Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I was bored at work today as there was absolutely nothing to do. More than half the teachers didn't even show! It's a big vacation week so I can understand...I mean, I'm getting the hell outta dodge myself!

And speaking of outta, I decided to redo the "English board" outside the teachers room. It's really just a bulletin board for all manner or random things but there is a little spot reserved for me that has been getting smaller and smaller as I have been neglecting it. I noticed that my predecessor did the same as she still had things up there dated 6 months before she left.

I decided I was going to put a small lesson on slang for anyone that wanted to read it. I will eventually have the whole thing in English as well as Tosa-ben (local dialect) so they get the idea of slang and politeness values of the words.

My first instalment of words will include:

It's all good

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time coming up with a dialogue example for kinda, but here's what I have for the other words!

Personally, I remember when I was younger the only thing I ever felt like reading were comics. They were sweet, simple, funny and to the point. They also weren't very complicated and I was all about that! I hope these comics are on the same wave length as my students ;)

And don't bash me for the crappy lines! I'm trying to use English that they already know and don't need to think about. This is supposed to remind them that English isn't all boring!

Finally, I am having issues with Kinda...I started a batman comic but the lines were coming out really really bad so I didn't even finish it. Got any ideas guys? Chrissy, go ahead and have a field day with this project on your ithingy ;)

Do not pass go, do not collect $200

Saturday, December 23, 2006

As in, do not use the elevator, do not change your shoes.

The coolest pyrotechnics are the ones in your own back yard!

About two weeks ago, the students at Tosayamada gathered in the gym for a typical meeting. They have a tendency of doing these more often then I would expect...but whatever. They were going to "practice fire safety" but because it was raining, they all sat in the gym watching a movie about it. Poor kids. That gym floor is hard and cold. But I thought nothing about it. Phsss, I'm not goin in there! I already know how to use a fire extinguisher!

At least, I know how to watch someone else use a fire extinguisher...

This past Wednesday, I was lucky enough to witness fire safety at Odochi high school.

But first, let's go over a normal fire drill and fire safety at just about every school I've been to, including UCF.

Every month, without warning, they will set off the fire alarm causing your ears to bleed. You run out of the building for the sake of saving what's left of your hearing and not so much for the sake of getting away from the fire because even though the alarm was randomly set off, you still know it's only a drill because fires don't happen in real life.

After about 10 minutes of teachers checking the rooms for whatever, they call everyone back in and the drill is done.

About once a year or so they give everyone a talk about how to use a fire extinguisher. This is the pin (point), this is the hose (point) and this is the gauge to tell you if it has enough pressure or not (point)

And that's about it.

At Odochi....things went much differently:

First, the drill only happens once a year. It is planned months in advance and all the students know it's coming. They sit waiting "patiently" at their desks after 4th period and twiddle their thumbs until 2:30 exactly.

The alarm goes off and the teachers go flying from the room except for one who stays behind waiting exactly 46 seconds (I'm so not joking) before she picks up the microphone and tells all the students what to do. They must leave the building immediately. Do not change shoes on the way out, do not use the west stairwell either as it is engulfed in flames. She then turns off the mic, and flys out the room herself with stop watch in hand to time the students.

When we got into the hallway, we saw all the teachers at specific posts along the way ushering students in the right direction to the exit. Mind you, there are only 58 students in the entire school!

Once we get outside, we waited for the students to line up according to year and gender. There were 6 rows in all and the teacher timed every single group. 2nd year boys were the worst. One of them probably went to the bathroom because he was ridiculously late!

Anyway, after that, the students listed to a speech by a local fireman. He then had all the students take water based, old time-y, fire extinguishers and try to knock down a marker about 7 feet away.

After the students pussy footed around with that, he then put them back in their lines and then showed then a typical gas tank. This tank in particular had a hose attached to it. He turned the valve on, and set the end of the hose on fire.


He sat there holding the end of the hose as flames are flying into the air and calmly shows everyone how to put it out by bending the hose so that the gas is cut off from the flames.

Alright, let's pause for a minute. This is like REAL FIRE! As in, real life, right before my eyes! For me, I started freaking out. Silently of course. I put myself on edge just waiting for something dangerous to happen. The students on the other hand, simply stopped talking while the fireman...fighter, was talking which for them is a big improvement but they seemed completely nonplussed. As in...they didn't care....

The next thing the firefighter did was take the hose off the tank, turn the valve on again, and then set it on fire. Fire was now jetting out of the tank at what I thought was an alarming rate. He then showed them how to put it out using a regular water under pressure fire extinguisher. (get behind the tank, spray the water down on the valve opening till the fire goes out. Close the valve)

He then set it on fire two more times and had a student put it out each time. The students just sat around looking bored. He would pick one and they would just look up, what me? All the while that these students are trying to avoid putting the fire out, the thing is still flaming like crazy!! (mind you, it was under control but it's still on fire!!!) If it had been me, and I was picked, I would have grabbed the fire extinguisher and put it out as fast as I could! Even if that meant doing it the wrong way because common, if I were a high schooler, I probably wouldn't have been listening either. Spray the flames sideways, try to turn off the valve while it's still flaming, throw the fire extinguisher at it, whatever. But I would have picked up the pace at least! I mean...I was freakin out!

