We got our first real snow here in Moriyama today. By "real" snow, I mean that it was visible on the ground for a while (though it melted by lunchtime). There had been a few scattered flakes this past weekend, but they vanished upon hitting any surface. The snow itself wasn't a big problem, but the strong wind that accompanied it proved annoying. Note: Biking into a freezing wind = major suckage. At least my body acted as a windshield to keep snow off my bookbag in the rear basket...

My students begin their final exams next week, and I've been scurrying to grade all assignments and write up review sheets and such. Grading can be a hoot sometimes. In particular, I gave one activity for our "shopping" lesson in which the students had to complete a conversation between a salesperson and a customer, starting with "I'm looking for ___ for my ___."

Example 1: The student clearly understands what she is writing; the content itself is funny.

Customer: I'm looking for a soccer ball for my boyfriend.
Salesperson: What color do you want?
Customer: Pink.

...Only in Japan...

Example 2: It's hard to decide whether the student understands what she is writing and is trying to be funny, made a spelling error, or doesn't understand the vocabulary.

Customer: I'm looking for a skirt for my father.

Example 3: This student clearly has no clue what she is writing.

Customer: I'm looking for a teddy bear for my sister.
Salesperson: What size do you wear?

Anyway, as the year (and my contract) draws to a close, I am now starting to panic about my future plans. The end of March used to seem so far away! I still can't decide whether I want to take a trip to Australia before going home, and I'm running out of time to make reservations. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with all the STUFF in my apartment, since I won't have anyone staying there after me. It costs a lot of money to dispose of things like televisions and refrigerators, since you can't just stick them out in the trash.

On the bright side, I am told that if I fly directly back to America when my contract ends, the city will pay for my ticket. (That's standard procedure with JET, but I wasn't sure how it would be handled here.) That means I can't go Japan → Australia → America though, if I decide on the trip.

Another thing I did in preparation for leaving is send in my passport for renewal. Since I am applying from overseas, I had to pay the fee by way of an international postal money order. (The US Embassy in Tokyo doesn't accept personal checks. After my experience trying to cash a check in Japan, I don't blame them.) I was dismayed to discover that the privatization of the post office caused the fee for a money order to go from 300 yen (as it was last year) to 2000 yen. Youch. I noticed that ATM usage (which used to be free) now has a 100 yen fee during business hours, 200 during extended hours.

Also, the brochure I picked up states that there are now 16, count them, SIXTEEN machines in the entire country that operate 24 hours a day on an experimental basis. For Japan, this is progress. Another ten years and we MAY get weekend banking hours.

So, total cost of passport renewal: $67 (fee) + $20 (money order) + $5 (self-addressed express envelope) + $12 (photos) + $1 (padded envelope) = $105. It's a good thing I only have to do this once every 10 years.

As a final note, considering the population of my friends list, I want to recommend the game Once Upon a Time. The game consists of two decks of cards, one with story prompts, one with story endings, and the object is to use the prompts to make up a story that reaches the ending in your hand. I bought the game to play with my visitors over the holiday, and we had a blast with it (though we did add our own special rules). We wound up playing for the sake of creating a fun story, rather than for the sake of winning, but the point is to enjoy yourself anyway.
Classes are well underway, and things are pretty much back to the usual routine by now. However, my students have found a new way to make me feel old.

In one of my lessons, the book introduces the question "Who is your favorite actor?" This is one of those standard questions that all English teachers cover at some point here. I recall when I taught in Niigata, this was one that came up a lot. I always said "Harrison Ford," because he was a big name actor who didn't have the "trendy" factor that plagues younger actors. (That was back when all of Japan was raving over Titanic, to give you some idea of what I mean.)

Anyway, I was pleased to see that Harrison Ford was actually one of the examples in the textbook. That led to the following conversation...

Student: Who's Harrison Ford?

Me: He was in Star Wars.

Student: No, he wasn't.

Me: Yes, he was.

Student: Oh yeah? Who did he play?

Me: Han Solo.

Student: ...Who's Han Solo?

Me: O_O
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. )
I've been grading several more stacks of papers today. In particular, I graded a short quiz from a chapter on health. The #1 mistake is that students insist on calling the big toe a "finger" or even "thumb." (In Japanese, "toe" and "finger" are the same word.)

Spelling also gets creative. One example is that "foot" was often spelled "hut" because the "f" sound in Japanese is written with the character "hu." The word "knee" was spelled a number of ways, ranging from "nie" to "kenn."

But this one takes the cake. One question instructed the students to look at a picture of a man pressing his hand to his forehead and then answer the question "Are you okay?"

Answer hidden to protect innocent eyes )
...is one of the answers included in the conversation assignment I'm grading. These things just kill me. ^_^ To be fair, this particular student got the assignment mixed up with another assignment in which Superman could be asked such things as his birthday and sign of the zodiac.

I had another amusing question from a student yesterday: "Does Cupid live in heaven?"

Me: Well...technically Cupid is a Greek god...

Student: ...?

Me: You know, Greek...from Greece...

Student: Cupid lives in Greece?!

One must keep in mind that "cupid" has lost its standing as a proper noun here in Japan, so anyone could be called "a cupid" for helping others out, particularly with matchmaking, but also in other situations. When I was in Niigata and my town participated in an international art exhibition, the postal workers were given a speech telling them not to be worried about all the foreigners in town but instead to be "cupids" helping where they could.

I wound up saying that my student could have her cupid be from wherever she wanted.



December 2016

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