dorchadas: (In America)
On a whim, I looked up my old student Erina on Facebook, figuring that I might be able to find her since I actually remember her last name--her parents got divorced halfway through the semester, and her name went from two kanji that were easy for me to write to one kanji that was impossible for me--and she popped up as the first result.

She's also memorable to me because when I did a lesson about music genres and played the song there under "I hear," she raised her hand after it was done and said, "Na...name please." I later found out she was in a punk band with some friends.

Most of her account is locked down or unused, as is proper, but it does say that she went on to school for graphic design and her profile picture has her sitting in kimono in a Japanese garden. Good for her.  photo la.gif
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
So, I had a student named Moeko when I taught at Suzugamine. She was kind of attentive, and at least listened when people talked and tried at her work, but she hung out with a lot of people who absolutely weren't interested in learning English at all.

Well, apparently things changed a lot after I left. She got herself into the special English-focused class, went on a trip to England and stayed with a family for a few weeks, and found me on Facebook where she likes all my photos of food.

Anyway, I wished her a happy birthday a couple days ago, and we started a conversation, and after I told her I was taking a programming class, she said:
勉強以外は、本当に楽しいですっヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ
うぉおおおおおおお!!ブラピ凄いことをしているのですねっ!日本語を教えたりしないのですか??
Which, if I had to translate into English, I would render as:
Except for studying, [university] is really fun!
Wooooow!! You're doing amazing things! But aren't you teaching Japanese along with that?!
...I only wish.

When people ask me if I know Japanese, my response is never "yes," it's always, "I get by," because, well, that's a lot more accurate. I'm pretty good at reading and writing, but my vocabulary is still lower than I want it to be and I have a lot of trouble speaking because of that. When I'm writing, it's easy enough to look up words, but that's obviously not something I can reasonably do when I'm in the middle of talking to someone without completely breaking the flow of conversation.

I think the big problem is that I'm bad enough at conversation in English, much less in Japanese. I'm happy to sit in silence a lot of the time, and tend to let conversation threads drop, or go to a corner at parties and sit and watch the action--there's a reason I picked a job where I don't have to talk to anyone. :p Add in another language, and even if you take out the worry of making mistakes or looking stupid while searching for the right word, it's still difficult enough for me to find the words to keep the conversation flowing. Unless I were to learn the vocab for talking about RPGs or video games in Japanese, I guess...

The thing is, I'm not sure how she got that impression. We've talked on Facebook, in Japanese or in English, but when I was actually teaching her I'm pretty sure I never spoke Japanese to her ever. She could tell that I understood it somewhat, because when the students asked me questions I'd answer in English whether they asked me in Japanese or English, but was that enough? Maybe she just thought that since I came to Japan to teach English, I'd go back to America and teach Japanese. If I wanted to be a teacher, I suppose it would be a reasonable assumption.

Really, this is just another of the incidents that renews my desire to keep studying Japanese.

Free time

2010-Apr-12, Monday 23:25
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Well, I haven't really posted about it before, but I have a lot more free time now due to being out of work. I wasn't actually told the reason for it (there were some hints), but on the Lang side it mostly seemed related to the distance. My boss was considering bringing me in part-time, but it would have cost my boss roughly ¥70,000 (about $750) a month in transportation fees to bring me into the city. It wasn't cost effective for her and I wouldn't have made enough on my end to bother with it, so working at Lang was out.

Suzugamine was a nice place to work, but as it turned out they simply didn't have the money to rehire me. Enrollment had dropped by almost 65% in the past 10 years, and it's getting low enough that the foreign teacher they have at Suzugamine Tandai ("junior college." Literally, "short college") doesn't have enough students for a full workload, so they're bringing him over to teach classes as well as getting more part time teachers with no experience. Apparently, that was specifically what the vice-principal was looking for. I expect that, since they're switching to team-teaching this year for all English conversation classes, they don't want foreign teachers who have their own ideas about teaching and therefore will screw up the JTE's perfect lesson plans. I may be being uncharitable, though.

I will miss the students, though. Here's hoping Ayumi and Sachiyo stop being so bored, and Mayumi does manage to become a translator, and Yuka goes on to become a child psychologist and Miwako a primary school teacher, and Masumi gets as good at English as she hopes, and all the others succeed. I may see them around Hiroshima here and then, but whether they'll want to chat is another question entirely.

Wow. I'm slacking

2009-Nov-24, Tuesday 22:40
dorchadas: (Iocaine Powder)
I haven't written an LJ entry in over a month. To think that I used to write multiple entries a day.

