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So I will repost this one from May of 2008, set in Japanese language immersion class.

Heteronormativity-san, because he is apparently about twelve years old, enjoys shoving persons of the feminine disposition. He hasn’t tried it seriously on me for a couple months, because I’ve been known to kick. But today at lunch I passed him in the stairwell, saw that he was smirking for reasons that were doubtless extremely heteronormative, and made a face at him. So he pushed me, and threw me off balance enough that I fell down and landed on my posterior in a manner that I’m sure was very amusing.

After ascertaining that I was all right, he felt it necessary to explain the situation to me: “It wasn’t my fault! That was not my fault!”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“It wasn’t my fault!” I’d been going down to the first floor pick up my mail, so I threatened his life again, and limped tragically on down with my hand on my abused posterior.

(Incidentally, I have since examined it and discovered extremely visible bruises. I seriously do need to hurt him about this.)

He was in the classroom when I got back up to the classroom a couple minutes later, so I hit him over the head with my envelopes. He wailed, “It wasn’t my fault! It was your own fault!”

And everyone else in the room (except Fuzzy-san, who was playing his stupid PSP like always) all said in pretty much the same moment, “It was Heteronormativity-san’s faullllt!”

It became obvious that he had run straight up there to explain to everyone that yes, I’d fallen down the stairs, and yes, he’d pushed me, but it wasn’t his fault.

So what we have learned today is that lack of fluency in a language leads people not only to express themselves like children, but also to behave like children! I am not ashamed. It was completely his fault.
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When I was in language school in Japan, I had a Taiwanese classmate named Goh, who was known for her preoccupation with and delight in cake. Ordinarily she looked slightly startled and offended, as if someone had just asked her an extremely personal question, and she was trying to think of the gentlest way to tell them to fuck off. But before taking a bite of cake, her face would, briefly, take on the blissful serenity of some sort of image of the Buddha. Probably one doing a mudra specifically relating to confectionery.

When asked to form a sentence incorporating a specific grammatical structure, our class's default was kind of to say something about Goh and her cake. Make a sentence stating a rule: "When you visit Goh's apartment, you have to bring some cake." Make a sentence expressing incredulity: "What do you mean, Goh didn't finish her cake!?"

And so on. Each time this happened, she would screech and hide her head in her hands with noisy mock-embarrassment, encouraging the continuation of the practice. Language immersion school turns adults back into grade-schoolers.

(To be clear, Goh was very skinny, and this wasn't commentary on her weight. I was always by far the heaviest woman in the class, this being my duty as the American, and the jokes about me were about my ostensible status as a princess and undeniable kuuki-ga-yomenai status.)

One day at lunch we were talking about language classes in general, and one of the other Taiwanese women mentioned that she'd had to select a Westernized name from a list to use during her English classes. Goh said, "Oh, you got to choose? My teacher picked mine out when I was a kid. It's on my passport, but I don't really ever use it."

Just letting some English teacher she didn't like pick her name was a pretty Goh-ish thing to do, and so for this she received some light mockery. What was it? someone asked. She told us.

Myself and one of the other Americans started laughing. Goh looked at us in an injured manner. "What, is it a stupid name? Did she pick a stupid name for me!?"

Me: "Okay, so, did you really like cake back then, too? Like, when you were a kid, were you already the cake person?"

Goh declined to answer this question directly: "I will always like cake. Forever."

"That's great! Because your teacher named you after a cake company."

She refused to believe this. Fortunately, I had my laptop with me, so I opened the appropriate website for her. Her teacher had, of course, chosen to call her Betty.

I'm really just telling this story to illustrate why Goh is my image of Jane Crocker. Sorry, Goh, you are a brainwashed murderbot now. This is what your innocent love of cake has wrought.
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I am at the hotel in Nagoya, all prepared to leave in the morning. I am stressed out about this, so I may walk over to the airport (the hotel is attached, but far enough away from the tarmac that you can’t hear the planes) and buy chocolate in a while. I am American and female, this is what I do in these situations.

The hotel room came with an amusing striped nightshirt. I will probably actually wear it tonight, as I think I put my pajamas in the big huge suitcase I don’t want to reopen.

I ate oxtail porridge at a Korean place for dinner, because my one desire in this life is to HORRIFY MY FAMILY. (Apparently it’s actually beef.) Also because it looked good in the picture. It was okay, but kind of bland, so I dumped in the little bowl of spicy sauce they gave me. I don’t know if that’s what that was for? It didn’t really help all that much. I think I will google around for interesting-looking Korean foods, and then tomorrow see if they number among the amenities offered by the Incheon airport. (From looking around online, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably too risky for me to leave the airport unless my departing flight gets delayed at least an hour.)