For his final trick, the firefighter took out a big metal 3'x3' pan that he poured some gasoline in. He then set it on fire. He told the students to try and put it out as best they could. Maybe the students already knew that it wouldn't work but they just nonchalantly walked up to it with their water fire extinguishers and kinda sorta tried to put it out. It did nothing but flame up. The firefighter then handed a real fire extinguisher to a student who with the same enthusiasm finally put it out.

I was in awe.

The student...didn't care so much.

When all was said and done, the students went inside to clean the school while most of the teachers stuck around to play with fire and try to put out the flames themselves. It was was really neat actually. I'd never used a fire extinguisher before! Not even the crappy water ones!!

And that, my friends, is a fire drill.

I'm being used!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's been a while since I've written anything of consequence. A lot has happened in the past week or so but I'm debating if I want to go into detail about absolutely everything. So be prepared for a bunch of random things!


The diet is working!

Well, it was never really a diet to begin with but whatever it was, it's working. I haven't lost any weight and my thighs are touching each other more than ever but cellulite is at an all time low and I think this is a sign that muscle is replacing fat. The "diet" was:

1. Quit snacking between meals - check

2. Cut down on breakfast – check (I understand that breakfast is the most important meal but I never ate it when I was back home and I wanted to get back into my routine since that was working well for me before. Also, the breakfasts that I was having here were expensive and not very healthy. Now, I have a granola bar every morning. Not very filling but it does the job of being cheap, healthy, and substantial enough to hold me over until lunch)

3. Vitamins – check

4. Cook more at home – ummmmmmmmmm I've got like…no time

5. Yoga – check (my teach is crazy as I've mentioned before but that's what's getting me in shape!!)

If I keep this up, I'll be super in shape by spring! Something tells me that FFXII is gonna put a kink in my routine though…we'll see.



AKA: end of the year party.

When this year is over, I'll have been to 5 of 6 parties. Unfortunately, two of those parties are on the same night (tomorrow) and I can't very well go to both.

The second one I went to was with the Tosayamada gang. (First was with the Lions club, remember?) About 30 of us met up at an Izakaya (restaurant/bar) in Kochi city where the party commenced at 6:30 on the dot. $50 later, we were all sitting down getting drunk. I was placed randomly among three wonderful women that were driving home so they drank only tea. That meant that when people came walking around pouring beer and making conversation, they were all sent in my direction since I was the only one actually drinking! In fact, my principal came over, poured me a drink and when everyone else told him they couldn't have any, he told me to hurry up and pick up the slack while pouring me another drink.

Also, a couple of the teachers dressed up in funny costumes. A very funny coach(m) and a history teacher(f) dressed up in Chinese traditional dresses. An English teacher (Kawahara-sensei for those of you who are hip to the Largo crew) and another teacher that sits next to him(also m) dressed up in cheerleader costumes. Mind you, I have a lot of respect for these guys! I never thought Kawahara-sensei had it in him! And finally, the very hot and young volleyball coach and his friend(f) dressed as Rudolph and Santa. The coach was Rudolph. The other teacher made a very cute Santa minus the beard. The Rudolph head btw made rounds through the group and I have a couple of pics on my keitai of myself and a few other teachers dressing up with it. But that's for another post.

We played a bunch of games to celebrate the end of the year. Bingo, kanji writing contest, gestures and…something with a suction cup….

First gestures! So the rules for this game were a little different than what we do in America. They put people in teams of about 6 and they all came up to the front of the room. Everyone would stand in line and face left. The first person in line would be given the phrase and then act it out for the next person in line who would turn around to see it. That person, without ever confirming if he knew the phrase or not, would turn to the next person in line and do the same gesture he had seen. This goes on down the line until the end with the gestures being interpreted incorrectly and changed along the way. The last person would guess and say something funny or ridiculously wrong, and hilarity would ensue.

My group had a phrase about some super famous sumo guy fighting a pro wrestler. When it came my turn to gesture, everyone was amazed at my skills in acting out the sumo stance which I was only imitating from the previous teammate (though clearly it was sumo). Finally when it was my turn to guess, I said in Japanese "sumo….kick?" because honestly I had no idea what the phrase was. I don't know Japanese pop culture and it was kinda essential that I did. The whole crowed was really happy that I spoke in Japanese to them though. Incidentally, "sumo…kick" in Japanese is "suumo…kiku"

Finally, there was a hilarious suction cup game that I'm so thankful I didn't play! Two suction cups were connected by a long sting. Each teacher would take one of the suction cups and stick it to his forehead. They would them pull in opposite directions trying and try to get it to come off of their opponents head. Make sense? Kawahara-sensei was the undefeated winner complete with cheerleader costume in tow and his rewards were some random prize and a big red circle on his forehead for the remainder of the night.

After door prizes and game winnings, I went home with:

1. One nice mechanical pencil

2. A lottery ticket for 12/31/06

3. $5 gift certificate for any bookstore in Japan

4. Four cans of Asahi super dry beer

5. Two tickets for 1kg of rice from any store in Japan (I gave it Kae because I didn't understand the ticket and I know she can use it a whole lot more than I can because….I don't cook enough at my place!)



Last night I had all of 1 hour to get home, make something to eat, reclaim my sanity and then I was off again until 10pm when I finally stopped moving!

I'm preparing for my final bon-enkai and then 3 of 6 Christmas parties that are to follow. 4 of those 6 parties are on the same day so I can only go to two of them! (as in, there are two parties on Saturday night and two parties on Sunday night. I can only go to two of them since I can't be in two places at once. I really should fix that)

Wrapping presents, cleaning the apartment, making cheese balls, packing for my vacation to Tohoku (oh, forgot about that did you?) and trying to keep my sanity through the whole thing is becoming a bit of a challenge!