The Suzugamine Culture Festival went really well. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd showed up and we went around and looked at the room displays, which were mostly about the trips that the different classes of students had taken (Etajima, Okinawa, and one class went to Bangladesh). The kanji writing went okay--I think that while my kanji was technically correct, it lacked artistry. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me that the old men in the audience with her were saying stuff like "ええ、祭?すごい!" (Wow, "matsuri"? That's amazing!"), so I impressed some people at least.

Most of my students who came up to us used it as an opportunity to tell [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd how cute she was or how white her skin was, which she gets everywhere, so that's nothing new. The only memorable part was when one student, who I will call Saki (for that is her name--咲, meaning "blossom"), followed up "You are cute" with "外国人になりたい" ("I want to be a foreigner"). That was a bit odd, though it's certainly a good story to tell the other teachers at Suzugamine. Having pale skin is huge in Japan--a lot of Japanese people tan really easily. You can tell especially with any of the students on the tennis or baseball teams. They tend to have very dark skin anywhere not under their uniform and pretty pale skin otherwise. Do not point this out to them.

Some of the teachers at Suzugamine kind of make me feel unwelcome, but just today I was talking with Yoshimi-sensei, one of the teachers I tutor in English, and she told me that they don't say hello to her either. In fact, she knew instantly who I was talking about without having to describe them, and said it was mostly the same teachers she didn't like when she was a student there, and now she says they haven't changed. The whole thing came about when she and the librarian (we meet in the library) asked me if I felt like I knew what was going on, and I said that sometimes I didn't but I didn't blame too many people. After all, there's a morning meeting every day where they explain what's going in, right? It's not their fault I don't speak super-formal Japanese enough to really understand it all. But she related an incident where she put up a poster and then got yelled at about how that was forbidden, and that other teachers too often don't tell you to do something and then get annoyed when you don't do it. Then we bitched a bit about teachers who wouldn't update their styles ("I've taught this way for 30 years! It worked then, it works now!"), and I taught them "The more things change, the more they stay the same," though not in the original French.

Last weekend was the first time since Tōkyō that I've been to karaoke. It was actually a lot more fun that it was then (because of the smaller number of people), and much more fun than in America. Unlike the "sing in front of the whole bar" way it's done in America, Japanese karaoke parlours have dozens of small private rooms that you rent out. You can order food and drink using the in-room phone that's sent up. They also have songs I actually want to sing, like Within Temptation's What Have You Done, Nightwish's Amaranth, and the ever popular Never Gonna Give You Up. Sadly, I did not manage to press the "pre-empt order" button for the last song. Anyway, I've learned that I need to go to karaoke more often because it's a ton of fun.

I've been spending time hacking the Cthulhutech system, specifically the psychic bits. I wrote a lot of extra powers (detailed here) and also deleted some of the extraneous rolls and the tendency for powers to cost an enormous amount. It's a good system at base, but it requires some changes to really work well. Then again, for the game I'm running, I have so little interaction with the system that I could probably run it using conflict-based resolution in Risus and not suffer a significant amount (Kily: Psychic 2, Therapist 5, Judo 2).

I may be becoming an actual RPG freelancer due to the aforementioned system hacks as well. More info maybe, depending on A) whether it happens at all or B) the terms of the inevitable non-disclosure agreement.
dorchadas: (Slime)
As promised, here are some of the rules that Suzugamine students sign up for when they attend:

  • Obviously, they have to wear uniforms. It's all mandated--skirts, shirts, shoes (two kinds) and even official socks with the school seal of them. Winter and summer versions of the uniform. And yes, some of them do hike their skirt up to Revolutionary Girl Utena levels even though it's an all-girls school. There's also an official schoolbag, and an official sportsbag if you're on a team. The main place for individuality is in the choice of pencilcase, folders, and the charms/stuffed animals they hang off their bags.

  • Wearing the uniform outside of school is encouraged (this is actually a rule). This is because in Japan, a school uniform is considered formal clothing, and you can wear one where you'd wear a suit/nice dress in America (assuming you're high-school age, anyway).

  • Hair cannot be colored, dyed, permed, styled, curled, braided, be-ribboned, or above the top of the head. Any student who naturally has brown or curly hair is required to file a "curly hair report" with the school office, otherwise "there may be difficulties." I am not making this up. The only permitted hairstyles are loose, ponytail, or pigtails. Pigtails are pretty common among high-school students, though when they hit college or their twenties they all switch to dying their hair blond. Kind of like America, actually, though Japanese hair means it turns out more a honey-brown color.

