今週の漢字: 忙しい

I have been very busy lately. The Nagoya Players’ production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol opens next weekend, so the rehearsals have gotten longer and more frequent. On top of that, the final exam dates are coming fast, which means much time needs to be devoted to making tests. For the midterms, I only had to make portions of tests for two classes, but for the finals, I need to make test portions for all my classes. It has been a bit frustrating for some classes; we didn’t do too much that can be assessed on a test.

All the commuting for the theatre rehearsals has been tiring. I’ve had experience with commuting back at home. However, I had to commute everyday at that time. For the theatre group, I thought that commuting at a maximum of once a week wouldn’t be so taxing. On the contrary, I get really tired after the weekend is over. Thus, my energy is already at maybe 60% for the school week. As much as I love theatre, I don’t plan on continuing with this theatre group, because I am just too far away making it incredibly inconvenient. Plus, I have missed so many church services, because the rehearsals are on Sundays.

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving back in the states. I love the holiday family gatherings at home. My family’s Thanksgiving has a very international food spread. We have the more traditional Thanksgiving items like turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, and sometimes even cranberries and a pumpkin pie. On top of that, there’s usually lasagna and maybe some other pasta. Of course, we also have a great deal of Chinese food. I don’t think there’s ever a family gathering without Chinese food. More recently, we tend to have sushi at the beginning. There may even be a bit of French representation through pastries. I don’t think there has ever been a year when we finished all the food. Then again, I suppose a good Thanksgiving dinner is one where the food cannot be completely devoured.

I hosted my own Thanksgiving potluck on Friday, which was Japan’s “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” It was interesting to make dishes. Just to let you know, I haven’t really baked successfully before. The only things that I have made successfully are all related to Chinese cuisine and in a wok. So, I was very nervous. I looked up many recipes, and I finally decided to make a ground beef and pasta casserole. Considering I was the one hosting the party, I also made a ham hash, and I bought some corn muffins. Everyone is alive, so my food was at least edible. I thought my dishes were successful. We had lots of fun. I was amazed with all the food we had. We even covered all the Thanksgiving bases (of course with some substitutions). There were chicken, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry bread, pumpkin bread, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie, and my dishes. Nine people couldn’t finish all the food. It was that much and delicious!


It’s my sister’s birthday today. Actually, her birthday is today back in America, so you need to subtract 14 hours. In other words, it’s currently around 1AM on November 25th here in Japan, but back in America, it’s still her birthday. Anyway, happy birthday, Sarah!

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- Psalm 100 (NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for your plan and guidance. Thank you, Lord, for my family. Thank you, Lord, for all my friends. Thank you, Lord, for all your teachings and discipline. Thank you, Lord…

今週の写真: Food (minus the stuffing and cornbread) and company



There is a psychological theory into the steps people go through in life. One of the steps is about finding and defining an identity. It is shown through brain scans. The brain of someone at the age of 15 is much different than at the age of 17. Similarly, the same person will have a much more developed brain by the age of 20. Sometimes when I look back into the past eight years, I think about how much I have changed. Even though some of my likes have stayed constant, my rationale and spectacles on the world have been transformed.

This has become incorporated into my philosophy of teaching. I am still trying to define my own teaching method. I want each student to be able to give a clear definition of self-identity. I do not want the students to mindlessly follow others. Even though Japan is labeled as a collectivistic society, it does not mean that each person is a drone or strives to be one. I understand that there is a great deal of pressure to conform, and it is hard for someone to be a clear individual while conforming. I do not want a revolution. A lot of people think identity development is a product of rebellion. I suppose it comes from the correlation between teenage emotional development and the actual identity-forming stage. However, figuring out one’s own identity is not synonymous with revolting against the status quo.

In Mito SHS, the activities and assignments I have initiated heavily focus on writing or speaking one’s own opinions. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I do not like multiple choice questions or activities solely on repetition. I know it’s difficult for students as English is their foreign language. Aside from journals, I have been assigning papers and asking many questions. Some students focus all their efforts on using perfect English that they don’t try to communicate. I can tell that some sort of know what I’m saying or sort of know what they want to say. In these instances, the students just give up halfway, because they think that their English or interpretation is wrong. I am starting to wonder if refraining fully from speaking Japanese to students is a good way to help the students build their English. Some AETs say that speaking imperfect Japanese is a good way to show the students that we are just like them, and the effort to communicate goes a long way. However, I’m stuck in the middle. Surely for some students, it may be beneficial to show this similar position as a foreigner. However, there are some students that would rarely use English, because they know that they can use Japanese to communicate.

