Monday, August 28, 2006

The Screaming Mee Mees

Japanese Cicada
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Not the Kiwi band of my youth but Japanese cicadas.(semi).For the past month or so their morning chorus ,a metallic mee mee has awoken me from my sweaty summer slumber.Of course a repeat performance is held each dusk.
A high pitched decibel deafening sound that each summer fights to be heard above the cacophony of a noisy Nagoya.
Towards the end of August their dead,dessicated spent corpses litter the streets and footpaths.I found this windblown hulk near my front door.
The first sign that summer is drawing to a close and the more user friendly autumn is at hand....

I Could Go at Any Time...

Another boiling week.Punctuated by a sharp jolt Friday night.A reminder that like New Zealand, Japan is prone to earthquakes.
I recalled the Neil Finn lyrics"I could go at anytime/Theres nothing safe about this life" earlier in the week on hearing the plight of several people I know.One returning from an Asian vacation was struck down by some mystery illness.After four days in hospital and a battery of tests he's still none the wiser.
Life is fragile.Short if you happen to be a cicada.Tragically short in the case of three children drowned last weekend.Their car was hit from behind.It then plummeted off a bridge.The family was returning from a day out bettle hunting....

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Flash

Takeout Sushi Lunch
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Yesterdays lunch from the bento shop at Tajimi Station.With another 36 degree centigrade day and bathed in sweat due to the humidity the sushi pack seemed ideal for lunch.
Located in an area surrounded by low hills Tajimi City in Central Japan regularly is one of the hottest places in Japan over summer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking

Paper Mache Lizard
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Another hot, busy week.Temperatures remain high.I had a friend stay over the last week as he sorted himself out a new apartment.Did well considering it was the middle of the Bon holiday break.Many businesses were closed for the vacation.One also has to factor in such matters as 1) many landlords dont want foreign tenants, 2) the language barrier and 3) the initial set up costs.
As well as paying for the real estate agents time and services you have to fork out for a fee to pay the cleaning company before you move in and other numerous charges including the two months rent in advance etc,etc.It all adds up.

I felt sorry for Peter as he kipped on my kitchen floor.Despite having a portable fan the heat rarely dropped below 30 degrees.Luckily his new apartment comes equipped with a new air conditioning unit.

I've never got round to getting one.Not just the price puts me off.I dont know how long I'd use it or if I actually need one.Sure it gets hot in my apartment and it can be uncomfortable at times to sleep.But its only for a month or so.I can always use my portable fan should it get unbearable.Air conditioning seems to make me more susceptible to colds and germs.Besides I usually lose a few kilos in summer due to the heat so not having a/c has its benefits.

On Mondays the school I work at is located in a huge shopping complex.The a/c is always set too cold.Last week some students were shivering and I ended the day reeling with a headache and sore throat.Seems absurd to resort to wearing a jumper in the middle of summer.There is nothing that can be done as its controlled from a central control point for the whole mall.

Paper Mache Reptile.
Finally got round to completing this creature in the photo above.Been working on it over the last couple of months.Some minor finishing touches and its done.Not sure what I'll do next.probably not reptiles as the last three have been frogs and lizards.....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Flash

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
A local variation of KitKats.A student gave me this packet of melon flavoured KitKats that comes from Hokkaido.They have a rather odd sweet cloying taste.
Hokkaido is renowned for its melons both the rock melons and the more common garden variety.During summer melons are often given as presents the more expensive ones cost anything from 10,000yen upwards.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Traditionally its a quiet time of year...

Monday 14th August 2006.
The peak of O-Bon holiday break.Trains are reported as being packed to 120 per cent capacity.Not only dangerous but to my mind logically impossible.Yesterday 16 people drowned in Japan.The result of water accidents.Rivers,lakes,oceans,pools.

A busy week at work.The large number of students and the lack of instructors gives lie to the badly scrawled notice on the teachers room wall.."Traditionally August is a quiet time of the year...
Been a surge in the number of students wanting TOEIC classes.There are four tests each year.The next is at the end of August.Hence the demand.I had five of my eight lessons yesterday related to TOEIC.

