Friday, January 22, 2010

Eye of the Tiger 2010


This music makes me wanna put on a bandana, some purple striped leotard, legwarmers, and start flashdancing across my 1R (one room) apartment. 2010 is almost 30 days gone and I haven't posted since September. Maybe I'm a quarterly blogger. That's not really blogging now, is it? That's like bl-ing. B.L.-ing. blo-ing? At any rate, I realized I had seriously fallen behind on my reading bloglist and felt inspired since reading the first Twilight book to update my blog.

Update Status: Since September, I survived worrying about my mother in the tsunami, wearing an elmo suit for two Halloween parties, spending Christmas in sweaty balls Samoa with mom and bro, and continuing the Japanese school year (April to March) with my VERY talkative class. Hmmm, where to start? Let's start at the very beginning....a very good place to start. Hell no! I'm no Fraulein Maria, that's for sure--except for the wicked youth part.

Anyway, Japan is cold as Edward Cullen's hand clenched with whitened tension at the thought of mauling his beloved Bella. lol. So I'm hooked on heat-tech underwear (hi-to-teku in Japanese) and have been known to wear two pairs under jeans and a sweater while indoors. I am still baffled at the nakedness that abounds during winter here. It's like end of summer wear, with Uggs, and a mask: Un-friggin-believable. More on the uniqueness that is Japan in another blog.

I have recommitted to Japanese lessons online with my teacher/friend (friecher? teachend?) Tomoko that I met while in NC. I stayed at her home a few days last summer and had a great time. Her family is very sweet and we always have a good laugh during our lessons. When I was living in NC, we had the time difference on our side so I could meet her 10 pm EST which was 10 am JST. Now that we live in the same time zone, we have to meet at 1030 pm during the week. Last night, I feel asleep during our 10 minute break...which is just wrong on so many levels. She laughed it off and said we could meet tonight. I'm such a ditz sometimes. (P.S. there was no alcohol involved.)

Which brings me to work...the reason for my exhaustion. (I am currently addicted to taurine and consume 3000 mg per day.) The 25 kids I teach are all almost 3 years old now, and I am proud to say I have helped create some English chatterboxes! I haven't met much success trying to create English chatterboxes out of my Japanese teaching partners, but they put up with my forgetfulness, horrible crafts, and a host of other quirks that come with me. :) I have made peace with the crafting pressure and have turned out some crafts that even they "ooh" and "ahh" at so there's a bright spot in that arena of my life. I don't even want to laminate my lips anymore. YAY.

Conclusion - Life is good. Be grateful for what is and hopeful for what can be. That's it for now. Have a great 2010 people!

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I came back from visiting Samoa last month. I attended a high school friend's wedding and conducted an unofficial feasibility study. I still don't have enough info to decide whether I can live at home again, probably because I will always be in a love-hate relationship with the place of my birth.

While checking in at Honolulu airport, I saw some relatives of a good friend as well as my first cousin and his son. Chatting with them was nice, but being around all those other poly eyeballs made me feel a little anxious. The counter clerk gasped at my luggage. "That's all you're checking in?" she remarked with a look of disbelief. "Yup," I replied. She called her coworkers over to look at two pieces that looked like handbags amongst the assortment of suitcases and taped up coolers bound for Pago Pago International Airport. "So small," she whispered. "I'm only visiting, not staying," I explained, laughing with relief.

"Let's get out of here," I half begged my sister who had already introduced me to two more frielatives in the short walk from check in to gate security. We went to have one last meal at a nearby restaurant. L&L is never a bad choice. The portions were though! My stomach was shocked at the size of the mini! I immediately considered restroom opportunities over the next few hours before deciding it was safe to eat all of the chicken katsu plate. It was fantastic! I rarely eat meat in Japan because it's just too expensive to me. She dropped me off back at the entrance for gates and I got through all the checkpoints without a problem, but then there was the departure gate line.

I finally get to my row and there's a woman already settled in her aisle seat. No problem. I tell her I'm inside and she moves. No problem. I'm getting my seat belt on and I realize something is missing. Pillow? Nope, got that here. Blanket? Ah, it's under here. WTF? She done pushed my armrest ALL THE WAY between our seats. The only part visible was the headset jack. Directly beneath that was HER ARM laid across the seat divider. And below that was HER LEFT HIP. Now looking at that hip as it touched mine made me feel reallllly anxious. "But Margaret, it's only a hip!" you say. NO people. This was not just a hip. It was part of what seemed like a HIP-PO to me after being in Japan for so long. I was trying to scoot all the way to the window so as not to interrupt this hip that was seated first....even before she was probably.

