Monday, December 22, 2008

from the mouths of babes

Merry Christmas (in advance), everybody! Today is my last day at work before the holiday, and I'm shipping out to Korea on Wednesday. Before I go, here's a little gift from me and my students to you: hilarious and/or charming quotes lifted from their English papers. Guaranteed to give you a smile, or your money back.

First, some gems from the notes of our recently-completed country project. (First-year high schoolers.)

Attempting to describe Big Ben:
“There is big time.”

“I think Ireland is grand.”

“Egypt is mysterious.”

“I like Australia. So, I felt good.”

Sphinx = "sfincs"

Problem = "ploglam"

And, perhaps most tragically,
“Her poster is very pimple.”

Next, let's hear some of the junior high third-years' Christmas wishes.

"This Christmas I want a Gundam because it is cool."
(Note: a Gundam is a type of giant robot.)

"This Christmas I want some money because I want money."

"This Christmas I want smile because I love happy."

"This Christmas, I want a car or motorbike. But I cannot drive."

And last,
"This Christmas I want a lot of knowledge because I want to defend people."

Bonus! A scrawled nonsequitur from the back of the same student's paper:
"Yes I can. Obama said that yes we can."

Well, I hope you enjoyed those...I know I did.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I must confess, I've had this entry half-written for about two weeks. I suppose I'd best go ahead and post it before it's so far gone as to be totally irrelevant.

November ended with the ladies only staff party, at a restaurant in Kameoka which was quite good. The decor was also cute, a sort of homey, crafty sort of feeling. We had a very nice time all around. As usual, the seating was decided by lottery, but somehow every English teacher but one ended up sitting at our table, which was really great. We conversed in a mixture of the two languages, depending on who all was in a conversation at any given time.

One of the courses was roast beef, a rarity in Japan. It also ended up being hilarious in that they had only given us chopsticks...and it is nigh impossible to cut beef with chopsticks. Ueda-sensei, a young, first year teacher attempted to bite off a piece and refused to give up when it wouldn't tear, pulling at it like a puppy dog while we cheered her on. It took her probably a good two minutes. There were various other ridiculous attempts, until we settled on an equally ridiculous system of cutting that involved chopsticks and spoons. Utterly impractical! Yet none of us bothered to just ask for a knife.

Saturday the 29th, I cleaned my apartment up, and then met some kids in town. We ate some great Indian food and then went to a particularly friendly pub we knew in the area called Ing Bar, where we played cards for awhile. Afterwards Fig came back to Sonobe with me to spend the night. Despite our best intentions, we were up until about four in the morning just watching movies and such. It was the latest I've stayed up since coming to Japan, discounting that one all-nighter.

Somehow, though, my internal clock seems to be adjusting to normal-person hours, where once I habitually slept until (or even past) noon. Saturday I had woken up just after ten, and even though I went to bed at four a.m., on Sunday I awoke at nine forty-five! I was awake a full two hours before Fig roused. What could this mean? ...Adulthood?!

When Fig woke up, I made us tea and pancakes. Breakfast success! Then we spent the early afternoon watching my current obsession, "Hana Yori Dango." It is a very silly live-action Japanese drama show, about a girl who gets caught up in a war with the four spoiled rich boy bullies that rule her school. There are a lot of dramatic pauses, and Japanese fashion, and misunderstandings. The leader of the bullies is Domyouji, who is a slightly twisted, emotionally challenged, and kind of a moron. He is also, however, perfectly adorable, and I want to marry him. One of my favorite scenes (which I know will make you cringe in particular, Shonkwiler): Domyouji's sister quotes Hemingway when giving him advice, and in his usual mixed up manner, he incorrectly quotes it back later to someone else, saying scornfully, "It's HUMINGYAY! Read the book, the book!" Oh god, his face when he says it...just perfect.

