Thursday, February 25, 2010

is this right?

i am grading said tests from last post.  there is a fill in the blank question that i made for the kids to answer which reads 'The one thing that people do not eat in Bethland is __________?' and the answer is meat.  i read a passage for the kids that i wrote about an imaginary place of my own with my own rules.  they did the same exercise a few weeks ago so they are familiar with the idea of my own place and rules ect.  i have one student who did pretty well on the test, actually has one of the highest grades and if i give her the points for what she put in the blank she will earn a 64%.

her answer?....'cat and dog'.

what is a girl to do?  in my heart this TOTALLY feels like the right answer, but really this is one of the answers on the test with the highest percentage of correct answers.  granted, most students have answered 'meet', but i am giving it to them.

still, i think i am just going to say that she wins today.  isnt it okay to just grant one of these students that little win for the day?  good for you megumi, that is 100% correct.  we do not eat cat or dog in bethland.

sneaking a snap

im indulging all of you out there with this little pic of me in my staffroom at the high school, florescent lights and all!  notice no body else is around?...yes, they are all at a meeting and are apparently discussing what is healthy food.  that is all that my supervisor told me before everyone left me here alone.  this is pretty typical and i have gotten used to being alone in here sometimes.  if you know me, you know that being alone is just fine with me.  but i stole the opportunity to show you where i work as taking a picture of the room when people are watching is just, well, weird, at least weirder than most things i am doing here for the moment.

i gave my second grade students (11th graders to you and me) their final english exam of the year today.  i dont think one of them finished it and they all just looked totally defeated when i handed them out.  my supervisor told me that i had to make this one significantly harder than the last one, because the students did too well on the last one.  yes, that is just what i was thinking too!  "lets make it so hard that they will all fail!"  he thought i was serious when i said this and smiled in agreement.  ouch.  this is the japanese way.  i am about to start grading them and feel sorry for them already.  wow what a strange reality this is that i have chosen to live in. 

hope all of you are getting good marks in life out there.  ganbatte!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

...watchin the tide roll away

okay, i am lame.  i cant get the image to turn, i confess to knowing next to nothing about layout on this blog, but at least i am tending to it right?  i will figure it out one day when someone comes to my rescue and offers to help.  but for today, this is a sideways shot of one of the bays on my way to class.  not a bad way to start my day...happy tuesday everyone.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

whats up with the bento?

i have had so many people ask me about what i am eating here and somehow i keep forgetting to share.  as i was diving into my lunch today i thought about this and actually paused to take a quick picture of my lunch.  this is what i eat for lunch usually five days a week.  though i have tried other things this is just the easiest and there is a bit of variety in it each day, though the rice and fish remain the same.  i will try to tell you a bit about my lunch (hiru gohan, which translates to mid day rice) now.

this is called a go-hyaku en saba bento or 500¥鯖弁と。 (i can actually read that too if you can believe it.  the first four characters are kanjis; yen, fish, blue, ben and the last symbol is hiragana for 'to'.  yes, it is that hard to read and yes it is one of a very few things that i can read.  it has to do with food, major motivation for me to learn!)  so what this breaks down into meaning is that the meal costs 500 yen (around five dollars) and has saba fish as its main staple.  what this is is, starting with the rice and working clockwise;

*white rice, run of the mill stuff.  nothing special or fancy.  it comes from a rice cooker because EVERYBODY here cooks their rice in one except me.  mine broke and i just dont see the need.  it has an umeboshi on top of it which is the red ball you see there.  it is a very sour plum and is traditionally eaten after the meal.  i think it tastes like crap and ruins the lovely taste of lunch if you eat it at all.  under the ume boshi are black sesame seeds on the rice and in the bottom left corner of the rice are some yellow pickles on a little plastic sheet of grass.  these daikon radish pickles and are not too tasty either and i always leave them to the side.  they again are sour but the japanese really believe in eating some pickles and umeboshi after a meal as they feel it aids digestion.

*there are four different items in the square above the rice on the left side.  two of them are types of komaboko, which is japanese style fish patties.  these are delicious and i have yet to find a type of komaboko that i dont like.  sometimes there are shredded veggies in them too and they come in all shapes and sizes.  seen here is a pink/white half-moon shaped one and a brown triangular one.  in this square there are also some vegetables (potato and carrot) which have been boiled in sweet dashi (fish stock).  they are quite delicious also.
*next is the main event, the saba fish.  it shares its square with two other items from let to right which are, tamagoyaki (japanese style omlette.  yum!) and a few pea pods served tempura style (battered lightly and fried quickly.  very yum.)  the saba (pacific mackerel) is served next to this.  i always get two small bits of fish that are prepared pan fried with soy.  it is quite good and has few bones to sort through.  i have managed to get to know this fish quite well and can not only tell exactally where the bones will be but can also remove sans fingers using only my chopsticks.  yup, im just that good.

