Wednesday, April 30, 2008



Japanese Baseball!

Last night, I had my first experience! I saw my beloved Chunichi Dragons at last!

First, I arrived, and was presented with food choices such as squid, sake, and noodles. I chose a hot dog (obviously) and beer, on account that they didn't have nachos. Jerks.

When I accidentally dumped half of my fries on the ground, I picked them up and ate them with no hesitation, realizing that the floor of that stadium was actually probably cleaner than my dishes at home.

Then, I cheered when I was supposed to, and didn't cheer when I was not supposed to. It's like a rule.

Lastly, when it was over, I picked up my own trash (I know, right?),and threw it away.

Ah, baseball - what a universal language.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Breaking the rules

Today, I broke a cultural rule, offering to do something that is historically taboo in Japan, thus, possibly inviting scandal into my house and threatening my reputation as a respectable, hard-working teacher.

I offered to take in a student teacher.

About a month ago, when I found out student teachers were coming, and needed accommodation, I was first to put my hand up, with cries of, 'Do you guys know how freaking bored I am in my apartment?' Imagine my surprise, though, when I came back to Japan and found that my offer had not been taken, and I was destined to continue to live alone for, what seems like, the rest of my life.

Yesterday, though, the first student teacher arrived at school and was introduced to me. We discussed accommodation, as this student teacher mentioned that there was still need, since research done, previous to coming to Japan, had shown apartments to have a $2000 deposit as well as $500 a month for rent. Now, unlike student teachers, I get PAID to teach and couldn't afford this, so of course, seeing that the student teacher had come, praying to find accommodation after arrival, I offered my extra room. I mean, really, do you guys know how freaking bored I am in my apartment?

So, after a bit of debate with the headmaster, discussions with the principal about how this choice could effect me professionally (many members of our conservative community might look down on me for this decision), as well as a few playful snickers from people who have come to know me best, I rose above and continued to realize that I don't care what people think. I also realized how nothing would make me happier to break the social norm in this country because I could care less. I won, and now have a temporary roommate.

He moves in this afternoon. ;)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dinner Party

The one thing I can say about the Japanese is that they can be really nice people. Once the barriers come down.

I teach two adult classes, which I picked up in the hope of meeting friends, only to find out I was awarded, what are probably, the only two 50 and older English-learner classes in the city.

But, for all of their years of age, they can be pretty funny sometimes. Like tonight.

My last activity of the evening was called Dinner Party. For this activity, I gave pairs a worksheet with the names of 40 famous people. They had to work together to choose 10 to invite to a 'dinner party', but for each guest, they had to explain why they had chosen him/her to invite.

Surprisingly, nobody chose Jesus, Hitler, or Buddah, but they did choose the following, word for word, and had good reasons to suit (please keep in mind these are beginning English learners who had NO help from me):

John Lennon: I want to hear Hey Jude live.

Albert Einstein: I want to discuss relative theory.

Cleopatra: I want to measure her height.

John Lennon: We want him to tell us he really loves Ono Yoko.

Cinderella: We want to ask what she will be at the end of the story.

Galileo: He shows me the movement of stars.

Romeo and Juliet: We want them to meet at our party.

Harry Potter: We want him to prepare the party.

J. S. Bach: I want to see his wig.

Adam and Eve: We want to give them cloths.

Harry Potter: I want to meet him and his friends and by magic clean house and make dinner.

(and my personal favorite)

Madonna: We want her to sing like a virgin.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Low, Low, Low

Three things you should know before reading this entry:

1. Japanese radio stations are odd. There is no rhyme or reason to what they play: old American, new American, Japanese pop, classical, long periods of talk, etc.

2. Japanese DJ's are notorious for talking way too much on the air, as well as interrupting songs, in the middle, to talk. So, you'll be jamming away to a great tune when all of the sudden, in the middle, the song will lower, and the dj will talk right over the top before shortly ending the song long before it should.

