Bart Simpson meets the Buddha.
That's what it was like at Jacobsville Elementary last week, where Noriko Nishiyama has been teaching Japanese culture to Fayetta Windsor's fourth-grade class.
"It's an awesome, radical origami bird!" exclaimed fourth-grader Michael Hammond, holding up his folded paper sculpture. Michael and the rest of his class had just spent the period learning how to make aswan from a square sheet of paper in 12 steps.
Nishiyama, who is in the county as part of a nine-month cultural exchange program sponsored by the Japanese government, says American children are refreshingly friendly and outgoing compared with their Japanese counterparts.
"In Japan kids are too polite, more shy. I like it here," Nishiyama said in her ever-improving English.
"They have so many questionsthey ask me straight. Students here are more active."
When she began her exchange just three months ago, she said, she couldn't even count the syllables in English words to teach children haiku. The traditional form of Japanese poetry is made of three lines with five, then seven, then five syllables.
Now she's learning the fine points of the language, like the essential differences between "good" and "radical," "awesome" or "cool."
Along with the enthusiasm of the children she has met, Nishiyama says she has been unexpectedly surprised by how green the
county is, and "how beautiful is the sky -- especially the pink, purple and orange sunsets."
"In Tokyo," she adds, "there is too much pollution."
Nishiyama, an editor for a Japanese publishing company, says the food isn't as bad as she expected either.
"I was surprised I'm enjoying it. I thought it (would be) all oilyand sweet too much. It's not," Nishiyama said.
Are the children enjoying Miss Nishiyama's tutelage?
"Hai," the class says in unison, voicing the Japanese equivalent of "yes."
"Tell everybody that we have the nicest teacher in the world," said 9-year-old Tiffany Booze.
Nishiyama will be staying with Jeanne McGinness, a resource social studies teacher at the Crofton Annex teacher training center, during her stay.
She is available to teach at any county school studying Japan. Requests should be made through the training center.