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Jump to November:
    Week 1:   1st   2nd   3rd   4th   5th   6th   7th  
    Week 2:   8th   9th   10th   11th   12th   13th   14th  
    Week 3:   15th   16th   17th   18th   19th   20th   21st   22nd  
    Week 4:   23rd   24th   25th   26th   27th   28th   29th   30th  
Image Jump:
  • Sandankyo Gorge
  • More Sandankyo Gorge
  • Autumn Festival
  • Junichiro Koizumi
  • My Kotatsu
  • Sumo and My Man Musashimaru
  • Cute Kids in Kimonos
  • Hikone Castle
  • Making Takoyaki
  • Nikko!
  • Week 1

    Saturday, Nov 1, 2003

    Sunday, Nov 2, 2003

    Monday, Nov 3, 2003

    Tuesday, Nov 4, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: The Post Office Should Be a Logical Place to Find Envelopes

      So I Was Sending a Check and I wanted to put a note inside it. The nice post office man (who has been showing up at my eikaiwas) told me I couldn't use their envelope if I wanted to do that, so I had to use my own. Unfortunately, the envelope I brought was too narrow. For some reason, most Japanese envelopes are really narrow - you would have to fold a regular sheet of paper several times to fit it in. So I asked him if I could buy an envelope. He said they did not sell any. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't the one place you are guaranteed to find envelopes be the post office?! I even said to him, "But you're the POST OFFICE." He chuckled in understanding and said the government or something had made a decision that post offices could not sell envelopes. Huh? Luckily, I had earlier searched the Sungreen stationary store envelope selection until I found a reasonable size (me not likes narrow envelopes!) and so had a stash at home. Still, it's the principle of the thing. It's like McDonalds not giving you a straw or Starbucks making you bring your own cup.

      At Least It Wasn't Hell In my 8th grade class today, one student asked me what Tenkoku ("Heaven") was in English so he could put that as the place he wanted to get the train from - funny! This is yet another example of how my teaching experience is different from what I read. Before I came, I heard the Japanese classes are very lecture-like and don't encourage question and answer sessions as much as American schools and don't stimulate creativity. Wrong on all counts as far as Tomomi-sensei is concerned. He always moves about the room, answering questions, helping the slower students, and always does several different kinds of activities, lecture not being one of them unless you count lecture being him using a 'rhythm machine' to drill new vocab. Also, he always asks for questions and asks them questions and tries to help them make creative sentences on their own from sentence patterns. I see very little to improve. I certainly don't remember my language classes in Junior High being this interesting.

      Fun Language Topics With my Japanese tutor tonight, we had a mutual exchange of useful movie language. I found out there is an exact equivalent to the ominous "or ELSE" in Japanese and learned how to say it: "samo nakereba." Also, the subject of my song came up, which led to talking about Pornograffiti (or Pornograffitti with an extra 't', as the Japanese like to spell it) which led to a discussion about porno and I found myself trying to seriously explain the difference between porn and porno to my Japanese tutor. I think one is an adjective and one is a noun but it is ambiguous. Then I explained she would more likely hear the full 'pornographic' and 'pornography' (less ambiguous) on the news for example. Incidentally, the Japanese word for porno is just that: po-ru-no, though they have another for it which literally means "spring picture." And I have now just disappointed millions of people trying a google search for 'porn,' not wanting to see a language discussion on the topic.

    Wednesday, Nov 5, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Inspection Day

      More About Pornograffiti If it isn't enough of a coincidence that they have a popular song with my name as the title at the same time I'm living here, the band is also from Hiroshima prefecture!

