I have been rather swamped recently with end-of-year duties, but that all ends today.

Last week, my students had their final classes. This meant that I was spending all my free time baking the prizes to give them for turning in an optional notebook assignment.

This year I made:
  • Banana walnut muffins
  • Stollen (baked in the CUTEST mini-loaf pans I picked up at the dollar store)
  • Chocolate chip cookies (which came out PERFECT thanks to the advice I got last time)
  • Pumpkin pudding (pumpkin pie filling baked without crust)

I also added in a jar of homemade persimmon jam, but no one chose it. They don't know what they are missing! Oh, well, more for me.

My kitchen is still recovering. I am gradually whittling away at the enormous stack of dishes/baking pans/plastic containers/cooking utensils.

Since then, I have been concentrating on giving and grading their final exams, plus any random assignments that I hadn't graded yet. I'm giving the last make-up final today.

Yesterday the school shut down normal operations to give the high school entrance exam. I was told that none of the teachers would be showing up, so I took the day off and went to Otsu to set up a vacation. I had been afraid that I wouldn't be able to arrange something, because I had sent my passport off for renewal, but the new one came back in record time. (I hadn't expected it until mid-February at the earliest.)

I visited a travel agency in Otsu and spent some time poring over their Australia tour booklet. Finally I picked a package that I wanted and one of the agents came over (hesitantly) to deal with me. I told him (in Japanese) which plan that I wanted, including details of extended nights that I wanted to add.

Agent: ...All of our rules are printed in Japanese.

Me: Yes?

Agent: Also, although Australians speak English, our guides will be giving all explanations in Japanese.

Me: Mm hmm?

Agent: <flips to the back of the booklet, looking stressed out> Our terms and conditions, such as what happens if you cancel, are all printed in Japanese.

Me: ...I understand Japanese.

I mean, really. I was just READING the booklet, not to mention SPEAKING in Japanese. He still couldn't grasp that this was not a problem for me. Throughout the conversation, he kept trying to throw in English words whenever he could. People like this just can't understand that having random English dropped into an otherwise Japanese conversation is far more jarring and difficult to follow than just saying everything in Japanese.

He also seemed to be afraid that I wouldn't be able to pay for the trip. He kept saying things like, "Are you SURE you want me to make the booking? You'll have to pay a fee if you cancel later..." and "Here's the total cost of the trip, it's a lot of money, are you SURE you will be able to pay it?" I mean, I can understand informing a customer that there will be fees and such, but the way he phrased it was less "informing" and more "warning." It almost felt like he was trying to scare me off. I don't know what was up with that.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the first package that I wanted (which included a trip to Ayers Rock) because there were no connecting flights (I believe from Hong Kong) available. However, I did manage to book a package that starts in Cairns and goes to Sydney.

Here is my itinerary:
3/05 (night) Leave from Kansai International Airport
3/06 (morning) Arrive in Cairns
3/10 (morning) Fly from Cairns to Sydney
3/14 (noon) Leave from Sydney, arrive at KIX

I believe the package includes a tour of Sydney on the 10th, but other than that I should be free to do whatever I want. If anyone ([livejournal.com profile] msscullyred?) will be in the area, I'd be happy to try to meet up.

I'm planning to use my remaining vacation days to take off the entire month of March, and possibly some of February, since I won't have any duties at work. I'll probably need a lot of time for packing and cleaning.
Yesterday I used a different recipe and made a new batch of sugar cookie dough. This time my problem was that the dough was too sticky. Even after refrigerating it and liberally coating every conceivable surface with flour, it was impossible to use a cookie cutter on it, because it would just stick to the cutter. (I recall this happened to me previously with gingerbread cookies. I think I had to add two extra cups of flour before it solidified enough to cut, even after hours of refrigeration.)

I wound up just slicing it into rough squares and scraping it up off the table to bake. Fortunately, the flavor turned out fine.

I spent the rest of my evening preparing for my music history class. I even brushed up on my Macarena. In the morning, I packed up my laptop and various related supplies and headed off to work.

When I was halfway to the school, I realized that I had left the tub of cookies on the kitchen table, so I had to go back for them. By the time I finally got to school, I had already stripped off my coat and gloves and was still sweating from the exercise.

