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You wake up half-naked in an unfamiliar room. Your pockets are full of leaves and your hair is a fucking mess. There are some cats in the corner. They look at you with a mixture of pity and distrust. “How did I get here?” you ask yourself. You could lay there pondering this question for a long time, but I think you should find a shirt, try to do something with your hair, apologize to those cats, and get the hell out of there. Get on with your life.

That’s how I feel these days when asked “How did you come to live in Japan?”

The answer you deserve )

 

parasitegirl: (Default)

I am trying to access the part of brain where I am happy.

Teachers are coming to see me later today, because they want feedback on a lesson plan they’ve constructed. I am valued.

As I spend more time at schools all day, and teaching with regular homeroom teachers, my pre-lesson pep-talk to the students has evolved.

All of my lesson plans start with the homeroom teacher announcing (in Japanese) that today’s lesson is going to be all in English. That this is something he/she is going to be trying to do along with me, no translations!…but that students shouldn’t worry. They can participate by any means needed, even Japanese. They shouldn’t worry about having the answers perfect, or raising their hands, just say it as it comes and try!

This set the stage and made sure the homeroom teacher and the students KNEW the ground rules…but it was more for the teacher.

I usually followed that up with my own (Japanese, so that everyone understand that I don’t translate by choice, not because I can’t) talk about how the only rule I have is…no whining. I don’t want to hear the screams of “I don’t understaaaand!...because when you don’t understand then it’s time to look, listen, think…or even ask the person next to you.”

Nowadays, in part because of research done on how hearing positive or negative things about one’s race/ethnicity/sex/whatever prior to tests can change performance scores in positive/negative ways, my current speech goes something like this, but in Japanese.

“Yes. We’re reallllly going to do this in English. ALL ENGLISH and I have a veeeeeeeerrry important rule when I teach…no crying.” (the next part is done in a high-pitched wail with a scrunched up face and clenched fists)”’ IIiiii doooooon’t understand! Use Jaaaapanese! English is haaaaaaaaaaard!’  (pause for laugher) is not allowed here. (look a little worried) You’re all X graders…right? (look relieved when they confirm their grade) Ok. I know that Xgraders can do this lesson. Y graders couldn’t, it’s too hard, but X graders definitely can handle it. There will be parts that are hard. When you study math, there are parts that are hard, right? But you can’t cry ‘Seeeensei, this is tooo hard, giiiive me the annnnswer’ can you?....(pause for laughter and understanding) English is the same. When you don’t understand, watch me, watch the gestures, see what the other students are doing, take the time to ask extra questions in Japanese…Ok? GREAT! English tiiiiime!”

When I teach I do use Japanese, but it’s never to translate. I mix some Japanese words into my English sentences when I think they need an extra clue to release confusion/tension. I use Japanese to help students think through what they don’t understand, but without giving them the answer…and I use it for praising.

And, when class is over, if the teacher has tried…I make sure her whole class applauds her for the great job she did.

This all makes my job easier. For the students and teachers, it makes the medicine go down.

Serge!

Jan. 25th, 2010 11:59 am
parasitegirl: (Default)

Big Girl Pants!

 

I haven’t written much about any big-girl-pants moments in Japan recently. Big-Girl-Pants moments are those moments that I get around to doing what would be simple task for any adult and most teens…if I were in an English-speaking country…but that I’ve avoided doing because I simply don’t want to deal with more Japanese language.

 

On Sunday I took my serger in for a tune up. For a while my serger has been tempermentally chewing a few fabrics. I replaced both the upper and lower knives . Replacing the knives required the Japanese skills of getting them ordered, as no one carries blades for a 13 year old Toyota SL500…which I bought on Yahoo Auction..which was itself a big-girl-pants moment. I’ve suspected for a while that the alignment of the blades isn’t perfect and that the whole thing could use new blade, professionally installed, and a basic oiling tune-up.

 

What has stopped me is that I haven’t known the Japanese word for the sort of tune-up I need for my serger.