In all honesty, I would've cared less about the hip bonding had she just left my armrest down. I did what I could not to interrupt her and I didn't pull the armrest down or ask her to move. I just reclined my seat and pushed my fingers between the space on my side to get channels and volume changed. Five hours and no bathroom break later, I made it. Down the rickety deplaning staircase, into the humid hugs of Samoa air, and toward the entrance. It looked, smelled, and sounded exactly the same. We're in four immigration lines but people are just walking through the checkpoint. Not everyone, but like 5 or 6 people straight walked past everyone included the Federally funded Immigration Officer. Weird.

Everyone stood around the single luggage claim area-all 100 feet of conveyor belt-to get their bags. I still don't get how all the Asians in Samoa have like 8 large pieces of luggage before the belt gets moving. Weird. I pray for my bags to come quickly and roll both pieces to the inspection desk. Then I see him. A dude I used to make out with in high school---but he is like darker, older, and 200 pounds heavier. I shiver and my skin crawls just a little. He snickers at me and after I read his name tag, I say "Hello. How are you?" He immediately plays dumb while his hands are feeling up my electronic device wires. "Uh, what's your name?" (He is holding my passport) "It's Margaret." "Oi!" I do the obligatory kiss on the (sweaty) cheek and wait for him to zip up my two handbags before entering......the ABYSS!


Tetsuya's Coming to Charlotte!

Lately, Tetsuya has been bombarding me with weird questions about Charlotte. I usually end up getting angry because he speaks in such general terms whenever he asks cultural things. I mean, this kind of wording could get you killed in the US.

Things like:
"So, in America, every people has many guns?"
"American people likes war, right?"
"Shah-lotte is not famous. What is Sha-lotte famous somesing?"
"You don't know famous American sport team in Sha-lotte?"
"So Shah-lotte is white people only? Looks like white and black people only."
"How far is Wasington DC? We go to DC or New York City?"
"Everyday, I'm sinking about Nosu Carulaina."
"Are you ready?" - For what? "Nosu Carulaina." - That's in like two weeks. "It's coming soon."
"I'm so exciting for September 17. I can't wait."

Monday, June 22, 2009


I follow a few blogs and I am really amazed at the amount of writing that people are able to pump out. I have decided that I either need a time management coach, or I'm not a very good writer since my entries take so long to get the final "post" click. I love to talk and talk and talk in person, but since blogging, I have realized that I should pay closer attention to what I let come out of my mouth.

Anyway, here's my nutshell life cracked open for your convenience.

1) Sister and niece came for ten days. I never spent so much money, ate so much food, or saw so many cool parts of Osaka in such a short amount of time. Oh, and PS, me in Geisha wear reminds me of men in drag in Chinatown Hawaii circa 1992.
2) My toddler class is getting much better at toilet training, believe it or not. Of course, some days require gloves, a tough stomach, and lots of wipes, but all in all, it ain't that bad.
3) My Saturday class of kids is still a mystery to me, but they will see, oh yes, they will see what happens when I figure it all out. (insert evil laugh)
4) I took on Sunday work. See #1 sentence two for a partial explanation.
5) Kim Chee Bokkumbap is something I can cook by myself.
6) Don't EVER EVER EVER buy, rent, or watch this movie. EVER.
7) If you have 165 minutes, rent this movie Like Leonardo, the more I watch Nicole, I dig her.
8) TETSUYA'S THOUGHTS - You soooo love me. Yes, you soooo love me. Really? How do you know? Because you cook for me and is many kisses and hugs. So I know.

That's all for now. Enjoy the pictures, and if you need a little piece of poprocks-in-your-mouth artistic goodness, click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Golden Week

Spring comes, allergies flare, the cherry blossoms bloom and fade, and then Golden Week hits you right when you need a break from all the transitional season madness! This awesome mega holiday came just in time for me, too! Oops! It finished with the same speed, too!