Anyway, I handed the cookies out during class, and the students were thrilled to get them. The class is held in a computer lab, though, so I had to make them promise not to eat the cookies until after they left the room. I handed out little Christmas gift bags I had picked up at the dollar store to keep the cookies in until later, which they thought was cute.

For the class itself, I had them all draw each other's names at random and make cards for the person whose name they picked. I brought a bag full of construction paper, colored pencils, crayons, and markers that I had gotten earlier but never used. They went CRAZY over this activity. A lot of them did web-searches for images to use as inspiration, and several of them created neat effects by layering different colors of paper or creating pop-up art.

The thing that I appreciated most was that they were careful to RETURN all of the art supplies at the end of class. This is in contrast to an American high school class I substitute-taught for, in which the students took the teacher-supplied crayons, broke them into small pieces, and threw them at each other under the desks, then left them on the floor.

After lunch I hauled my laptop and other supplies up to the music history classroom on the fifth floor...only to discover that there was no class today because the students were all at some kind of drug abuse assembly. D'oh. As there is no class next week either, I guess the 1990s lesson will have to wait until January.
I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I haven't done much recently. My students all had midterms, so mainly I've been dealing with that.

The weather is getting chilly enough that I've switched to showering in the evening, when I'm still all warmed up from biking home. Trying to shower at 5:30am when the apartment temperature is 50° or less is not the best way to start the day. I'll probably haul my kerosene heater out this weekend.

I managed to clear off the table (somehow it never stays clean--why is that...?) and I'm hoping to bake some cookies either today or tomorrow. I had the students in my writing class write "letters to Santa" this week, so my plan is to return their letters next week, each with an answering note and a cookie from "Santa." Next week is the last full week of the year. After that there is another week of various schedule alterations and then the closing ceremony.

My music history class learned about the 1980s this week. It's finally getting to singers they know (Madonna, Michael Jackson), though not necessarily songs they're familiar with. The other teacher, though, said after the class, "It was so nostalgic, I nearly cried!" (He doesn't actually teach the class, he just comes to unlock the A/V cabinet, and often he doesn't even stick around.) He added his bit of information about the introduction of rap, "You guys think it's normal today, but when MC Hammer and others first came out, we were all like, what the heck is THAT?!" (The students found it hard to believe.) One of the students had seen Flashdance, so she was excited when I mentioned that, but none of them had heard of Dirty Dancing. (And when I think back to how crazy about that movie all the girls in my high school were...) Next week we get to the '90s, and one of the students commented, "Finally we're getting to OUR time!"

Not much else is going on around here. The new bakery that I mentioned in an earlier entry had closed up shop when I went to visit this week. That was quick...it's only been open about two months, and it's already closed? I wonder what happened. Another incident is that I lost my bookstore card (the one that gives money back for buying books). When I discovered it was gone and mentioned it at the bookstore, the customer service person ran and got it for me. I must have dropped it in the store. I'm probably the only foreigner who shops there regularly, so they knew right away it was mine.
...I'm walking on air tatami...specifically, the tatami of my living room, which hasn't been visible for the past two months or so. I finally managed to clean the room this weekend. The difference is quite remarkable. (Now if only I could get the rest of the apartment as clean...)

The school had the fall Exhibition last Friday, and it was really amazing. Four of the study abroad students from my class gave a Powerpoint presentation about their experiences, and they did a good job. (They had been working on it in my classes during the week, which they weren't supposed to do, but since they are all advanced students I let it slide. They know the material anyway.) The baton twirling club put on a stunning rendition of Disney's Little Mermaid.

There's one more thing I can report on that I found startling. Whenever I go to the bike shed, I always glance over at my two guest bikes, just in case someone posts a note asking "is anyone using these?" on them. When I got my bike to go shopping yesterday, I noticed that one of my bikes (the one with two flat tires) was missing. I shrugged it off, figuring that if the landlord decided it had been abandoned and disposed of it, there wasn't much I could do. I haven't used it in at least two years anyway.