Yesterday, a sports teacher came up to me and told me that her daughter is 21, going to college in Nagoya and looking for someone to practice English with. Her name is Akemi and she'll be coming home to Kochi for winter break. She wanted to know what I was doing over the vacation and if I'd like to meet. I told her that I would love to but I'm going to Nagoya for vacation. HAHA (well, visiting it for two days total really…I should probably bust out a map and show you all exactly where I'm going so you can understand what I'm talking about)

So, instead of meeting in Kochi, which would be too convenient, we are meeting in Nagoya the day after she comes back from Kochi and the day before I return to Kochi. She seems like a wonderful person and I can't wait! We might skype before then but that's assuming I find time to sit down and breathe.


I'm being used!

Almost forgot about this one.

So, Sunday night I had a nice long talk with Kae about everything under the sun. We talked about culture, and life, and very general things. It was difficult and took much longer than it should have but it was very enjoyable and totally worth staying up until after midnight for.

She told me about her sons and her husband and how she met him. She told me that they went to high school together but it wasn't until after graduation that they started dating. She didn't even know him back then. To her, he was just another guy in her school.

She said that Sou isn't as good at kendo so much any more because though he enjoys it, he thinks too much. Apparently, he's always been a person to think too much. When he was in kindergarten, Kae was working as a nurse at another school about 20 minutes away. I guess Sou started worrying so much that he actually started losing his hair. He had cute little 4 year old bald spots on his head!

She told me that of her three boys, Ikuo (22yr old) was the quietest one of the group. When her sons would bug her for attention, she would say "hang on a minute guys!" but of course being little boys, they wouldn't. They'd keep being like "Mom! Mom! Mom! MOM!" But Ikuo would actually stop bugging her and would wait for her to come back and ask him what he wanted. But by the time she was finished with whatever, she would have forgotten that he wanted her attention. She feels bad about it. Eh, it happens. Makes 'em tough!

I don't remember how we got on the topic, but she told me that a lot of people in Japan think she's weird. She said that women are the smartest people in Japan but the problem is that they watch everything that goes on and if they want to say something about it, they just swallow it and say nothing. She on the other hand will usually speak her mind though never in a rude way. People will call her crazy and she just brushes it off her shoulders. "whatever" she tells me. If she were speaking English, she would have said "whatever gets them to sleep at night". HAHA, I love her so much!

Because she's "weird", she was the only person to give me a super big hug when I first got off the plane in August. She's the person who goes along with all my crazy food ideas, watches American movies in English, puts up Christmas lights and treats me like family. What a wonderful woman!

However, she's using me! She told me that she and Wakako both think they are really lucky to have me around. They think it's so cool to show me off to everyone. What? I don't get it, sure people are looking around but it's not like anything different happens besides a bunch of stares!

Apparently, being a gaijin, I have never known real life Japan.

She told me that whenever I go shopping with them, suddenly all the sales clerks are more attentive and polite. There could be a check-out line out the door but they'll only open a new register if I step up. People are more helpful and friendly when I'm around.


Yes, really, she tells me. She said it was because they think I'm interesting and they want to talk to me but the best they can do is work a little harder at their job because they are too cowardly to start up a conversation. I thought coward was a strong word but she's the one who chose it…and if the shoe fits…


Wow, 6 pages later….

I'm looking forward to all the parties I've been invited to. It's just fitting life in between all of them that's so stressful.

I got a box of presents from my mom and I've been opening one at a time until Christmas day seeing as I won't have time Christmas morning to sit around and enjoy myself (gotta go to work…pay the bills and all) And besides, opening a bunch of presents alone is depressing!

A Series of Grunts and Gestures...Politely

Monday, December 11, 2006

I didn't write this. A friend of mine showed it to me and I have to share! It's from the website and is titled "Why you should NEVER learn Japanese or go to Japan" and the man has a good point ;)

Unfortunately it's only funny to people who have studied Japanese at least a little bit. And just for the record, I was a mix of the deer in headlights and the student who had a Japanese boyfriend/many Japanese friends. I never thought I had the right answer and I never thought my Japanese friends had the right answer either. My teacher was that hard! Read on and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

So You Want To Learn Japanese.

You've eaten at a few Japanese restaurants, seen some anime, hosted an exchange student, and had a Japanese girlfriend. And now, somewhere in the back of your tiny brain, you think that Japanese would be a good language to learn. Hey, you could translate video games! Or Manga! Or even Anime! Pick up Japanese girls, impress your friends! Maybe you'll even go to Japan and become an anime artist! Yeah! Sounds like a great idea!

So you head down to the library, pick up some books with titles like "How To Teach Yourself Japanes In Just 5 Seconds A Day While Driving Your Car To And From The Post Office" and "Japanese For Complete And Total, Utter Fools Who Should Never Procreate". Hey, you already know a few words from your manga collection/girlfriend/anime. Excited and impressed with your new knowledge, you begin to think: "Hey. Maybe, just maybe, i could do this for a living! Or even major in Japanese! Great Idea, Right?


I don't care how many anime tapes you've watched, how many Japanese girlfriends you've had, or books you've read, You don't know Japanese. Not only that, majoring in the godforsaken language is NOT fun or even remotely sensible. Iraqi war prisoners are often forced to major in Japanese. The term "Holocaust" comes from the Latin roots "Holi" and "Causm", meaning "to major in Japanese". You get the idea.