There was a graduation ceremony yesterday, at which I wore a tiara and held a pink scepter with a little heart covered in fake pearls. We had to give speeches, and mine in its entirety was “The Princess has no need to give a speech!” (「姫様はスピーチをする必要がない!」) This was done largely at the instigation of Sensu-sensei and Kuma-sensei, who acquired these items for me at the 100-yen-shop last term, because I am The Princess. It did not appear that they had alerted any of the rest of the faculty to this.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

Ungh.

Sep. 25th, 2008 05:34 pm
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Last day of classes, and I just now finished the last of my job interviews while-I’m-in-Japan-at-least. I can now panic about packing instead.

I have a vague desire to go purchase gyoza and cake, but also an irrational fear of adding to the pile of recycling I need to take out in the morning. I just got this stuff organized.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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I had a job interview today, and made it back in time for most of last period. My class and another one had been divided into groups last week to perform little skits, and I got into the room just before my group’s taping. I did not have my script, had forgotten we were doing this, and was trying to eat a pastry.

Atom-sensei gave me her copy of the script, so I heroically draped my suit jacket over my shoulders in the manner of a drunken sarariman (much to the dismay of the rest of the group) and read my lines. We got the award for Best Performance, which was a small paper bag of junk food and a certificate signed by a teacher who hadn’t felt like showing up for this.

I felt very proud of myself until I went to my elective, where I discovered I was supposed to have prepared a story to recite. (I have been busy, okay?) I couldn’t think of anything. I paused a lot and told the story about the time mysterious strangers at the Kentucky State Capital kept stopping me and asking me about my “squirrel friend.”

And now I have another job interview in about forty minutes.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Check-Out Girl: Here’s your change.
Gaijin: Thank you. Uh, I need to turn a jar of coins into bills. Can I do that anywhere here?
Check-Out Girl: Oh, go over to the service counter.
Gaijin: Over there? Okay, thank you.

Gaijin: I wanted to turn this jar of coins into bills. Can I do that here?
Service Counter Girl: Oh… that’s a lot…
Gaijin: Yeah, sorry. And I’ve actually got a second one…
Service Counter Girl: …Sorry, but you should probably go to a bank or a post office.
Gaijin: I can do that at the post office?
Service Counter Girl: Yeah. The nearest one is -
Gaijin: No, it’s okay, I know where it is.
Service Counter Girl: Sorry about that.
Gaijin: No, it’s okay. Thank you.

I realized after having these conversations that I’d gotten through them without pausing to think about what I was saying or confusing anyone. No, this is a big accomplishment.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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The suspicion that I’m going to get an offer for a job I only sort of want on Friday, when it’ll be next week before I hear anything from the people with the job I really want. (I’m 90% sure the guys I talked to today want to hire me, but the interviewers aren’t the ones who make the final decision - there’s a shadowy, mysterious Board out there somewhere, possibly they’re the Shin-Ra, and thus on the Plate, I don’t know.) Even were I unethically-inclined that way, it would get my visa in trouble if I said “yes” to Company A and then went with Company B if I get an offer.

It’s obviously not the worst problem to have, but still. (And now watch as they both reject me with extreme prejudice and anime smilies.)

On the plus side, the guy who conducted most of the interview gave me an explanation as to why, when I’ve been interviewed by native Japanese people, they’ve always gotten kind of stiff and weird when I’ve asked if they have any specific procedures for dealing with kids with discipline problems. His reasoning was that Japanese people don’t like to think that “good kids”* ever act up in class, and therefore dislike the idea of outright disciplinary action - or at least dislike discussing it with someone they feel to be an outsider, even one they’re considering, you know, hiring as a teacher.

The default tactic for kids who act up is assuming that social pressure from the other kids will calm them down eventually. When that fails, there’s no backup system in place. And by this guy’s estimation, it’s failing now more than it did a decade ago, and was failing a decade ago more than it did in the 80’s.

This actually syncs pretty well with my observations - now that I think about it, even Doom-sensei and Sensu-sensei, who generally will talk about anything and have spent a lot of time abroad, have issues discussing anything approaching “kids behaving badly.” Doom-sensei once got really uncomfortable when I asked how the Japanese school system deals with disabled kids. And I’m pretty sure the Master’s she’s working on’s in Sociology.

So maybe it’s not the way I ask that’s rude, but the question itself that’s off-limits.