However, this morning when I got my bike to go to work, I looked over and saw that the bike was back...with two fixed tires and a new chain. (I had left my chain on the bike--I still have the key.) I can only assume that one of the other residents figured it was abandoned and fixed it up to use it. They must have cut the chain off it or something. I'm not sure what to do...on the one hand, I haven't used it in a long time, but on the other, I'm having three guests visit over the winter holiday and it would have been nice to have the extra bike available if needed. At the moment, I'm considering putting a note on it saying, "I don't know who's using this, but it's my guest bike. I don't have guests often, which is why it looked abandoned." But then, I feel guilty because they obviously put some money into fixing it up, which is more than I've done. Hmm...
As the temperature has started dropping, it suddenly struck me that if I don't start cleaning my apartment now (to prepare for my year-end guests), I will wind up having to do it in the cold. So this weekend I made some time to straighten up in the laundry room and hobby room. I managed to pack up two boxes of summer clothes to mail back to Michigan, which gave me enough space to put away all the laundry that has been languishing on the tatami for lack of anywhere better to put it.

I think I buy too many clothes...

I also managed to sort through some of the old school supplies (some left by my predecessors) that had piled up in the hobby room. I threw out a bunch that I will clearly never use. The place isn't what I'd call clean yet, but at least it is now possible to walk across the floor to the recycling can.

After that, I treated myself to lunch at Olive Kitchen. (They have added a second flavor of coffee creamer to their selection!)

At school, the students are starting to prepare for the Exhibition that will be held Friday. We have a shortened schedule Wednesday and a half day Thursday. Originally, the Exhibition was scheduled to be on Saturday (with Monday off in compensation), as it has been every previous year. I don't know why they decided to move it back to Friday, but oh well. At least this way I won't miss this week's Gruul raid...

In other news, there is a new bulk food store called Amika opening up down the street from my apartment, on my commute route. The advertising says it has "gourmet food of the world." I'm not holding my breath hoping that it will have anything other than Chinese for foreign food, but you never know.

There's not much else to report. I suppose I could mention that Kraft finally changed its grated parmesan cans. Up until now, they were made with a plastic cap, a cardboard tube body, and a metal base. Considering that plastic, cardboard, and metal all have to be separated into different trash containers, this was a real pain. (Personally, I just tossed the whole thing in the non-burnable trash, but I felt guilty about it.) The new parmesan can is made entirely of plastic, so I can put it in the plastic recycling bin with a clear conscience.

In Warcraft news, patch 2.3 is scheduled to be released on Tuesday. It has bunches of improvements that I'm really looking forward to, including faster leveling of alts, tracking for fishing pools, cooking quests, reputation-based ammunition vendors in Shattrath, and a new (albeit expensive) hippogryph mount. The main feature of this patch is a new 10-player dungeon, which my guild is hoping to raid this weekend.
This week has been incredibly hectic. Of course, most of it has been of my own making.

Usually I bake something to bring in on holidays, like Halloween and Valentine's Day. I was considering skipping that this year, but then on Tuesday one of the teachers came up to me and said "I'm really looking forward to what you'll bring tomorrow."


So, I caved. Instead of playing Warcraft <gasp!> I spent the evening making tart-sized pecan pies.

I also had to research and find songs for my music history class, which has gotten up to the 1950s.

Then I had to prepare my costume. Last year I went as a pirate, so I felt it only fitting that this year I be a ninja. The costume is, again, basically my Hiei costume with a long-sleeved undershirt, a couple pieces of black fabric for the mask and hood, and some toy ninja weapons I picked up at the local department store. Really, the only tricky part was figuring out where to attach the tie to hold the forehead part of the hood on.

So this morning I lugged everything (pecan tarts, laptop, costume) to school. Everyone got a kick out of the costume, both teachers and students. There was, however, one student who decided to get smart and say, "Hey, you're breaking the dress code!"

Yes. And if you make a fuss, you don't get your candy. Mwah ha ha!

The only problem I had is that the mask was inconvenient. I had to pull it down to talk in class, and it made breathing difficult. I just about died carrying my laptop up five flights of stairs with the mask on. (I wonder how actual ninjas did it. Didn't they have to breathe?)

