Thursday, May 13, 2010

Days Gone By

Boy life got away from me this week! As usual, so much happens even in a day, it's hard to categorize, so catching up on four days is really going to be a challenge. And one I think would be best approached obliquely. So here goes:

It's been another great week of meeting people, going to cool places, and teaching (both in the victories and the “try agains”).

On Sunday I signed up for Japanese classes at TIA (Toyota International Association) and took a test to place me in the correct class. To my surprise (and delight), I placed into level A, the top level class they offer. This was kind of awesome, especially considering I've only been here about 5 weeks. Luckily, the fact that I'm always asking people “what did you say?” or “I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying because I don't have a lot of vocabulary or grammar” definitely keeps my feet on the ground though in regards to my Japanese abilities. I have a lot to learn and I'm very excited to start classes this upcoming Sunday.

Also on Sunday I had the pleasure of attending Makato-san's International English conversation get together at Aichi University, where I met some awesome people (that I still need to put into my phone and email...busy week, yeah!) and had a fantastic time chatting and learning Salsa dance! This was a really great time! I also met some fine folks from the Garbage Rangers, who once a month in Power Rangers costume pick up garbage around Nagoya. I'm going to check out their next outing. Only in Japan! Have I mentioned how great (and interesting) life is here yet?!

On Monday, it was back to work! I started the week at Higashiyama, and since I had a schedule with lesson topics, etc, was able to do a much better job than last time, especially with the Animals lesson for the first graders. I really love all ages of kids, but there's an special place in my heart for the first graders and second graders because they are so outgoing and up for anything. As the kids get older, they get a little shyer, and by fifth grade especially, (and I remember this from my own childhood), peer pressure is a real PITA. You have to work a bit harder with the older kids to get them involved, but they do make up for it by having more mature conversations (and also speaking more clear Japanese. I feel terrible about it, but little kids' Japanese I have an especially hard time understanding). I am also developing better relationships with all of the teachers in this school, which is great! They are also beginning to tell me more about what the kids know (and don't know) so I can plan more appropriate lessons. This is a huge help!

I also had a chance to go running on Monday night. What a great idea! I ran for about 40 minutes and felt so sore, tired, and great! It was a wonderful decision that I repeated tonight for a half hour. I'm getting back into a 3 day a week running schedule for sure! Now if only I could figure out how far I was actually going.

On Tuesday, I went for the first time to Nishihomi Elementary. I admit, on the train (I intended to bike but it was raining and I was running late) I felt a bit nervous about once again having another first day in another brand new school (how would it go?) but this school was an absolute joy. Of course, there were scheduling concerns (I didn't receive any of the lesson plans they made – big shock...not—so I only had prepared for Jikoshoukai. But the teachers there were excellent about giving me the information, plans and materials I needed so the lessons went well anyhow. Also, the kids here hail from all over the world (mostly from South America: specifically Brazil and Peru, and the Philippines, though other countries were also represented), and the mix of cultures gave the school a unique energy. The kids were very outgoing. For example, during my Jikoshoukai section of my lesson with the fifth graders, when I was asking where people were from, the kids were absolutely excited to shout out their countries or origin and were quite excited when I held out my Brazil flashcard and placed it on the map. (I need one for Peru and the Philippines too).

Later, when talking about the difference in pronunciation of Karaoke in Japan and the States, one of the girls (and here the girls were much less shy than at my other schools, a huge difference) shouted out Musikow, which is what Karaoke is called in Brazilian Portuguese. So I was able to incorporate it into the lesson, and learn some Portuguese as well.

The fourth graders were also ridiculously excited after class to tell me how to say all kinds of things in various languages (as I taught English), so I learned how to say Good morning in Philippino, Brazilian Portuguese, and one girl, who spoke five languages (Italian, Portuguese, Philippino, Chinese and Japanese) also told me how to say “I love you” in Italian. I wrote all of these down and will have them memorized by the week after next when I return. One of my fellow teachers (Kana-sensei, who translates between English, Japanese and Portuguese for the school...omg!) also taught me a fair number of words and phrases in Portuguese, including “Eu nao falo Portuguese” which means “I don't speak Portuguese” and “Sou Americana” which means “I am American.” So now when random people walk up to me and start talking to me in Portuguese, I can whip that out. (though by the end of my year working at Nishihomi, I should speak some Portuguese at least).

Also, I learned Good Morning “Bon Dia” (pronounced Bone Jia) and Good Afternoon: “Bon Tarde” (pr. Bon Tarji (long e sound at end). In Brazilian Portuguese, the D's tend to go to J's, though this isn't a fast rule. If you want to ask “how you you?” you ask “Tudo Bem” but this D is pronounced like a D and the E in Bem is long (Beem). I'm good = Estou Bem. There is a difference in To Be adjectives in Portuguese depending on if the is is referring to a changeable vs. unchangeable state. So Sou Americana is an unchangeable state. (theoretically). I was born American and will probably die American. Whereas I'm good--Estou bem--is a changeable state; I'm good now, but maybe tomorrow, not so good. I found this to be wildly interesting, and it may end up being the core of a story...not sure yet. In general though, you can see in the grammar and words relationships between Spanish and Portuguese, which is helpful as I did take Spanish in High School, though I forgot pretty much all of it.

Then it was back home where I tried out the instant curry beef I'd bought at Jusco. So good! Just a few minutes in boiling water in it's metal container, and three minutes of cooking yakisoba noodles, and I had a delicious curry beef with veggies (some I added) and I have three more packets. Definitely going to have more curry soon! I also did a great deal of lesson planning for today. More than I'd have liked since it took close to five hours. That's in large part because the lesson they wanted wasn't compatible with my teaching materials.

Also, I had to do another lesson on animals, as the one I had was way to simplistic for the older kids (there's a difference between first and fourth graders). To my surprise though, all of my lessons went well today. This was by far the best day I've had at this school, so all of my prep work really paid off! Hopefully though, this will get faster (looks like my next few weeks of lessons are compatible with my teaching materials, thank God.

Then it was running tonight, yakisoba noodles with veggies and way too many chocolate wafers. I also watched this week's episode of House which was great! And if anyone's been keeping up with the new season of Dr. Who, I must admit I'm really liking the new Doctor. Not that I don't love David Tennant (because if he called...) but the new guy is doing a hugely great job with the role too. And I love Amy. She reminds me a little of me except less commitment phobic. (yeah, that's kind of sad). Also, the writing this season (except the first episode which was a bit weak in my estimation) has been really great! Not that I expected less of Stephen Moffet.

Nuff said, off to shower and bed!

Read more about my adventures in Japan and abroad at