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Amparo Bertram

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05:38 pm: English seminar
I rode my bike to the women's college where the English seminar was held today. On the way, I passed a house that had a peacock in a cage in the yard. Whoa, so totally not something I expected to see.

The seminar went all right. We had exchange students talk about their experiences overseas, and several students gave speeches in various foreign languages (as part of the "international" theme). My speech was cut down to 15 minutes, which I didn't really mind, since I was ad-libbing it anyway. I talked slowly and did a lot of miming. I mimed trying to buy a couch and getting lost...clutching my purse like a paranoid maniac because I have to carry huge wads of cash around everywhere...and trying to balance five bags of groceries on my bicycle. The latter got the most laughs. This was followed by an hour-long lecture (in Japanese) from our guest speaker, who was raised in Northern Ireland and later came to Japan and married a Japanese man. She spoke in keigo and slipped into perfect Kansai-ben in appropriate places and everything. I was really impressed. The contents of the lecture, essentially about how the students will have to make their way in an international world and thus have to both work hard to get ahead and stop viewing non-Japanese as simply gaijin. It was the kind of speech that most young people need to hear but don't understand until they've grown up and realize it was actually true.

Afterward, we all had lunch in the college dining hall. The students had a set lunch prepared and set out for them...meat, of course. I guess I was spoiled by the summer seminar, where they provided special meals for the two vegetarians, so I hadn't bothered to bring a lunch. I bought some meal tickets for things I could eat, though, so that was okay.

When asked their impressions afterward, the third-year students said the seminar was boring because all they did was sit and listen to speeches. (Apparently in previous years there was time for free-talk and question-and-answer sessions.)

In the activity for that class, we had a "guessing game," in which each student thought of an object/animal/person and then wrote several clues about it. We went around the room having the students read off their clues and letting the rest of the class guess. The hardest one was "biological weapon," put forward by the same girl whose scary story I quoted earlier. One of the girls had the following clues:

  1. He spent a lot of money over the past four years
  2. He's stupid but he won
  3. He likes wars

(She had two more clues, but nobody needed them.)

After school, the principal came to my desk to comment on the way I walked all over the stage during my speech at the seminar, and that it was a technique that gave him "something to think about." I'm hoping this is a good thing. I mainly did it because that way it would be harder for the students to fall asleep. (Plus it's hard to mime riding a bicycle while standing in place.)

Tomorrow morning I'll be judging a speech competition held at the same place. In exchange for working on Saturday, I'm getting next Tuesday afternoon off. I chose that day because the only class I have is the Listening one, in which the only thing I do is call on students to answer what are either multiple choice or either/or questions. (I don't even know why I'm assigned to be in the class. They don't need a native speaker for that.) Anyway, the teacher of the class decided that, since I won't be there, he'll just show a movie...as if without me it's simply too difficult to hold a lesson. I don't quite understand this, but <shrug> I'm sure the kids will be glad.

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