I wore the costume while biking home, because it was fun to hear the middle schoolers cry out in surprise when they noticed me along the way.
This past week I started my annual offer of candy to any student brave enough to come to the teacher's room and say "trick or treat." Since I learned (from past years) that the students always take KitKats if they're available (mainly because they're bigger than other kinds of candy, so the students feel they're getting more for the effort), I packed my plastic jack-o-lantern with three types of KitKats (with a couple other things just in case there's a student who doesn't like/can't eat chocolate).

As I've mentioned before, KitKats come in wildly varied flavors here, mostly changing seasonally. I picked plain, red bean flavor, and the special Halloween caramel flavor (which is a vast improvement over last year's pumpkin flavor). Most of the students choose the caramel one, probably because of the cute wrapper. (One of the caramel-choosing students actually argued with a friend who was trying to take a plain one, saying, "No! You're supposed to take THIS one!")

The down side of the "seasonal" food attitude is that you can never count on a particular flavor of anything sticking around long. As an example...Japan doesn't do chip dip. They have a million different kinds of sauce (sauce for okonomiyaki, takoyaki, teriyaki, yakisoba, tonkatsu, and so on and so forth), but no dip for chips. I had been managing a reasonable approximation by pouring some onion salad dressing over cottage cheese, but the flavor of salad dressing that I used has now vanished. ;_; I tried mixing up something by blending sour cream with onions...but it never tasted like dip, just like sour cream with bits of onion in it.

Last week I noticed fried onion flakes being sold as a salad topping, so I picked one up. When I opened it, it smelled just like French onion dip, so I figured I'd give my mixture another try. I mixed the fried onion flakes with sour cream, and smoothed the flavor with dashes of sugar, salt, mayonnaise, and mustard. It actually turned out rather well. I put a little too much sugar in it for it to go well with potato chips, but it would have been great as a vegetable dip. I wound up using it as a sandwich spread, and that wasn't bad at all.

In other news, I had a scare on Friday when I came home and noticed my apartment was surprisingly warm and smelled of hot oil. It turns out I had accidentally left my stove on after making lunch that day. Luckily, it had been on low and hadn't started a fire. I'm still working on cleaning the baked-on oil off the pan, though.

I had tried to make a resolution to keep my apartment as clean as it was when my parents visited. That lasted about two weeks before I returned to my slovenly ways. It had finally gotten to a point where it was a little much even for me, however, so this weekend I worked on housekeeping. I managed to scrub out the bath and wash all the dishes that had piled up in the sink and on the kitchen table. Maybe next weekend I'll get the books picked up off the living room floor...
A lot has been going on this month, and I've been bad about keeping updated. (I blame Brewfest...too much ram racing...)

On October 1st, the Japanese postal system officially became privatized. I haven't gone to the post office since the change, so I don't know how much it will affect me. I haven't checked into whether postal rates will be changing or anything. I imagine I'll find out eventually.

On the same day, my local bookstore started a 1% cash back program for all of their books and comics. It's not much, but hey, it's certainly better than nothing--especially considering how much money I spend there.

The supermarket next to the bookstore gained a new bakery, a branch of a large bakery on the other side of town that I rarely visit because it's out of my way for pretty much everything. The new branch didn't have a huge selection when I peeked in the window, but that may be because it just opened.

The school festival went well this year, though it was slightly different from previous years in that only the upperclassmen were allowed to do stage presentations. I've given detailed reports on the school festival in previous years, so here I'll just do a general overview.

The first two days of the festival were the "cultural" part. The first-year students mostly had prepared short films that they aired in their classrooms, though one class made an elaborate 3D representation of the four seasons that visitors could walk through. As an example, here is the model of spring, showing a hanami (cherry blossom viewing party).

The second- and third-year students gave various stage presentations. Some put on skits, either original or adapted from other sources, such as this performance of Grease [video file]. Others did more traditional performances, such as this class, which played taiko drums [video file] and danced the souran-bushi [video file].

Student clubs put up displays or demonstrations of their club activities, such as this display by the calligraphy (shodou) club or this demonstration by the tea ceremony (sadou) club.