I was able to get a lot of personal things done, but you know how it is for us list-makers. When are you really ever "done"? (I don't even have children, hobbies, or athletic interests as an excuse to NOT get my list items crossed off.) Oh well. That's why it's called a holiday, right? Whether or not anything productive gets done shouldn't be important.

Since I have been back to work, our class enrollment has been growing. We have 23 students in all, 19 being the most at one time, three days a week. We may just hit the maximum for all five days by summer. My partners are terrific and we are slowly but surely getting the toddlers on a routine. Thirteen of our students have been in the school for a year already, but we have 10 brand new students without prior daycare experience. Several of the new kids are already speaking Japanese. This means that in addition to detachment anxiety, we have to deal with realized language barriers. I predict that the ear-piercing, shriek-type crying won't subside until July or August when we start having pool play time.

I have made peace with my craft anxiety. I decided that I just don't have the energy to lament my lack of Japanese-style paper engineering prowess. (Yes, there is such a thing. I have been researching it for the last few weeks.) The craft magazine that is kept in the staff room has (imho) craft ideas that look like a cross between origami, kirigami, and martha stewart projects...and they're all eco-friendly. I basically work with craft Macgyvers whose entire lives have been immersed in art thousands of years old, right down to the food their mothers first sent them to school with: the almighty bento!

Now how's an island girl who brown paper bagged it (with a flip top can drink wrapped in foil--thanks mom) to every field trip gonna compete with that? I'll tell you the answer: I'm not. But at the same time, I find it hard to focus on Circle Time (my main responsibility...teaching time). I wing it most days, but I want to really learn and plan better execution and at the end of the day, I somehow feel this means making (or buying) more finger puppets, or puzzles. For example, someone hand made 9 mailboxes as a shape matching game. The kids must "mail" the correct shape into its mailbox. Cool, huh?

NOT cool. Someone MADE this. They had to cut 9 kleenex boxes, wrap them all with red construction paper, draw the Japan Post emblem on each box and cut a mail slot, cut/color/tape our curriculum approved shapes onto each mailbox, then tape each box with clear tape to make it last. Another more recent example: my partner made 10 flowers to teach colors--each flower is a different color (okay) and shape (what??). Each flower has 4 pieces (flower, stem, leaves) she cut individually. Each flower has a word label. Each flower is laminated. One more for ya: My other partner helped create jumping steps. These are 16x16x4 boxes stuffed with paper, covered and decorated with numbers, letters, pictures, etc all hand cut/colored. She made 5 of these steps in less than 2 hours total.

Anyway, as I work on strengthening my craft speed and stamina, I will post pictures of the magic that is my classroom because of my awesome partners so you can actually see what motivates me everyday. These are wonderful skills to pick up, though. And crafting is a great excuse to avoid studying Japanese. Hope all is well with you in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

kids, weddings, and spring fever

Today I'm posting pictures so you can see firsthand what I've been up to. Due to popular demand, the "Ask Tet" section will be entered in full.


What do you think about hosting my sister and niece in Japan in June?
Esther come? Exciting so if she come Japan is maybe is now image, and come image is different. Japanese image is Cherry Blossom, sushi, samurai, tempura, but come, image is different. Is a building, city. And she know Osaka.

What do you mean?
Osaka is a city. So foreigner people image of Japan is ninja, I don't know...anime. Truth is, I think almost same American. So when I was 19, I went to America. I went California. So my image America is rock music, hip hop music, car, is a Hollywood movie. Inside is very cool, do you understand? So I watch American movie and everybody is so cool, so I think cool. So I went to America and everybody is same Japan. Everybody is same. Usually is working people, nothing famous people is same Japan. So when I'm culture shock....Esther and Estee maybe is culture shock.

So usually is culture shock is if I go to different culture, image difference. But this culture shock, come inside to Japan and it's same America. McDonald's, eating, city, same. Okay, finish? Okay, see you.

LESSON: Tetsuya believes people will be shocked to discover that Japan is not as different from America as they think. Movies and media perpetuate stereotypes, but cities are generally the same in his opinion. Margaret thinks he should live in Vailoa, Makaha, DC, Charlotte, and Orlando before making any firm decisions about culture shock.

Friday, March 27, 2009

phonemes and sight words and crafts, oh my!

