Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekly Winners, October 31st, 2010

My New Cozy Kotatsu
(a re-post)

My New Recipe for Happines

Bridging the Chuhai Seasons
I do love me some chuhai, and the seasonal flavors can be so good, though so temporary. On this day, I had one from autumn (apple flavor) and one from winter (yuzu flavor), both right there. A good day, this.

More Chicken Sandwich Madness at McD's
Currently: German Sausage Chicken Sandwich
It wasn't terrible. November will feature the Diavolo (Diablo?) and the Carbonara.
I will try them all. Just for you. Stay tuned.
(see here for all of these wonders and here for the cheese fondue version)

Cafe 64
My favorite coffee shop in Kurashiki, so photogenic, such strong coffee and now with wifi.

Cafe 64 Being Awesome

More Cafe 64, More Awesomeness

My Faux Goal
One of my goals in life has been to one day wear false eyelashes in public. Considering I can get them super cheaply at the 100 yen store and that it was Halloween weekend, with thanks to several tutorials on youtube and a lot of patience (took me about 45 minutes), another goal has finally been realized. Gotta dream big folks.

Halloween Maggie-ness

Indian Dinner Before Attempting to Scare/Internationalize the Locals with Our Halloween Customs

Scene of the Good Times
Okujo Blue, Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture

Friday, October 29, 2010

Haiku Friday - A Kotatsu

Haiku Friday

No central heating
less than great insulation
hence the kotatsu

Think a low table
with heater underneath
cozied in a quilt
I'll live under here,
the best invention ever,
'til about April


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekly Winners, October 24th, 2010

Many homes in Japan do not have an oven. I have one that is a microwave, a toaster and an honest to goodness oven all in one. It small, holding only about 5 cookies at a time, so I don't make cookies. I do make things like banana bread and Southern Batter Bread (I've talked about this yummy stuff before). I also have been unable to locate anything like an oven-proof casserole dish, so I used my nabe pot. My Japanese friends laughed, but it works.

Southern Batter Bread, Nabe Pot Style

So, I used to say that there were basically only about three restaurants in my area of my tiny town. Two are closed on Thursdays, the other any date that ends with an 8, and so, if it's something like the 18th and a Thursday, there are no dining out options (though, in a pinch, unlike back home, the convenience store meals do not suck and are a viable option). Then I found out that there actually *is* another restaurant. It's done up log cabin style. They serve pasta and waffles. Proper waffles are hard to find here. These are small, but they are otherwise the real deal. This cozy cabin restaurant is in the middle of nowhere. I don't get it, but I went, and it was good.

Log Cabin, With Waffles. And Pasta.

Cute Stuffed Moose on the Wall

This one is a re-post in case you missed my Haiku Friday post about the grapey flavor of Okayama grapes, how they actually taste like that grape flavor I always thought was awesome but completely fake since it tasted nothing like any grape I'd ever eaten. Until Okayama.

My Lunch The Other Day

Autumn Festival in My Tiny Town

Continued Autumn Festiveness

Festive with a Mountain Backdrop
(Have I said lately how much I love it here?)

One More Autumn Festival Shot

Friday, October 22, 2010

Haiku Friday - The Grape Flavor of Grape

Haiku Friday

Photobucket You know grape flavor?
How it tastes nothing like grapes?
Just more like purple?

Okayama grapes
taste just like that grape flavor.
I get it now. Yum!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekly Winners, October 17th, 2010

There were a few other shots from this week when I was in Tokyo for a conference. Here are the rest from the week taken here, there and everywhere.

American Coffee, Canned

Not American Coffee, Cupped

Vellfire, No Brimstone

Rice Fields in October


(learned a great and easy little omelet technique here, Magic Omelet)

Cheese Fondue Chicken Sandwich Has Arrived...

...and It Doesn't Suck

My Tiny Train
(once in awhile my little local train rolls out with the special car, and it is always a treat)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Haiku Friday, I Love Shibuya, Tokyo

Haiku Friday

energy all around me
signs and people buzz
jolts life through my soles
the streets are alive

if this weren't enough
as if lacking energy
here you can find the...
busiest Starbucks
anywhere in the whole world

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sing a Song

For better or for worse, music is the backdrop of my daily life at school. Daily I hear the Carpenter's and the Muzak version of It's a Small World to signal different parts of cleaning time (the students clean the school; the results are about what you might expect). When I first started, I thought I was cracking up and hearing the imaginary. Imagine sitting at work, and all of the sudden, out of nowhere, It's a Small World starts playing. Yah, that's how I felt. In classes there is often another Carpenter's song. Japan still loves the Carpenter's. It weirds them out when I say that nobody back home really listens to them and that many people (gasp) have no idea who they are/were. Recently, though, I have been successful in getting some teachers to allow me to make the shift to something more current, even if they love to say that most anything else is "too hard."