And so, sick of seeing so many lambs run eagerly to the slaughter, I have created This Guide to REAL TIPS for Studying Japanese. Or, as is actually the case, NOT studying it.

This should be an obvious.

Despite what many language books, friends, or online tutorials may have told you, Japanese is NOT simple, easy, or even sensical (Japanese vocabulary is determined by throwing tiny pieces of sushi at a dart board with several random syllables attatched to it). TheJapanese spread these rumours to draw foolish Gaijin into their clutches.

Not only is it not simple, it's probably one of the hardest language you could ever want to learn. With THREE completely different written languages (none of which make sense), multitude of useless, confusing politeness levels, and absolutely insane grammatical structure, Japanese has been crushing the souls of the pathetic Gaijin since it's conception. Let's go over some of these elements mentioned above so you can get a better idea of what I mean.

The Japanese Writing System

The Japanese writing system is broken down into three separate, complete, and insane, parts: Hiragana ("those squiggily letters"), Katakana ("those boxy letters") and Kanji ("roughly 4 million embodiments of your worst nightmares").

Hiragana is used to spell out Japanese words using syllables. It consist of many letters, all of which look completely different and bear absolutely no resemblance to each other whatsoever. Hiragana were devloped by having a bunch of completely blind, deaf, and dumb Japanese people scribble things on pieces of paper while having no idea why they were doing so. The resulting designs were then called "hiaragana". The prince who invented these characters, Yorimushi("stinking monkey-bush-donkey") was promptly bludgeoned to death. But don't worry, because you'll hardly use Hiragana in "real life".

Katakana are used only to spell out foreign words in a thick, crippling japanese accent, so that you'll have no idea what you're saying even though it's in English. However, if you remember one simple rule for Katakana, you'll find reading Japanese much easier: Whenever something is written in Katakana, it's an English word! (note: Katakana is also used for non-english foreign words. And sound effects, and Japanese words). Katakana all look exactly the same, and it's impossible, even for Japanese people, to tell them apart. No need to worry, because you'll hardly ever have to read Katakana in "real life".

Kanji are letters that were stolen from China. Every time the Japanese invaded China (which was very often) they'd just take a few more letters, so now they have an estimated 400 gazillion of them. Kanji each consist of several "strokes", which must be written in a specific order, and convey a specific meaning, like "horse", or "girl". Not only that, but Kanji can combined to form new words. For example, if you combine the Kanji for "small", and "woman", you get the word "carbeurator". Kanji also have different pronounciations depending on where they are in the word, how old you are, and what day it is. When European settlers first came upon Japan, the Japanese scholars suggested that Europse adopt the Japanese written language as a "universal" language understood by all parties. This was the cause of World War 2 several years later. Don't worry, however, since you'll never have to use kanji in "real life", since most Japanese gave up on reading a long, long time ago, and now spend most of their time playing Pokemon.

Politeness Levels

Politness Levels have their root in an ancient Japanese tradition of absolute obedience and conformity, a social caste system, and complete respect for arbitrary heirarchical authority, which many American companies believe will be very helpful when applied as magaerial techniques. They're right, of course, but no one is very happy about it.

Depending on who you are speaking to your politeness level will be very different. Politeness depends on many things, such as age of the speaker, age of the person being spken to, time of day, zodiac sign, blood type, sex, whether they are Grass or Rock Pokemon type, color of pants, and so on. For an example of Politness Levels in action, see the example below.

Japanese Teacher: Good morning, Harry.
Harry: Good Morning.
Japanese Classmates: (gasps of horror and shock)

The bottom line is thatPoliteness Levels are completely beyond your understanding, so don't even try. Just resign yourself to talking like a little girl for the rest of your life and hope to God that no one beats you up.

Grammatical Structure

The Japanese have what could be called an "interesting" grammatical structure, but could also be called "confusing", "random", "bogus" or "evil". To truly understand this, let's examine the differences between Japanese and English grammar.

English Sentence:
Jane went to the school.

Same Sentence In Japanese:
School Jane To Went Monkey Apple Carbeurator.

Japanese grammer is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. What's more, the Japanese also do not have any words for "me", "them", "him, or "her" that anyone could use without being incredibly insulting (the Japanese word for "you", for example, when written in kanji, translates to"I hope a monkey scratches your face off"). Because of this, the sentence "He just killed her!" and "I just killed her!" sound exactly the same, meaning that most people in Japan have no idea what is going on around them at any given moment. You are supposed to figure these things out from the "context", which is a German word meaning "you're screwed".

When mostAmericans think of Japanese people, they think: polite, respectful, accomadating. (They could also possibly think: Chinese). However, it is important to learn where the truth ends and our Western stereotyping begins.

Of course, it would be irresponsible of me to make any sweeping generalizations about such alarge group of people, but ALL Japanese people have three characteristics: they "speak" English, they dress very nicely, and they're short.

The Japanese school system is controlled by Japan's central government, which, of course, is not biased in any way (recent Japanese history textbook title: "White Demons Attempt To Take Aaway our Holy Motherland, But Great And Powerful Father-Emperor Deflects Them With Winds From God: The Story Of WW2"). Because of this, all Japanese have been taught the same English-language course, which consists of reading The Canterbury Tales, watching several episodes of M*A*S*H, and reading the English dictionary from cover to cover. Armed with this extensive language knowledge, the children of Japan emerge from school ready to take part in international business and affairs, uttering such remarkable and memorable sentences as "You have no chance to survive make your time", and adding to their own products by inscribing english slogans, such as "Just give this a Paul. It may be the Paul of your life" on the side of a slot machine.