3. Never, ever, ever take a wrong turn in Japan.


It's no secret that I don't love living here. I find it tolerable mostly, and semi-enjoyable at best. I work really hard to make sure I stay busy, and this story takes place as I was driving to job #3, teaching adult ESOL classes. As usual, I was replaying the day's conversations in my head, and singing along, this time, to Boys 2 Men. When the song was over, the Japanese DJ came on to talk for a long time. Often, when the DJs speak in Japanese, I listen really carefully to try to pick out as many words as possible. Tonight's topic was fairly easy, and although I don't know why, I did understand that she was talking about ice cream, and comparing flavors, varieties, and calories.

I swear, three people had just cut me off, and I was feeling particularly nasty, when out of nowhere, I hear the first four beats of Flo Rida's song, 'Low'.

IMMEDIATELY, the biggest, biggest smile burst onto my face, and I (of course) began bumping along. Memories of actually LOOKING at Apple Bottom Jeans in Florida, or dancing with Tiff and Nik came to my head. Man, you couldn't have found a happier gaijin in town!

Then, two minutes into the song, it all went wrong.

I guess it all started when I decided to pass my normal street so that I could finish listening to this rare listening gem on MY local station. This was mistake number one, because as I drove past my turn, the DJ, on cue, lowered the song and started talking.

Mistake number two was when I, in my disappointment, decided to take the next left to quickly turn around back to my street and my lessons and my adult students who were patiently waiting. Except that when I turned left, I accidentally turned into the hospital.

MIstake number three? Not being able to read the signs that probably said things like 'Hospital' or 'Patient entrance only' or 'If you come in here and can't read Japanese, you'll never get out!' Immediately, this turned into a panic for me, and by the time I mazed my way out to them man in the ticket booth, I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders as if to say 'Just let me out of here before I swear at you in English and then kick your ass.' He obliged.

In the end, I barely made it in time, but arrived safely. And I can chalk one more adventure in Japan up to a favorite song that brought amazing memories of my friends rushing to my mind.

Now, what I haven't told you yet is probably the almost-funniest part... When the DJ cut the song off early, I quickly realized that playing the song had been a marketing device for selling low-fat ice cream, because she mumbled a bit in Japanese before claiming such and such ice cream was 'low, low, low.'

And that is only funny if you are one of my friends.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Real letters from real parents

It's time for another installment of 'e-mails I get from my classroom parents'. I tell you, these e-mails are one of the best parts of my job. They make me smile EVERY time. And it helps me to understand how ridiculous I must sound when I try to speak Japanese...

(names have been removed for privacy)



How was your trip? X is waiting for you.

I have to say bad news. X had broken his knee at music last Thursday.
X can't walk expect with the crukch. Now it is important that X would not move his leg.
Could you put him in the tall chair. Can my husband bring him to classroom in the morning early?
Because X need someone help. And after school se will pick X up at classsroom.

Thanks , I will call office tomorrow morning.

X's mom

(I recieved this one while I was gone. As I haven't been to school yet, I am wondering how student X broke his knee at music...)


Dear Wendy ;

Thank you for your hard working for the classs...
I wanna inform you about our family's short trip...

From tomorrow and the day after tomorrow (Dec. 11th and 12th), our faimily will make a family trip to Hokuriku area of Japan.

So, Y can't attend to the class. By this trip, Y can understand a lot more about Japanes culture..

If you have any other question, please give me a email or tel any time....

and also, please infrom this to the office, so they can manage the bus rides......

Thank you again and have a wonderful winter.

from Y's father


Hi, how are you? I heard you and the NIS from Z
everyday. I always thank you for caring Z at
school. I think that Z and her sisters are
getting better to accommodate themselves to new school
life. But English is always a problem.

I know it is hard time for you to teach Z who
doesn't understand English and for Z not to fully
understand what's going on in class.

Usually we take 2~3 hours a day to do class homeworks
and ESOL homeworks. But Z and I will try hard to
do as possible as we can.

I wonder if she could play with other classmates well
or not. She made many good friends in Korea, but she
has prolem to communicate in English with friends so
far. As a mother, my first primary concerns are
English and making friends at school for Z.
Please let me know if she has problems in school life.