That evening, we went into Kameoka for dinner, at a restaurant Phil had taken some of us to after the Hozu River Ride. The restaurant was small and almost empty, so we could clearly hear the table next to us exclaiming excitedly that there were foreigners, and were busy trying to pretend we didn't notice when one of the gentlemen approached us to ask where we were from. Suffice it to say, it was all downhill from there. The guys were all middle-aged and friendly, including a teacher, a firefighter, a government official of some sort, and the restaurant owner himself. I think some of them were well into their cups, though, based on the way they kept repeating themselves and forgetting what we had said.

"Canada?" "America." "Oh, America."
"Canada?" "America." "Oh, sorry, America!"

It was pretty funny, though, and they were quite nice, even going so far as to pay for our dinner since we put up with them for a full hour and a half. It was also decent Japanese practice. By the time we left, though, Fig and I were both a little shell-shocked! We retreated to a coffee shop to recoup a little afterwards.

The following week was marked by exams and the Kyoto JET Mid-Year Seminar. Basically, we sat around listening to various lectures and speeches for two days on the 3rd and 4th. On the second day, we had to present lesson plans to a group, so I and Takemura-sensei presented our "James and the Giant Peach" project. It was so well-received in our initial small group that our table chose us to present to the group at large. Also, the seminar gave me the opportunity to meet a few more of Fig's teachers, who all seemed pretty nice. We went out and got Thai food together, which I must say was excellent.

That weekend was largely uneventful as I recall, and school was more of the same. One of our exchange students returned to Colorado, and though she was a nice enough girl, it was with some relief that we saw her off. She consistently had trouble with her homestay family, to the extent that at one point we almost moved her.

Christmas classes have been ongoing. Trivia, crosswords, wordsearches, and carols. Through no real desire of my own, I now know most of the words to Wham's dubious classic, "Last Christmas."

This weekend was largely devoted to Christmas shopping, and still I didn't quite finish. I'll just say this: it is exceedingly difficult to shop for men in Japan, because guys over here are in some ways (read:fashion) what we would consider as more effeminate. But also, guys are hard to shop for anyway. Fie! Other than shopping, Fig and I just made cookies and watched "The Santa Clause." (A classic.)

Friday night was also the English department staff party, at a restaurant near my school. It was ever so fun, especially because I sat across from Hosoi-sensei, this adorable little man who speaks with an Australian accent and is an absolute riot. I want to take him everywhere with me!

Saturday morning (pre-shopping) I met Sean and Alex Rogals in an area of town called Gion, which is famous for its geisha and maiko (geisha-in-training?). As it happens, Saturday was the day when, once a year, the geisha and maiko all go to give their instructors some kind of thank-you gift. What it really means is that they are out on the streets in great numbers, so we (and many other people with giant cameras) went to snap pictures of them. Their kimonos were gorgeous, and some of them were so young! The ages of my students, even!

Later that evening (post-shopping), I met Fig, Joanna, and Mike. We went to an Irish pub in the area, where there was a "traditional Irish" band playing. And by "traditional Irish," I mean four Japanese guys playing some sort of Irish-jazz fusion using pipes, a box drum, a fiddle, and an upright bass. They were even joined for two songs by a probably-British woman, who was actually singing in French. In any case, the music was actually quite good. One of Mike's teachers was also in attendance (which is how he'd heard about it and dragged us along), and she was a pretty odd bird. Strange in an indefinable way when we were first introduced, our consensus by the end of the evening was that she was A) drunk and B) kind of a crazy groupie for this Irish band. All in all, though, we had a good time.

Yesterday I took a half-day of "special leave," and went to the immigration office in Kyoto to get my re-entry permit. (I want them to let me in again when I come back from Korea!) I met a nice girl from Maine who was getting her permit to visit her boyfriend Italy over the break, which was funny because at dinner, I ended up seated next to a businessman who was actually from Italy. Small world!

I'm sure there are a thousand other things to say, but I am exhausted, and it is only 1:00 on Wednesday. Wait for it!