Sports teams and the PTA had booths where they sold various snacks, such as yakisoba (fried noodles) or onigiri (rice balls). The students then ate their purchases while sitting on the grass in front of a platform where various students gave volunteer performances of singing and music.

The third day was the sports day portion of the event. Students were divided up into five teams, each assigned a different color. (My English major students were part of the Red Team.) They held a number of different sports events. One example was a kind of relay race in which the students had to run while doing various tasks, such as bouncing a ping-pong ball or linking elbows with a friend. Another event was the ball toss in which each team tried to toss as many of its color beanbags into a basket as possible during a certain time interval.

The central feature of the sports competition was the "cheer." Each team was given about ten minutes to give a performance showing their spirit. The teams had been practicing their performances for days. Each "cheer" began with the students bowing to the spectators (teachers, parents, and other students). They then usually did several dances, though some teams found ways to make their performances unique. The green team, for example, had the students all carry colored squares that they flipped in a synchronized fashion to spell out messages. The cheers were too long for me to record all the performances, but here is an excerpt of the red team cheer [video file].

In unrelated news, the sun has been setting earlier and earlier. At the moment, it's setting at around the same time I go home every day, so I get to see sights like this.

In even more unrelated news, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, for the past two weeks I've been spending most of my evenings participating in the Brewfest (based on Oktoberfest) event in World of Warcraft. You had to do certain tasks (like ram racing) every day to win tickets, and the tickets could then be used to purchase prizes. I managed to get the grand prize (a ram mount) for four of my characters (counting [livejournal.com profile] megory's paladin Guapoton), plus other random prizes for several other characters.

This week the Hallow's End event begins...
Apparently, a student at the school was confirmed to have measles. Due to this, all students who were in contact with the afflicted student (essentially, all high school students) are banned from attending school for several days in an attempt to prevent further contagion. There will be no classes starting Friday, continuing until next week Tuesday if necessary.

Too bad they don't generally vaccinate for measles here.

I had my second music history lesson today, in which I covered the Gold Rush and the construction of the railroad. I used songs such as "Oh, Susanna," "I'll Be Working on the Railroad," and "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" and showed pictures of a banjo and a covered wagon, both of which really caught their interest. I finished by introducing Ragtime music with "The Entertainer."

I won't have another class for three weeks, due to the school festival. My plan is to do examples of jazz, country, and western styles of music in the next class.
This week started off with a national holiday on Monday, Respect for the Aged Day. All this week, my students only have classes in the morning because the underclassmen are taking their final exams. They're using their afternoon time to prepare for the school festival coming up in October.

Supposedly fall is starting...at least, all of the stores have their fall season foods on display, among other indications. However, the weather just isn't cooperating, and the temperature is staying at midsummer levels. I spent most of the weekend holed up in my living room to keep cool. I did break out briefly yesterday to take a trip to Kyoto to visit Animate. I was in for quite a surprise when I set my purchases on the counter and looked up to see that the cashier was one of my students who graduated this spring.

Today, after I finished grading my quota of papers, I used my afternoon free time to think cool with this: Snowbunny UI.

I didn't have enough time to give it all the frills that I intended, but I think it's reasonably cute enough as it is.
School continues to go as usual. The one big change is that the workshop on American Culture that I do Wednesday afternoons is only a semester-long class, so I have a new batch of students this term.

If you recall, the previous class (of two students) were watching Supernatural. This time I got four students, and they had heard what the first pair had done in class, so they were kind of expecting to watch videos right off the bat. Instead, I started the way that I had the first time, by having them brainstorm as many aspects of culture as they could. When they went through the list, they decided that they would prefer to study the history of American music.

I thought that was great--they were actively showing an interest in an educational topic. The main problem is that I only have a superficial knowledge of the subject, so I had to do some websurfing for ideas.

Today I started with two songs: "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Follow the Drinking Gourd." I downloaded mp3s to play in class, along with a few images (like a picture of the Big Dipper). I gave some general background of the social issues of the times, played the songs, explained what they were about, and then asked them some simple questions about their thoughts. At the end of the class they seemed to have enjoyed it, though one commented that some of the issues were depressing to think about.