Okay, so this blog will be dedicated to what I said it would be at the outset--my misadventures in English teaching in Japan.

The Japanese school year ends in March so on Wednesday, my class had a graduation party. Teachers were presented with a flowers and a photo album of personalized scrap book pages from parents and children. I loved the album! It was AWESOME! Yes, I cried even though I've only been with these kids for three months.

The company I work for has a great system and curriculum and they are growing rapidly. Each class has a Native English teacher and Japanese teacher. Everyone speaks English to the children but Japanese staff communicate with parents (most of whom do not speak English). Japanese staff are experienced, certified, ECE teachers. They are also bilingual (albeit their proficiency levels differ). This school is one of the top three as far as salary but an even bigger perks is all the paid vacation. I get weekends, national holidays, and school year breaks off. Work hours are Monday - Friday 9:30-6:00 (with one unpaid lunch hour). This affords me a normal life as opposed to most English conversation schools (eikaiwa) that keep some holiday, evening, weekend, and varying shift hours.

While I was processing visa paperwork in November, another Native English speaker was given the position I was offered and she basically was not up to par. She was frequently ill and thus unable to form a strong relationship with her Japanese partner or the parents. I returned and trained under them to eventually take over. Trying to learn from people with a strained relationship sucked. Things experienced included lying, manipulating, backbiting, pity parties. Unbelievable. I had to participate in owner-parent meetings, extra parent observation days, and was somehow supposed to win these angry mothers over with my non-Japanese communication. No one quit so I guess I won. To date, I have only worked 90 days and had one formal training session. Everything I have been doing has been based on watching other teachers (4 days worth) and personal trial and error. Needless to say, the hugs and giggles from the toddlers have kept me sane.

As I teach, I think a lot about language development, toddler development, child communication and my own Japanese study (or lack thereof), but most of all I think about my mom. Because Japan is still basically a proponent of language immersion, I wonder how much more could be accomplished with a completely bilingual approach. I also find myself being a little too skeptical. This is throwback from my library days. Nepotism, office politics, micromanagement, racial discrimination...I need to physically leave the building and regroup when I find myself obsessing over these incidents. I don't know why I am always shocked to discover that these things happen, even in Japan. It's all about cultural sensitivity and relaxing, but you know how hard that is for me!

I won't make an assessment until I am closer to my one year mark. I will be teaching the same children as they move to the next level, but my Japanese partner is changing job positions. My new partner taught this level last year, but her Native partner was bilingual (they communicated only in Japanese at work) so I worry about the change for her. I am learning a lot about my communication style and what is really important to communicate in any given situation.

Crafting with rudimenatry tools: construction paper, a scissors, tape (scotch and packing width...oooOOooohhh!), glue stick, fabric, pens....oh, and my laminator (YAH!)
Crafting style: more layers and microscopic details
Crafting speed: three displays or games per day
Crafting safety: fighting the urge to stab my neck with blunt scissors whilst laminating my lips.

What do you think about my job?
Your job is far...far. Yah. For example, if I finish work early 630, I am home at 7, but you? You don't get home soon. Sorry, I don't know about your job, but I worry about you because you have a stress. So you can't speak Japanese. Your company companions speak only Japanese, so you are lonely, so you have a stress. So I worry about you. But you likes kids. And kids likes Margaret. So it's better. Right?
How do you know kids like me?
Because you are talking about (-imitating my imitations of the children - ) "Margaret, Margaret!" so you are exciting. And your job is big money. So Margaret is rich. Every month, post office sending nijusanman (230,000) yen and you pay water and electric and sometimes is go to club, so you are rich. Yah, difference me.
ME: ---Yes, but I have to wipe poop every day. --
Tet: silence

Do you think I should quit my job?

If you is quick your job, who is pay your sub-prime loan? Me? If I must pay your sub-prime loan, I can only pay ichiman (10,000) one month. How many years finish? 100 years? 200 years?
Do you think I should open an English school of my own?
If you have many customer, it's okay. But if you have customer zero, it's dangerous because you have many deposit (debts). So if you will do school, rental room, is a something, I think you finish deposit--sub-prime loan, credit card loan, home loan, you have many. I don't know your deposit.
Lesson: Relax, transfer to a closer job location, pay off your debts before starting up a business and have a strong marketing plan. PS You drink too much.