*under the saba is a quarter of a mikan.  these are wintertime japanese fruits that taste a bit like an cross between an orange and a mandarin fruit back home.  they are really easy to peel, come into season about december and are pretty cheap eats.  you can still buy a bag of about six or seven of them here on the island for less than an american dollar.  they grow everywhere so most eaten in naru are local.  sigh.  good to know that.  unfortunately though their season is almost done as i can tell by the slight decline in their taste in the last few weeks.  i look forward to mikan season again next year...

*and lastly there is a little heap of boiled greens, served cold with mayonaise and sesame dressing (ohitashi).  the greens are usually spinach but sometimes are traditional japanese greens.  sorry i dont know the names of them yet. 

*wash this all down with a nice cup of genmaicha tea (green tea mixed with toasted rice) and you have hiru gohan at its finest. 

i will admit today that i ordered the 500 en bento for the first time in quite awhile.  i usually get the 600 en bento which as you might guess is a bit bigger (more rice and more sides).  i dont know what it was that made me go with only the 500 today, but i was still quite satisfied.  maybe part of me does know that summer is around the corner...

so i hope this sheds a little light on what im eating here for those of you who are wondering.  i will try to snap some more lunches in the coming days and give you the lowdown.  i may even try to add a few of the japanese dishes that i have been cooking up in my own kitchen.  they are coming along i am happy to say though it has not been easy.  that is a whole 'nother post though.

OH and by the way for anyone that does wonder what else i am up to or culture stuff here.  feel free to leave a question with me about what it is you are wondering about and i will do my best to report back on it.  ask anything, god knows everyone here does!



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

just say YES!

i got myself into a bit of a  pickle yesterday.  due to my unbridled enthusiasm for saying yes to everything and everyone here i earned myself a name with my supervisor.  i ask him daily if he needs any help and have only said yes when he wonders if there is something that i could help with or offer my expertise in.  so he knew that all he had to do yesterday was say, "i have a favor to ask you" and i woud say yes before i knew what it was.  well i did just that and even though he has never asked me specifically for a favor before (this should have been a tip off) i jumped at having a project to fill my down time yesterday.

he asked me if i could come up with some drawings for a test that he had to administer later that afternoon.  really??  since when did he think i was an artist?  did i ever tell him this in another context?  how on earth did he think that i could do this?  what he specifically wanted was three series of pictures.  each series was to have four pictures a piece and each was an answer to a multiple choice question where they had to understand the question (in english of course) so they could choose the right picture.  the kicker is though that each picture measured 2cm by 1.5cm.  i had to fit people and actions into these small dimensions and make them clear enough that students could distinguish what they were.  um, okay. 

i did the first series with a bold attempt at realism.  roundish bodies for people and on them clothing with distinguishable characteristics.  it was bad.  really, really bad.  these people were not looking too healthy or happy in any regard, but alas i pushed on to continue the task at hand.

needless to say, the next series was seeming even more daunting now.  i thought about trying again at small life forms that resembled real people or close cousins to humans and decided that i just didnt care.  i am not an artist, i never told him that i am an artist and if he is going to ask me to do this an hour before he needs them he is going to happily accept whatever my measley pencil scribbles down.  and so it was, the rest of my drawings were sticks with smiles.  i handed them over to him with great pride (if you cant make it, fake it, right?!) and told him i hoped he liked them.  he just kind of looked at me and gave me an "im kind of embarassed for you" smile.  i didnt care at all.  being embarassed at school is so six months ago...

and i write this all happily from my new (new old, old) computer at my desk in my elementary/jr high school office.  it is grand to be here with people who talk to me and acknowledge my presence.  that  is not always happening at my high school and seems to be kind of the norm around here with my other english teacher pals.  i may never understand just why that is so.

post valentine hearts and hugs,

Friday, February 5, 2010

get up, stand up

...and hope springs eternal here on my tiny japanese island!  i am feeling heaps better now that i am on the tail end of this week and am happy to report that hearing has been restored to my ears and i am virtually pain free in all other ways.  i knew it would just take some time, but man those were a few grumbly days. 

today is a whole new ball game though, or at least so it seems.  i (unknowingly) set in motion a few things a few days back when i was grumbly and had the attention of someone whom i knew both understood me and would maybe be a bit sympathetic. 

she is mizokami sensei, my most favorite of all the teachers that i work with here.  she teaches jr high and is a bad ass as far as japanese women go.  first and formost, SHE SPEAKS and UNDERSTANDS english!  what a thrill it is to be able to spend time with her and just talk about the many differences from here to there around the world and especially in japan.  secondly she is smart (she also speaks swahili and has raised a lovely smart 5th grade girl on her own), sassy (she laughs with me daily and helps me with most everything i need) and breaks lots and lots of rules, but with loads of japanese flair.  she has confided in me some great juicy secrets (which i will not be revealing here.  jeez.) and they are sooooo not the japanese way of doing things.  she is my hero around these parts. 