In my use of Japanese in daily life, I frequently agree to everything in hopes that I don’t opt to join some kind of cult. During other times, I understand a little of what the other person is saying. Usually, I pick up on maybe 40% of the content, so I respond accordingly. I have been very happy to communicate in Japanese outside of school. There have been a few times when people look at me and think that I am strange due to my lack of response when solicited, so at some point, I usually end up saying:
アメリカから来ました。日本語が少しわかります。(Amerika kara kimashita. Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. – I came from America. I understand a little bit of Japanese)

In the middle of conversations, sometimes I am told:
日本語が上手です。(Nihongo ga jouzu desu. – Your Japanese is good.)

I respond with:
いいえ、まだ下手です。でも、もっと勉強したい。(Iie, mada heta desu. Demo, motto benkyou shitai. – No, it’s still poor, but I want to study more.)

Yesterday night, I got a haircut, and I was worried that I would leave with a shaved head or something to that effect. Luckily, I was able to talk with the haircutters. We were able to talk about many things. I imagine they tried hard to use rather easy vocabulary, but sometimes they were shocked at some words that I knew. It was a very good experience. I plan to go back to them for my future haircuts. Hopefully, my Japanese will have grown exponentially by the next time.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
- 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

This verse really shows how people see others and even things. The appearance matters so much. I suppose I can understand, for we rely a lot on our sense of sight. There is even the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We trust our eyes more than our ideal of focusing on what’s inside. Why do we judge other people? How do we judge other people? Often, it is based on what we see. I don’t like cockroaches, but why do people despise cockroaches despite the fact that they are harmless? It’s mainly based on how they look. However, the LORD is amazing. He identifies us by our hearts.

今週の写真: Isn’t this rainbow beautiful? I’ve never actually seen one before, so it was delightful.


今週の漢字: 怖い

As you might have noticed, last week was the first time that I didn’t post. So, this week will be filled with double the content. Considering the length, if there’s something that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can skip it. I’ll be writing about my computer problems, Halloween lesson plans, and a bit on Japanese law.

All my problems started a little over a month ago. I came back from Mito SHS and turned on my computer. I went to the kitchen to prepare my dinner. I returned in horror as my least favorite color has never before been blue. I saw the “blue screen of death.” To those who are unfamiliar with this loathed picture so terrifying that it makes people want to gouge out their eyes, it is a screen that appears when the computer has encountered a critical error. I was worried that I caught a virus. However, a virus scan turned up negative. So, what could have happened? I didn’t have the slightest clue. The blue screen no longer appeared about a week later, but my computer’s disk monitoring system started giving me warnings informing me that my hard drive was corrupted. This was a clear step down from the deadly screen. Now, every time I started my computer, this demonic message haunted me. My computer woes only got worse from there.

I downloaded a spyware program that also finds certain viruses that many virus scanners cannot. It proved successful as it found a Trojan horse virus. I was able to quarantine the atrocity and delete it. All should have been good from there, right? No, of course not! The damage was already done. However, I wasn’t sure which files were affected. I decided that I shouldn’t wait any longer and back up all the files I want to save. It was going very well until I tried to save my desktop wallpapers, which were located in the Windows folder. To my dismay, the status bar indicated that there were no folders or files in “WINDOWS.” This was very disheartening. I hoped that only the service packs were corrupted, so I proceeded to uninstall my service pack 2 with the intention of reinstalling it. My efforts to reinstall proved to be unfruitful as my installation stopped in the middle due to an error. The pack was only half installed, and I couldn’t uninstall whatever was already installed, so my computer became unstable.

To summarize the rest of my problems, I tried to reinstall Windows XP by overriding the original XP on my computer. It wouldn’t let me, because it determined that my hard drive was corrupted. I had enough of these warnings about hard drive corruption. After a few days, I successfully reformatted my entire hard drive. Because I have a laptop, it was difficult to boot both my floppy drive and CD-ROM, so I couldn’t reinstall my XP (it’s the upgrade CD). After a few more days and a few more varied attempts, I finally got everything back on track. When did I realize the disappearance of my Windows files and folders? It was fittingly around Halloween.

During my computer debacle, I did a special Halloween lesson for all my students. I prepared everything and let my teaching partners relax as they were very busy before and during midterms. Similar to my self-introduction, I had one plan for 1-E, 3-E, and all my second year classes; the first year general track classes had a different plan.