      The Big Class It finally approached: the big class that Tomomi-sensei has been stressing like mad over and making up a million activities for because (insert musical crescendo) we are Being Watched. Before the day arrived, Tomomi-sensei had told me that other teachers from the Bihoku area (northeastern Hiroshima) would be observing our class, maybe two or three, four at most. When I arrived to the school after my nursery school lunch, the parking lot was fairly full and as I walked inside, I noticed a fair amount of people milling around, but since they did not look Big, Scary, or dressed in Black Suits, I was not intimidated. When the time for the lesson came, Tomomi-sensei said "Are you ready?" I was and I was not particularly worried since I had never seen a Tomomi class bomb unless it was my activity that did the bombing. So we started class and before we even finished greetings, at least TEN people had walked in to stand in the back of the classroom! Anyway, I tried to ignore them and just get on with the class. And it went well! Although we had so many activities planned that it was impossible to do them all, I did get to do my city bit (with my color pictures) and my weather demonstrations seemed to work very well. The last activity had the class filling in a sheet with time and weather information gleaned by asking everyone else, who each got a card with a time or a weather type on it. A few weather and time cards were left over so I went to the back of the class to get some of the spectators involved (persistent they were, staying through the whole 50 minutes) and it was at this point that I realized the random person I was handing the card to was ANOTHER ALT!! My gaijin-dar must have been off. I recognized him, but forgot his name, and felt suddenly kind of silly. I think I would have been more embarrassed doing the class if I had known he was back there the whole time. I'm not sure why. I'd love to see another ALT's class, though. Anyway, so I strode over to talk to him as the first years were wandering around the classroom loudly asking their classmates for the time and weather. Apparently, his English teacher had dragged him all the way from Shobara (about an hour away) to come here. Whoa. Me and Tomomi-sensei did not do our fake cell phone chat (and I hoped no one noticed the phone bulge in my pocket because I would normally never bring my cell phone to class) but the class went well and came to a great end.

      Winding Down Afterwards, spectators said they enjoyed it a lot. I talked to the ALT and his English teacher (a young Japanese woman with phenomenal English) for awhile after class. Apparently he teaches at the main Shobara high school and teaches up to 40 students at once. In contrast, he witnessed my smallest Junior High class, the 7th graders, whom I only have 14 of (and since two were absent today, the 12 were probably the smallest class I've ever had.) Anyway, I agreed to give him a ride to our Monthly Bihoku Meeting since it was a lot closer to me than Shobara, but first he had something to go to. I realized a bit later that he was going to a big presentation going on in our gym. I wandered in and found that most all of the other teachers were there, but no one had told me about it. Hmm. I kind of hung in the back for a bit, wondering if I should sit down with the other teachers if I wasn't invited, then I finally walked all the way back to the staff room. Okumiya-sensei was there (the appointed staff room guard?) and I asked her about it. She said the presentation was really long and that I did not have to go if I did not want. I wonder why they did not invite me? Are concerned about me complaining about being compelled to stay any longer than my contracted time. Hmm. Anyway, the Bihoku meeting went well, as always! Other ALTs have the best ideas sometimes!

      Another Melissa I am a lemon herb! At my eikaiwa class, a woman took out this little pocket-sized plant and herb book and showed me my name under the section for Lemon Balm. Although the book is in Japanese, it has other familiar plants like Rosemary, so I know these aren't obscure Japanese plants. Besides, the scientific name is Latin-like: Melissa officinalis It's a pretty little plant with round, jagged leaves and white flowers. Now that I'm reading through the photocopy, I see that it is found in Southern Europe. Thinking on it, this could explain why the Pornograffiti song talks about Melissa's leaf. Maybe it's a song about lemon balm!

    Thursday, Nov 6, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Gospel Music, in a Japanese Junior High

      Pretty Fog Again Every morning lately, the hills have been GORGEOUS when I wake up. White clouds cling to the valleys and the green tops peek out from above them. Even the ride to the school is pretty since you can see the hills fading off into the distance. It's like Misty Mountains, Sakugi style.

      Pawaa to za Peepalu A little while ago, the woman who sits next to me (the part-time music teacher and the only Japanese woman I know who wears her hair longer than mine) was asking me to help translate some of the English words in her songs. They were mostly relgious and gospel songs and I found myself trying to explain "Thee" and "Lord" and "sin" and "brighten my path" to her, quite amusingly at times. However, all of that did not prepare me for the visitor we had today. Once again, all the students and teachers gathered in the wide second floor hallway (just like the time the police officer came, but without the chairs) and we listened to a woman, maybe a music teacher, speak (I missed the beginning, so I did not quite understand). She then put on a video of Japanese women on stage at a concert singing "Power to the People!" I tried and tried to get into the feeling of it, but it just seemed so silly. Japanese women are a lot more reserved than average White American women who I think are even more reserved than average Black American women, who are whom I think of when I think of Gospel music singers. As a result, the group of Japanese women on the tape looked kind of funny stepping, clapping, and singing 'Power to the People!' A few looked like they were getting into the feeling, but more than that, I think it was the accent that threw me off. "Pawaa to za Peeporu!" How can you really get into the feeling if it is a feeling that I'm not sure exists in Japanese culture and, even if it is, it is in a different language? Despite this, DESPITE THIS, she managed, very cleverly, to get the entire school standing and singing. First she had everyone do scales, then she practiced the verse (all six words, though I never figured out what came after "Power to the People" during the eighth verse) then she practiced the stepping and clapping. I actually started to get a bit bored and jittery after the umpteenth time I heard the phrase and managed to sneak back downstairs, which did not stop me from hearing the stepping and singing going on above.

