Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Les Miserables

So I went to see Les Miserables the movie on Sunday...This was my first time seeing an adaptation on the musical.

I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and there story was strong. For a really long film, the plot felt very fast-paced and focused. But there were still some quiet moments, so it didn't feel too fast. The characters all seemed very distinct to me, even the ones that only appeared for a few scenes. You could tell right away what kind of person someone was, and even if I didn't remember a character's name I could recognize them again right away.

I liked how grimy the poor characters looked, particularly in the Lovely Ladies song. That's a bit morbid...but the makeup was really good!

Some things I didn't like:

I wish there could have been more scenes where people were in different places singing at the same time. There were a few scenes where one person was singing, and the camera just showed a close up of their face for the whole song. Especially in I Dreamed a Dream, this seemed a little boring. During that song, it would have been nice to see flashbacks of Fantine with her child--because you don't get to see much of her backstory before. With so many characters to establish and little time to spend on them individually, it seemed like there was an opportunity missed here to fill in the gaps in Fantine's story.

Also, Marius got a bit annoying. It's unbelievable that he could pay so little attention so anyone so gorgeous and lively as Eponine! Eponine is a great character, and the actress was so pretty too. At least he showed her consideration as she was dying. Also, he has a really mopey song later on (when the film is already starting to feel long). I guess it makes sense that he grieves for his friends, but I kept thinking "Can't you be a little more grateful for being alive? Cosette, the girl of your dreams, is right there!"

I know it's this was in the book and the musical, but it seemed contrived for Jean Valjean to leave Cosette at the end. At this point, no one is coming after him. And Cosette obviously suspects that he's an ex-con (looking at the scars on his wrists), and she still loves him. I feel like he could have told her the truth sooner.

However, I still really enjoyed the movie!

And I think this is the most overtly Christian film that I have seen in the theaters for a loooooong time! I loved how straightforward Jean Valjean's religious journey was. There was no irony about his faith. There aren't always easy answers in the movie, just like life. But you really feel like Jean's Christianity was what gave him strength. I felt encouraged to show mercy in real life.

Monday, December 24, 2012


A picture from the End of Year party. All of us had a great time. We're holding the presents from our gift exchange here. (Mine is a piggy bank--super cute!) Taeko ended up with the present I brought. After the restaurant we went to a bar, and I just had ginger ale because by that time I didn't want more alcohol. I won't name any names, but I think some of the people who did have their inhibitions lowered by alcohol may have regretted it later...

On Christmas Eve I visited Souichirou in his hometown of Kure and got to meet his Mom, sister, Aunt, and Grandma. It was a little scary trying to speak all in Japanese, even with translation help, but they were all nice!
Here is another picture of us by the sea.

Later we went to the candlelight service at Mitaki Chapel. I missed church on Sunday because of work, so I ended up going to my first service all in Japanese. And singing Christmas carols in Japanese. (More furigana would have helped...) But even though I could only understand a little, it was a special time to think about the birth of Chirst with the people at Mitaki.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Package

Today the long-awaited package finally came from home, and a house mate deposited it outside my mini-size door. I am definitely looking forward to the surprise of finding out on Christmas what my family sent. (I can even tell them when it's still Christmas Eve in California! Hahaha.) Unfortunately, the mail system doesn't like surprises as much as I do. So I really TRIED not to read the clearly marked contents label on the outside of the package...

Looks like I'll be getting some DVDs. At least it will be a surprise what kind of DVD. Haha, who am I kidding, I've got exactly one guess what movie it is. (But if it's DVDs plural, what's the second one?)

It's funny how when you're a kid, the idea of having to wait is so painful, but when you're an adult the idea of having your presents spoiled early is even more painful.

Soooo....While I was walking home tonight this guy on a bike tried to talk to me. I have no idea what it was about. I mean, he could have been asking directions for all I know--except that no sane Japanese person would ask directions from a foreign woman. So I was highly suspicious and gave a very brusque, "Excuse me...don't speak Japanese."

There's also a guy with a food van selling some kind of sweet potato snacks, who keeps trying to get me to buy something. To make it worse, Taeko bought something from him while I was with her, so now it's like he knows me...I'm pretty sure he's calling me "Sister." Today I laughed at him, just because I understood some of his Japanese, and I shouldn't have because now he'll just keep trying to sell me food even more...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Customer Service

Today I had an interesting lesson with a higher level student who mostly just wanted to talk through class. It was a review lesson, so the topic he ended up choosing was how to handle customer complaints--and to tie in English we chose complaints from Americans. Instead of doing grammar, we mostly focused on content and expressions.

And boy, this was a lot more complicated than a lesson on grammar! The first time he practiced taking my complaint (and he was trying to do American body language, mind you) it was hard to believe that his person looking down and saying "I'm sorry," wasn't just blowing me off. And when we switched roles, the first thing he noticed was how much expression I put into my face. My student noted, "American faces use more exaggerated expressions, and their mouths move around a lot more when they talk."

We discussed the important aspects of dealing with a complaint, such as a sincere apology versus offering an action, and whether customers want to let of steam or fix their problem. Now I'll have a different perspective when I go to a store and there's a problem. Even if the people look like they just want me to leave, they might really be trying their best to help me.