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Amparo Bertram

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12:35 pm: English Seminar
I just got back from my first official duty, teaching at a two-day English seminar for the freshman class (10th grade) that started the school year this April. The class was broken up into three groups of about 13 students each, and on the first day I was responsible for teaching the same 50-minute lesson to all three groups. (Two other ALTs attended so that together we kept all three groups occupied.) My lesson touched briefly on the similarity between Michigan and Shiga (big lakes) by using construction paper fish with English words in them (the students had to "fish" them up off the floor with a magnet, which got them out of their seats and broke the ice a bit) combined with English Battleship. On the second day, the three native speakers judged a speech contest.

The seminar was held at a rather shabby and surprisingly vacant hotel. The best thing about the hotel was that it served amazing vegetarian food for me and the other vegetarian ALT, Rachael, who will be working at Moriyama's middle schools. The worst thing was that it was infested with mosquitoes.

I didn't get to sleep until past 1am for a number of reasons.
  • The girls were running up and down the hall, laughing and yelling to each other, until past midnight. I kept wondering why the Japanese teachers didn't tell them to be quiet. The teacher in charge announced in his closing speech that he would have said something, but he thought it was more important for them to strengthen their friendships than to be quiet. I feel that they had *plenty* of opportunity to strengthen friendships by 10pm, and after that it ought to have been time for them to LET PEOPLE SLEEP.
  • Mosquitoes. There were two mosquitoes (that I eventually squished) in my room, one of which bit me at the corner of my eye shortly after midnight. By morning, the bite had swollen to the point that I looked like I had been punched in the face, though at least it wasn't purple. I think my glasses hid most of the swelling.
  • Heat. Every time I turned the air conditioner on, it turned itself off again after only a few minutes, leaving me tossing and turning and sweating. Finally, when I resigned myself to getting up and turning on the light to hunt down the mosquitoes, I noticed that it was set on an automatic timer to shut off at night. After I switched off the timer, it stayed on properly as an air conditioner should. I considered telling the other two ALTs, since neither of them can read Japanese, but it was so late at night I decided not to disturb them.

    Needless to say, I wasn't feeling in tip-top shape when I went to breakfast, which was a buffet consisting mostly of pickled vegetables, buns, and rice. There were also what I thought were hard-boiled eggs, though I'm glad I didn't take any because they turned out to be raw. The teacher sitting across from me broke one of them over his bowl of rice, poured some soy sauce on top, mixed the whole thing together, and ate it. That was a very nasty thing to see first thing in the morning. Supposedly the heat of the rice somewhat cooks the egg, but unless his rice was a lot hotter than mine, there was no actual cooking going on. Interesting note: There was a sign on the buffet table listing prices for beer and sake for those who might want some alcohol with their breakfast.

    Another note, pointed out to me by Rachael: One of the girls changed into a T-shirt that depicted Thumper from Bambi shooting up with heroin and uttering obsenities. That would *so* not be allowed at a school function in the States.

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  • Comments

    [User Picture]
    Date:August 18th, 2004 05:42 am (UTC)
    Thumper? Heroin? Obscenities? OMG!!!!!!! I can't believe there was someone sick enough to make a T-shirt like that, let alone wear it, even if they can't understand the obscenities.

    I sympathize with the breakfast issues. I don't understand the raw egg, cold fish, and alcohol in the morning thing AT ALL. I am always grumpy when I have Japanese breakfasts... especially since I always seem to be paying a lot for it.

    Go you, deciphering the Evil Air Conditioner!

    Date:August 18th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC)
    Rachael took a picture of the shirt as evidence. I couldn't bring myself even to look at it fully.

    At least at the breakfast, as a buffet, there were plenty of non-raw-egg options I could choose. Plus I wasn't paying for it. In fact, each of the native speakers was given a ¥10,000 bill as payment for attending, which I thought was strange because I assumed it was included in our salary. Not that I am complaining at all, mind you.
    [User Picture]
    Date:August 18th, 2004 11:13 pm (UTC)
    Breakfast foods always seem to have a certain cultural relativity.

    I guess she might not have understood the t-shirt, kind of like:
    (yes, probably fake, but amusing)
    My family had an exchange student one time, and the first day she was here she asked us to explain her t-shirt, which turned out to be from a Scottish Clan MacSuibhne (McSweenie) gathering, written in Gaelic.
    Date:August 19th, 2004 02:21 pm (UTC)
    I will grant that there's a remote possibility she didn't know the words on the shirt (though English swear words are very widely understood here), but there's still the picture. I imagine it was some famous brand name product, and she (or her parents) bought it without even looking closely at it, or perhaps just because she likes Thumper. (Oh, Thumper, I'll never be able to think of you the same way again...) Even so, the teachers should have said something.
    [User Picture]
    Date:August 19th, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)
    If you see it again, you could take her aside and ask her how she'd feel if you wore a t-shirt making light of Hello Kitty's dark appetites.
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