-

* And obviously there are only good kids in Japanese schools. The bad kids go to other schools. Schools in other dimensions, like in After School Nightmare and Drifting Classroom. (And now I totally bet that the relative prevalence of “weird school” stories in manga relative to in Western YA fiction is a reaction against social uniformity in Japanese school culture. And maybe the stigma against scolding kids is why manga loves angry, over-the-top abusive teachers so much, and why you so rarely see the “good” teachers get angry at anyone for anything. (Mayu from Fruits Basket seems intended to be read as being unusually harsh on her students, and seriously? She’s a creampuff. She’s got Kyo freaking out and climbing out windows and stuff, and does she ever do anything about it beyond making fun of his hair? (Though maybe this is partly gender-based - there’s a good-guy male teacher in early volumes of Yu Yu Hakusho who gets to yell at Yusuke…)))

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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It’s made of something that looks and feels sort of like metal and sort of like plastic. I dented it last month, and now, when its temperature changes, the dent tings and buzzes like steampunk bees.

Tomorrow my class is going on a tour of a Mitsubishi factory. I’m still not sure how that got decided?

I remain deeply stressed by the search for gainful employment, and so accomplish nothing. Unless I get an email agreeing to certain proposed contract alterations tonight (I tried to renegotiate a contract today, I have no idea how to do that), I have another interview after the Mitsubishi thing.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Read the rest of this entry » )

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

Bullying

Aug. 7th, 2008 05:03 pm
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Sakana-sensei: - well, saying that you “have no eye” for something does mean that you love it, but you use it to say you love things of a certain type, whether they’re good or bad or expensive or whatever. Like, you could say, “I have no eye for food,” if you like eating and don’t care what. So SuperShadow can’t just say, “I have no eye for YamaPi.” He’s just one person -

Screech-san: What if you cloned him -

Sakana-sensei: No.

Kimiho-san: No, wait, wait - couldn’t you say it and mean “I love YamaPi no matter what, even if he does something bad?”

SuperShadow: He wouldn’t do anything bad.

Sakana-sensei: Ohhh, sort of, “Even if YamaPi lost his voice, even if he got married tomorrow, even if he killed someone -”

SuperShadow: No!

Possibly Me: “Even if he ate a baby.”

SuperShadow: No! He wouldn’t do that! He wouldn’t!

Sakana-sensei: Eh. No, you can’t use it that way.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

Urrrgh.

Aug. 6th, 2008 04:29 pm
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Part of my lunch today involved convenience store food, specifically a banana wrapped in chocolate cake with chocolate cream in it. I was tired, and didn’t realize until I’d eaten most of it that it was horrible. I’m probably going to hate chocolate for a couple days. It’s a weird feeling.

Relatedly: As of today, there exists an audio record of my confession to having deliberately, and with malice aforethought, given a bunch of junk food to a diabetic priest with poor impulse control.

(The assignment was to “tell a funny story about something you did,” and actually, that teacher might very well be collecting blackmail material. Her example story was a recording she had of another teacher’s “and that’s why I’m not allowed back in that bar” story.)

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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There’s a big treefull of them just outside. They wake me up in the morning, and I’d rather they refrained. I have an alarm clock.

These are like twice as big as the Ohio ones, too. One of them zoomed right by my arm when I was coming up the stairs yesterday. I thought it was a bird.

I’ve been messing with the Maya PLE on and off the past month or so, and I’m most of the way through the tutorials that come with it. It actually doesn’t strike me as difficult, exactly - it’s just that it requires memorization. There are so many options, it’s hard to remember how to get to the one you want. Some things are named really opaquely, but after you’ve figured out what they do and how they relate to all the other similarly-sounding things, it’s hard to think of anything else they could be named. This is not something it would be easy to go back to after a long break.

According to Fretful-sensei, the name “Kinoshita Sakura” (”under the cherry tree” when written in Western order) does not sound overly cutesy to a Japanese person, nor do “Akino Matsuri” (”fall festival”) or “Hino Matsuri” (sounds similar to “Hina Matsuri,” aka, the Doll Festival; on its own sounds like “fire festival” or “sun festival,” which may or may not exist someplace). I’m not sure whether to believe her, as she sometimes seems a little less in touch with Japanese culture than some of the other teachers - maybe it’s just she’s older and has kids, so she doesn’t have much free time?

Last week I was trying to figure out why the kanji 「漢」, which means “China/Chinese,” and is usually pronounced “kan,” was being furigana-ed in a manga as “otoko” (「オトコ」) which means “man.” I’d googled this and found a lot of Japanese websites doing the same thing, but couldn’t find an explanation of the practice. Fretful-sensei stared at this in bewilderment and could offer no explanation. Later I asked another teacher, who explained immediately that writing “otoko” with the “kan” kanji meant basically “macho man” (with about the same level of associated irony), and most people knew it.