Secondly, all Japanese people dress extremely well. This fits in with the larger Japanese attitude of neatness and order. Everything has to be in it's correct place with the Japanese, or a small section in the right lobe of their brain begins to have seizures and they exhibit erratic violent behavior until the messiness is eradicated. The Japanese even FOLD THEIR DIRTY CLOTHES. Sloppiness is not tolerated in Japanese society, and someone with a small wrinkle in their shirt, which they thought they could hide by wearing a hooded sweatshirt over it (possibly emblazoned with a catchy english phrase like "Spread Beaver, Violence Jack-Off!"), will be promptly beaten to death with tiny cellular phones.

Lastly, the Japanese are all short. Really, really short. It's kind of funny. Not ones to leave being tall to the Europeans or Africans, however, the Japanese have singlehandedly brought shoes with incredibly gigantic soles into style, so that they can finally appear to be of actual human height, when in reality their height suggests that they may indeed be closer in relation to the race of dwarves or Hobbits.

Japanese culture is also very "interesting", by which we mean "confusing" and in several cases "dangerous". Their culture is based on the concept of "In Group/Out Group", in which all Japanese people are one big "In" group, and YOU are the "Out" group. Besides this sense of alienation, Japan also produces cartoons, and a wide variety of other consumer products which are crammed into your face 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Japanese also like cock fighting monsters that live in your pants, taking baths with the elderly, and killing themselves.

Japanese food is what some people would call "exotic", but what most people call "disgusting", or perhaps, in some areas, "whack". Japanese food evolved in ancient days, when the main staple of the diet was rice. People got so sick and tired of eating rice, in fact, that they ate just about anything else they could find, from seaweed to other Japanese people. This has led to the creation of such wonderful foods as "Natto", which I believe is a kind of bean but tastes like battery acid, and "Pocky", which is a stick with different frostings on it, the flavors of which include Sawdust and Strawberry.

Despite this variety of foods, however, the Japanese have succeeded in making every single thing they eat, from tea to plums, taste like smokey beef.

As if learning the language wasn't hard enough, Japanese classes in America tend to attract the kind of student who makes you wish that a large comet would strike the earth. There are a few basic type of students that you'll always find yourself running into. These include The Anime Freak, The Know It All, and the Deer Caught In Headlights.

The Anime Freak is probably the most common, and one of the most annoying. You can usually spot a few warning signs to let you identify them before it's too late: they wear the same exact Evangelion shirt every day, they have more than one anime key chain on their person, they wear glasses, they say phrases in Japanese that hey obviously don't understand (such as "Yes! I will never forgive you!"), they refer to you as "-chan", make obscure Japanese culture references during class, and usually fail class. You have to be extremely careful not to let them smell pity or fear on you, because if they do they will immeadiately latch onto you and suck up both your time and patience, leaving only a lifeless husk. Desperate for human companionship, they will invite you to club meetings, anime showings, conventions, and all other sorts of various things you don't care about.

The Know It All typically has a Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend, and because of this "inside source" on Japanese culture, has suddenly become an academic expert on all things Japanese, without ever having read a single book on japan in their entire lives. You can usually spot Know It All's by keeping an eye out for these warning signs: a cocky smile, answering more than their share of questions, getting most questions wrong, questioning the teacher on various subjects and then arguing about the answers (a typical exchange: Student: What does "ohayoo" mean?,Teacher: It means "good morning", Student: That's not what my girlfriend said...), being wrong, talking alot about Japanese food and being wrong, giving long, unnecessarily detailed answers which are wrong, and failing class.

The Deer Caught In headlights are those students who took Japanese because either a.) they thought it sounded like fun, b.) they thought it would be easy, or c.) they just need a couple more credits to graduate. These students wear a mask of terror and panic form the moment they walk into class till the moment they leave, because all they can hear inside their head is the high pitched scream their future is making as it is flushed down the toilet. They are usually failing.

Although many of Japanese-language students are smart, funny, hard working people, none of them will be in your class.

If you can get past the difficulty, society, and classmates, you will probably find Japanese to be a fun, rewarding language to learn. We wouldn't know, however, since no one has ever gotten that far. But hey, I'm sure You're different.

Author's Note:This whole essay, although sprinkled with truisms here and there, is a joke and should be taken like one. I'm actually a Japanese major myself, and even if I've given it a bit of a hard time, I love the Japanese language, and I think everyone should give it a try.

You should just be ready for a whole lot of pain.


International Day

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Before I even get to international day, I'd like to tell you all about what I have been watching on TV recently.

First of all, there seems to be an awful lot of shows about animals. The Japanese do things to animals that no one in America would ever be able to get away with. It's not that they are being cruel or inhumane to any of these animals, it's just that animal rights would never stand for that kind of thing.

In every show with an animal, they always dress it up in some sort of strange outfit. First, the animal is always cute. Usually a baby. Then they'll dress it up in some equally cute outfit. For example, they took baby lions and dressed them in diapers and little booties and traipsed them around the studio for everyone to see how cute they were. They also had a chimp that they dressed in a cute little pants and shirt outfit complete with purse. They then had it pose for pictures such as winning an award or accepting a business card from an important person. They put that monkey is so many strange situations, I just couldn't understand it.