 

I was going to wait for the upcoming costumer’s event this Friday, to ask Flower, but I figured I needed to learn to do this myself. I also had been waiting for a friend in the area with a car, but that’s a rarity.

And a total of 9 meters of chiffon was staring at me, begging to become a skirt and harem pants.

Last Sunday I spent time doing many Google searches in Japan until I figured out what I needed was 調整修理 for my ロックミシン. I then found one location near me, but with no web page, that would require a 20 minute walk. I found one location, with a web page, that was a train and a bus away from me (or, a train ride and a 32 minute walk). The site with the web page had an email form, so I sent them a question asking if they do basic tune-ups/repair on my model of serger.

They did! They asked follow-up questions I couldn’t begin to answer in Japanese (as I don’t know how to describe the chewing of fabric) and explained what I would need to remember to bring with me if I brought my serger in.

I looked around the house for a box to carry my serger (not light! No car!) or a bag…it fit in my gig-luggage! SCORE! I loaded the map into my iPhone, figured out the directions, and headed to the station before I could talk myself out of it.

I was prepared to pull my serger for a 32 minute walk once I left Kitakogane station, because I still harbor an irrational fear of busses. Buses here are run by a variety of different companies and each one seems to have a different way of paying (all at once, or get a ticket and pay a specific amount when you exit depending on how long you‘ve ridden once you exit, or a set amount once you exit) and it used to confuse me. Yet, when I exited the station and looked at the 8 different bus stops I realized…I know these kanji! And it’s all organized so I can use my “suica” card (a magnetic card I use to pay for trains) on everything! I know what bus to take! HAHAHAHA! I figured out buses in Istanbul! No bus is a mystery to me anymore!!! HAHAHAHA!

Living abroad in a country with a new language makes a variety of daily life situations seem magical when you reach a point where they are no longer a point of stress: banks, electronic transfers, hair stylists…

I got on my bus, rode, exited at the right station. I found the store…

Which, unlike the web page, seemed to be a closed room of random machine parts…not even a real store…definitely not open…but I knew it was supposed to be open.

I wasn’t giving up. I knocked and a small man came to the door.

I’d come during a massive renovation. Still, he realized I was probably the gaijin who(d mailed him. I unpacked the serger. Through some crazy Japanese talk my general diagnoses was verified. New blades would be ordered and installed, parts would be oiled…I’ll pick up next weekend.

Once the place is clean and organized again I may buy a used sewing machine, a good workhorse, to replace the one I am using, because mine doesn’t have a pedal controller. I know I can arrange delivery.

Yay me!

parasitegirl: (Default)
I woke up at 12:30 at night and was kept awake until 5;15am thinking about parallels in learning about music for dance and what it is I do as a language teacher. This means I will be less than my best today as a teacher, but hopefully better at teaching down the road. There will be more later but it will also include this:

I am an English teacher, but I don't teach English at my job. I teach my students how to learn a new language (and why they might want to).It is only once they know that will they be able to learn English (or any other language).

Listening is important. It is only once you begin to understand what you are hearing that you can start to figure out how to respond. Communication isn't about giving a command and getting a set response, it is about understanding the prompt and figuring out how to respond.

You do have to drill language and grammar eventually, in order to speed up your understanding, response, and prompt generating time and to have a wide array of ways you can respond and responces you can understand, but drilling isn't the same as learning.
parasitegirl: (Default)
I don't know where to start.
I spent the morning writing about communication styles in preparation for the two day education workshop when I return from Istanbul. The same old same old...wherein I write things like

Communication style classes are interactive classes. Teachers lead the activities and communicate new ideas. Students communicate their own ideas and their understanding by doing things. Because teachers lead the activities and have a better understanding of English, they will speak more slightly complex English and use many gestures, body language, pictures and so on. Students will speak very basic English and spend most of the time communicating non-verbally by drawing, using body language, pointing, nodding and so on.