anyway i mentioned to ms mizokami that my schedule around the naru school system seems odd to me and after showing her what i meant she agreed.  can a girl get a little help around here?!  i am based at the high school.  this means that my main desk is there, i have a computer there (the one i type my blog on now), all of my files and lesson plans and such are there, i get my lunch there and most importantly i guess, i get paid from that office.  but my contract with the nagasaki BOE (board of education) states that i am in charge of all of the children on this island so i must teach at the elementary and jr high too.  i love that, no problem for me.  the only trouble is that i teach usually around 10-12 classes a week at the jr high/elementary school and 2 classes a week at the high school.  hmmmmm, this just seems a bit weird, right?  i dont mind spending half of my days running (yes sometimes i do run) back and forth between schools and coming back inbetween periods for things i forgot or to order lunch or whatever.  i would like to think that there could be something more streamlined worked out about this.  and after opening my yap to ms. mizokami this week, apparently they agree.

as i approached the elementary/jr high this morning i threw an enthusiastic "ohiyo gozimasu" up to my principal who was having his morning smoke on the balcony outside the english classroom.  he threw a nice one back at me and added in his most wonderful english "good morning".  (i love it when teachers say good morning to me in english and this happens at the elementary/jr high more than the high school for sure.)  i shuffled in and repeated my good mornings for the other teachers in the staffroom, gathered my things for class there on my desk and walked off with ms. mizokami to teach the 3rd graders about pronunciation.  after class i was greeted back at my desk by kocho sensei (my principal) as he stood there smiling with a pas con (personal computer/laptop) in his hands for me.  i wanted to hug him but knew that it would really freak him out so instead i did a lot of bowing interupted only by small bits of jumping, smiling and clapping my hands.  i felt like a little kid at christmas and looked like it too im sure (though none of them have ever seen a little kid all excited on christmas.  why would that happen here, its just another day remember?!).  they were really welcoming me to their school and accepting me as one of their own.  i got a computer on my desk and now i can sit and work there just like everyone else.  plus they are reviewing my schedule now and deciding that i should spend more time at the elementary/jr high and plan on making it my home base a few days a week.  wow.  i feel like i have won some sort of gaijin contest.  this is major headway people, this is CHANGing things that have been in place for who knows how long now and doing it without anyone being pissed at me or upset (yet).  it is all thanks to ms. mizokami, who is by the way celebrating her birthday today as well. 

so happy birthday today to mizokami sensei and to bob too.  dont think that i forget that it was his special day today too just because im not back in the states at a reggae show way no how. 

happy days to all of you out there who bother to keep up with me also.

"you can fool some people some times, but you cant fool all the people all the time.  so now you've seen the light.  stand up for your rights."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

a complaint from the gaijin

i have made (almost now) through three days of work this week, all of which have been dreadful and long. 

monday was the worst as i woke up after having a toss-turn-repeat night of sleep and then looked in the mirror before leaving (this is a small miracle in itself that i actually LOOKED in the mirror) and saw that i had rubbed my left eye into a messy patch of redness that looked somewhat reminicent of a smashed strawberry in my eye.  great.  i had a headache and couldnt hear out of my right left ear either because i had messed with it too much earlier in a q-tip vs. the itch in my ear war.  clearly the q-tip won, but not in a good way.  so this was the start to my day and i had an open class to look forward to in about an hour.  (an open class is where every teacher and administrator in both schools on the island are invited to come and view your class and observe your teaching and then later ask you about it and give you feedback in a meeting.  the meeting i found out about later, two minutes after it started.  awesome.)  so i put on my best japanese face and went with it thinking to myself while eyes were on my first graders and me "genki, genki, genki".  luckily it was first grade and the energy of those kids is infectious, apparently even when you feel like H E double hockey sticks.  all went fine and i managed to stay upright through the entire forty-five minutes only pausing a few times at desks to regain my balance and remember what word i needed to say so they could repeat it.  needless to say i went right home after work and went to bed praying that everything would clear itself up and i would be better in the morning. 

tuesday came with great sunshine and hope.  i woke up feeling better, at least for the first fifteen minutes i was awake and then the headache and sneezing commenced.  now there are symptoms of allergies and and then there are just fits of sneezing and being plugged up that one cannot even fathom could really occur.  i managed to suffer the later for most of tuesday and boy was it a great day!  oh, and my eye was still lookin pretty fruity and gnarly and getting gasps and awes from the teachers around me. 

and now wednesday is almost through and i feel like i will be able to walk home without exhausting the rest of physical strength left in me for the first time this week.  with my only aliments to report today being sneezing and needing to blow my nose every ten minutes at least and my ear  that is throbbing with ache reminding me that i am foolish for attempting to scratch an itch in such a place, it has been a pretty good day.  im certain that the ear will be fine in due time but i wont soon forget about the pesky itch that brought this on and i had to reload on kleenex at my desk this morning, again.

its times like these that a girl wishes she was not so far from home or comfort.  im not really even sick, just a bit miserable with strange little ailments and it is making life seem much more japanese for the time being, i.e. "suck it up and get on with it.  dont EVER complain".  so dear, lovely readers i am doing the opposite, but out of sight from them and to you all who are more than familiar with hearing complaints from people daily.  thanks for listening.  im going to get back to sucking it up.  dijabu desu.  (im alright).

ps just so you know, if you ever visit, blowing your nose around anyone else is NOT okay.  they dont do that here.  imagine how popular i am in my staffrooms now! 

love and hugs