But the show that came on after that really took the cake. It was a show that featured the famous boy band Kat-Tun. They set up each boy with a girl "of his choice". In other words, each guy talked about his fetish, for example, an office lady or a woman who wears high boots and hot pants and or a flight attendant. They then found a bunch of strange girls to dress in these outfits, match them up with their respective guy and then make fun of them.

I don't know how these girls didn't burst into tears! But they not only took it in stride, they joked around with it as well! The first girl that they chose was the one wearing boots and hot pants. She was a little overweight and so they compared her to a pig.

TV: Are you sure you're not a pig?
Girl: No no, I swear to you, I'm not a pig nor am I related to one.
TV: Then what's this? (holding up her arm) Isn't this a hoof?
Girl: That's my arm! It's not a hoof, tee hee.

And so it went on.

My favorite girl was a flight attendant. She was a total pervert and it was hilarious. When they introduced these girls, they would pan up from their feet to their head and in anticipation of this, the flight attendant stuck out her leg in a sexy gesture and the TV hosts started yelling at her that children were watching (very funny). She then continued to try and crawl all over her "date" every chance she got.

But that wasn't the best/weirdest part of the show. So the couples are sitting together in little heart shaped chairs that are too small for them to sit in comfortably. On top of that, the bottom of the chair is round so it rocks left and right instead of being solid on the floor. Hmmm, strange you say.

Well, the hosts would then give the couples a set of questions about the girls that the guy needed to answer. If he got it wrong, then both the boy and the girl would get shocked as in with electricity. Since the seat was too small and not sitting solidly on the ground, they would flop out of it and start wiggling around on the floor.


But everyone took it with complete comedy! The woman who looked like a pig would smack her date around when he got it wrong and the flight attendant would try to crawl on top of hers (as they were both on the ground anyway). Also, after a while, the flight attendant wouldn't flop on the floor. Instead, she would just stand straight up out of her seat and start stomping/tap dancing on the floor yelling "It hurts! It hurts!". Everyone thought it was so funny that they shocked her again. Oh, and every time someone got shocked, they replayed it in slow motion since it was so hilarious looking.

Seriously, this wouldn't have been as funny had I not known what they were saying. I was on the floor laughing if only because it was the most random thing I have ever seen!!!

And now, on to international day.

So, today was my international day. I commissioned two other ALTs in the area to come out and help me be "international". My friend Thia from South Africa and Charles from Maine arrived around 1:00pm and everything began at 2:00pm.

There were about 14 girls that decided to stay after school to participate. (It was a half day) I first split the group in half. One group made Christmas ornaments with Thia and the other half made S'mores with Charles. That lasted for 25 minutes and then we switched and did it all over again.

Once that was over, we made ginger bread houses for an hour. I finished with a quick closing ceremony, we took pictures and as the students cleaned the ate their houses which turned out surprisingly delicious.

And I am trying to lose weight (-_-;)

Anyway, check out the gallery for more details!

Make Sure You Have a Good Rest

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

As I was thinking about writing this post on my way home I started laughing so hard I must have seemed like Crying Charlie. I was really trying to hide it and all I could do was keep completely quite while I seizured and tears started coming from my eyes. This post is that funny.

But as a warning, these videos have some pretty offensive things in it. Just FYI.

So, I was talking to Dave last night about our English Conversation classes. These classes are always varied. Mine for example is just as the name states: English conversation. Dave's on the other hand actually has a lesson that he plans out every week. Other peoples classes have anywhere from elementary school children to elderly folks. As we discussed them, we started swapping English Conversation Class videos. This is what his class is like:

And this is what my class is like:

Alright, I lied. Our classes are no where near that interesting. But it just goes to show you why I have such a hard time communicating with people here. This is the only stuff they learn!

No, not rape and sex. They learn simple sentences that have absolutely no real meaning or function. This is the kind of thing I teach my students everyday.

In other news, after a fantastic lunch at an all you can eat buffet, I spent the afternoon making ginger bread houses. But Nina, why were you making ginger bread houses? Because the box said that as soon as you open it, it's ready to go which really means that there are three hours of prep time needed before you can actually get to the fun part.

Tomorrow is my international day and I'm so excited! The kids are making Christmas ornaments, S'mores, and Ginger Bread Houses. Totally beats class!!! (which they don't have tomorrow anyway).

And as I was leaving today, a teacher looks over at me and sternly says "make sure you go home and have a good rest". Will do sensei!

Such Kind People

Monday, December 4, 2006

Let's see, first: the weather

It's finally gotten cold here. Tosayamada isn't so bad but when I go up to Odochi I'm just baffled at how much colder it is. It doesn't feel like it's that high up in the mountains but it's apparently high enough to make a big difference. It's already started snowing on one of the taller mountains in the area.

At the same time, I'm kind of enjoying this weather at least while the sun is up. (I'll be eating my words again sometime soon, but as I said before, they're tasty so that's ok ;)) It's nice to feel the crisp air and a chilly face while my body is completely warm and wrapped under a couple of layers of clothing. But...that only goes so far...

Anyway, as I was going home with Kae last night, she told me that she had a surprise for me. Instead of taking the normal route up the mountain, she took a side road so that we ended up at the bottom of the mountain looking up at the house. Normally, you can't distinguish the house from the rest of the neighborhood unless your looking really hard and since it's was after 5:30, it was already pretty dark so it would have been hard to see.

