Starting over with everything..

I lived and worked in Japan for a long time and have come back in a time of economic and ever present family drama to try and gain a foothold in my so-called home country. Armed with nothing but dog fur, a crappy car, a laptop that hates me, I try to see how far I can get.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I am writing this still laughing from what a student just asked me. I have another dentist appointment today and since I didn't have time to go home before my appointment, I decided to brush at school after lunch today. This is a common practice at my school as most of the teachers brush right after lunch. With some of their teeth though, you would think they are brushing with gingivitis laden toothpaste. Anyway, so I'm out in the hall by the sink just brushing away and there are some students waiting in line for their health check-up outside of the nurse's room.

One student looks at me with wide eyes saying, 'Wow, you're using a toothbrush?!?'

I look at her confused as does her friend behind her. I mumble, 'Ha~?' Japanese for 'what the hell are you talking about?'

'I thought foreigners didn't use toothbrushes!' I almost choke on spit and toothpaste. Her friend looks at her like she's crazy.

I struggle to say 'Why, do you think that?' with a frothy mouth.

She says, 'Trees, right? You use trees to brush your teeth, don't you?' Her friend cracks-up behind her. I spit/choke /rinse and ask, 'What TV show did you see that on?'

She continues, 'you use like twigs and chew on them, right everyone does that, I saw it on TV.'

TV the information source for foreign-lore/culture in Japan, especially for those out in the sticks. TV tells my students I have the same brushing habits as a panda. TV causes my students to stare at me and take mental notes as if they were novice Jane Goodalls out in the field watching the gorillas brush.

EQUALS...... ??

Her friend asks, 'Maji?' meaning 'seriously?' in Japanese but is now staring with at me doubtingly to debunk this outrageous claim that her friend so ferverently believes.

I rinse again, shake my head and say, 'No sorry, we use toothbrushes, not trees.'

The friend looks disappointed and her friend says, 'but- they said that's what foreigners do..'

I smile and say, 'Maybe somewhere far away they do... far, far, far away. Where I don't know.'

As I walk back to my desk I hear her telling her friend, 'I really did see that on TV...'

I became curious as to who these bark chewing people were so I began to research right before I wrote this and this is what I found.

The toothbrush as we know it today was not invented until 1938. However, early forms of the toothbrush have been in existence since 3000 BC. Ancient civilizations used a "chew stick," which was a thin twig with a frayed end. These 'chew sticks' were rubbed against the teeth.
Everyday mysteries- Fun science facts from the Library of Congress

At least she almost had it right, just not recently, or in the past couple of decades. I also learned that the first bristle toothbrush was invented by a Chinese guy- what didn't they invent? However the first nylon brush was invented by an English guy. GI soldiers were influence by European soliders' habits during WWII and that's how it the practice of good oral hygiene came to the US. I was shocked to learn that most Americans didn't brush their teeth until the war, but damn it all if most havent kept up on that.

Jeez louise, I've been tooth obsessed lately. Doesn't that mean someone's gonna die or something bad is gonna happen, snakes will become the rulers of the earth, etc...? I'll look that up later. Off to find some trees.


  • At 12:06 AM , Blogger karen said...

    kids are so funny. youshould totally take some bamboo in tomorrow and start brushing, just to fuck with the little girls head.

    Also, speaking of snakes ruling the world etc... saw my very first wild snake today!! We don't have them in NZ, not even in zoos, so Gus and I got quite excited taking photos and videos etc. Is that really sad?

  • At 2:56 AM , Blogger sarah said...

    I can't believe you guys get excited over snakes. Sad, a little bit.. but I'm obsessed with teeth, so what's that say.

  • At 10:46 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

    Hee... I second the bamboo toothbrush idea.

    At least you can take comfort that not all the kids think that. If the little girl's friend had been nodding in fervent agreement, I'd say it would be worth doing an English lesson on the history of the toothbrush and how everyone uses them.

    Man, this still has me laughing, and I read the entry yesterday!

  • At 6:00 AM , Blogger sarah said...

    I sure hope so.


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