Thank you for your help again.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Trip-ending thoughts

Having spent the last three weeks in America, and coming back to Japan, I feel that I could adequitely put together a few words to describe Japan, as well as some words that do not describe Japan.

Words to describe Japan:


Words not to describe Japan:


As I walked through the terminal, I felt like I was just back to regular life again. Imagine, thinking a life in Japan to be regular. I had a never-ending list of errands forming in my head, including getting groceries and paying the bills, I just do it all here, in my own, learning kind of way. At the same time, I was looking at advertisements that I couldn't read, hearing conversations that I can't understand, and it kind of feels like I've never been gone.

If I learned one thing about myself from my trip home and back, it is how much I have grown as an individual, and how proud I am for living in a foreign country, far different from my own, with huge language barriers, and thriving. I am bettering myself by learning a new language and a new culture, and am finding the patience to accept my own personal flaws, as well as reflect on my everyday accomplishments whenever possible.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who spent time with me during the last few weeks. Coming home to America was a well-needed reality check to remind me that, 1. even though I live in the twilight zone, there is an escape, and 2. I am incredibly fortunate to have so many friends and family at home who love and think about me, which is enough to get me through the hard moments. This past three weeks has been so fun... meeting new friends (think Tiff, Carolina, Heidi), forging new relationships (people who will put you up when you miss a flight), seeing old students (thanks for the ice cream, Lauren), sharing familiar traditions with family (yahtzee or peppermint dessert, anyone?)and seeing old friends (there's no one in the world like my bestie).

At the airport today, I was glad to be back in a place where I can line up my luggage and handbag and walk away to buy a ticket, use the restroom, or withdraw cash from the atm without any worry of dishonesty or theft. I appreciate the simple and polite 'excuse me' and the apologetic nod of someone who was accidentally in my way. I know that when I do get groceries later and ride on the train, that both experiences will be quiet and peaceful. I am ready for 'me' time again. And I'm also ready to accept the fact that for at least a week, I will turn the windshield wipers on instead of the turn signal.

On the bus from the airport, I passed my first cherry blossom tree. Cherry blossom season, which Japan is iconic for, began during my absence. But, seeing, for the first time, the white buds playing the part of the backdrop for farmers who are tending the rice fields on this nice afternoon gives me hope of warm weather and spring, following a long, cold, drab winter.

Now, as I prepare to pull into my apartment and go back to my 'normal' life, I have to be very honest. I don't mind being here so much at all.

Konnichiwa, Nihon. Hello, Japan.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


As I set off to board my tenth and final flight in the last three weeks, I want to share a few of my personal thoughts on flying.

- When I was younger, I used to want to live at the airport. The excitement of packing a bag and going somewhere else was always exciting. Since I have become more of a traveller, airports and planes make me want to vomit.

- I've decided that I can't decide which is worse: getting to the gate REALLY early and sitting there, or being in a rush to make your flights. The latter makes you sweat from the running, and you could say that for me. To get to flight number 9, I had 27 minutes to run three terminals (no moving walkways, thank you very much LAX) to the very last terminal in the place. To get to my last flight, I had 45 minutes to run down 6 moving walkways (thank you, SFO), take a shuttle, walk on the runway, take an elevator, and three flights of stairs. Needless to say that, without a break to pee or put on deodorant, I smell really bad. But since the man next to me smells like fish, I don't mind so much.

- Have you ever noticed the absence of clocks in the terminals? Especially when you're in a hurry.

- If you really think about it, doesn't the whole process of commercial flight seem unnatural? I mean, if you take the body of the plane away, you have 150 people flying in the middle of the sky. Wierd.

- Sometimes I just like to sit at the airport and watch people come and go. I wonder where they're from, where they're going, and what they're going to do when they get there. Then I usually want to laugh at their travel clothing and push them out of my way.

- Flying over the Grand Canyon is one of the greatest in-flight experiences to have. No matter how many times you've seen it, it never fails to be breathtaking. (Unfortunately), it's about the most exciting thing that's happened to me at 35,000 feet.