The Gargle Hack

December 11th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Rant, School Life | 1 Comment »

Looking through the archives of this little blog, specifically the archives from our first few months here, I am surprised at how much culture-shocking we did. So many things were strange, we missed home so much, and it was difficult to cope, at times, with even simple nuisances in Japan.

This year, I feel that we are so much better adjusted to where we are and what we are doing. We have learned so much language and how to navigate our way through the many cultural differences that we experience. It is rare, now, that either of us have complete and total meltdown, I-hate-Japan days. Which is good, I think.

That is why it surprises me so much when I happen upon something that totally, completely bugs me about Japan. Something that I don’t think I could ever get used to or accept, no matter how long I lived or worked in this country.

And that thing is a little phenomenon that I call the Gargle Hack.

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High Stakes Testing

March 14th, 2008 Posted in Rant, Teaching | 3 Comments »

Right now I am sitting in the staff room at school entirely alone. I have been sitting in here all by myself for nearly two hours now. Only occasionally have I been visited by a teacher of staff person merely breezing through. It is going to be a long day.

The reason that I am all alone, as I will be for nearly the entire day, is because the teachers are busily marking the high school entrance exams that junior high students took yesterday. As I think about them busily determing the fate and futures of nervous junior high students everywhere, I have also started thinking about how I feel about a system that places so much emphasis on exams and scores.

This is probably going to be a thinky post, where I discuss my philosophies and experiences with high stakes testing. It is written as much for me, to help clarify my views, as for you. If you are inclined to enjoy such things, please continue. If not, don’t say that you haven’t been warned.

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Engrish Tuesday Special! National Grammar Day

March 4th, 2008 Posted in Engrish, Rant, School Life, Teaching | 15 Comments »

Hiro’s Dinner [sic]

This little gem, comes from a groovy little ’50s style american diner we found this weekend in Nagoya. I don’t know how long it is that women’s hearts wait. But this guy, he waits longer.

Also, apparently today is National Grammar Day. I found this out by way of Jill, who oddly seems to have posted about it in the wee hours of the morning on March the 3, not March the 4. I won’t give her too much of a hard time, however, as this is National Grammar Day, not National Calendar Day.

I am not even sure if I can officially celebrate this day, as I am not in the USA. I suppose there are also those who would rather I not participate, because I am becoming an anti-“grammar nazi”. I will, however, say a few things about grammar, and the world of english grammar here in japan. (As an english teacher, perhaps I am entitled?)

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A Downer Post

December 20th, 2007 Posted in Rant, School Life, Teaching | 5 Comments »

It is interesting, I have been emailed on several occasions by different people saying that our blog is inspiring, that we manage to be so positive about everything that we are experiencing. That is not a result of everything being perfect and wonderful and shiny here, I assure you. It is a result of the fact that we have made a conscious decision to make this a mostly positive place. It is a little space on the internet where we write and reflect on the interesting and enjoyable moments that we have experienced. It is a place where I, also, look to remind me of all the good things that I have experienced as a result of being here. I reread posts, especially when I am having a particularly bad day, and it helps me refresh and focus on what I have learned. As a whole, we have made the choice not to rant about bad things that happen, complain about our work or our lives, because, honestly, it is just not always that helpful and those are not the things that I want to remember and focus on ten years from now when I reread all these little essays.

That being said, today’s post is going to be a bit of complaining. One, because sometimes it is necessary to get it out on paper, reflect and move on. Two, because it may be interesting for you to hear about some of my frustrations and difficulties with being here. And, three, because I think there is something interesting and significant at the root of my troubles, something worth thinking about and considering.

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Mission For Pants

November 14th, 2007 Posted in Daily Living, Rant | 7 Comments »

Something terrible has happened. Since I arrived on Japanese soil, I have lost about 15 pounds (just less than 8 kg). Usually this would be a purely joyous affair, especially since it came so easily. After all, when I left for Japan I was a lot heavier than I had ever been and I wasn’t terribly happy about it.

The only reason that I am not quite as joyful about my weight loss as I would have been otherwise is that I no longer fit into most of the clothes I brought with me from the U.S., and most of those clothes had been purchased shortly before our departure. On the surface, this would not seem to be a total disaster. However, over the course of the past three weeks, I have tried to acquire new pants and have found it completely impossible to do so in the land of the skinny people.

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Open Class Day

November 8th, 2007 Posted in Observations, Rant, School Life | 4 Comments »

All the schools in Japan have a very interesting phenomenon called Open Class Day (in some schools it is a whole week). Open Class Day happens several times a year in every Japanese school and it is a time when the school doors are open to the public, and the public can come in and go wherever, whenever, they please.

The teachers here are, not surprisingly, a bit nervous about Open Class Day. After all, there are parents, prospective parents, community members, and official board of education staff, roaming the hallways. These visitors walk around, stopping to watch and listen as teachers do their jobs, and the school goes about its normal, daily business.

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Ofuro Hierarchy

October 25th, 2007 Posted in Observations, Rant | 4 Comments »

Some of my most poignant observations and insights into the Japanese culture have come from some of the most mundane and insignificant moments in my time here. Surprising.

Yesterday, for example, I was chatting away with my supervisor during the intermission of a play. It was “appreciation of drama” day, so all the teachers and students went to watch a play together at a local venue. During the first half of the play I watched many of my fellow teachers around me taking a nap. I didn’t sleep, not during the first half anyways, I knit.

When she woke up for intermission, I commented on how sleepy all the teachers seemed to be. We talked about it, and I got a few interesting answers.

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The World is NOT a toilet!

October 6th, 2007 Posted in Rant | 2 Comments »

I have lived here for just over two months now. One might think that things would start to get boring, or regular. I assure they are still anything but, I still walk around in a near constant state of awe and amazement, and I am really not sure that that will ever go away.

Part of the reason I am so intrigued and confused is that things are so different, people are so interesting, and I struggle to read and understand what is going on around me. Some of the differences are small and insignificant, others are large and earth shattering. Some are just downright irritating.

In the two months that I have lived here I have seen 5 men (boys) take a leak in the middle of some hugely public area. Five!!! I think, honestly, that that may be more than I saw in my past five years living in America, and I have only been here two months!

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Chotto Brown

September 18th, 2007 Posted in Daily Living, Rant | 3 Comments »

One day, a few weeks ago Aaron and I went out to lunch with Aaron’s supervisor. Yes, it was that awesome lunch that I mentioned in a previous post. At that point, I hadn’t seen Aaron’s supervisor in a few weeks. Over the course of those few weeks I had gotten a lot of sun. Between the daily bike rides (over an hour) and walking around our city exploring, I had turned a brand-new-to-me shade of tan, and she noticed.

The first thing she said to me when she saw me was, “chotto brown.” Chotto means a little, and brown was referring to the color of my skin. I kind of chuckled and explained to her that I have been outside quite a bit lately and have gotten a little bit of color. She didn’t say anything else about it, but I could tell that she was a little concerned.

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Saturday Work Day

August 31st, 2007 Posted in Rant, School Life | No Comments »

I have been here for just over a month, I have not taught a thing yet. I am not meaning this to be a complainy post, I just wanted to mention that.

Despite the fact that I haven’t taught a darn thing yet, I have had a lot of time to observe and watch the way that a Japanese high school runs. I have already been able to see how different things are. I have been able to think about why they are different and, in many ways, better than school, especially public education, in the states.

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