Communication needs motivation. I know this. Japanese is not easy for me. I do not like studying languages…but using Japanese helps me get things I want, like friendships, nice haircuts, my job, medicine for my allergies and more. Every day I have to use many ways of communication. Sometimes I have to use gestures and drawings, which is embarrassing because I am an adult. But each time I communicate and get what I want, I am more motivated to try to do new things. Each time I get a better understanding of what to do in the future if I am in the same situation.

Students are the same. They need motivation to participate in communication activities. Communication activities should give them something they want, like new information on something they’re they are interested in. Not understanding what is going on can be frustrating, but if a student has learned that if they participate in communication activities they will be rewarded with something they want, they will become increasingly more willing to try. 


(and so on)

Nothing makes me edit more than the realization that I will have to be saying all of this in Japanese. I sometimes wish it was acceptable for me to just scream "Communication good! Vocabulary drills bad! OBEY ME"

And the afternoon brought with it another wave of "OMG you're going to Istanbul! PREPARE!!!"

Which included double checking my contact info and sending out more emails to potential teachers. I'm going to try for Hale Sultan instead of Sema when it comes to private lesson focused on Oriental, because Sema will be in Japan in a few months. For Romani it's Reyhan and Ahmet Ogren.

And trying to figure out my workshop attendance calender so I could share it with Nourah who wants to know which nights I can dance in Warabi, and to figure out which worshops and shows overlap (because Tokyo is crawling with workshops in September!).

Thursday night I will be running around madly packing.

Tonight I should finish some costume stuff to send out.

parasitegirl: (Default)


 I got to use my trustworthy “I can’t believe you just asked that/ said that” this weekend.

While waiting for Zumba class I say down with the powerful older ladies of Zumba. With them was a bi-lingual Japanese girl, sweaty for her workout. I don’t know if I have ever met her, but she took a familiar tone with me in light of the fact that she speaks English…and perhaps because, you know, Americans talk about everything.

 

The topic turned to piercings because my abs were exposed. I can’t wear tanktops because I can’t show my tattoo, so I keep cool however I can. I answered questions about mine to all who had them. Then this girl turned to me, and said, in English, about the tongue piercing. “I bet your boyfriend just loves that.”

 

And I looked at her, and just kept looking at her until she got a little squirmy, and then smiled broadly and said “I can’t believe you just said that!”

 

I was treated to some stammering overshare about how her husband wants her to get one because, you know… “Yes, but you don’t ask strangers about their sex lives, do you? I am pretty sure that’s not culturally ok!” I giggled.

 

“I think dirty things sometimes…”

“Me too, but I know, as an adult, I can’t share those things with someone I’ve just met!”

She scurried off shortly after that. I have a dirty mind and all, but your ability to speak English and relate to foreigners doesn't mean I want to be talking about oral sex with you.
parasitegirl: (please)

Last week, Thursday, I taught with Mr.Hosoda, a cute. English-literate, young teacher at school Y. Our goal was to have him, a homeroom teacher, function as the primary teacher in an English lesson and I would be his back-up/teammate. This would also be infront of at least 20 visiting parents. We originally planned to do a lesson directly from the “English notebooks” that will be used by every school in Japan next year, but his quick once-over convinced him that the notebook might be a fine place to get teaching goals and a few structure points, but that he would rather not be limited to it because he thought his students would find it booooring.

 

We emailed back and forth about how to use the teaching goals but make more interesting, interactive activities.  Each lesson in the English notebooks is broken up into four class hours of plans. Lesson 4, which we would kick off, was about “can and can’t.”

 

This summer I will use this lesson as an example of taking the teaching goals from the English Notebooks and make more interactive and interesting lesson plans from them.

 

This is what the first lesson would have consisted of if we’d stuck to the textbook…snide “new knowledge gained” are mine and reflect what additional “reward” info students get beyond “can/can’t” and “English.”

Notebook vs communication )

 

parasitegirl: (please)
I am starting to prepare for a two-day seminar in late August (when I get back from Turkey) to help teachers and administrators understand what communication style language activities are and how we want to integrate them with the English text books we will all have to use for 5th and 6th grade students starting next year.