In Warcraft news, my guild alliance took down Gruul over the weekend, and I got the leg armor to match my shoulder armor. (Seekrit gamer code: The winning strat was to bring in a tree druid to keep HoTs up on the tanks during reverbs.) Our guild is now ranked #15 on our server, and is among the top 5000 nationwide.

Also, I finished my second custom interface: Crane UI. (The area in the bottom right corner is for the minimap, which is invisible in the screenshot.) I'm still fiddling around with where to place things, but I'm liking this one even better than the first.
Classes resume at my school starting today. The last week of summer vacation went by rather quickly, as I spent most of my time reading and watching TV. Autumn rains moved in several days ago, bringing cooler temperatures, so it has been much more comfortable recently.

The fall schedule at school is always a jumble of strange hours as we have several national holidays plus the school festival and sports day on top of the switch from first to second semester. I'm interested in seeing what the school festival will be like this year. In previous years, when it was just the girls' school, the students were divided based on their homerooms. That is, all the "homeroom 3" students (1-3, 2-3, and 3-3, the English majors) were together on a team competing against the other teams. Last year, though, with the introduction of the Ritsumeikan students, they mixed up the homerooms, putting students in completely different majors together on the same team. I wonder if they plan on doing the same this year.

In Warcraft news, my guild has formed a partnership with another small guild to attempt killing bosses that require 25 people. Last week we took down a boss called High King Maulgar for the first time, and I won a piece of fancy shoulder armor. The next goal is to get Gruul the Dragonkiller. We've tried him for two weeks now, but haven't managed to get him below 5%. It shouldn't be much longer, though.
The seniors are all taking their final exams this week, so there's nothing much for me to do aside from grading. Generally that's pretty tedious, but every once in a while I stumble upon an eye-opening answer.

For example, one question testing their composition skills starts with the prompt "How many...?" and requires them to fill in the rest of the question. Most of them respond with something like, "How many students are there in your school?" (one of the standard questions we studied during the lesson). Then I get...

Cut to protect the innocent )

Other random thoughts...it's harder to sing on the way to work when riding a bicycle than it is when walking.

Also, peacocks are LOUD.

To pad this entry out a bit, I will give another Warcraft progress report. My guild is now running two groups through a full clear of Karazhan every week. (Many people have more than one level 70 character, so they can stick one in each group on separate nights.) We're looking into the idea of negotiating an alliance with another small guild to try things that require 25 players.

My shaman is starting to put together a respectable set of healing gear. Here is how she looks wearing it. Strangely, when I'm asked to help out random groups, I'm almost never asked to heal, but rather to do damage. Usually healers are in high demand, but I guess not during the hours that I play. In fact, once I got into a group composed of me (healing shaman) + healing druid + healing paladin, and we broke up because we couldn't get any other types of classes.
I've been having the students work on poetry for the past couple lessons in their writing class. Since rhyme and rhythm are foreign concepts as far as Japanese poetry is concerned, they find it challenging. However, they do come up with some really interesting ideas.

Here are a few. )
Not much of consequence has been going on here lately. The students finished up their midterms, with the only "yellow cards" (notices that the student is in danger of failing) being posted not for grades but for absences. (Note, there were still students who scored in the 20's on one test, that just wasn't low enough to be considered failing. You really have to work hard at failing here.)

If you remember Dai-chan the stubborn daikon from Osaka, there have been several more stories about his saga on the news. Scientists succeeded in cloning him and obtaining seeds from the clones. They grew a healthy crop from those seeds and had a taste-testing party, where they made various daikon dishes. (One of the tasters they interviewed stated that the daikon seemed slightly "tougher" than average, as would be expected from a child of Dai-chan.) They are hoping to increase production of Dai-chan's offspring to sell as souvenirs.

Oh, Japan.

The old Morijo campus is being completely torn town. It was mostly gone when I checked it out on Saturday, with only a couple walls left standing.

Now that the weather has heated up, I finally put my kerosene stove back in the closet. (Yes, I procrastinate.) I'm really grateful that the new school has air conditioning.

