Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jan 24th-27th (Yes I'm aware it's nearly May)

Marked a bunch of essays about Japanese manga today. I thought it would be all fan-gushing, but they were actually pretty deep and I even learnt from them. Some memorable quotes – (for the effects of manga in Japan and the world)

They “communicate with foreign people about Japanese things.” And in relation to this, foreigners “regard [Japanese] as always with katana.” I don’t know about you, but I definitely imagine all Japanese with secret swords.

Definitely a more sensitive point raised was this one. “the hero or heroine is like oneself…the characters can be everything we want…we imitate motions.” It was very smart and definitely explained a lot to me about why they are so popular here. It is a form of escapism where you are an entirely different kind of person.

Used Bon Jovi in my classes today. They love him. Also, I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned this yet, but I think roughly 20% of my class time is spent on shuffling. Every time I need something handed back to me it goes through this process. Student one flattens out the their sheet and hands it to student two. Student two flattens out both their own and student ones sheets into one pristine bundle. Then hands bundle to student three, who reshuffles their own sheet into the mix and makes sure every corner is matching. Who hands it to student four. And so on. It finally gets to the teacher, who proceeds to re-straighten all the sheets before handing them to me. Who stuffs them unceremoniously into a basket.

More marking today. This time it’s the question “what would you do with a gap year?” I thought I would get a bunch of “travel, party, sleep” responses. The first of them seemed to be in a panic, as if the question was an imposed punishment that they might receive if they didn’t make it clear enough why they didn’t want it. It went along the lines of, “I would be a year behind in my study. I would have to read many books and work twice as hard to remain on the same level as my university peers.” Etc. This pretty much set the tone, most responses including something akin to “you must study” “you must work” (to pay for study), etc.

A volcano erupted!! Shinmoedake, about 40km away from me. I didn’t notice it happen, but knew something was up when I was suddenly biking through pouring ash and grit. It got in the eyes so bad! By the time I got to Kelly’s I was a bleary eyed apocalypse coated mess. She lent me a dust mask, and we ventured out into the storm. Visibility was seriously low, and everything was eerily grey. We were the only ones flipping out, for everyone else it seemed business as usual. We even passed one man washing his car while ash was still falling on it.

We then took advantage of the situation as adults, to graffiti Kelly’s car. We wrote “Go Home Gaijin!” and “I love English!” It’s so hard to rebel in Japan.

Jodo, calf is slowly on the mend. Walked back home through the ash, watching it puff out from each oncoming car. Everything went slowly, due to ash covering all the roadsigns/lines/kerbs/any semblence of concrete location. Biking home felt like biking in the middle of a vacuum cleaner bag. Nothing to distinguish one thing from any other.

Went to sleep, only to wake up at 1am with my verandah door rattling. I lay in bed for a good half hour daring myself to get up and see who it was and trying to talk myself out of the reality of gaijin stalkers and crazy rice paddy dwelling men, when it started at the window. I jumped up and pulled open the curtain. It is a totally eery feeling to get up, open a rattling door, to find noone there. There was not a breath of wind. Yet it still shakes in your hand, as if something desperately wants in. As I was standing there the window in the other room started rattling even louder than the door. Cut to an hour later, where I am shuffling through my apartment with a roll of tape, taping up doors and windowpanes. Back to sleep at 4am.

6am, back up for another day of work. On my way out to my bike, it looks like it has snowed. Over an inch of ash covers everything. Still, children must be taught. On my bike! At my desk, rubbing the grit out of my eyes, the biggest teacher laughs and mimics me, meowing like a cat. I have a limited but enthusiastic conversation with the ladies at work, where all I have to do is mime shaking, and they fall over themselves agreeing with me. I also learn the Japanese onomatopoeia for window panes rattling. (It’s paddapaddapadda).

During lunch, I fall asleep at my desk, with my head in my arms. (This is normal practice in Japan). When I wake up, I find a note saying “otsukarasamadesu” on my hand. How it got there without my noticing I have no idea. But I kept the note, because it is meaningful on so many levels. Otsukarasama literally translates to “you must be tired”. But the usage is different, it is said often on the completion of anything, to mean “you have worked hard”. So this note was suspicious yet funny on the basis of its literal and connotative meaning. Yay word fun!

Today I also had my workplace evaluation. This was a pep talk of the highest degree. All my scores were perfect, making me 100% Oriko-San. (Remember our lesson – young studious child). Without making you sick with my self love I’ll just quickly say the point that I thought was most important and made me the most happy, which was that they said I created a good atmosphere wherever I was. No-one can ask for more really! Also the principal said my “facial expression is always… Very splendid.” Yus.