So the hiccup that was last week has passed and all is well in Osato. I have returned to “Stage 1” and once again love every second of living and teaching in Japan. The struggle of dealing with ghosts and Japanese indirectness has actually made me stronger and better able to function on my own and in a foreign environment. Unfortunately, I feel like other hiccups will inevitably come but like a good, good friend of mine says: “revel in the struggle.”
In other news, I have started my official study of Japanese. Well, I’m still teaching myself but this time it is through an official program. Everyday at work I do one lesson out of the book and each month I have to take a test on the material. If I get a 70% or better on all the tests then I will receive a certificate in “Beginner Japanese.” In addition to the day’s lesson, I also give myself a daily quiz. Everyday I make myself write the hiragana and katakana charts, my name in Japanese, and the date/time. Once I master those I will add on other things like my address and other important kanji.
The best part of studying at school is that it gives me the opportunity to practice what I learn with the staff and students. The exchange also acts as a way to develop relationships and strengthen my rapport at school. The teacher who sits across from me gets the most of my awkward, poor Japanese but she is young, courteous, and funny.
One day when I was studying all the different counters in Japanese I held up my pencil–that has a pig on the top– and said “ip-pon” meaning one pencil. Then I said “ip-piki” which means one small animal. She then said in English: “the pig goes boo boo.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. When then went through some other animals and the sounds they make. Little did I know that different languages and cultures have different sounds to represent the sound certain animals make. Apparently the Japanese dog goes “wan wan” and the cat goes “nya nya.” This teacher is great because not only does she let me practice the lesson with her but she also throws in her own quips such as animal sounds. Awesome.
There is one more thing I’d like to post because I’m still laughing about it right now. After lunch, I got on the computer to check my email and what not. I may have mentioned this before, but in Japanese schools there are no janitors; the students are responsible for keeping the building clean. Everyday after lunch the students will dust, sweep, take out the trash etc. This applies to the staff room as well. There are about five students whose job is to attend to the staff room. Because they come in everyday I try to practice the Japanese lesson with them or quiz them on English stuff. Today though, they came up behind me and intentionally crept over my shoulder to see what I was doing. I decided to mess with them so I quickly opened Word and began typing English. One of the students caught on fast and began reading whatever I typed out loud. I had to run with this. So, the following text is exactly what I typed. Now imagine the students hovering over me and one of them reading the text the best they can. It was side-splitting. (oh, and the “f”s are because Japanese keyboards are different then American keyboards).
Can you read this?
Thatfs cool! You can read very well. Good job!
What is todayfs date?
Look behind you!! [i put my hand behind her head and opened it really wide]
Ok, it was me
Hahahahahaha [the student read out each “ha” in short breaths and I lost it]
Is that how you laugh?
Did you lose jan-ken-pon?
Did you lose?
Thatfs too bad. Better luck next time. Wakarimasu ka?
My name is Robert DeNiro Julian
Oh. Thatfs right.
My name is Robert Wesley Julian.
What is the capital of Japan?
Is it Sendai? Is it Osato? Is it Kyoto?
Are you sure itfs Osato?
Itfs in the Kansai area.
What big city is in the Kansai area?
Tokyo is the capital of Japan.
Washington D.C. is the capital of America.