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Amparo Bertram

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08:12 pm: Idle hands
I have decided that three classes a day is just about ideal. Five is really pushing it. Four is do-able, particularly if *someone else* does the planning (which doesn't happen much), but still tiring. (Keep in mind when I say this that I never teach the same lesson twice on the same day. So when I say five classes, that's five different lessons.)

Spending the rest of my time reading at my desk to recharge is all fine and dandy, but it results in me going through books like crazy. To slow down the pace a little, I decided to start a bit of crochet work. The problem is acquiring yarn to work with. The local department store has *some* yarn, but only in skeins of about 1oz. apiece, and in a very limited selection of colors. Cotton crochet thread for more delicate work has an even more restricted range of colors. I looked up the nearest yarn shop in the phone book, but when I went to check it out, it was closed. The sign on the door was written in calligraphy, and thus difficult to decipher, but I believe it stated that the shop was closed due to a fire. There are other yarn shops listed in the yellow pages, but mostly in other cities, so I won't be able to go check them out until the weekend. (Oh, well, Thursday and Friday are my busiest days anyway.)

Teaching a class that has students of very different levels is tricky. One of my classes today was about writing; the students were assigned to write a one-paragraph essay. Some students finished in about fifteen minutes, while some only had a couple of short sentences by the end of the hour. One girl wrote about three paragraphs and still finished early. I suppose the upside is that we were working in the language lab, which is essentially a multimedia computer lab, so the ones who finished early could occupy themselves playing solitaire on the computer. I felt bad, though, because I know I should offer more challenges to students who are high achievers...but they were already writing longer paragraphs and using more sophisticated vocabulary than the other students, so just telling them to write more seems unfair. One girl who finished very quickly immediately turned to start helping the girl next to her, doing things like pointing out structures in the example I gave them that could be modified to convey what she wanted to say. That was kind of her, but I also wouldn't feel right asking her to do the same thing every week, especially when there are already two teachers in the room to answer questions and give pointers.

One amusing incident...there was one girl goofing off instead of trying to write, and I countered her excuse with, "Oh, no no no no..." She later told me that her family name is "Nono."

Yesterday I ordered an application for the Japanese Proficiency Test that's given in December. (The deadline to apply is apparently this Sunday.) I'm thinking of applying to take the level 1 (hardest) proficiency test, assuming I can get all the materials in the mail in time. I already passed level 3 years ago, and the level 2 problems we studied at JCMU were a breeze, but I hear there's a large gap in difficulty between level 2 and level 1. We'll see how that turns out.



[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2004 05:28 am (UTC)
Teaching multiple levels sucks. I still have no answers or ideas that makes it easier.

Good luck on the exam! I want to hear how that goes!

What are your future plans? Would you like to continue teaching in Japan indefinitely? Would you like to relocate there permanently with visits back? What are you thinking? You seem very good at what you do, and seem to enjoy it and the country very much.

I continue to enjoy your cultural updates.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2004 01:50 pm (UTC)
Would you like to continue teaching in Japan indefinitely?

Japan is a great place to visit, but after a couple years the stress from little things builds up. For example, not being able to get the kind of food one wants--it's really amazing the effect food can have on one's mood. Not being able to drive a car. Not having a clue what one's friends from home are talking about when they drop references to the latest hit commercial/TV series/song. Being constantly complimented on ridiculously simple things like the ability to use chopsticks, which reinforces how much one is seen as an outsider. It's generally nothing huge, nothing that one can really point to and say "that's unbearable," but small frustrations accumulate.

That said, I can't be completely satisfied living in the States either, because the reverse conditions apply and I start to miss things that I could acquire or do very easily in Japan. Being able to step into the nearest bookstore and pick up the latest Kayata Sunako novel on the day it's published, for example. Kirin milk tea. The convenience of riding a shinkansen. Being in a country where people never leave shopping carts in the parking lot. The eight-story Animate in Ikebukuro. Thus, I wind up spending a great deal of money ordering things online and being jealous of my friends who live close enough to a big city to shop at Kinokuniya.

What are your future plans?

My *ideal* future, I think, would be to have my novel accepted by Cobalt or one of the other publishers and being taken on as a full-time writer. I don't know what my chances of that are, though I know for a fact I'm a better writer than some of the authors they're publishing. In any case, I would most likely live in the US and come back to visit Japan occasionally.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2004 03:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, that sounds familiar... I lived in England for two years while studying at Oxford. Before going there, I always thought I'd jump at the chance to live there all my life. At the end of two years, though I loved my time there, I was eager to go "home."

I really admire people who successfully manage to settle permanently in another country -- above all else, no matter what the personal rewards, it's exhausting. Being treated like an outsider (even by the nicest people), struggling to get culture-specific jokes, missing stuff from home, all that. I can imagine there being excellent personal or business reasons to choose to emigrate, but I'm sort of grateful not to have had to make the choice. So far, anyway.

Hope you meet your goal one day! Is your novel in Japanese or English?

PS. And after 14 years, I STILL miss proper fish and chips.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2004 04:00 pm (UTC)
Is your novel in Japanese or English?

It's in Japanese. I started planning it a year ago with wednesday_10_00 and this spring I managed to convince my professor at JCMU to let me write it as my independent study project. (This was very generous of him, because he had to read and correct the whole thing.) It's the first book in a series that we designed to include all of our favorite fantasy elements without any of the annoying cliches. The series universe is based on a cross between StarGate and Buffy, though slanted toward a Japanese audience.

Regardless of whether it's ever published, I'm planning on printing up an English version eventually.
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