Yesterday, though, it poured rain all day long. When I ventured out to pick up some essential groceries, the "river" in front of my apartment was full nearly to overflowing. (Some places on side-streets it literally was overflowing and flooding the road.) Along with the rain, the temperature dropped to the point that it was actually comfortable to do some cooking, so I took advantage of the chance to make a batch of tortillas. There are many wonderful flavors in the world, but nothing is quite like freshly made tortillas.

As always, I have been continuing with Warcraft. My shaman character has reached level 70 and is in the process of trying to acquire better gear while getting keyed for Karazhan. At the moment, her talents are aimed toward healing, with enough damage capacity that she can solo some quests reasonably well. (I still wish she could feign death like a hunter...)

My druid has been duoing with [livejournal.com profile] megory's character, Opalita. The two have recently turned 40 and acquired their first mounts. Also, this past weekend my guild cleared Karazhan all the way from the basement animal boss to Netherspite. (I died during the Netherspite fight, though. ;_; )

Noh? No...

Jun. 5th, 2007 04:31 pm
Last Friday there were only two morning classes, with various sports competitions in the afternoon. My English club students, having nothing to do during that time, planned a visit to Kyoto to survey foreigners.

Originally the plan was to go to Kiyomizu, but they changed their minds at the last minute and instead we went to the Heian Shrine. It just so happened that there was a Noh performance scheduled for that evening, so it was a busy place.

The students decided they didn't need me hovering around them, so I lent them my camera and went far away to sit in the shade and read a book. This was at about 1:30pm. I sat on the edge around the base of a stone...thing (big boulder with some message carved in it) that was still close enough to see the entrance to the shrine, but far enough that I wasn't bothered by the crowds gathering there to line up for the Noh event. (Unfortunately, a particular smoker kept coming over to sit by me to have his cigarette. Nice that he was avoiding the crowds, but annoying that he didn't consider me worthy of avoiding.)

As the afternoon wore on, the students came over to leave their bookbags on the ledge by me, since they were getting tired of carrying the heavy things. By around 3pm, the line for the performance had reached my spot. The ladies in line in front of me grumbled that they had to sit on the ground, when they could be sitting on the stone ledge, if only there weren't bookbags on it.

I would have moved the bookbags...if they'd bothered to ask me. I was reading a Japanese novel in plain view, so it's not like I wouldn't have understood, but oh well. There was also a bit of confusion because as soon as the line reached me, it made a U-turn and went back toward the entrance. New people trying to find the end of the line kept trying to stand behind me and had to be redirected to the real end of the line. I could help out the foreigners by letting them know this in English.

The students finished up their survey without much trouble and we all went home.

On the weekend, I went on a shopping spree to pick up some raingear. I also bought a couple cheap pairs of shoes. This took longer than expected because my nearby department store completely rearranged its departments, even having some that switched floors. ...Not that the place is all that big, but it did throw me not to know where to find anything.

Midterm exams begin next Monday, so the students are all starting to study for them. (Or giving up on studying, as the case may be.) There is one particular subject in which I teach the same thing to three different classes. They are all scheduled to have the test in that subject simultaneously, which means I will be kept busy Monday morning dashing from class to class to read their listening portion. At least it will all be over quickly...
Now that I work on the opposite side of town, I have to commute by bicycle. Things I have discovered...

1. The traffic signals between my apartment and the school are timed such that a person on a bicycle hits every red light. (To be fair, it's possible to squeak through the last one if you pedal like you mean it.)

2. There is a middle school along my route and I wind up behind those students more often than not. This doesn't cause problems on long straight stretches (they ride FAST), but there are often near-misses at intersections as the people waiting for the red light (me) have no choice but to block the path of the people crossing the opposite direction.

3. Bicycle + rainy season = major suckage. I wind up drenched from the elbows/knees outward where my rain poncho doesn't cover. I need to get one of those full-body rainsuits the boys wear. (Girls all wear skirts, so they just have to deal with wet legs.)

Also, be careful when biking with slip-on shoes. Having a shoe fall off while crossing an intersection is quite the adventure.