鶴姫伝説 was your standard Japanese love story. Boy, girl, boy meets girl, girl receives a vision from a goddess tellling her to take up the sword to defend her village, boy and girl fall in love, boy is killed delivering a message to a rival daimyo, girl hears from best friend who is now daimyo's servant that he gets blind drunk all the time, girl dresses in boy's armor and leads an army to defeat rival daimyo, girl ascends bodily into heaven leaving her armor behind. You know, typical. More seriously, I thought it was pretty neat, though I'm sure there were subtleties of the story that I didn't really understand. It was also a musical, which caught me by surprise.

The band in my current music is pretty neat. It's Finnish folk metal--you can get a good example of one of their songs is Ryyppäjäiset. It's instrumental, but you can get a nice summary of their musical style. Makes me want to play Unreal World again.

Tomorrow is the Suzugamine Sports Festival. That should be fun.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Yesterday, I went to dinner at Lal’s (an Indian restaurant) in the city like I usually do on Wednesdays. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd teaches the children’s class in Chiyoda on Wednesdays and can’t be around to pick me up from the station, so rather than walk home, I stay a little later and eat in the city. Anyway, this time, I went in right as they were opening and sat down. The server came over, gave me the special speed menu, then put a hand on it again and asked, "’いつもでいいですか?" Itsumo de ii desu ka?, or roughly, "Is the usual okay?" I said it was, and had dinner a few minutes later. It's nice to be recognized.

One of my students tried to kiss me yesterday. Fortunately, it was a joke.

Here's the story. I gave them a speaking test yesterday, and when it was done, there was only 10 minutes of class left, so I gave them free time. So they said, "Thank you!" and then they said "I love you!" and then one girl said "kiss me!" to which I rolled my eyes and responded with "No." I thought that was the end, until a group of them tried to get me to take my hair out of the ponytail. I managed to hold them off by trying to get them to ask me in English, but Hamasaki-san (the girl who introduced herself as Hamasaki Ayumi) ran up to try to show me what they wanted and reached for my hair. While fending her off, I turned a bit and ended up with my face a few inches away from her, after which she said, "Kiss me." They're clearly reading too much shoujo manga.

I finally took my hair down for a bit after they asked in English. They asked me to do it again, and I told them that I might do it next time if they were quiet and listened. We'll see if that actually works. I suspect it won't, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Tomorrow the school is going to a performance of 鶴姫伝説 Tsuru-hime Densetsu, or "Legend of the Crane Princess." I think I get to go as well, but my only confirmation is an offhand comment from one of the teachers I tutor and a note that there's no morning meeting tomorrow, so I'd better check. Hopefully I'll be able to follow the story.

Next entry: I tell you some of Suzugamine's rules.
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I'm never sure what my students are going to understand. Today, for example.

Me: "Okay, we'll finish a little early."
Them: *blank stare*
Me: (I know they know finish...) "You know finish? End?"
Them: *blank stare*
Me: "Stop?"
Them: *blank stare*
Me: "ちょっと早く終わります。"
Them: Oooooooh.
Me: *facepalm*

The reason I'm facepalming is they know what finish means--I ask them if they're done with a worksheet or a dialogue in English and they can answer just fine. Maybe "early" shut their brains down.

RP-related nerdery )

Update time

2009-Jul-06, Monday 15:17
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I haven't been updating a lot lately, mainly because working full time and commuting two hours each way to get to my job takes a lot out of me. I've had a short vacation now, though, so I'm going to update with whats been going on. Let's see...

Well, first of all, the reason I had a vacation is because one of the students at Suzugamine came down with swine flu. A neighboring school had a group of students go to Hawai'i, and when they came back, they played a baseball game against Suzugamine. A few days later, both our student and theirs came down with swine flu. Our student lived in the dorms, so they postponed tests and shut the whole school down for a few days. The other teachers had to come in, but I didn't. Partially because I get treated a bit like a part-time teacher by the school--when I have nothing to do, I don't actually have to be there.

Chiyoda High School's cultural festival was a couple weeks ago. People here seem pretty surprised when I tell them that there isn't really anything like a cultural festival in America. I mean, elementary schools have fun fairs, but those aren't really the same thing. Anyway, it was pretty neat. The class homerooms rooms were all decorated in different themes (Egypt, space, a haunted house, etc.), and all the various clubs had displays. The manga club had a bunch of drawings, the tea ceremony club did tea ceremonies, the kagura club performed, and so on. It was a lot of fun, though I imagine it would get boring after a while since they're the same every year.

My phone stopped working a few days ago. As near as I can tell, Softbank stopped billing my credit card for it last month without informing me (or, at least, without informing me in English). I have no idea why. I can still get calls or texts in, but nothing goes out and I have no internet connection. We're going to try to get it fixed later today, in the same trip where we go to add my name to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's bank account like I should have asked them to do 11 months ago .