But Kae's house was the first one I saw because it was completely illuminated with Christmas lights. It's was breathtaking. There was a giant green Christmas tree made out of lights, blue icicles and other such flashy things. It was so amazing to see!

She told me that her family does it every year. They're usually the only ones that do it too. However, when we got up to the house, I looked out over the mountain, looking down into the valley, across the lake and up the next mountain and saw a tiny but similar house. It too was illuminated by a Christmas tree and flashing lights. However, it not only was the only house on that mountain to be lit up, it was also the only house on the mountain. It was completely surrounded by forest. It looked so awesome but I'm sorry to say that I forgot my camera. I'll bring it next week, promise ;)

Later that night as we were finishing dinner, Wakako turned on the TV to a local channel. It started out with a boy band singing some famous song and I just couldn't help myself. I totally burst into hysterical laughter. They're cliche and cheesy dance moves were just too much. Everyone of course asked what was so funny and I told them that in America, those boys would be called gay and they would in fact have to be gay to be caught dead doing that sort of thing. Dad immediately piped in and said "It's true! They are gay!" Of course he was joking but later on as the program continued, dad again said (only this time in Japanese) "I don't want to watch this anymore. Turn off this gay show. I don't want to watch this gay show". I just about died laughing!

Ok, maybe you had to be there.

So, remember how I just wrote about my plans for this winter break. Well, not 24 hours later they've already changed. Instead of going to visit Dave in Ibaraki, I'm cutting my trip short and returning to Kochi. The reason for this is simply that Kae asked me to.

Well, that and she gave me a very kind and hard to argue with guilt trip.

January 8th is the second Monday in January which marks the Saikin Shiki, aka Coming of Age Day. Anyone who turns twenty during this year (2006) will celebrate it as a national holiday. Everyone is gathering at the local university to have a ceremony and begin an all day drinking fest that will last into the wee hours of the night. Mostly because the drinking age is 20 and even though most of the kids have already been 20 for some time now, this is the official time when they can really start to party hearty.

Kae made a few very strong points to get me to join in on the celebration.

1. All of her family will be there. Her son Sou will come down from Ehime so he can participate in the celebration (his birthday is sometime this month) and her oldest son will be coming down from Osaka as well. Since everyone will be there, it just wouldn't be right to have me left out. I'm a big part of this family now.
2. This only happens once. It won't happen again for Sou or Yuumi (Remember I talked about this in the last post)
3. Aozora will be doing this next year so I'll probably be up in Tohoku for that next year as well!

So in the end, I won't be rockin out to the Tokyo beat just yet. It'll have to wait. Hopefully until it starts to warm up!

Finally, a note about racism. I don't think this is the first time that I've ever been discriminated against for being a gaijin, but it's the first solid one that I can put my finger on.

Shinji(Japanese dad)'s brother/brother in law/uncle/cousin, I don't remember! He's some relation along the way. Anyway, he cuts hair and Wakako recently got her hair cut quite short. I didn't really like it but they told me that the guy was really good at what he does so I figured, why not. I asked them if they could set me up an appointment with him since my hair has been getting ridiculously long. They told me yesterday that it just couldn't happen. The guy said no. He won't cut a gaijin's hair.

I'm sure it's not because I have cooties or anything. It's probably just because my hair is so scary looking! But honestly, it's actually easier to cut than straight hair! If you make a mistake, no one will ever know! Unless, of course, it's something glaring like shaving half my head.

Sunny People

Sunday, December 3, 2006

I've been looking for presents to send home and to also give at Christmas parties this year. Surprisingly enough, I've been having a hard time finding things.

However... *sneaky grin* ...I did find one present that not only do I want for myself but I'd also love to give to everyone! It's the most pointless present ever! It's called Nohohon Zoku also known as Sunny People. It is a little .... character that looks like it's lounging on a hill and it sits there rocking it's head back and forth. The whole thing has solar powered and all it does is rock back and forth. There is nothing more to it and it actually is a bit creepy the first time you see it. You just stare at it wondering what the point is and before you know it you're mesmerized by it's simplicity.

I love it!

They come in a variety of colors and scenes. I think my favorite is the one that is fishing. They just look so calm and at peace with the world. I want to put it on my desk to help me relax if things ever get too stressful. If I were working in an office in America, it would be a great conversation piece to just talk about while shooting the breeze with coworkers. But I could just see my mom giving me this weird look if I sent one home. "What is the point of this thing? To collect dust?!"

But I love it all the same ;)

Anyway, in other news, I have finally made plans for my winter break! On the 26th, at 8:00pm I am going to hop on a bus and at 6am I will arrive at Nagoya. (This all night trip is going to save me about $150) from there I am going to meander around the city until 8pm (again) at which time I will hop on a boat with Aozora and we will be on our way to her home town of Tohoku (way north). We will arrive the next day around 5pm. The boat is also saving me about $100. I'll stay there until about the 4th and then I'll probably hop on another bus and ride down to Ibaraki (about an hour and $30 outside of Tokyo) where I will spend a long weekend with Dave (same guy I had the funny story about way back when. Talk about a small world!) Finally, on Monday morning, I'll probably take a super expensive Shinkansen back home. That will probably cost me about $250 if not $300 to get home. But it's better than spending $200 every time I move around the country (which this trip alone is making me change locations....4 times.)

