First Day of Lessons

Monday, September 4, 2006

Hmmm where to begin, where to begin….?

Start at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop.

So last night I went shopping with Kae (Japanese mom, last time I’ll say it) We went all over the place and even took some Purikura (picture crop, those little stickers with peoples pictures on them. Very cute)

We drove all over the place looking for cheddar cheese for my tacos but to no avail. I mean we went everywhere! The Japanese only like mozzarella and fake mozzarella at that and sometimes fake brie too.

In the end there was none but I cooked some magnificent tacos anyway. They were a big hit! I ended up learning a couple of disturbing things about the Japanese appetite though. First, I can’t eat McDonald’s fries here. They give me heart burn, I don’t know why. Second, though the ketchup is a little different here, it’s pretty much the same stuff. It just doesn’t taste as good as Heinz. However, it is completely unheard of to put ketchup on fries. I was dunking mine all the way and they freaked out when they put a little bit on the end of one French fry. Fries are boring without it!!!

Next, the salsa that was for the tacos was too spicy for some of the people eating. It was medium but whatever. Instead, they asked if it was ok to put ketchup on it and I told them that yes it would be ok but unnecessary if they were going to put tomatoes on it anyway. Thank god no one actually put ketchup on it!

It was getting a little messy so I told them they could just make a taco salad. Now that was hilarious!!! Shinji (dad) had a field day with that! He would make his taco really nice looking and perfect and then he would lay it on his plate and attack it with his fork completely with attack noises! (He was a kendo champion so I think that helps) We all laughed because there’s really no reason to make it pretty if you’re just going to mess it up.

The leftovers consisted of a lot of taco meat but no shells. So for the middle brother who slept through dinner, Kae made up a taco salad. He then asked if he could put mayonnaise on it. That got a big HELL NO response from me. DAAAAAAME!!!! (no in japanese)

What, you don’t like mayonnaise?

Sure, I like mayonnaise as much as the next American but that’s taking it too far. If you put mayonnaise on it, don’t tell me about it. So he took the taco salad and the mayo and walked out with his buddies (the guy is 22, just fyi)

Later that night, I was going to bed and I saw him. He told me that the taco salad was really good and when I asked him if he put mayo on it he told me no. I hope it was the truth ;)

Actually, interesting side note (this whole thing seems to be a side note) I sleep in the guest house. I hope I explained this already because I’m not going to now. And one of my windows faces his window. Last night the windows were all open because up in the mountains it was nice and humidly cool. When I walked upstairs to go to bed he was hanging out the window to smoke and that’s when we talked. He asked if I had school the next day and I told him that I did…I’m hoping that he was going to invite me with his friends but I think he understood that the next day was going to be very important and I couldn’t be bothered with drinking and friends. Damn.

Actually, today was a really important day. Important and disappointing. But all in due time.

I woke up and got ready for work. First, Kae had called me the day before and told me it was cold in Odochi. So I thought that it must be pretty cool for a Japanese person to tell me so. I then prepared my outfit which was a nice three quarters length cotton shirt which is nice and warm if it’s cool outside. Unfortunately, it was pretty warm and I was sweating bad. Ugh.

When I got to school I sat down and began to prepare for my first lesson ever!!! I had a poster with all my information and pictures on it. Simple English, no sentences, and lot’s of pictures and even a map! I prepared some questions that were stupid easy (I thought) that I worded in such a way that you didn’t really need to know English. For the majority of the questions, all you needed to do was look at my poster and figure out which multiple choices were actually up there. Hmmm those should be the answers…right?

I then had an introduction for the students where they would fill in the blanks about themselves; my name is… My favorite food is…I like…. And they were going to make them into paper airplanes, throw them in the room and everyone picks up a different one and introduces the person who’s airplane they picked up! Cute idea right? And since I had a whole 50 minutes, I even prepared a word search that I thought was crap but one of the teachers said was a really good idea because the students liked to concentrate on them. Whatever.

I began my lesson with a bunch of ichinensei (1st years, 10 graders) Not only were they not listening, they weren’t looking or even caring! Nothing! There were about 7 students all together. I handed out the papers and told them to go for it. All the answers were on the board. Maybe it was too difficult for them but I think they just weren’t trying which disappointed me the most of anything. I don’t care how much English they do or do not know and I don’t care if they ever learn anything! I do care if they try. All I’m asking is that they put a little effort into it!

DAMN IT! I put effort into it! I feel like it’s all wasted on them! Not a single student cared! Not one!