School is still going well. Slow sometimes, but good. The students are getting more used to me, though it can be difficult to communicate sometimes. Some of them want to learn but are bad at languages, some of them want to learn and are pretty good at it, most of them are just taking English because the government says they have to. The usual story. Lesson planning is kind of fun, but can be tedious. It's especially annoying with my Wednesday classes, because Wednesdays kept being used for different activities, so the Wednesday classes were about a month behind. Blarg.

That's all for now.

So tired...

2009-Apr-29, Wednesday 22:14
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
So, my new job is interesting.

First of all, it's a 45 minute bus ride from Chiyoda to Hiroshima (I take the 6:19 a.m. bus). Then, once I get there, I have to wait 10 minutes for the appropriate streetcar to arrive. Once that comes, I take that and arrive at Suzugamine at 7:50, and have to wait until 8:20 for work to actually begin. I can't take the next bus (the 6:43 one) because if it's even a single minute late, I miss the next streetcar and then miss the morning teacher's meeting, which is very, very bad.

Originally, I was told that it was all going to be team teaching with a Japanese English Teacher, much the same way that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's job is. When I went in for the explanatory meeting, I was told that it would be mostly middle school students with some high school (a direct quote), and team teaching except for one test-prep class which I would be teaching myself. Okay, I thought, not a problem. Then on the first day when I went in to work, it turned out that I was actually going to be teaching 12 out of 15 classes by myself. All 12 of those classes are high schoolers.

So, yeah, the job description was a total pack of lies. Some people here may be thinking, "But Dorchadas, you teach at an all-girls high school in Japan! You're living the otaku[1] dream!" Yes, I am surrounded every day by dozens of Japanese schoolgirls. But I'm far more worried about having to plan all the lessons myself. It's especially ironic because Tetsui-san at Lang said I should come here because I didn't have much teaching experience and working with a Japanese English Teacher would help me learn them. Ha. Fat chance. So far, it's worked out okay because I've been able to look over the lesson plans of the guy who taught here before I did for inspiration. We'll see how well it goes in a month or so.

The girls...vary. Some of them are quite studious and willing to work hard and try to understand (the students in the aforementioned test-prep class). Some of them couldn't give a damn about English and use English Conversation class as an excuse to catch up on whose boyfriend is sleeping with whom now. One student introduced herself to me as Hamasaki Ayumi; much to my annoyance, her plan actually had some moderate success because it got me to remember her real name. My job is to make them care about English. Well...easier said than done, true. Some of them will never care. Some of them don't need me to help them care. It's the group in the middle that I have to reach out to.

It is a matter of great universal cruelty that during the time when it's easiest to learn a new language (until age 11-13 or so), you don't give a damn about doing it. You only really care when you're much older and it gets a lot harder.

Anyway, it's bed time. I have to get up at 5:20 a.m. again.

[1]: Do not actually use otaku to a Japanese person. Unlike in America, where it means, "an anime fan," the original meaning is closer to "unhealthily obsessed fanatic." It can also be a polite way to refer to someone else's house, as in "otaku e maitte mo yoroshii de gozaimasu ka?" which is something like, "Would it possibly be okay for me to please come to your house?" Note that no one under thirty actually talks like that ever.
dorchadas: (Slime)
My most memorable student was pretty much a frightened rabbit. When I came in, we sat down and I opened the book. I said, "We'll start here," and she got this blank expression and shook her head no. I asked "here?" and pointed to a different page, and she shook her head again. It took a bit of work, but I finally managed to convincer her to show me where she left off by pointing at pages until she nodded yes. Of course, what I should have done is just asked her to tell me (in English) which number the page was, but I didn't think of it at the time. ^^;; I did manage to get her to talk a bit near the end, which was nice.

I did a lot of explaining this week. Lang does various conversational practice groups called "topic talks" where you either discuss a article from The Economist or a series of questions based on a subject (like "art" or "houses" or "speaking languages"). So, I had to explain a lot of English idioms, like "up to your ears" or "bailout," as well as bits of U.S. political history, the reason the Southwest is running out of water and the difference between American and Japanese houses. It's a good thing I got a liberal arts education.

Next week, I start at Suzugamine. Most of the classes are team-taught with a Japanese English teacher, but I have to teach one class on my own. It's a test-prep class, so there's probably a strict syllabus to follow, but I don't really know anything about it yet. I was really worried until I realized that they weren't going to make me write the textbook myself.

I also got yelled at by the owner for having my hair down. Now, when I say "yelled at," I mean Japanese-style, so she came over, sat down, and said, "If it's no trouble, it's company policy, so could you please-" *hair-putting up motions* "I feel bad asking, because it looks so pretty, but if you don't mind..." and so on. So, I put it up. :-p
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I didn't actually do any work yesterday, but I went in to the city to get my schedule.