      A Bit of Organizing I have too much Stuff that is Important and so I have too many Piles on my Table. Hence I decided to Prioritize and Organize in order to Clear My Table. As I was going through some of the things on my bookshelf, I could not help but notice how different the various books and lesson plan binders my predecessor left looked since I first organized them upon arrival. I am going to be careful not to throw anything out until I've been here several more months since I've noticed that papers that originally looked pointless now look more useful to me.

      People Want My Money So besides NHK, my predecessor, and the insurance company, other people want my money, too. This time, it came in the form of a very (very, very) old woman at my door. She had to be seventy or eighty, did not attempt even a word of English, and tried to tell me that I should give her 200 yen a month for services rendered in getting television reception back on if it fails due to weather. On one hand, I kind of felt bad being rude since, jeez, she's really old and did not seem to want to scam me since 200 yen really is not a lot. What kind of put me in skeptical mode was that she wanted me to pay for months that had already gone by! (Even NHK did not try that one on me.) She knew my name and when I had moved in, so that lent her some credibility, but what's the deal? And why do I care if the television goes off due to bad weather? I'm not that addicted and I have video tapes. Anyway, I told her I did not understand and then she was nice and said that I should go talk to someone and find out what this meant first and that she would stop back later. That was fair.

      Japanese Palindrome So when Tomoko came over for her English lesson, I asked her about it. She was even more skeptical than me and told me she had not paid when the same thing happened to her in Hiroshima city. (She also told me that she did not pay NHK and thought that was illegal - I assured her that paying NHK was not a legal issue, only a 'social responsibility') She also brought me a gift from her recent trip. They looked like eggs on the outside, but were actually yummy, cake-like, and sweet on the inside with a sweet creamy center. YUM. They were called go-ma-ta-ma-go which, when read in hiragana, is a palindrome!

    Friday, Nov 7, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Yosakoi Souran!

      I Found Out About That Dance! Remember at the Bunkasai how I was lusting over that really awesome dance the 9th graders did? Well, I found out today what it is called! Yosakoi Souran! (The first word is in hiragana, the second in katakana, but just putting the first word in Google will get you results.) Yay!

      I Drove To Miyoshi, but Did Not See Chicago On the way to Miyoshi, at the stoplight, I had a Bird Moment. As I sat at the light, it seemed the spread-out flock of birds above me were flapping their wings in slow motion across the twilight gray sky. Watching them above was almost meditative and I kept thinking the impression would go away, but it lasted until the light turned green. Anyway, I headed toward the video store, intent on renting a certain musical that I knew for sure had come out on October 31st because of the posters in Sungreen. However, when I arrived, there was no sign of the musical. After a bit of searching, I found it on video (all rented out) but I wanted the DVD anyway (I like watching Japanese subtitles. I'm weird.) Anyway, it turned out, they did have it for sale at Sungreen, but everywhere else would not be renting the DVD for two weeks. I found myself wishing, for the very first time, that they just had a cheapy movie-only version of the DVD so I could buy it without wincing. I of course want the DVD, but I want the special features in English, so I don't want to buy it here. I guess I'll, sigh, wait. I'll watch TV to chill instead.

      About the Movie I'm Watching on TV Gee, wow, can I also go to the library and randomly look up the email addresses of FBI agents then receive an email from a random one if I give the librarian a password? I didn't know that! Thank you for sharing, Mercury Rising. (And wow, just like The One, the bad guy just happens to show up exactly where the good guy is no matter how improbable it is.) Maybe I should have rented something anyway.

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