Fretful-sensei also gets surprised by the existence of some Japanese food items - this week she was astonished by nattou candy, which several mentally unbalanced people in my class have apparently voluntarily eaten. I wasn’t particularly surprised by this, as I’ve accidentally purchased sweetened nattou-flavored soymilk, deceptively sold right alongside the chocolate and banana-flavored soymilk.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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The woman who lives across the street carries two huge kitchen garbage bags out in front of the house and props one up against the fence. She takes a pair of scissors out of her pocket and begins carefully pruning her bushes back, putting the remnants into the bag. It is going to pour any second.

If I were a Hemulen, I would knock on people’s windows and wake them up when I see they’ve forgotten to bring their laundry in.

It rains all the time here, but today’s only the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard thunder. I didn’t see any lightning.

(The term officially starts today, but class doesn’t start until Friday. I wish they’d send an email or put that on the website.)

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Sensu-sensei is secretly a twelve-year-old boy. She drew boobs on my homework. The rationale for this was that I had used the wrong word for “milk” - I’d used the one meaning “breast milk/baby formula” rather than the one meaning “cow’s milk.” I am, however, fairly certain that there exist other means of expressing that.

Things learned on Food Vocabulary Day: According to a very scientific survey of like seven people, people in Japan, Taiwan, China, and Korea do not eat mushrooms raw! Ever! Because it’s dangerous! Fretful-sensei was extremely emphatic about this!

The Pierced American and I took several minutes to get past this, while our Asiatic counterparts professed to be astonished that America has not yet gotten itself killed on all these poison mushrooms we keep eating.* The European and Brazilian guys looked upon us all with amused condescension. Presumably they do some secret third ultra-civilized thing with their mushrooms.

Also, according to Fretful-sensei, Japanese people do not eat carrots raw. (Fretful-sensei: “Wouldn’t they be too hard?!”) Also, apples must be peeled and sliced before they can be eaten, and the crusts must be removed from all sandwiches. These tendencies do not, however, seem to be pan-Asian in nature - Myuu-san (Taiwan) said she felt it was okay to eat carrots raw if they were sliced thin, which possibility Fretful-sensei accepted with some dubiousness.

We took a mock version of the JLPT 2 listening test today, and I passed with a pretty safe margin. Yay! Though the listening section is apparently easier than the reading/writing?

* This is the rest of the world’s default assumption about us. “What do you think the Americans are doing today?” “They are probably eating poison mushrooms.”

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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We had spoken tests today. There was an earthquake right in the middle of mine, and I had to start over, and still messed up the sentence with all the “te”’s and “tte”’s. I practiced that forever. Evidently I’m much less amused by earthquakes when I’m not in my room. I kept thinking, “What if the school is not properly stowing its hazardous chemicals? For surely it must have some. What place of learning does not?”

Yesterday some people from the student affairs office came to put my window screen back in, as it fell out and tried to kill an old couple when I opened the window after the last earthquake. They (the people from student affairs office, not the old couple) scolded me for still not having the AC turned on. I hadn’t even really noticed it was hot. I didn’t really feel hot today, either, but got my first heat-headache of the summer, and so gave up and turned on the AC. Also bought ice cream. Japan has some funny ideas about ice cream. I - naturally - have an upset stomach.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Daigakusei-sensei got distracted toward the end of class today.

Daigakusei-sensei: I think, if I went to live in another country, I wouldn’t want to go to one that was dangerous… more dangerous than Japan, I mean…

The Pierced American: Don’t go to the US!

Me: Well, but Sensei, I think that only leaves Switzerland…

Daigakusei-sensei: Really?

Fuzzy-san: Yeah, I think so.

Screech-san: But I think maybe Japan is getting dangerous! I saw on the news that someone was murdered in Toyota recently -

Daigakusei-sensei: Really?!

Screech-san: Yeah! But - see - there’d been a bag tied around the person’s head, but it was gone when the police found the body? But they found the bag in Okazaki! So they think the murderer lives in Okazaki!

Daigakusei-sensei: Oh, no… Japan really is getting dangerous!

Me: *head explodes*

Daigakusei-sensei: Aie! *reproachfully* Hime-sama*, you scared me, screaming like that! - oh, it’s time for lunch! Bye, everyone!

Me, in English: There might be one murderer somewhere in Okazaki! One!