My "joushikousei" tag will probably be getting more use from here on out, because the Lang Education Center is assigning me to be the full-time ALT at Suzugamine Girls' High School in Nishi-ku, Hiroshima. It's team teaching (i.e., assisting a Japanese English teacher with their class), so that takes away the lesson planning worries--I can still help with lessons, but I don't have to plan everything all by myself anymore. I also get paid a better salary, including all the holidays that Suzugamine gets, like a month off in the summer.

Bad news: I have to get up at 6 a.m. every morning or earlier, take an hour busride into the city and then a half-hour streetcar ride to the school. Also, I sometimes have to teach on Saturdays and late on Thursday nights (well, to 8 p.m., but then I have to take the bus home).

Good news: I can sleep on the bus and Lang is giving me a transportation stipend. The schedule says "every other Saturday," but a lot of them seem to be days off.

It seems like it'll go well! The person before me finished out their contract; the reason I'm getting the job is because they moved back to their home country. And being in a Japanese teachers' office will give me more chances to practice Japanese. All in all, it seems like it'll go well. I hope it does.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
One of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's students came up to her and said "your husband." [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told her my name, at which point the student nodded and then said, "Want." She later tried to grab [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's boobs.

I have no idea what kind of statement she was trying to make.

Kagura!

2008-Oct-28, Tuesday 00:20
dorchadas: (Slime)
Though most of my entry won't be about this, I do have to mention--yes, Japanese schoolgirls really do tend to wear their uniforms everywhere they go (on schooldays at least), and yes, they hike their skirts up an extra 6-8 inches once they leave school, leading to the ridiculously short lengths you tend to see portrayed in shoujo anime. Anyway...

Saturday was the 秋祭り Aki Matsuri , or Fall Festival. It might have had another name, but if so, no one ever actually told us what it was. Anyway, Kaminaka-san from our eikaiwa had invited us over to his house for dinner[1], so we went over and got there a bit early. His house is huge, and a bit intimidating from the outside (all dark wood), but inside it was neat. An old-style Japanese house, with a small shrine in the entranceway. Kaminaka-san (hereafter referred to as "Michiya" because there were four Kaminakas there :p) had invited his wife's brother and his wife as well, who were all already there, so we began eating as soon as we got there. They had a huge amount of food--tomato and cucumber salad, fried chicken and shrimp, sashimi of various kinds, stewed vegetables in dashi, homemade nigiri, etc...and all this was the appetizers. They brought out sukiyaki for the actual meal.

When we started, I reached for a piece of sashimi using the other end of my chopsticks, as is proper etiquette, though as I did they stopped me and told me it was okay to use the eating end and that tonight was friendly. Table conversation was neat--I spoke in broken Japanese, Michiya's wife Itsuko and her brother spoke in broken English, her brother's wife (I didn't get either of their names ^^;;) spoke in Japanese, and Michiya spoke English to us and Japanese to his family. Despite the linguistic difficulties, we were able to talk about our family, about whether we like Japan, food, tell the story about how the first thing that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I found that we had in common was liking unagi (the brother and his wife pronounced us "married by unagi" when they heard this ^^;;), where everyone came from, how when the brother and his neighbor (both from Osaka) talked in Kansai-ben, his wife had no clue what they were saying[2], the brother's wife's favorite maki (california roll, amusingly), etc. After the incredibly delicious dinner, we walked over to the nearby middle school for a kagura performance.

For those who haven't seen any kagura, it's a type of theater. The plot is minimal, though--it usually consists of a demon of some sort and the agents of Heaven sent to stop it. There are few plot twists, either. The only one we saw was one performance which had a princess seeking shelter from an evil kitsune, except it turned out the princess was the kitsune! Shock! The primary draw of kagura is the dancing and the incredibly intricate costumes. Michiya also took us back to see the performers area, where [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I got to try on the (ridiculously heavy) clothes and put on the masks, which performers hold onto their faces with their teeth.

It was really fun. We missed a Halloween party to go to the festival, but it was definitely worth going to. I just wonder what else happened for the festival, and if we missed anything in the town. There were ropes with white ribbons on them hung out all along the Old Road, but we didn't get that far.

[1]: This is apparently somewhat rare in Japan, according to what [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me. If so, that's even nicer.
[2]: Japanese has a ton of dialects, with far more variation than is present between American ones. Some Japanese-language movies need to include Japanese subtitles when characters are speaking in dialects that are particularly different from standard Japanese.

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