I utilized the audio and visual room again for my first plan. I started off with showing a ten-minute clip from a horror movie. For 1-E, I planned to show a clip from the American version of The Ring. For all my second years, I planned to switch between the Chinese horror The Eye and its sequel. For 3-E, I planned to show what I consider one of the best horrors in years, The Descent. Afterwards, I gave a journal topic. For 1-E and the second year general track students, I asked, “Do you like horror movies? Why?” For 2-E, I asked, “Do you believe ghosts exist? Why?” For 3-E, I asked them to write a scary story. The rest of the lesson was the same for all of these classes. I showed an eight-minute clip from the Halloween episode of Friends. Then I showed a powerpoint that I created on Halloween. I started with its Irish origins leading into what people generally eat and do. I ended the lesson with giving instructions on making masks and even gave them about ten minutes to start.

This plan went rather well. My horror movies scared a few people a little too effectively, so I eventually warned all the students about it beforehand. Anyone who didn’t want to watch could leave the classroom with my teaching partner or me for those ten minutes. My test class for The Eye found it to be not scary at all, but The Eye 2 was very effective for the next class. So, I ended up showing The Eye 2 to the rest of my second year classes. 1-E voted to watch a scarier film, so I opted to show them the clip from The Eye instead. The responses to the movies ran the gamut of emotions. I already mentioned the terrified ones, but there were those that had a love/hate response. There were even a few who told me that they never saw a horror movie before, and now they love the genre. It was very interesting to get such different feedback. It’s also noteworthy to mention that 3-E’s scary stories were wonderful! They definitely have a very active imagination. There were some stories that were more like horror comedies, and there were some that grabbed my attention through to the end. It was loads of fun for me to read.

My second plan consisted of something that might be considered more standard. At the end of one lesson, I did the mask activity like the one in my first plan. For the beginning of the second lesson, I made a handout. I used some pictures that I used in my powerpoint. As I spoke about Halloween, the students had to fill in the handout. I didn’t speak in the same order as the handout, so the students had to think a little in order to fill it in completely. I followed this by doing a quiz game. I numbered the handouts ranging from 2 to 12, so there would be a few students of each number. I brought dice with me and rolled a number. The students with that number had to stand. I asked a question that might have been on their handout. The first person out of the people standing to raise a hand answered.

The students seem to love quiz games. They really absorbed the information well as they were even able to answer questions that couldn’t be found on the handout. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the masks were as successful. I informed them that if they wear their masks and come to me on Halloween, they would receive some candy. However, maybe only 10% had a complete mask. I heard that there were some too embarrassed to take out their masks. I thought that if I gave some time in class to start making masks and entice them with candy, there would be a better turnout. I suppose it wasn’t so bad, because I heard that my predecessors didn’t really do anything like this. I have some pictures from the Halloween time for this post.

I will have to take off any picture, where students or teachers can be easily identified, because I cannot post images of other people without their permission. One of the exchange students in Mito SHS told me that Japan has too many strict laws. I wonder if Japan really is so strict. I have recently heard about the privacy issue in regards to photos. In my previous job, I did media licensing and rights work. For any company to use an image or clip, they need the permission of the people who are seen and usually pay a fee. This is a tad different from the privacy law in Japan as this was licensing and rights for commercial use. Since the advent of the internet, governments and companies have been figuring out a way to set regulations. Industries have been losing out to the power of the internet. If someone wants to be a radio talk show host, there’s podcast. For someone who wants to be a published writer, there’s blogging like this fine blog. Don’t you think this is one fine blog? ;) It seems like Japan is treating the internet like one big commercial arena. It no longer is just about a good place for research, but now it is also its own reality. People can buy most things, if not anything, and live off the internet. It’s so convenient. The world is just a click away with virtual reality intertwined.

Recently, there has been a law passed in Japan that will go in effect starting in 2008, which will require fingerprints and photographs of all foreigners entering Japan. This has stirred some controversy. Do you think this is necessary? Do you think it’s fair? Should other countries enact such a law?

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の聖書の詩: “In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
“When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come to us in human form!’”
- Acts 14:8-11 (NIV)

It’s amazing how easy it is to run into misunderstandings! Actions may speak louder than words, but reactions often overpower the initial actions. I can apply this time of my life to this passage being a Christian Chinese American in Japan. I already come from a mix of cultures, and I am noticing the many differences and similarities to the culture here. However, as a teacher, I need to try extra hard to make sure I am not misunderstood. I think a teacher should not only teach the course material, but a good teacher also teaches about life and practical applications of the material.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: As mentioned previously, here are some “BOOOOOO-rrific” Halloween pictures.