Monday, September 24, 2012

Change in Plans

Well, due to some conflicts at my present school, looks like I will be applying to work at an adult conversation school in Japan. I will miss the friends I have made here in Innoshima, but I think this will be a good opportunity to do more of the teaching work I enjoy the most.

Not sure where I will be teaching yet--maybe a chance to see more of Japan!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hiking Adventures

So today I sort of, kind of, not really pilfered a graveyard...

At least, this is as close to pilfering a graveyard as I'm likely to come. So my bud Aine and I were walking around a temple somewhere in Innoshima (after looking at a travel guide I still have no idea which temple it was), and as you might expect we saw lots of stone memorials. Some had unopened beer cans in front of them (????) and a few had artificial flowers--that looked suspiciously like the ones at the Daiso.

On the way back we passed a trash bin nearly full of the same flowers. They were a little dusty, but overall in surprisingly good condition. As I looked at the discarded flowers, I couldn't help thinking, "Hey, I wanted some flowers to decorate my room...Looks like no one is actually using these ones...oh, what the heck." So I surreptitiously picked out some of the better preserved stalks, stuffed them in my purse, and tried to look nonchalant as we walked back to the car. So now I have some in a glass on the shelf and some taped over my mirror. This is decorating for cheapskates.

Later as I was walking in the hills I finally found the tunnel that Collette showed me my first weekend here. It's really like a maze up there. On the way back I also saw my first family of wild pigs! At a distance in the gloom, they at first looked like dogs. Then they snorted as they ran away, and I could still hear them snorting in the undergrowth. I don't know who was more freaked out, me or them. Luckily, there was a house nearby with lights on so I guess if they did decide I was worth attacking I could always use my very limited Japanese to yell "TASUKETE!!!!!"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jane Austen's Emma

Most people like Pride and Prejudice, and I get that. It's a great story and a great romance. But Emma has always had a special place in my heart.

This is how Jane Austen starts her book, Emma.

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

With this opening, we can see that this is not going to be a typical heroine or typical love story. Usually, protagonists want something. They want affirmation, or security, or to just be taken out of their current situation. Emma wants nothing--in both senses of the verb.

Well, Emma does need something. She just doesn't know what it is yet. And as readers we don't really know yet either, because Austen has already gone through our mental checklist of "Things Heroines Usually Have to Get." We'll see what Emma has to get later.

So we're about to read a love story about someone who apparently has no problems. Unlike an Elizabeth Bennet, she has no financial or social drive to get married.And neither does she have an emotional reason, because she already receives love and affection from her family. She even has children to love her, with her nieces and nephews. And given social norms, she could probably have a niece live with her for extended periods of time. All the fun of motherhood, and no risk of childbirth--which is pretty dangerous in those days.

This story is about love for the sake of love and marriage for the sake of marriage. Emma doesn't need any of the incidental things people try to get by entering a marriage. In this book, marriage isn't a fairy tale ending or a solution to life's problems. From Emma and Knightly's relationship, you can see that a good marriage means having someone understand you, help you, contrast you in some areas, see your faults and tell you of them, but love you completely anyway.

Finding someone like that is a million times more exciting than having a rich, sophisticated guy ride up on a white horse and save you from gypsy bandits.

Emma starts the book thinking that she has no story, because she's already got it made--she's rich, she's beloved, she's clever, she's secure. But like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, she has to stop making stories for other people and come to see herself as someone still in the middle of her own journey. Still making a lot of wrong choices and still learning a lot.

By the end of the book, Emma has learned a little bit about love and a little bit about how not to be a douchebag. Which is probably one of the hardest lessons anyone has to learn. "Why You Shouldn't Be a Douchebag Even if You Can Get Away With It" is an immensely difficult concept. One thing Emma learns is that people get hurt. Nice people get hurt. And unless you're the best one-upper around, you get hurt.

With Emma, you've got a book that shows you the nature of love in itself and why justice should be valued for itself. Essentially, it's the same questions Plato asked in his Symposium and his Republic.

But it's a lot funnier and it's got love triangles. Go read Emma!

The Refrigerator

Now officially moved into new apartment! We finally solved the refrigerator problem by moving in a smaller model that needed lower voltage. Only problem was up until today that refrigerator was in use, leaving the inside...lacking certain qualities one wishes for in one's food storage box.

My boss Matt appeared to be getting queasy from the mere sight of the interior. But there wasn't another fridge handy, and after two days of running upstairs to do cooking, I really wanted any working refrigerator. So I just decided, "I will defeat this  thing!" and had them haul it to my room where I attacked it with hot, soapy water.

I didn't take any pictures of the inside because some things I do not wish to remember. The majority of the food had been remove (except for general grime), but the few items remaining had managed to cement themselves into the massive freezer burn (yes, this was in the refrigerator section) in the back. Michael was my moral support during this adventure and can bear witness to my efforts of chipping away at the ice with the end of a spatula.

Pound, pound, pound. Thawing with warm towel. "No, still stuck. Wait....I got it! It's a...potato?"

This isn't the worse refrigerator I've ever seen, though it deserves a prize for effort. I still have not seen anything to rival the condition of the two refrigerators at Oxford after twenty students had been using them for three months. Luckily, I didn't get that cleaning job. But now I can wholeheartedly sympathize with the people who did, even though they threw out my last day's food in the process. (One girl explained: "Everything was disgusting down there, and if it wasn't it was touching something disgusting so I threw it all out.")

An hour and a half later, I chipped through the ice, leaving the inside a shade reminiscent of Melville's aquatic monster. This was my accomplishment to day. I feel immense pride in transforming this object and now crown my self Queen of Refrigerator Cleaning.

There is one definite bonus to the new, smaller refrigerator. Even though I have less space inside, I can now reach the microwave and toaster oven on top much more easily. Before, I had to stand on tiptoes to open the toaster and judging the brownness of my toast was impossible. Now both are at a more appropriate level.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Funny things that happened today...

At the end of a lesson where pretty much everything seemed to go wrong, there was a moment of hilarity when a student read "friend" as "food." This was mostly because he wasn't paying enough attention and didn't want to spend the mental effort figuring out how to pronounce the word "friend." However, he certainly knew both words because when I raised my eyebrows and said, "Food?" both students (and me) started giggling.

My last class started at 8:50, and usually for the later classes everyone's running low on energy. Most of the time it's a struggle to get the students motivated, let alone myself. However, this high school boy was...different. He actually seemed enthusiastic about being there and doing the lesson. "Bouncing off the walls" might be a more accurate term. (Maybe I shouldn't have offered him coffee, but I don't think that was the cause.) Collette agreed that this kid can be kind of strange. But overall it was a nice change to teach someone who actually wanted to talk about travel information, and in English too.