This is going to involve a general talk about what communication style is, what are goals are, how this differs from just teaching language, how to start thinking about constructing lesson plans, and how to integrate it with the text books...then I'm going to talk about how I worked with a local teacher to create a lesson plan that was half text-book based and half communication activity and the thought process behind creating it. Last will be group work where different groups get different textbook chapters, some ideas about possible activities to use with them, and time to create and present a lesson plan for it..which we will watch and all discuss. This last part is a work in progress.

This is kind of a fuck-ton of work. It gets to the heart of what the most challengeing and most rewarding non-classroom-related wonky part of my job is. It also forces me to realize that they do take me seriously and seem to think I know what the fuck I am talking about.

Mr. West gave me four points to adress at the start. I am writing in English and having Farasha translate it so that I can focus on the information I want to transmit. It is starting to sprawl and I haven't reached the final point yet. I will edit it before sending it off to Farasha and I will also ask Mr.West to edit the final product for clarity, brevity, and to make sure it conforms my department7s way of thinking..if they have one.

I need to take a break before I start cleaning up question three and starting four.
What I have so far:

 





parasitegirl: (skully)
On my way to the train tonight an older Japanese man stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me, smiling. I smiled back and he spoke. I was expecting perhaps a nervous hello  or a Japanese greeting (no "merhaba" because I was not in the restaurant) and was not expecting him so greet me the way he did, which was a very proud of himself " Buenas noches."

My latest older Amazon-book-bringing delivery man likes to greet me in French and I haven't the heart to tell him otherwise.
parasitegirl: (Opp!)
Let's rejoice in awkward phrasing...and participate in it.

The local NGO is hosting a concert. Wednesday when I was in "various harmony" buying my eggs, the English speaking worker wanted help translating a phrase that would be used for a banner that expressed the goal of the concert.

"Let's keep disabled people smiling" seemed less forceful than "Make disabled people smile!"

I couldn't really think of anything better and still make it to the earthy crusty store for some dark wheat bread for tomorrow's sandwich.

Thursday, after work, I went to the Otakanomori mall to buy new towels for Dean Mommy's arrival this week, new liquid liner, and neutral colored pants for work. I ended up getting creme-colored denim from Zara. I no longer trust any clothing sizes. Either I gained weight or the Zara size elves are smoking crack.  I'm enjoying my silly hip-huggers and am a little worried how much the stretch is going to relax, but am a little surprised by the fact I had to go up to US size 10 to find a pair that fit.

Size 10 is a perfectly respectable size and all, but at 20 pounds heavier I was only an 8 and have been between 6-4 for a few years.... depending on Size-Elf crack intake (size 4 being the result of vanity-sizing crack-binges).

This isn't a call to tell me I'm not fat. I know I'm healthy and a very good size for my build. It's a reminder that sizes that do not represent actual physical measurement are totally fucked up. It is impossible to guess what "size" will fit any woman without a bunch of perplexing try-ons.

I'm very, very, very, very glad I am a size that is carried in Japan branches of international chains (Gap, MNG Jocomola, Zara, Armani Express) because I would hate to be buying any non-dance clothing item mail-order/on-line.

After all of that, I went home and hemmed the pants a good 4 1/2 inches. I can't remember the last pair of pants/jeans that I didn't have to hem. Obviously, no one is making an effort to keep the Size Elves smiling, they turn to the pipe for love.
parasitegirl: (bunny dance)
The Milkman's sister is out, and I have been given the computer. I feel that I must make use of it, even though I can't think of much to say...it's either this or back to the studying Japanese. There are only so many hours I can put behind a textbook.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, polishing up my grammar is essential for communication in all my walks of life, but my essential issue with textbooks have not changed: they reflect a life that is not my own. It's like learning to cook exotic vegetarian dishes by reading a traditional German cookbook.

I realize that not all my study can be fun texts and podcasts, but why must so many textbooks take the life out of a language?

