Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Referendum time – Luna’s voice

Votes are in
The hot topic last week was the Scottish independence referendum, although picking my students’ brains for their thoughts and opinions proved largely fruitless (some were even unaware there was a referendum whilst the rest weren’t really too bothered either way), I did come across this little gem: “I hope Scotland don’t become independent or Scottish whiskey prices will be higher”.

I was in for quite the surprise when I received a phone call from Yukari on Friday morning, just as I was setting off for my midday class at Daiichi High School, requesting if I could prepare an impromptu demo lesson discussing the recent Scottish independence referendum for a slot on the evening news for ABN (Asahi Broadcasting Nagano). I was a little taken back, especially since this gave me a 30 minute window after my midday class to get back to Luna, have lunch and prepare! Despite the unfavourable situation that I found myself in, I decided to give it a shot and make the most of it. It’s not often do you get the opportunity to demonstrate how you operate in your working environment. But I assure you I was in no way calm and collected as I am making myself out to be, to be honest I was terrified at the prospect of conducting a lesson in front of a camera with little to no preparation. What if my students didn't know that Scotland is a country, let alone identify it on a map.

            I motored back to Luna after my class in order to clear my mind so I could set about how I was going to tackle the demo class starting in less than half an hour. However, when I arrived at Luna I was greeted with yet another shocking surprise. The demo lesson plan had fallen through, since we were actually unable to get enough students together at such short notice, so as an alternative ABN wanted to interview English nationals on their opinions of the referendum. Here’s the catch: the whole interview was going to be in Japanese. Definitely not part of the job description when I joined Luna! My head was spinning from just trying to keep up with the day’s antics, I hadn’t even sat down to have my lunch yet. I guess there wasn’t an abundance of potential candidates to choose from either, as they settled on me as an appropriate interviewee. Luckily we also had our friend Mark, who teaches over at Shinshu University, join us for the debate. Thanks for joining us on such short notice Mark!

            I barely had the time to digest the news, and what lunch I could shovel into my mouth, before the crew arrived on set a la Luna. The camera was so big I didn’t think it would fit in my classroom! After brief introductions and usual pleasantries we got straight down to business, the footage was going to be aired in less than 4 hours after all. I was greatly amused by the "voting batons" that had been prepared for us to show whether we were for or against Scottish independence; they were the epitome of Japanese ingenuity and craftsmanship. They had essentially taped on a red circle and blue cross onto plastic tea stirring spoons. They had the last laugh however as me and Mark both had to reluctantly hold up our chosen "baton" for the entirety of the interview, Mark tried to put his down several times but to no avail.

Chewing the fat
            I was a little tense before the interviewing process due to my limited Japanese vocabulary. I thought I would come across as simple and uneducated, which may not be too far from the truth, but I didn’t want people tuning into the news to know that! Having a massive camera sitting right in front of me didn’t help with the nerves either. Once we started though, my fears and worries quickly faded and I quite enjoyed myself. I jokingly mentioned that my biggest relief for Scotland rejecting independence was that we get to keep the Union Jack, as it meant I wouldn’t have to re-teach what the Union Jack represents to all of my students. You wouldn't believe how many people thought the Union Jack was the flag of England.

            But alas the referendum has passed, I had my shot at fame and stardom and the Scots have decided to stay united, for the time being at least. Back to business as usual I suppose. I wonder what old Nessie would have made of Salmond’s plans of an independent Scotland…