Thursday, February 26, 2009

my students are sometimes adorable

Here's a short cultural presentation put together by two of my first-years for some students visiting from England.

Names changed to protect the identities of those responsible.

Hello, nice to meet you.
My name is "Yuki". My name is "Shin".
This class is little time though please make friends with us.
I belong to a kendo club. I belong to a tennis club.
What clubs do you belong to? Let’s talk proudly and complain about our club.
Kendo is very mental sport. You practice kendo and become the strong mind.
I am a strong fencer! "Yuki" is a samurai!
Tennis is a gentlemanly sport and learn the good manners. I’m a gentleman.
If you played tennis, you would be interested in tennis.
Do you take a bamboo sword? So, you are Japanese samurai!
Wow, you are cool.
By the way, please listen to yours.

Ha ha ha, the samurai and gentleman bits made me smile. How charming they can be when they try.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"I want have a strange heart."

Or so says one of my students.

So, a month has passed, and there is plenty to say about it. I hardly know where to begin.

On the last day of January, met some buddies in Sanjo to celebrate my birthday. All in all, I believe the group included myself, Joanna, Fig, Mike, Alex, Neil, and Rob. At Neil and Mike's suggestion, we decided to try a restaurant called "Arabian Rock," which had apparently been in turn recommended to them by a group of drunk Japanese businessmen. The outside was styled to resemble a middle-eastern palace, and if nothing else, we figured it would be funny to say that we had been inside.

Funny doesn't begin to cover it. The inside, apart from being possibly the biggest restaurant I've ever entered, was entirely set up like an Arabian paradise. Booths were separated into structures resembling tents and huts and turrets, in which there were hanging curtains and piles of cushions for diners to sit upon. The servers were all dressed appropriately, and at one point we saw someone go by wearing a costume of the genie from Aladdin. We ordered plenty of food, some of which was set on fire at our very table, and were treated to a personal show by a wandering magician. The highlight, though, came towards the end of the meal.

There we were, minding our own business and eating dessert, when all of the overhead lights started flashing, and thunder rumbled over the speakers. A man started narrating in Japanese, and several people in costumes appeared, running up and down the aisles between tables. One girl was inarguably dressed as Disney's Belle, followed by a man wearing a lion mask, and we realized: for whatever reason, Arabian Rock was reenacting "Beauty and the Beast." This is bizarre enough in and of itself, but the actual production was also strangely askew. The character meant to be Gaston was wearing a mask that resembled Jay Leno, a set of purple wizard robes, and toting two pistols. He proceeded to shoot the Beast, who was in fact a lion, but some smoke machines started blowing and suddenly Gaston had lost. I suppose the evil curse was broken, because the Beast proceeded to strip off his outer costume and transform into...Aladdin in his Prince Ali regalia. NO JOKE.

Anyway, we had a fabulous time, followed by purikura and a round of karaoke. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday.

Next, February 9th and 10th was the long-awaited English seminar hosted by Higashi-Uji High School. We stayed overnight at the hotel "Heian no Mori" in Kyoto, a group of one actual teacher, 6 JETs, and 30 students. The 6 JETS were me, Joanna, Alex, Ryan, Pat, and Rob. The kids were remarkably friendly, and it took no time at all for us to befriend them, whether or not they were assigned into our own groups. That said, my group was also great. The were four girls and two boys -- Kokoro, Yoshika, Mai, Satoe, Ryo, and Shunsuke. Within about thirty seconds of meeting them, Satoe had confessed to me (in English!) that she had a crush on someone in the class, and pointed him out to me. We were bound to be a good team.

After starting with some self-intro activities and eating lunch, Ryan gave a cultural presentation on Scotland which was really interesting. He showed a video clip about haggis, and the kids' faces were amazing. Then, in our groups, we set out on a photo scavenger hunt. For three hours we ran around Kyoto, specifically the Sanjo/Kamogawa/Marutamachi area, speaking English and taking pictures. My group were really troopers, even the boys (who obviously didn't want to be there, but did their best all the same). We got pictures of 25 out of the thirty items on the list, plus some purely self-indulgent pictures of ourselves around town.

