Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Will Never, Ever touch the English Department Director Again!

Photo of Roppongi Hills by Norikazu Yamaguchi

Jan-March, 1990, Nagoya, Japan
From almost the first day of working at St. Maria College I was warned, "Don't ever touch Craig." Even Craig himself had warned me. There were stories of full-grown teachers, being spanked over Craig's lap for transgressing his personal space. "You're joking?" I said one day to Cathy. She wasn't.

Being a pretty touchy guy, it is hard for me not to pat someone on the shoulder or give someone a playful,light punch on the arm. Craig seemed harmless to me, he came from mymother`s native land, and we got along well. He sometimes took me out for beer and steak at his expense. What wasn't there to like? One day in a humorous mood, as I am apt to be, I tickled Craig as I walked by. Next thing I knew, I was grabbed from behind, punched very hard in the shoulder, spun around, and had an English Director, screaming in my face in Scottish brogue about how I should never, ever touch him again! In a daze I continued to the staff room my heart pounding. The man had a definite problem that really required counselling. Everyone knew it, but Craig I surmise had never paid for a doctor.

This man I had considered to be a friend was totally changed for me. I felt I had to be on guard around him, always having to remember to never, ever touch him for fear of being physically assaulted. I never entertained taking him to court, but instead felt sorry for him. He was single and I imagined this phobia about being touched was caused by some kind of child abuse many years before. But I never found out the reason why. Craig very sweetly apologized to me the next day, but also said that he had warned me. I had forgotten the warning. I never would again. Neither would Brenda, the fellow Canadian who had been spanked over her boss's knee a year earlier. After bawling during this episode, she would never forget the warnings either.

As the weeks turned into months, my culture shock eased. Nagoya became more interesting and more bearable to look at. New colleagues arrived and they made work more interesting. Kim Robinson from Boston was a breath of fresh air and so was Margaret from Australia. We had a great time joking around and chumming around the city. Jeff, Brian and I joined a multicultural soccer team and this helped fill the hours too. There was dancing at some of the crazy night-clubs of Sakae-cho and barbecue parties in the countryside. I missed my family and friends back home, but I was making a new life.

Ikumi, a beautiful 27 year old woman I had met during my days working for Columbia College kept coming out to visit me and taking me places, showing me her beautiful country. She had gorgeous almond eyes, a cute laugh and smile, and was one of the most exotic women I had ever met. She had a sense of humour too and she was smart. I went out to visit her a few times in her hometown of Minami Ashigara. She owned a small boutique, could speak English well, and was the top tennis player of her area. Being a tennis nut myself,I felt I had met my match. As a child, I had always felt I should go to Japan, maybe Ikumi was the reason why. After a trip together to Thailand in December, (partly to visit my gomi collecting friend), I felt I should move out to be with her, and set my mind to doing so. It would be hard starting over yet again, but the thought of being near her was exciting.

By the end of March, 1990 my goldfish cutting boss at my other school, due perhaps to a little karmic retribution, didn't have enough students to employ me. So I had picked up more hours at St. Maria's.

by Kevin Burns
Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity

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