A few weeks ago, possibly my favorite time of the school year came around. Since I don't always have a schedule of what's going on with the students, it appeared randomly and out of nowhere to me that the sound of students voices lifted in song started to fill the courtyard between the teachers' room and the classrooms. The students were practicing, beautifully, for the singing contest. Every time, it made me smile. It felt like I was in the middle of some musical or something. They practiced hard, class by class, and they were really good. Any time I heard them, I stopped whatever I was doing and went to listen. Once in awhile I took a picture. Or a video.

It went something like this shaky video across the courtyard:

Maybe I'm just a sensitive dork, but the big day filled my mind with so many thoughts and emotions, way bigger than a simple singing contest. Music moves me, makes me pause and feel thoughts inside my head in a different way. I assume it does this for many people and that it's part of why we like certain songs, because of the power they have to make us really Feel Something.

What amazed me both last year and this year is that as each class sings two songs, one of of the students from the class is the director and another is the pianist. These are junior high school kids. They play the piano well enough to accompany their classes. In most classes, there were two students talented enough, one for each song. I'm pretty sure when I was in junior high there wouldn't have been so many students who could do that. It blew me away.

Singing Contest
(faces blurred for privacy) Photobucket

Then there was one of our special students. He is autistic. I always teach him separately from his homeroom class, and he can be quite a handful and has trouble doing any one thing for more than about 30 seconds. This day was the only time I'd seen him together with his homeroom class. Today he was part of the team. He walked out on stage and waved at me and a couple other teachers (insert heart melt) and sang with so much energy. I kept sort of expecting him to bolt, but he didn't. He stayed focused and just sang his little heart out, full tilt. It was the sweetest thing. I pretended like a few tears hadn't just escaped from my eyes.

Sitting there and watching the students from afar, I saw them differently. I feel like when I am in a classroom, most of the time I am too busy to really see them. Sure, I notice sometimes if one of them gets a haircut or if they have gotten better at using some grammar point (or, dismayingly, haven't), but seeing them up there I saw them in a way that I just don't when I am teaching or calling upon them to answer a question or participate in some activity. I noticed almost for the first time how much many of them have grown since I met them a little over a year ago or even the first year students since the start of the new school year back in April.

This led my mind to wandering and wondering what they would look like a year from now and who they would grow up to become in the future. Like I said, music makes my mind wander. It also made me kind of sad to wonder who would be sitting in my seat next year since I'll already be gone already, so soon. Will that person enjoy this day as much as I do? Where will I be? Will any of them remember me? Did I do anything useful here, teach them something that they will take forward? I hope so, but, you know, who knows, right? I do know that I will remember this forever and will cherish these sweet memories in between the realities of frustration and aggravation that are part and parcel of this experience.

At last, it was time for the teachers to go up on stage to sing. Last year we did a Japanese song that I practiced and practiced and practiced. This year, an English song was chosen. I didn't practice as much. I think I sang one part wrong. It didn't matter. I don't think anyone noticed. The students rolled up their programs and all waved them back and forth. I smiled and sang and smiled some more. At the rehearsal, the music teacher had told us that instead of doing the usually serious Japanese style bow and exiting the stage, that we should all do some little hand gesture, like a peace sign (Japan loves the peace sign so much that I have to consciously remind myself not to do it in every picture) or thumbs up or something. I suspected that they were all going to chicken out. I was right. Still, after the serious-faced bow, I went for it and did the forefinger and pinky up rock star gesture because I felt like one. Then. Now. Often here. I appreciate this whole experience so very much. It also made some of my students smile, and that was the cherry on top of this day of song.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekly Winners, Hello Autumn

Not a lot of shots this week, but I will share my toilet paper with you. It has a slight chestnut scent. Sometimes Japan is awesome.

Must Be Autumn

Friday, October 08, 2010

Haiku Friday, Autumn Light in My Tiny Town

Haiku Friday

Autumn Light in My Tiny Town
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Photobucket Bathed in autumn light
the season of warm colors
and crisp air at night

Summer was brutal.
I'm still sweating even now
left over from then.

It confuses them,
me still content in short sleeves,
me, them in long ones.

I tried to explain
in my busted Japanese.
Did they understand?

We just smile and nod,
sometimes with a little bow.
It means "hey, we tried."

As hot as it was
winter here sucks, too.
Right now is perfect.

So I soak it in,
my favorite time of the year,
to tide me over.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Weekly Winers, Almost Autumn

Almost Autumn Flowers
I go to the tea ceremony club at my school sometimes (tea and treats? my kind of club), and there are always nice seasonal flowers. Sometimes they send me home with a handful. That's what happened here. A little blurry, yes, but they make me smile. The pink ones are called cosmos. The little orange pumpkin looking ones are called something I don't remember.

Almost Autumn in My Tiny Town
I get to live here. I love watching the rice fields change with the seasons.

What Japan Does to McDonald's Food Items Can Be Startling/Confusing
Diovolo=Diablo? Only Japan knows.

Saturday Snack, Almost Autumny, All the Way Yummy
This is the kind of ready to go food you can buy at the grocery or convenience store. It was tasty.