Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Well, 12 hours ago it was thunderstorming. Now, it's bright and sunny outside, and I'm taking this opportunity to air out my futon. FYI, I don't have a bed, I sleep "Japanese style" on futon. It took a while to get used to, but now it's okay.

Interestingly, "Do you have a bed?" is one of the questions that people ask me when they meet me for the first time. It's right up there with "Can you use chopsticks?" as a conversation starter.

It's kind of entertaining when someone new is rotated into our office. Having never worked with me before, the new person assumes that I know nothing about Japan, and treats me as such. He directs questions through a third person, is surprised when I demonstrate knowledge of customs and culture, etc. Of course, I don't really know all that much about Japan, but it takes about a week or two for new people to realize I'm not totally helpless. Just mostly helpless. Business as usual, I guess!

Every summer, the people in my office recieve three extra days of paid leave, to be used during the summer only. I was going to take mine in mid-August, but since I'll be at class every day, my supervisor suggested I take them now. So, a short break before I dive into nihongo studies.


So I'm sitting here, wondering if the power is going to go out again (it's thunderstorming right now), pondering what looks to be a somewhat boring summer vacation. Almost all of my friends are vacationing/studying far away from here. To the far ends of Japan, actually. (Doug's going to Okinawa, whilst Ellen and Jamie are going to Hokkaido.) At least I'll be taking the opportunity to brush up my own Japanese skills.

Every December, the government administers a Japanese Language Proficiency test for foreigners in Japan. I'm preparing for the Level 3 exam (with 4 being easiest, and 1 being impossible). I'm very worried. It's recommended that people taking level 3 should know at least 1500 words, and 300 kanji. Also, they should have finished at least 300 hours of Japanese study.

I'm...working on it.

I start that class next week. I've already bought my train pass...something else I've never needed before. It was a little adventure to get the lady at the train station to understand what I wanted. "No, I don't want the 11 tickets for the price of 10; I want the unlimited pass!"
So I've created a new splash page. What do you think? As usual, you can reach me at ratendido (at) mac (dot) com.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Say, remember that big earthquake I mentioned a couple of months back? Well, in the last day, three more fairly strong earthquakes hit the same area. One at around midnight, one at around 7:15 AM, and a third weaker one about an hour ago (5:00 PM). The epicenters were on land this time, causing a lot more property damage. Around 250-300 people injured, but no deaths.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Surreal Moment of the Day:
The evening news did a special segment on Wal-Mart, of all things. It opened with the newsreader wandering through a CGI model of a Sam's Club, describing merchandise piled to the ceilings, etc.

Wal-Mart recently bought a controlling interest in a Japanese supermarket chain, the name of which escapes me at the moment. (FYI: A Japanese "supaa" is more sort of a small department store. Think Target) According to the head of Wal-Mart's Japanese division (an American, BTW), they will be trying to impose the Wal-Mart philosophy of management from the start. For example, "Always Low Prices."

Traditionally, Japanese supaa have "sale days" at regular intervals, when the prices are very low, while the rest of the time everything is regular price. Instead, Wal-Mart's chain just marks down everything everyday, just like at home--although, not as low as the Japanese chain's sale days. Now, customers who are accustomed to waiting for the sale days may never go to that store again....

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Something that's amusing, if you aren't me:

Every once in a while, I buy these little cans of corned beef from the local store. (100 grams, in a cute mini version of the trapezoidal can.) They stock two different kinds, one of which has very little grease/fat/whatever in the can, and another which is a bit less lean. A long time ago, I tried the less lean one, which is about �100 cheaper, but I didn't like it.

Now that I can read some kanji, I found out that the cheaper corned beef is actually a 50/50 mix of beef. . . and horse.


Ah, but what do I know? I've developed a liking for raw chicken, served sashimi-style.


Random Thoughts:

On the subject of Harry Potter: Some students were very excited when I showed up for work one day carrying a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. They then proceeded to become somewhat annoyed when I reminded them how long it took for the last one to get a Japanese translation.

Only one student has asked me who dies; everyone else just asks me what happens in it. All I'm willing to tell them is, "Harry Potter wa....DATE wo shimasu!" Enough to tantalize, yet not really spoiling anything important.

On the subject of last month: Well, here's a short version of part of the story (sorry!). A while back, a university student from Kagoshima City came to school for a couple of weeks to observe, and do a little practice teaching. Let me preface the rest of this by saying that I've got nothing against Ai-sensei, she is a nice person, and I hope she succeeds as an English teacher. However, seeing her in the classroom, team-teaching with the regular English teacher, made me realize how very little I actually get to do these days.

And then, I noticed that although I couldn't do a lot of what Ai was doing (such as explaining things in Japanese), some things, such as flashcard vocab drills, demonstration dialogue, and some English game-type activities, I could do. In fact, back when I started this job, I used to do a lot more of these kind of things.

I don't get invited to go on school trips or staff functions anymore, either.

Now, this realization, combined with some other factors, really put a damper on my spirits -- so much so, that students were asking the teachers about it. But things have started to improve recently. We'll see how it goes from here.

I don't get called sensei anymore, either. . . .

On the subject of the Saint Paul Public Schools: I don't work there anymore. \(^_^)/

Just like last year, I applied to have my leave of absence extended. This year, however, they said "no" and proceeded to offer me the following choice: Come back to work this fall, or resign. Now, even with the stuff I just wrote, this was not a hard choice.

In the short run: I'm here for another year.
In the long run: I'd better start looking for my next job now.

On the subject of summer vacation: Last year, I spent a month sitting in the school board office doing . . . nothing. This year, I signed up for a one-month intensive Japanese language course in the city. By the end of August, I'll either be much more skilled in speaking Japanese, or I'll have gone insane with the heat.

Or both.


Thursday, July 03, 2003

Hello, everyone. I'm sorry I haven't been posting more often. It's been a . . . difficult month. I've been trying to put it into words, and even if I succeed, I might not post it. . . .

In the meantime, the rainy season has started. For me, this is a bad thing, because I walk to work everyday. Still, I like listening to the sound of the falling rain. . . just not being out in it.

Summer vacation for the Japanese schools starts in about two weeks. I'm hoping to be able to go to a school in the city, where I can do intensive Japanese study for a month. It's a bit pricey -- around $500 -- but I think it would be useful. However, it's still pretty iffy that I'll be able to go.

If not, I hope the weather's nice enough that I can take my computer in to work with me.

One more thing before I sign off for the evening --

I came to Japan with a fairly large stack of postcards from Minnesota. The spoonbridge, the Mississippi, lakes, rapids, etc. Last week, I gave my last one away. So, I was wondering if you wonderful people out there could send me some more? Drop me a line from wherever you're at. Please?

If you don't have my address, drop me an e-mail and I'll send it to you.