The Pierced American: Yeah, it’s pretty weird when you realize stuff like that…

The Bicycling American: You know, I’ve never felt unsafe in Japan, but when I go back to the US right now, I get so paranoid. I start crossing the street when I see a group of people just, you know, hanging out - I mean, any of them could have a gun!

Fuzzy-san: *worried* So in the United States, do you really see, you know, gang violence in the streets all the time?

-

It’s too hot, so I went and bought some men’s boxer shorts to wear for pajamas. It’s occurred to me that, though there are always girls hanging around the mall and train station wearing cut-off jean shorts that cover up much less than the boxers, I would definitely get arrested if I went out in the boxers. Because though the jean shorts cover up less than the boxers, they’re still jean shorts, and therefore coded as outerwear. Whereas the boxers are coded as underwear, and are thus obscene. What’s the sociological term for this phenomenon?

Incidentally, I wear a men’s XL in Japanese sizes. That’s an American women’s 14-to-16. I still have no idea what I would be in Japanese women’s sizes, as I have yet to find a store that carries women’s garments in sizes above XL.

-

* Yes, people are still calling me “Hime-sama.”

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Cooking Tip: A teaspoon of habanero is too much. It doesn’t matter how much curry you’re making. If you put a teaspoon of habanero in the curry, the results will kill people.

Today I received the results of my chest X-ray. These were, regrettably, not expressed by means of the smiley face/frown face dichotomy. There was a lot of kanji, and some of it, when entered into my dictionary, turned up no results at all. Was my physical state so alarming that it could only be conveyed with the creation of entirely new kanji?!

Me: Sensei, does this mysterious piece of paper mean that I am not dying?

Daigakusei-sensei: What?! It’s blank! There are no results!

It appears that Daigakusei-sensei is easily alarmed over non-Japanese-class-related matters. Sleep-san and Myuu-san, who had this done last year, had to explain the form to her to prevent her from worrying that I had been improperly X-rayed. Being Taiwanese, they could magically read the non-existant kanji, and assured me that I was healthy.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Thus far, I like the dialog and character designs for Rondo of Swords. But it is insanely hard. I can’t even get through the whole of the tutorial.

Conversation had on my fourth or fifth try on the first level:

Fuzzy-san: No, wait, you had another guy, on a horse -

Me: He died just now! I think in one hit!

Fuzzy-san: I did not even see that.

Me: It was one of the three guys in armor who are right behind me. And look, look at this, there’s like five more right behind them! And a bunch of wizards waiting to ambush me when I finally get over here - there’s more guys over here -

Fuzzy-san: These at the bottom aren’t wearing armor. So are they just some random villagers? Are they safe?

Me: They’re highlighted in red, so they’re just some random villagers who want to kill me.

Fuzzy-san: The one in blue is the important one, right? So if you can have the one in gray sort of guard him -

Me: Blue guy just died.

Fuzzy-san: Oh, he’s giving a nice death speech!

Me: Yeah. His voice actor’s okay.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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Heteronormativity-san, because he is apparently about twelve years old, enjoys shoving persons of the feminine disposition. He hasn’t tried it seriously on me for a couple months, because I’ve been known to kick. But today at lunch I passed him in the stairwell, saw that he was smirking for reasons that were doubtless extremely heteronormative, and made a face at him. So he pushed me, and threw me off balance enough that I fell down and landed on my posterior in a manner that I’m sure was very amusing.

After ascertaining that I was all right, he felt it necessary to explain the situation to me: “It wasn’t my fault! That was not my fault!”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“It wasn’t my fault!” I’d been going down to the first floor pick up my mail, so I threatened his life again, and limped tragically on down with my hand on my abused posterior.

(Incidentally, I have since examined it and discovered extremely visible bruises. I seriously do need to hurt him about this.)

He was in the classroom when I got back up to the classroom a couple minutes later, so I hit him over the head with my envelopes. He wailed, “It wasn’t my fault! It was your own fault!”

And everyone else in the room (except Fuzzy-san, who was playing his stupid PSP like always) all said in pretty much the same moment, “It was Heteronormativity-san’s faullllt!”

It became obvious that he had run straight up there to explain to everyone that yes, I’d fallen down the stairs, and yes, he’d pushed me, but it wasn’t his fault.

So what we have learned today is that lack of fluency in a language leads people not only to express themselves like children, but also to behave like children! I am not ashamed. It was completely his fault.

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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One of today’s exercises involved a sentence construction for explaining a law or extremely important social custom. I claimed that in Kentucky, it is required that one always carry a gun.

Heteronormativity-san, mildly surprised: Really?

One Of The Other Americans: *snort*

The Other American + The Rest Of The Class: *clearly see no reason to doubt this*

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

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