I've recently gone up a level in one of the better textbook series and am finding myself a little lost. All of a sudden we've become even more distant from my life. Suddenly I've gone from the passive inconveniences of Mr. Yoshida drinking all my booze, which I can relate to, or the joys of receiving the ability to leave work 5 minutes early from my kind boss to this new place...a land with a lot of thesis papers on the general state of the economy and the merits of each one. People keep debating the big things, and I still can't explain my various feelings about Japanese Shoe Culture or why being around me might drive Mr. Yoshida to drink?

It reminds me a lot of poor Yan-San and the semester we watched him go from the ideal Japan to the Japan that lead to his breakdown.

Where is the textbook that holds my interest? I think I need one in which the sample sentances takes me to a land of variously social akward people wherein we debate the merits and detractors of the relationships that each one has found themselves in and what options they may have now!

 
parasitegirl: (doll)
Jun, who is no longer crying now that the art event has been rescheduled. Jun knows that I read japanese (I do her event translations) but this is one email that she wrote herself with no on-line translation.

Dear Ozma  
Last Saturday , you was soooooooooooo coooooooool !
My heart was shaking , when I wached your dance from your soul.
Very gorgeous dancing ! & very nice event ! & It was very nice night for me.
Thanks you , Ozma !
 
I understood it.
It's July 9 when you can.
Though you will tired on Monday, I am glad to participate in a rehearsal.
 リハーサルの日程が決まり次第、PCから連絡します。
The rehearsal of a musician of the other day excited me.
A stage of July 15 becomes an absolutely good stage!!!

And Momo, who missed the show but who will be providing vocals for the duet Eshe and I are doing at the art event. Momo still embraces the on-line translation sites in a way I have no desire to discourage her from.



> Your activity is splendid dance.
> I am sorry not to be able to readily go for an event.
> I heard that 5/26 events were splendid.
> Your elegant kirakira☆dances!!
> I was not able to go. It was a graduation gift of my younger sister.
> The jurisdiction of a seaside art meeting musician and  vocal.
>
> Thank you for great consideration, love, power.
> Our stage Slowly hardened.
> I thank for what I can make together.
> ☆
> love love momo ^^


parasitegirl: (Default)
For reasons I can only guess at, there were three sheets of paper in with my mother's care-envelope today. Two pages were of a skit-script I helped write for my 3rd semester of Japanese class. We had a four person western skit, with me as the annoying bar-girl. We were good enough to get ample praise but not so good as to have to perform for all the lecture classes...which was our goal. Over-achievers had to act in front of everyone.

I will not reprint any of the skit here, but I just wanted to shout out to Warning-san who also lived through this and, due to needing to integrate newly learned verb-forms and grammar, was part of a group that had to speak such sentances as:

"Mr. Warning's mother taught me how to gamble"
"When you talk about my mom, you'd better use the polite form!"
"Excuse me, may I smoke here?" (pretty polite for a goddamned cowboy)
"I can drink ten beers, but I prefer whiskey. JD Whiskey, please
parasitegirl: (moody)

xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" / 

A few weeks ago, around lunch time, a man attempted to rob the nearby post office at knife-point. After getting some cash he made off on his bike, still holding the knife. I don’t have TV access and this isn’t national news, I knew this because a general safety announcement about it was made at our school prior to the students going home for the day. The teachers seemed pretty shaken up about it all, which I can’t really mock because xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /Japan does have recent problems with the occasional knife attack on elementary students. I had to explain to them why I wasn’t very afraid of biking home, what with knowing there’s a man with a knife and a bike out there, so I mimed the frozen surprise that comes with people looking into my eyes and getting the Gaijin Shock! I also mime the same thing when the lunch co-workers talk about being afraid of opening the door to sales people lest they be crazed robber bandits.

 

 the knife and the suspicious person )



parasitegirl: (Default)
 Brain drain and two hours to go. It’s as good a time as ever to write about Yan-san.

 Yan! )



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