Thursday, June 26, 2008

One of the things I like about teaching is watching as the students realize there is this whole world outside their small town. Some of the younger ones are very surprisd to learn I don't really speak Japanese. It doesn't make sense to them because everyone else they know speaks Japanese just fine, so why should I have any trouble?

Some get it and talk slowly. Some nod and plow on with whatever crazy topic they were talking about. I'm a very good listener even when it's completely incomprehensible (though I suspect some of it would be even if I did speak the language going on previous experience with elementary school kids.)

Yesterday I had to explain to a little second-grader that I did not write my name with kanji. After excitedly showing me the first character in her name (they had just learned it in class this week,) she asked me how I wrote mine.

"I don't use kanji," I told her. "I write my name with katakana."* (That's the Japanese writing system for foreign words.)

"What? Why?" she asked.

"I'm American. We write our names in English."

Then she got out a pencil and some paper and I showed her both my name in English and the Japanified version.


Then she took off my glasses and I pretended I couldn't see anything. There was some tickling involved to get them back and the teaching moment was gone.

*This makes it sound like I can speak Japanese but a better translation would be. "No kanji. Katakana." and also "I'm American. English names." and then I mimed writing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dinner with the mayor

Just got back from dinner at the mayor's house. It's only nine o'clock and I'm pretty tipsy, but the food was freakin fantastic - the absolute best sashimi since I've been here and an ebi mayo to die for. Plus lots of wine and sake, hence the near drunkeness. The new director of the board of education used to be an English teacher so he played the part of translator most of the afternoon. He's pretty entertaining by himself, even more as the alchohol kept coming.

The mayor also seems very sweet. I met him in Georgetown before I came to Japan and he said I seemed so very nervous at the time. He was relieved to see me so relaxed and happy now. He thought I would want to leave Japan because maybe I wasn't happy here. He kept asking me questions, like was I having a good time, was I happy, did I have Japanese friends? Yes, yes, and yes were my answers. Overall a very nice day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Birthday Party

Last night was my not a suprise birthday party. It was supposed to be a surprise party but when my friend Marie invited me to dinner on Tuesday night I told her I couldn't because I had choir practice. Her response: "Uh...the truth is we're throwing you a party. Can you cancel?"

Yes, I could.

Dinner, friends, presents, and karoake. I even got a pink sparkly tiara. What more could you want in a birthday celebration?

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Fellow ALT Jason's birthday is this weekend so we had a joint party.

And then today I got a package from home full of Reese's cups!

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I blew the chocolate shavings all over the place when I blew out my candles.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I've mentioned before that I'm famous in Tahara. It's hard not to be when I see over 1,000 students in a month. Weekends are fun because my students freak out when they see me outside of school. Today, sitting at McDonald's, I saw no less than 15 students. It took them all a moment to recognize me without my glasses (contacts are weekend-only) but I got a big hello when they realized I really was Jennifer-sensei.

Five of my first-graders (think American seventh grade) showed off the only English they have really learned so far this year,(remembering that the school year here starts in April.) On the count of three they said together, "Are you Miss Jennifer?"

"Yes, I am!" I answered. Then we laughed and I asked them if they were playing badminton at the community center, having gleaned this information from an earlier student. "Yes, yes," they said.

I sometimes don't like my job because it's boring, especially on those days when I am a stand-in for the cd player, but it's nice to know that my students, some of them anyway, are excited to see me.