Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicken Dancing and Blowing Bubbles Under a Perfect Toyota Sun

Though I'd best be asleep soon, my day doesn't feel complete unless I write out my blog. So I'm sitting here, hot cocoa and crackers with cream cheese and jelly at my side, speeding through the memories of my day. First, beautiful weather. Sunny and about 68 degrees, My day at Toyota Yogo began with a cheerful greeting to my fellow teachers and then to the students (in English) as they entered the school. Now that I've made this my personal job, I'm beginning to get to know (at least by face and wave) some of the students I'm not teaching directly, which is fun! After the last student had been greeted, I headed over to the Elementary School area and hung out with the kids as they went through their morning routines. I lucked out today; one of the teachers had me hanging out with a particular student (Sarie) who was bright and talkative and pretty much up for anything.

While I'm mainly there for the students, the teacher are always having lots of questions, so I spend a fair amount of time talking with them as I'm with the students (especially in these morning visits, as I'm not technically teaching anything). So today, as I was showing Sarie the chicken outside (there are four chickens at this school, as well as a rabbit and a duck. They are in various pens...not food, just ambiance). So I explained that the “niwatori” (chicken in Japanese, literally means 'garden bird') outside was “chicken” in English, and one of the teachers asked what we called the meat, to which I replied “chicken.” (and then we did the Chicken Dance a little)

The word chicken got me and one of the teachers into a discussion about beef vs. cow, pork vs. pig, etc. But chicken has no meat word; it's just chicken. This reminded me of the Teaching Company's History of the English Language I had been listening to before I left, and as it sprang to mind, I barreled ahead with an attempt to explain the reason why some foods have different words for the cooked meat than the animal (many languages do not make this distinction, as ours doesn't when it comes to chicken).

My Japanese was not up to the Norman Invasion of England, though I did write 1066 on the board and started with “back in history, in 1066, in England, the French battled and took over so all the cooked meat words are from French.” This is vastly oversimplified and vague, but I managed to get enough across that the HRT understood what I was saying (maybe she'd learned it in history class or something) so it felt like a huge win. It's amazing the amount of communication one can have at random points even with minimal language skills.

The day also included such high points as blowing bubbles outside in the warm spring sun with the Elementary School kids; teaching a high school English self introduction lesson where I got to explain that my birthday is the shortest day of the year, while my best friend's birthday is on the longest. (a mix of Japanese and English on that one, but once one person gets it, they usually fill the others in), a wonderful song period where I got to hear and start to practice the Toyota Yogo School song (I snuck in for that class during one of my free periods); and of course, saying goodbye to everyone as they left. I also got a good start on another of my personal projects: teaching the high schoolers the "what's up?" "nothing much, just chillin'" conversational dynamic and meaning. One of my students, Takeshi, has got the words down, and I think I was able to convey the versatility of 'just chillin,' as it can mean, relaxed, happy, okay, hanging out with friends, having a good conversation, and more...

Sadly, Etsushi and Shion both weren't in school today...maybe they don't come on Mondays but I'm hoping they are well. (this was the only way in which my day felt a little incomplete; well that and we had Natto. It's not horrible, but it's not my favorite thing, and I thought it only came up once a month. Apparently Toyota Yogo is on a different food schedule than my other schools, but oh well).

I also picked up a fantastic pair of dresses off of the 999 yen rack (about $10 US) on my way to grocery shopping at the Josui supercomplex (this is actually my favorite grocery store I've found here...even beats Jusco). I didn't expect either to fit either dress but both did and they both looked so awesome I had to buy them. Now I have clothes for clubbing, and a nice spring dress; I'm feeling like I'm really settling in now! If only I could get some more WOC conditioner; I've been using it sparingly, but there's an obvious difference when I use the proper conditioner as opposed to just the regular Pantene for damaged hair. My hair needs extra moisture, but it's not damaged (just mixed), so while the damaged hair products are better than nothing, they still leave my hair a fuzzy mess.

Tonight's dinner was a bento sushi box (for less than 500 yen, I got a bento box that would have been twice that easily in Philly, and oh so tasty), the standard stir fried veggies (with bok choy), a potato-carrot patty and chocolate covered strawberries with chocolate wafers. The food here is so good, I just keep eating and eating. Luckily I'm getting a lot of exercise too! Hopefully enough to offset this great home cooking.

Now, to bed!