpler Japanese for me (“what do you do if you’re eating something and you discover halfway that there’s some kind of meat or meat product in it?”).
Really, the audience was pretty relaxed, so this wasn’t a big deal, but it was at the same time. It was just meant to be a simple talk on vegetarianism (and as long as I didn’t wear jeans, I could wear whatever I wanted, but I wore a dress shirt and skirt and nice shoes, which I’m very glad for in retrospect–it made me feel like I had that extra authoritative oomph), but it was also a really major opportunity that most vegetarians here don’t receive, a chance to truly educate people on what it’s like for us here, on the challenges we face in day-to-day life and even in acceptance from the people. I really felt like today was a major accomplishment, and I hope that it’ll really make a difference and that these people will begin to spread this newfound knowledge about vegetarianism throughout the community, to help future foreigners with similar dietary restrictions who may come to visit, and to just facilitate a better understanding of cultures and ideas among other people in the world. That’s what we’re here for, after all.