Monthly Archives: January 2013

Small Teaching Joys

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Sometimes, just as the frustration is beginning to rise and you’re losing patience or tolerance, the universe sends you a little sign that there is still some good left in whatever crummy situation you are in. I had one such moment last week. I was at work, bogged down by marking and test preparations, recovering from a nasty cold, tired as all hell because the nasty cold wouldn’t allow me to sleep the night before and constantly staring at the clock to see that lovely moment when I could run home to the comfort of my bed. Then I got a letter from a student. 

She is one of the few students who makes an effort to converse beyond “hi Sasha” in  the hallways. She gave me the letter to thank me for the key chain I had brought back from Singapore for her (and two other students) to congratulate them on their constant effort to speak English outside of class. I mean, that is such a rare thing that I figured I should reward them. 

That little letter really reminded me of why I am here which is largely to foster appreciation and understanding of foreign cultures. Beyond that, I am also here to be the approachable foreigner, the bridge between the Japanese world and all that is outside it.  I was so happy when I got that letter, because it was another move in the direction of positive interaction.

Impressive English aside, I loved her genuine curiosity in my travels. It went beyond “do you like Singapore?”. She wanted to know about the food and recommendations for places to visit. She told me about things she had read about the country and asked me whether they were true or not. If you’re not an ALT in Japan this might all seem trivial, but believe me, such inquisitiveness and desire for knowledge from a student, especially regarding a place OUTSIDE of Japan (more so, one that is not the great US of A), was refreshing. It reminded me that one of my responsibilities here is to open the minds of my students to the world outside of this box they are in. To let them ask questions, to let them actually think of questions to ask, to give them answers and expose them to aspects of foreign culture that their own society often doesn’t. You’d be surprised at the number of Japanese people who have no interest in the world outside Japan. 

Needless to say, the letter was the highlight of my week. I wonder what small joys will come my way this week. Have a great week folks!

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2012 Progress Report and 2013 Goals

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Time to reflect on the year that was. Here are the resolutions I made and the success I had with them:

-develop abs

No abs

-be able to bend over and touch my toes/the ground without bending my knees (how I will be able to do this is beyond me…I’m the least flexible person I’ve ever met in life)

I started going to yoga to help with my flexibility and overall fitness. However, I quickly realized that the steel and pins in my back were not cooperating with that whole bend like a pretzel thing and I had to stop. I think I will restart though, now that I understand my limits

-be able to order a meal at a Japanese restaurant without assistance

Sort of. My Japanese hasn’t improved much. I think what it is is that I have actually gotten better with my gestures. It also depends on the type of restaurant I go to. I will never, ever, ever be able to understand kanji but if it’s katakana I might be able to understand something on the menu. We have a long way to go for this one.

-save atleast 20,000 yen a month (about 22,000 Ja which is very, very, very low and doable)

Yes, yes and yes. Money in the BAAAANK. Perhaps my biggest success of 2012. Let’s just say I’ve certainly met this goal.

-decide what I want to do in grad school, where I want to do it and how I’m gonna get it done

I’ve decided on an area of study, I have an idea of where it will get done and my only hope is that I am accepted into the programmes I’ve looked into. 

High points included welcoming my nephew into the world, hosting my cousin in Japan for a month, surprising my father by taking a trip to Jamaica and travelling to South East Asia (again). I couldn’t help but feel that the year, overall,was pretty lackluster though especially when I compared it to 2011 which was all manner of awesomeness. There was very little spark and excitement. That said, perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed a relaxed year. Maybe it was the universe giving me some time to just reflect and be calm, to prepare for an amazing 2013. Who knows? I think perhaps what I’m happiest about as far as 2012 was concerned was that everyone close to me came out alive and well. 

Now, I suppose that because my birthday is January 1st, the concept of making resolutions holds a little more weight for me. I mean it really is a NEW year for me; not just a new calendar year but a new year of life. As such, even when I want to be like other folks and throw making resolutions to the wayside, I never do. Here are my resolutions for 2013:

1. Make it to 100 lbs

2. Keep saving that 20,000 yen a month (about the same as the JA dollar)

3. Grow out my hair a full 5 inches longer

4. Write more. I’ve been told it’s my talent. I ought to make an attempt to tap into it and see where it can go. Investing in my craft and all these things…

That’s it. All doable. What are yours? 

Good health, happiness and prosperity this year! Have a great 2013