Still on topic (though you wouldn't know it) I saw Nishimura-san today. That's the woman that I lived with the last time I came here. She called me and asked if I would take a present to the Shinozaki's since she knew I'd be going there today. While she was here, she asked if I would be in town on the 8th. Nope, I told her, I'll be in Ibaraki rockin out to the Tokyo beat. She told me that Yuumi would be in town (my old host sister) and that since she'll be turning 20 at that time, she'll be having a special coming of age party complete with super kimono! (coming of age kimonos are always very elaborate). But, it's impossible. Damn. Sounds like it'd be a fun party too. Eh, Dave is fun too ;)

AND FINALLY! I must share my greatest accomplishment yet!

So, when Kae first started helping me out with things, I really wanted to say "Thank You" to her and really explain how much she'd been helping me. But my Japanese just wasn't good enough at the time. I figured that after a while, I'd be able to tell her exactly how grateful I really was. Unfortunately, 4 months has gone by and she has continued to help me and I have continued to never be able to say just how much I appreciate everything she does.

So, I wrote her a letter. And then translated it into Japanese. And it looks fantastic! I'm so happy to finally say what I have wanted to for so long. I wrote it on really nice ($1 store) stationary complete with complicated Kanji and everything. I just hope I didn't make any dumb mistakes. I had people proofread it a bunch of times too. Maybe one day when I'm bored, I'll rewrite it here in English. But I doubt I will ;)

Bed Head

Friday, December 1, 2006

On Wednesday morning, the teachers at Odochi stood outside again to greet the students and make sure that their uniforms were correct. One of the students came in with a horrible cowlick on the side of his head and one of the teachers turned to me and asked what we call it in English. I told him "bed head". He thought it was quite funny. I tried teaching it to them when I first came in August but it didn't catch on until now. Eh, I'm glad they had a good laugh :)

On Thursday, I finally did my TV guide lesson. Unfortunately, these students have a tendency of either sleeping or being at school so they rarely watch TV. I asked them to look at my TV guide and mark down what they wanted to watch and at what time and then also make time for dinner, homework and a shower. However, instead of writing "I want to watch Tom and Jerry from 6:00-6:30 and then Sex in the City at 9:00" they wrote "I'll eat dinner at 6:00 and sleep until 9:00 then wake up and take a shower then go back to bed". Not exactly what I was looking for. If they ever did write down that they wanted to watch TV, they usually only wrote down "TV" instead of what show.

Which then made things difficult when I wanted them to get into pairs and compromise a schedule with their new roommate. The whole point of this activity was to speak in English. Honestly, it not very hard if they thought about what they really wanted to say. All they needed to do was say "I want to eat at this time and I want to watch Tom and Jerry at this time? OK? Not ok? What do you want to do?"

So I threw the lesson out the window as the class went on. They didn't really want to do it despite my teacher telling me once again (just as he did last week) how much these students enjoy speaking English. I don't know, maybe it's the dead looks they give me but it's hard sometimes to believe him. Though I will admit, they definitely have more of a drive to learn English than my first years.

In the end, it was pretty interesting to see the reactions of the students to my new lesson style. Usually I have them in groups of 4 or 5 people and they have to say something creative by the end of the class. This time, I had them in smaller groups and it was all writing. Suddenly, the students that never did anything before started writing and the students who always did the talking continued talking and doing nothing else. It just goes to show that I need to switch it around every now and then to get all the students involved.

The best part I think though was that there was this one group of 4 girls that decided they all wanted to live together and thus made the schedule making much more difficult for themselves since it's easier to compromise with one person than it is with 3. But they got really into it! One girl wanted to watch golf while the others all wanted to see Lizzy McGuire. It didn't matter to anyone but me that they were passionately discussing it in Japanese rather than English. Eh, I'm really glad they had fun with it. In the end, that is the point ;) For me at least.

Next, I've taken up knitting! When I talk to people via Skype, I have a tendency of playing solitaire because my head is attached to my computer when I use a headset (I've been told that wireless ones aren't the best and besides, even if I weren't attached, what else would I be doing? The dishes? HA!) As of right now I am enjoying myself immensely though it's really looking like crap. I'm making a scarf and the wool is already starting to fuzz out a bit even though I know I got the nicer stuff and I also have a tendency of messing up occasionally. For right now, this scarf is just a beginners one. A nice tan and mishapped scarf :)

Last, this evening was the first of my Bon-Enkais. As I have mentioned before, an enkai is a drinking party with coworkers and a Bon-Enkai is an end of the year drinking party. This one was with the Tosayamada Lions Club and despite the attendants all being crazy old men, I really had a fantastic time.

This was the first time that I actually enjoyed having a one sided conversation with a person. These conversations usually consist of be nodding my head and hoping to god I don't hear a question mark at the end of any sentence because I have no idea what the person is saying to me. But this old man just kept talking about his daughter who's getting her doctorate in Michigan. I didn't understand anything other than that, but he was so animated and friendly! He was a very nice man.

Also, they had me get up towards the end of dinner and play bingo with everyone. They elected me to call out the numbers and the prizes were really nice! Three different kinds of what I can only assume is super expensive sake and after that, mandarin oranges (I got a huge box of them. There's probably about 50 or so) and after that, a little goody bag for the people that hung on to the very end.

Maybe it was the crazy old men who kept talking to me in Japanese but I really enjoyed myself. They were so kind! They also showered me with gifts and that probably didn't hurt my feelings towards them either ;)

Spreading Nina Love All Over the World - by Templates para novo blogger