That evening after dinner, we saw another cultural presentation by Pat, who spoke about Canada, and made the kids hog-tie a teddy bear. Shunsuke was feeling ill, so he escaped at that point, while the rest of the group and I proceeded to work on a poster summarizing our scavenger hunt experience. (By then the photos had already been developed.) The girls were creative geniuses, so Ryo and I pretty much let them do their thing and delegate whatever they needed to us. Eventually, there was only photo decorating to be done, and Ryo was hesitant to get involved because he didn't like to draw. So, to keep him involved, I essentially made him my creative consultant. I would pick a photo and ask him what color pen I should use, or what I should write, then segue into questions about his life. Eventually, I tricked him into talking to me in English for a good thirty minutes, bless his heart!

After the kids went to bed, we JETs practiced our skit in Japanese, and then raced for the baths. They were Japanese-style public baths (gender separate), and were only open until midnight, meaning that at that point we had fifteen minutes to get in out. Joanna and I had never tried a Japanese bath before, but luckily there were a few young women inside, and I managed to ask them in Japanese how to proceed. In any event, the bath felt GREAT. And now me and Joanna are that much closer for having been forced to see each other in the nude, ha ha!

The next day was mostly last minute skit practice for everybody, as well as poster presentations. We JETs snuck into a dining room to practice our skit, while two female hotel workers were inside cleaning and moving things. It soon became evident that the workers were trying to act like they weren't listening to our horrendous Japanese, but one of them let out a damning giggle. All of us JETs went suddenly silent, looked at each other, and then burst out laughing, soon followed by the hotel workers. Ah, camaraderie.

The skit seemed to go over well. Essentially, each of us was some archetype from Japanese TV. (I was the snotty rich girl.) I think the favorite character was Rob, who was playing a ganster...when he started speaking his Japanese with a special gangster accent, the students freaked out. The students' skits were equally as cute. The best involved four girls in animal costumes giving a boy a makeover. (Including floral toga.) My group based their skit around Anpanman. Shunsuke was awesome as Baikinman -- a.k.a. Mr. Germ.

At last we held an awards ceremony, in which my group won awards for Best Scavenger Hunt Poster and 2nd Best Skit. I was proud of them! And Ryan, bless his heart, sprinted to the shop down the block to buy a bunch of sweets as consolation prizes for groups who didn't win anything. He really is a great teacher, I think.

Friday the 13th I literally spent the whole day studying Japanese. We had entrance exams in place of classes, so there was nothing for Kristin and I to do except work on our correspondence course. (The test of which was coincidentally coming due.) Essentially, I did the whole book in one day. Really, the ENTIRE book. I was a giant headache by the end.

For Valentine's, me and the Kyoto crew went out to a Mexican restaurant that was expensive, but tasty. The owner, a diminutive and older Japanese man, played mariachi guitar and sang to the diners in Spanish.

Last week, school was both busy and not. We had no classes for the first three days, but we ended up staying over an hour late each day to help with after-school exam practices.

On Saturday, I went to a birthday potluck party for Maiko, Rob's Japanese girlfriend. We had a really nice time, and it was an opportunity to use my Japanese. (An opportunity which is rarer than you would think, conversationally.) I spent a lot of time talking to this guy Teru, whose English was also pretty good, so we faded in and out of both languages.

Today, there are nineteen British students touring our school. It's been a little bit of a circus so far, and is bound to become more so before the day is through. I chaperoned about twelve of them in an art class, meanwhile badgering my Japanese students to talk to them in English. They're off at lunch right now, but they'll be back in about ten minutes, and then it's all Britain all the time for the rest of the day. They seem to be nice kids, though, and the teachers are friendly, so it's no trouble. I just hope that both they and our students can enjoy the visit!