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Posts Tagged ‘classroom’

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. It’s the time of year when I feel like I wake up. It’s like you catch a wiff of that chill air on the breeze, and everything changes. The lazy dog-days of summer are officially over, and your mind switches modes. I know most would consider me a weirdo, but I like winter. There is just something about it, something about snuggling in under warm blankets, or a kotatsu, sipping a cup of hot something. The only thing I’m missing here is the snow….but it will be waiting for me in Canada.

Which brings us to another point, something betsubara brought up in his last post. Fall also means, for JET Programme participants, the distribution of our re-contracting documents and the time to start deciding on whether or not we’re going to resign it in February. It is a difficult decision to make and one that, either way, is going to be emotional. For me, I believe this year will be my last.

During my time here, I’ve done a lot of growing as a person, I think. And with the fall came some changes I’ve been needing to make in my life, both in my head and in the physical space around me. Don’t they say that the one is reflected in the other, anyway? Well, the main form this has taken is a rearrangement of my apartment. This may not sound like a big deal, but I am NOT a person for whom neatness comes easily. I have always struggled with “domesticity”, and this year, living in such a tiny apartment, the issue has become one of preserving my sanity. I have, gradually, organized the place and finally – FINALLY – I feel like both the room and myself are in a state I can be content with for the rest of my time here.

Too bad I now have to focus all my energy on going back….but I digress.

Without any further blathering, I present you, at last, with some photos of my apartment. It’s not perfect, but I can accept that I will never be flawlessly tidy. I’m too much of a clutter-bug, and to be honest I want to keep it that way!

uchi

I apologize that Photostitch made the join a little bit wonky, but you get the idea.

And, as an add-on, you get some Halloween-related pictures, because I was too lazy to post about it at the time. You’ll note that I don’t show my kids faces. That’s to protect their privacy and to protect myself legally. I wish I could show their cute smiles, but I DARE NOT! So just enjoy their cute…hands?

pumkin people

Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes...just like people!

(more…)

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I must apologize to any readers that I may or may not have, now or in the future, for being so lax with keeping this updated. It’s been simply ages since I wrote anything. For that I’m sincerely sorry.

I have, however, been diligently keeping a paper journal. I’d like to keep this journal more up to date from here on out. Although I’m not sure whether Kimchi will join on, and I’m not sure whether the comic componant that we thought about will ever become a reality, I still think that my experience here in Japan is valuable and worth sharing.

That being said, rather than quoting my back-dated paper journal straight away, I’ll begin with a story that happened just five minutes ago.

Culture. It’s a loaded word. Its pronounced bunka in Japanese, and it’s a word that pops up a lot. Understandable, in a country rightfully proud of its culture.

The kanji for bun (文) stands for “art” or “literature.” I find this fitting, as it is indeed in these forms that the Japanese tend to express themselves. There are plenty of wonderful Japanese styles of painting, ceramics, flower-arranging, kimono wearing, music, calligraphy, and even martial arts that one could classify as art and/or culture here in Japan. I would even go so far as to say that they turn just about anything they do into an art.

But when everything you do is an art, there isn’t a whole lot of room for interpretation. This is a culture where harmony is paramount. There is a proper way to everything, right down to the very words you use, and there are some things that are simply not done.

Bearing that in mind, it is extremely fun to mess with their heads.

men-greeting-each_~1259879For example, shown a picture of how people in Saudi-Arabia greet one another and told to greet their friends in that same way, how do you suppose they react? By screaming at the top of their lungs, it would seem.

Fair enough. They only needed to make the gesture, anyway, and we did manage to calm them down after about 15 seconds straight screaming. You might suppose that 6th graders would react better. Well! Good luck getting them to even shake each other’s hands, especially if the other party is a girl!

However, this is precisely the reason why I think ALTs are a valuable resource for Japanese people, young and old. There aren’t a whole lot of foreigners around in Japan. More specifically, there are almost none in the rural areas of Japan. I think having a few about the place helps the kids realize that, outside of their little island, there is a whole world out there, full of culture other than their own. I think having a flesh-and-blood foreign person standing there saying, “Yes, in my country French people will greet you buy kissing your cheek,” is a useful eye-opener for them. It is not, in fact, muri (impossible)! You just get used to it. Whether or not they remember their English class when they actually encounter such a situation is hard to say, but I’m happy to have contributed in some small way to their global cultural knowledge. If I can leave them with one thing when I go, it will be with the desire to learn and with it the ability to think outside the box. At least I like to think the two go hand in hand.

I hope they’ll find ways to express themselves, and not just their culture.

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