I have never seen such responses to such a simple task. They looked at the paper without really looking at it and then started talking to each other about something completely different. I took one look at them…and I threw English right out the window. I would asked them in Japanese, what is my name? And they would look at me blankly. I would then point to my name on the board and they would continue to kinda look blank. Most of the boys were total bastards but I liked them anyway.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I really like these kids! I just wish they would try! I mean, I would get the kids to almost scream out with joy that my name was Nina but to actually get them to circle it on the paper was another thing. I asked my favorite kid “what is your hobby?” and he looked at me and said my hair was very curly.

Thank you captain obvious. Sarcasm is lost on these people.

So it took us more than half the class to get through the first part. Mostly, if I or the other teacher wasn’t actually standing over the student making sure that he or she was writing, they would just stare blankly at the wall. Doing nothing. I mean…just sitting there!

I had three classes today. After my first class, the teacher told me that she was really glad at how I acted in the class. She said that I didn’t get angry when the students were goofing around and I didn’t yell at them to get on task. Personally, I was too shocked at their actions to really know what to do. Besides, she didn’t seem upset so this must be normal….damn.

Actually, that was the class that I first tried the paper airplanes with. Three of the four boys made the planes and threw them down the stair well. The teacher didn’t care! She was happy that they were enjoying themselves and I was happy because she 1) wasn’t pissed at my horrible lesson and 2) they didn’t throw them out the window.

By the third lesson I was totally dejected. I really hope Tosayamada isn’t like this. I think they’re not. Hope hope hope.

I noticed a couple of things at Odochi though (my country bumpkin school) first, the students don’t move around, I knew this already. The teachers are the ones that move. Well, the students also have 10 minutes between each class. For what? I asked and one of the teachers told me it was because some students had to change for sports or whatever. Yeah ok, I think it’s ridiculous to give students 10 minutes when they don’t do anything in class anyway.

My conclusion: Odochi is a giant daycare. And I am the giant American babysitter. People warned me about this but holy crap they weren’t even exaggerating! I’m there just to play games with these kids! They won’t learn anything! They don’t care about anything!!!


So the next thing I noticed, mostly at Odochi and hardly at all at Tosayamada, the boys are really gay! I know they’re not really gay but…

Ok ok, so there was this one boy that came into the teachers room today, more like floated, and he started gossiping with a female teacher in a sing song voice. He flew around like a fairy and then left with a big smile and a sing songy “jaaaaaaaa!”

But it wasn’t just one boy. I’ve seen a bunch like him! In fact, my favorite kid right now has a horrible lisp! He’s the one who told me I had really curly hair! He’s so funny and outgoing! I totally favor the outgoing kids, I just can’t help it. But he seems really gay….

Enough with Odochi.

During lunch, Kae brought me a box lunch. It was totally a Japanese mother lunch. It really reminded me of home because it was home made and even had a note! It didn’t say “do your best, smile at everyone”. All it said was what was actually in the lunch and the hopes that it was tasty. It was very good and I love Kae for it. I thanked her and told her that she spoiled me. She said it was no big deal because she makes it for her kids just the same. She spoils me. I don’t think she knows how much it means to me.

Ahhhhh still more to talk about!

There are elections sometime soon for something or other. All I know is that there are cars all over the place with speakers shouting out the candidates slogans. Really annoying actually. They are getting more and more frequent so I asked someone when the elections were; thinking that it would be within the next week. No such luck. They’ll be sometime in October. Joy.

Today was the first day that I ate at a restaurant alone. I had a craving for Udon so I went down to a really good restaurant that I had been to before and knew the rules for but they were closed. I then went down the street and tried a new place (I really wanted udon!) This time, I didn’t know what to order so I told the guy I wanted the most popular thing. He gave me hot Udon with a raw egg on top.

Now, I remember my Japanese teacher telling me that in Japan people eat raw eggs on some things. I thought that she was thinking of something that wasn’t very common and more like a delicacy. I was so wrong. The Japanese love putting raw eggs on lot’s of different things! This was my first time, and the udon was hot so it kinda sorta didn’t really cook the egg but I mixed it up and it tasted good. I still won’t be getting it again.

When I was leaving, I caught two of the English teachers sitting by a vending machine (the udon place was right next to school) they said that they were working a lot and they were just taking a break. They said they’d probably be there until 9 and that was normal. What the hell could they be doing until 9?!?!?! Crazy.

I came home and my land lady was waiting for me with a bunch of huge grapes! They are delicious :)

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