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Reflections on my third paycheck

2009 October 17

Phew, all caught up on major event blog posts! Things are backdated, so just scroll down and look for new titles. Also, there’s a ton of new photos on Flickr – although one particular album is being a pain in the butt to sync, so if a post does that “Photo not Available” thing, that’s probably what’s going on.

As for this post, there’s no special theme here; just short tidbits I wanted to share.

• Here’s a video I recorded weeks ago on my old digital camera and have been too lazy to upload. I thought I’d capture the evening song that plays in central Hamada city every night. When I recorded this at September, it was played at 6 PM; now that October has begun the winter season, it’s been moved up to 5 PM. The morning song is still at 6, I think, and the noon song is always at 12 PM exactly.

• I’m so grateful for my eikaiwa group! I told them I couldn’t charge them for our classes, but they’ve decided to bring me various Japanese sweets as payment. Additionally, one of them was working the flea market at the university festival and brought me two very warm coats that were too big for her. Just in time, too; mornings and evenings are all of a sudden cold here, and I’m starting to really feel the lack of central heating! (And speaking of heating, I dragged the space heater out of the closet, and it definitely explains the kerosene tank on the porch. I’m thinking I might want to invest in an electric model and avoid the risks of inhalation.)


• I have a 3rd and 4th grade class combined from two schools once a month, and yesterday we had a Halloween party. The kids made their own costumes, mostly out of cardboard and trash bags, and went trick-or-treating around the first floor of the school. Then I helped them make (a rough approximation of) candy corn! The homemade recipe I found at the Urban Housewife was perfect, although another site suggested low heat instead of medium. Corn syrup is not available in Japan, but liquid sweetener made of vegetable-derived oligosaccharides – called オリゴ for short – works perfectly. Also, instead of just making a straight rectangle like the recipe suggests, I found making concentric circles of the dough and then cutting them created perfectly colored candy corn. Thanks to the other ALTs for coming over and helping me with the test run; I’m super happy with how easy it is to make this stuff, and although some of the kids found the dough hard to work with, afterward they told me they all enjoyed eating it.

• After the calligraphy exhibition the other weekend, one of the teachers who invited me followed up with me about taking a calligraphy class myself. Tuesday night she took me to a small classroom where I had my first lesson. I really do have to learn to sit seiza, which is incredibly difficult, even with the little assisting chairs the teacher has. I also find the brush position stressful, since it has to be held vertically and moved very deliberately, but I know this will get easier a lot faster than seiza will. Still, I made it through the first three grades’ worth of material (writing くり、きのこ、and まんげつ), and the teacher finds my work good for a beginner, even if I’m not happy with it just yet. (Actually, I forget that I have these with me; I’ll take pictures of them and make a separate blog post about this.) Next week I’ll graduate to basic kanji; I hope I can handle it! Watching the adult students copying classical Chinese poems is really incredible. Also, there’s a junior high school student studying on Tuesdays who’s going to practice his English with me. 🙂

• I’ve already mentioned it once, but if you find elections in America annoying, never ever move to Japan. The election season is a lot shorter here, but that’s probably because of how annoying it is. The city council election is this weekend, and the mayor is up for reelection as well. Every day from 8 in the morning till probably about 8 at night, the candidates are driven around in cars fitted with loudspeakers through with their campaign coordinators constantly announce their presence in obnoxiously formal Japanese. “Good morning! Good morning! This is So-and-so! So-and-so! Thank you for your support; we will fight very hard!” Every now and then, the car will stop, and the candidate will get out and give a speech flanked by their campaign staff in suits and armbands. I couldn’t sleep in on Saturday thanks to my neighborhood candidate arriving to give a speech probably at the store outside my apartment building and then being driven around the neighborhood.


The mayor of Hamada takes time out of his office at City Hall to… stop his campaign car directly across the street from City Hall and give a speech about why he should be reelected.


My local candidate stopped at a stop light and talking to a supporter. There are two Ushios running in Hamada, so this one’s campaign car emphasizes his first name, Hiromi. I actually met him when he came into the BoE one day; he’s an anthropologist who lived in Nepal for a while, and he speaks good English. He even said “good morning” to me as I passed his campaign car on my way to work on Friday. 🙂

Today was the last day of campaigning before the election, so the cars were out in force. I thought I’d record a little snippet for you to hear. Sorry about the relatively boring view; that truck didn’t even have the candidate’s name on it!

• My students are prone to preemptively giving up on long sentences or relatively fast speech from the textbook CD and saying, “わかんない” (“I dunno”) in very exasperated tones. Sometimes it gets very irritating to them, especially when they think they’re not interested in the subject. But during comment time at the end of every class, some of my students will say, “At first I didn’t understand, but then I got it, so I’m glad,” or, “I didn’t get it, but I want to, so I’ll work hard next time and hopefully I’ll get it.” Those are my favorite comments.

• I had an issue with some teachers, usually young and male, communicating awkwardly. They seemed a little bit nervous around me, so they got super-polite, but super-polite Japanese involves some very formal words and phrases that I don’t know as well as their plainer counterparts. This meant I usually had to get them to repeat what they had said, which made them more nervous, and sometimes even more formal… Luckily, at least one of the people who was doing this seems to have relaxed a lot after having several lessons together, and communicating with him is a lot easier now. Either he’s more at ease or my Japanese is getting better… possibly both, but I know at least the former is true. 🙂

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2009 October 20 3:26 am

    The evening song sounds like the melody “Going Home,” by Dvorak, which I believe is from his ninth (“New World”) symphony.

    • 2009 October 24 1:48 pm

      Apparently I’m the only Cohen that can’t identify Dvorak. 🙂 I’ll try to record the other two city songs and see what we get!

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