Friday, August 03, 2007

Grasshopper, You Too Can Be a PD Officer

In addition to my NIV Chiefdom (may it reign in perpetuity), I've also been asked to be the go-to person for the Public Affairs Section.* No real reason, except that the summertime shuffle of personnel left them temporarily a bit short, and being (in theory) a PD coned officer, it is presumed that I will have some intuitive knowledge of the field. This is not, in fact, the case. Luckily, PAS is content for the most part to carry on for these few weeks without my direct involvement. Though I have been asked to make a couple of speeches.

The speeches are for an audience of american high school exchange students and their japanese high school counterparts. The Americans speak almost no Japanese; the Japanese speak almost no English. American high schoolers are trained to loudly and repeatedly offer their opinions even when unsolicited (the less kind might say 'unwanted'); japanese high schoolers are trained to sit like lumps, and to confer with their classmates when confronted with difficult questions such as 'Do you like hamburgers?'. American high schoolers value cynicism; japanese high schoolers value naivety. The japanese organizers of this cultural exchange weekend asked me to give a one hour lecture in 'easy English' to this audience. I talked them into a 15 minute speech, with time at the end for discussion. This translated into a one hour talk and 'workshop' in their official program notes. Well, aim high, I always say.

Having taught in japanese high schools for two years, I know the secret to enlivening a room full of forty silent, sailor-suited Nihonjin (pratfalls); I am less clear on the method of subduing a room full of sixteen year old Americans (cudgels?). Realizing beforehand that the whole thing would pretty much be a wash, I decided to go for the PowerPoint 'True or False?' quiz approach, where the answers were oh-so hilariously contrary to expectation. A sample:

And thus cultural exchange and mutual understanding are advanced. There was also a question and answer session involving chocolate.

I'm considering applying a similar model to my next visa speech. "True or False: It's alright to live with your fiance on a B2 visa, so long as you plan to return to Japan at the end of your four month wait to do the final processing for the IV. False! But here's a Snickers bar..."

*According to Sun Tsu's The Art of War, "If [a commander] sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak." Indeed.


Lee said...

Katie, you need to cut down on the sweets! I got my self volunteered last night to give the commencement speech at our bi national language center - I am a much better PD officer in English I am afraid. They seemed to like me though, lots of pictures with the funny embassy guy who said he liked fuzzy pickles.

Katie said...

Yes, somewhat like you, my personal diplomatic mission is to provide comic relief to the host country's masses.

Who doesn't like fuzzy pickles?