Friday, February 23, 2007

Mr. Suzuki, your house is on fire

I was in the middle of teaching a seventh grade English class this afternoon when I was interrupted by the earsplitting wail of an air raid siren.

“Be quiet!” the Japanese teacher yelled.

The students stopped what they were doing and sat up straight at their desks.

The air raid siren sounded twice more and then a man’s voice came over the town loudspeaker.

He was speaking so frantically I couldn’t understand what he was saying. All I heard was, “Blah, blah, blah. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!!”

I started to panic. Had part of Japan been leveled by an earthquake? Was this a warning that a tsunami was on its way? Had North Korea declared war? What the hell was going on?

“Mr. Suzuki’s house is on fire,” explained the Japanese teacher.

“They’re announcing that somebody’s house is on fire?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Yes,” she said.

“What? Why?” I said.

“So that everyone knows,” she said.

I asked if we were supposed to go and help or something.

“No,” she said.

“So, let me get this straight,” I said. “They just want everyone in town to know that Mr. Suzuki’s house is on fire?”

“Yes,” she said, looking at me like I was a complete moron.

And then we went back to teaching as if nothing had happened.

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