If you've been following along, you may remember from my post about Kinkakuji about meeting G, who was a volunteer guide there, and then going to lunch with her here in Host City. You may recall from that post that G invited me to visit her English speaking club one day. Today was the day.
We met in the big city, at a station, and then walked to a city library/facility, where we met in a room. There were 20-25 people there, from business folks to teachers and so on. They get together every couple of weeks to work on their English together. And evidently, there are a fair number of clubs like this around cities here. Imagine, people who aren't students getting together to work on a foreign language.
It was fun, too. They meet for several hours, and for each hour, one person is assigned to come up with an activity. The first activity involved a short reading about blood types and personality, which we discussed in small groups. From what I learned, some Japanese people believe(d) that blood types sort of determine personality type. So, according to the handout, type O folks are outgoing and social; type A are prefectionists and artistic. Type B are individualists and go their own way. And type AB are sort of splits between A and B groups.
Interesting, isn't it? I was in a group of four people, and the youngest man in the group told me quite insistently that no one in Japan really believes such things anymore, only to be told by the other two folks in the group (a man and a woman) that they believed they could tell what blood type someone was from their personality. The man said that he rather liked to guess what type someone would be.
So I asked if they knew the blood types of friends and co-workers, and they all owned up that they did, and that bosses were usually type A (apparently the most common blood type in Japan as well), and so forth.
I asked how they knew blood types, if they asked, or if it came up casually, and the one guy said that he often had conversations with someone he'd met a few times that would start with him guessing the person's blood type.
I know my blood type because I donate blood (so it's on the Red Cross card), and because we did blood typing in a biology class along the way at some point (wow, I bet they don't do THAT nowadays!), but I can't imagine it coming up in casual conversation among US folks I know.
See, I AM learning important stuff here!
The next two sessions involved discussing what spring activities we like best. (That gave me a great opportunity to ask about where I should visit--disclosing my nefarious plans to learn even more! Evil will out.) Then we did a pair off and introduce your partner to the whole group after a short conversation thing. I found it interesting, given that we do this sort of thing a lot as an "ice breaker" in first year college classes, how unusual they thought this was, and how difficult they found it to coordinate at first. (Because they hadn't gotten both people in the pair introduced or whatever.) And yes, I caused yet MORE problems because I asked the teacher I was paired with about some kanji, and he explained the "to" in Tokyo kanji, so now I understand and will be able to recognize it.
For the last session, we read a short story and talked about which of the characters we like best and least, sort of a reverse "Franklin's Tale." The discussion was fascinating because the different groups disagreed and explained their thinking really well. Fun to talk to adults about lit, even a fairly basic story.
Then those who wanted to went out to dinner (including G and I), and continued talking and eating some really good food. And I told the "Franklin's Tale" in an ultra-short redacted version, which they thought was good. (They had good taste in stories as well as food!)
I learned some more about kanji, lots more about the local area and the people in the club, and got to try some of the local favorite foods, including something that's a sort of stuffed pancake (but not sweet) and a sort of jello with ice cream desert. They were all great about speaking English and explaining things, and asked questions about my life and work, too, so I felt really welcome and not at all leach-like. Very nice.
They've invited me to their next meeting and to their cherry blossom viewing party. I've never been to a cherry blossom viewing party, but you have to try new adventures, right? (And the English language newspaper I picked up has a section on cherry blossom season. Evidently, blossoms are opening as far north as Tokyo now, very now!)
Pretty neat afternoon, and lots of fun!