TOEIC classes make a pleasant change from regular Nova lessons.For one thing they are organised and well thought out.They have a point.A bit more nuts and bolts.Hands on.You can help students differentiate between "Im boring" and "Im bored".Present to love em.TOEIC classes give the oppurtunity to explore and examine grammar.Something Nova doesnt address in its teacher training or lessons.To the detriment of students.In fact teaching grammar is not exactly encouraged or frowned upon by the powers that be.One could suggest that would require more training and upskilling than Nova is prepared to provide rather than its current policy of recruiting any English speaking native fresh out of university....
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.Published by Penguin Books.476 pages.
Finished the book last Friday.Watched the John Ford movie over the weekend.The film ended on a more optimistic,hopeful note than the novel.
The book changes the sequence of events.Instead of moving from the well run government camp to the prison like private Hooper Ranch camp as in the book the order is reversed.There is no sense of desperation or a downward spiral of failure.Battling the odds and losing.
The film did stick faithfully to the dialogue and conversations of the main characters.It also provided a few images that the printed word couldnt.The shadow of the family falling across the bulldozer tracks as it demolishes their house.Or the shots of the Hooverville settlements.
I dont know why it took me so long to read this.It wasnt assigned reading at school.With its tale of migrant workers and economic exploitation it raises issues as relevant and pressing today as when it was first published in 1939.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Flash

Friday Flash
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Wagashi is a seasonal Japanese confectionery.There are different kinds using various ingredients.The flower sweets above are made from wasanbon(high grade premium fine Japanese sugar).
According to some of my students they are used as decorations and offerings to your dead relatives during the O-Bon festival.
The O-Bon festival is like an annual family reunion where people return to their home towns to visit and clean their ancestors graves.
O-Bon is celebrated in either July or August depending on whether you live in Eastern or Western Japan.
At the end of the festival the sweets are used in a shoro nagashi ceremony(spirit of the dead ceremony).Again these ceremonies vary according to local areas and customs.
In some areas the sweets are put on lanterns or boats and floated down streams and rivers.In places near the sea, apparently the sweets are thrown into the ocean as offerings to the departed family relatives..

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monkey See Monkey Do

Monkey See Monkey Do
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
I had my six month class observation last Thursday.My boss sits in a cubicle behind me as I instruct.After the class theres a feedback lesson with him.He tells me what I did well and how to improve on other areas.
Overall a useful exercise.I thought the lesson was only average.He thought otherwise so who am I to disagree.
Throughout the feedback session I got the feeling that because Im older,been there longer and therefore had more experience he was often on edge,nervous and at times even apologetic.An interesting contrast to when he's not one on one ,face to face.Strutting round the school carrying sheaths of unimportant paper full of his own self importance.
Whatever the results dont carry much weight unlike the end of contract evaluations so Im not too worried.We did talk about repeat lessons and ways to vary them.I`m happy theres some leeway and freedom being given as far as lesson planning is concerned.As one colleague remarked recently "Im feeling guilty teaching the same students the same thing for the fourth time"....

Of Cockroaches,Earwax and Things

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The Met Office announced the official end of the Rainy Season late last week.Since then the weather has been blazing.
Round the mid 30`s in Nagoya.Today Monday the forecast was for 34degrees,dropping to a balmy 25 degrees at night.
One unfortunate result of the extended rainy season has been the increase in vegetable prices.Dull days,too much rain,too liitle light have pushed up prices.This week the green-grocer was asking 280yen for a shrivelled,shrunken head of lettuce.Usual price 150yen.

Anyways,summer isnt all sunshine and beer gardens.unfortunately it also brings with it goki-buri or cockroaches.I had the equivalent of an insect home invasion this weekend.Raided by four of them seeking shelter from the heat.The one in the photo was the biggest.I think the most unnerving thing apart from their speed is their ability to fly.
It doesnt matter how clean one keeps the place they still arrive unannounced like Mormons or the NHK TV guy.In fact it appears that an inverse relationship operates.Cleaning and vaccuming seems to attract rather than deter the critters.
However there are plenty of baits,poisons and traps to combat them.
My favorite is the cockroach hotel.Its a small covered box.Once attracted by the bait they become immoblished in a sticky substance equivalent to sinking sand.Struggling merely brings a quicker end.

As for ear wax I havent ever been able to find any liquid ear drops in Japan.I usually get some on holidays or get friends to bring some back.Students Ive asked are oblivious to its existence.Of course cotton buds are available or their local counterpart a thin strip of bamboo with a small scoop like bowl at one end.

Things...Currently reading "The Grapes of Wrath" by Steinbeck.Part history,part novel and sociology.One of the reading highlights of the year for me....

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday Flash..

Tajimi Summer Festival
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
One of the highlights of the Tajimi Summer Festival Fireworks display is the Niagara Falls display.About a hundred metres in length and hung from three cranes above the Toki River the display lasts for about three minutes at most
.It looks spectacular like a fiery giant waterfall.Once again my photo doesnt really capture this impressive spectacle,although you can get some idea of the light and smoke produced....