SGF. That's Single Gaijin (foreign) Female.
がんばってください. That's gambatte kudasai, which translates to "persevere," or "try your best," but in my experience, it's usually used when the situation is so dire that it's laughable. (You have 200 essays to grade by tomorrow morning? Gambatte kudasai. You want to navigate the Tokyo subway but don't read kanji? Gambatte kudasai. You want to climb to the top of Mt. Hakusan, even though it's hailing? Gambatte kudasai.)
You get the idea.
What do the two have in common? Well, let's just say that the dating scene for a SGF in Fukui is well, uh, lacking. I don't want to perpetuate any stereotypes here, but Japanese women being what they are (read: beautiful), we SGFs have our work cut out for us. The SGMs (that's Single Gaijin Males) are into the beautiful Japanese gals. And the Japanese guys? Well, I tower over them when I'm rocking my heels (or sneakers, or flats, or when I'm barefoot...), so they're into the beautiful Japanese girls, too.
Today, one of my sixth-grade students brought this situation to my attention during our school cleaning time. Cleaning time is bonding time, really. We're thrust out into the hall, where there's no heater, and use cold buckets of water to wipe down the floors and shelving. It's how they'd punish students in the USA, circa 1912, but here in Japan, it's part of daily school life. I speak a lively mix of Japanese and English with the students during this time, usually related to the awful temperature (さむいですね - "cold, isn't it?").
But today, our conversation went above and beyond the usual temperature talk. One of the students noticed a ring on my finger when I dipped my rag in the bucket of water. I've had this ring forever - I bought it while studying in Mexico in 1999 - and I wear it on my right hand everyday. But my student didn't seem to care. The conversation went something like this:
Student: "Sara-sensei, you got married!?!?"
Me: "No, not me." (I show her my bare left ring finger.) "My sister got married, remember?" (My little sister's July wedding has been the subject of past class discussions.)
Student: "Oh." (Her brow furrows, she thinks for a minute, and then brightens.) "Well, do you have a Japanese boyfriend?"
Student: "Maybe a Chicago boyfriend?"
Me: "Nope." (I'm feeling mildly pathetic at this point, but am amused by her use of "Chicago" as a way to describe a type of boyfriend.)
Student: (Looking at me like I'm an alien.) "How old are you?"
Me: "I'm 27, remember?" (I've told them all my age a zillion times. They ask everyday, and never cease to be amazed by my oldness.)
The student stares at me. She then conferences with a friend who is cleaning the floor next her. I hear the words "27" and "boyfriend" mixed in with some rapid-fire Japanese. Then they both look at me sympathetically.
Oh, God. I just got gambatte-d by a 12-year-old girl. It's that bad, huh?
At this point I'm beginning to wallow in self-pity as I scrub the cold hallway floor with even colder water. Japanese get married younger than Americans, darnit! I'm normal in America! Don't they know that?!?
Sensing my sadness, the students try to cheer me up.
"Sara-sensei is very, very, very cute!!"
Except the "cute" comes out like "cute-o." It makes me laugh.
At least somebody loves me.