Nothing else interesting to report other than that, since things are going pretty much as usual. Starting tomorrow, though, students have two short-schedule days. My English club students are taking advantage of the chance to go to Kyoto on Friday and interview foreigners as they did two years ago. I'm going along with them as a photographer. The plan is to hit the area around Kiyomizu.

Warcraft had a major patch last week. This patch included a number of changes, including the introduction of a quest line that leads to getting a mount called a Netherdrake. In pursuing this quest line, the character is given an illusion that makes it appear to be riding a Netherdrake. This illusion is only supposed to work in a limited area, but sometimes it bugs and lets you fly around other places with the illusion still active. I've had this bug on my character a couple times, so I took a number of screenshots.

On a mountaintop in Nagrand

Hovering in Netherstorm
I spent all day Monday with the group from Lenawee, acting as their translator. We visited a kindergarten and elementary school, and in the afternoon the students had a chance to try oshie and kendo.

I arrived at work Tuesday morning at my usual time (around 8:20) to find a sign on my desk declaring "it is your day for early gate duty."


As an ALT, I've never been assigned to gate duty before. Apparently I'm on the duty roster now. After digging around, I found out that I was supposed to stand at the north gate from 8:10 to 8:35 to greet the students coming in on buses. I dashed out there and said my "good morning"s for the remaining time, hoping it didn't cause any problems that I wasn't there at the beginning.

Wednesday and Thursday went as usual. Friday I accompanied the Lenawee group again as they visited several middle schools, then Saturday I went with them to the airport to see them off.

Sunday my Warcraft guild (Wicked Claw) had a raid on the 10-person instance Karazhan. They've been making steady progress and had already beaten up through the Shade of Aran and the Chess Event. On Sunday we took down Illhoof for the first time. (My brothers' characters are also there in the screenshot, though their backs are turned.)
This past week went pretty much as usual, except for Wednesday, when my students all had a class trip to go to Universal Studios in Osaka.

On Friday, the middle school delegation from Lenawee County arrived. I was asked to accompany them on a number of their excursions to help translate. Friday evening we picked them up at the airport, then Saturday I went with them to the Biwako Museum and the welcome dinner. Today I will go on tours of various schools around town.

Since I'm missing a day of class, I had to make sure my team teachers had assignments of what they should be doing while I'm gone. One class in particular I will be missing both Monday and Friday, and the team teacher doesn't want to lead any activities on his own, so he left it up to me to make assignments the students can do with limited supervision. (...That's tough to do in an oral communication class...) Meanwhile, there are two other classes for which I will be present who must do the same assignments so they are all kept to the same schedule. It's rather tricky.

Aside from that, I've been leveling my shaman in Warcraft. She finally reached level 60 and was eligible to purchase an epic mount. Since I didn't really want a racing elekk, I worked her up to exalted reputation with the humans to buy a human faction mount, which is an armored horse. Now she can have fun galloping around Outland as she works her way up the final 10 levels.
I pitched a little fit at work yesterday when I found that not only had someone wanting to use the microwave unplugged the refrigerator (instead of the pot of hot water--because we simply MUST have tea available at all times), the person left it unplugged when finished.

Unseemly of me, perhaps. But when comparing a pot of hot water with the perishables of the entire faculty, use a little common sense, people.

Today the microwave was moved to a new location with its own outlet. Much better.

My "American Culture" workshop using Supernatural went pretty well yesterday. I started by spending about 30 minutes going over the vocabulary in the first ~7 minutes of the episode. (Imagine explaining the Bradys and the Huxtables to Japanese high school girls.) Then we watched those few minutes (another teacher got the key for me, yay!).

The thing that surprised them the most was that Baby!Sam had his own bedroom. That is completely unheard of here. Japanese babies always sleep with their parents. The students were amazed when I pointed out the little microphone device the parents used to hear the baby in the baby room during the night. An American watching the show would probably know right away what it was, but my students had never heard of such a thing; they thought it was a radio.

It really is interesting how much more is involved in watching a TV show than being able to understand the vocabulary (and even that is hard enough).

I think next time I should give the students copies of a US map so they have a better idea of where these things are taking place. Setting the location in Kansas (like the opening scene) has certain associations that are hard to pick up on if the only places in America you know are New York, California, and Hawaii.
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