I’m looking forward to it – going over the experience made me realise what a great time I had over there. Considering how apprehensive I was in the run-up to my departure, I want to convince everybody that it will be as good for them as it was for me.
Oh, I had a plan. I had a plan alright. A plan that disappeared the moment I saw Ilkka had come to the meeting as well.
Ilkka and I were at Kansai Gaidai together. He was a professional cynic, and his heart certainly was in it. We’d had some great times together, but considering that he’d spent most of the year bashing Gaidai and its large American population, I wasn’t looking forward to doing the presentation with him.
We got up and stood in front of the first years. After a brief introduction, I began telling them a little bit about Kansai Gaidai. As soon as I paused, Ilkka was ready…
Ilkka: You might hear that Kansai Gaidai is a Japanese university. It’s actually an American university…
Me: Well, there are a lot of Americans th-
Ilkka: …where the foreign students are kept separated from the rest of the students!”
And on it went. I was giving a presentation on Kansai Gaidai, and Ilkka was constantly interjecting with observations from the Twilight Zone. He said that Hirakata was a hellhole, and that Japan was the only country in the world where he’d been attacked on the street. (Given that I there at the time, I think the reference was a sly dig at me, as he thinks I was responsible for it).
Every one of Ilkka’s asides met with shocked laughter from the first years, and sotto voce pleas from the teachers to say “something positive”. I was out there on my own trying to hold the show together, as the presentation degenerated into a back-and-forth exchange of bizarre and contradictory statements like some twisted manzai routine. In fact, I wish it was manzai – at least then I could shout at Ilkka and slap him every time I wanted to. Which was a lot.
After the talk, I had a few first years coming up to me and asking if the stuff Ilkka said was true. I replied “No” to every one and tried to give them some real gen on Kansai Gaidai, to make up for the damage done. Everyone, from the teachers on down, seemed universally stunned. If there’s any kind of lesson I can draw from this, it’s that you have the best plan ever, but it won’t work if you’re confronted with someone determined to screw it up.