Monday, December 03, 2007

queen for a way

i know you are despondent from my long absence, dear reader, but i intend to rectify that directly. perk up your teary eyes!

it's december. the colors have only just sharpened their exquisite edges on the blunt grey sky and then sliced through it, leaving red and yellow points waving in the afternoon sunlight. the weather has been wavering between golden, late fall warmth and hard, young cold which is more shocking, but less cruel, than true winter cold. i've started leaving my heater on all night, but i'm not quite to the point of cursing the day i decided to move to this country. i did finally take my coats and sweaters to the dry cleaner, something i've only been trying do for seven months or so.

for about two miraculous weeks, i was free of the puffy red allergy eyes, the scourge of my time here. i decided to take claritin to see if it would help (though last year it didn't seem to). after a week, it seemed to at least help me control my insane need to claw at my eyes. sadly i've run out, and already i look like the insomniac bag lady again. i really need to visit an allergist! (if only that were a more possible task, as there aren't any in these parts.)

my walk to school this morning was comfortable enough, except for the sly expansion of the spider ceiling over one part of my path that has lately threatened to brush the top of my head and cause an unparalleled freak-out. just inside the school grounds, the morning chill was pierced through with a beautiful fragrance, fresh and sweet, some invisible late blooms. i'm never able to find its source. i changed into my cold shoes (chilling all night in the outside locker) and headed into the school, remembering what it was like to feel alien seems like a long time ago.

november evaporated in a surprising number of social events and one of the busiest seasons i've had at work yet. the longer i'm here, the more responsibility i get. it's less about pretending to teach and more about actually teaching, a change i burn for. one of my own great teachers said teaching was like building a bridge to help students traverse a long journey by a shorter and more direct path. to actually witness my instruction helping people cross some of those gaps is ridiculously satisfying. i know they hate when i lurk over their shoulders to see if they understand, but they are also happy and surprised when i chuckle at their clever answers.
it seems this season in my life has been about making connections, mostly with my students, and being humbled by my own feelings of ignorance. as you probably know, i love my students. i always have, but i haven't always been able to connect with them. it's hard to have a moment when you're communicating through a third party or piece-by-piece through a dictionary. however, after a year and four months of not studying japanese, i've acquired enough to have a sparse, but meaningful interchange with a high schooler. i'm starting to get them, and they're starting to get me. roll your eyes if you want, but it's beautiful. i finally have a rapport, a foundation, with a significant percentage of my students and feel comfortable thumping them on the back or giving them a hard time. they will actually ask me questions instead of always calling over the japanese teacher, and amazingly, i can sometimes answer their questions without help.
often the ways in which these connections form surprises me the most. one of the boys in my second year class, masahisa, has no interest in talking to me. at all. his friends yuya and dai-chan are my buddies, but he wants no part of it. last week, half the class burst into an impromptu round of stomping and clapping, instantly recognizable as a queen song. when they got to the chorus, i couldn't help chanting, "WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU!" apparently shocking everyone. why!? it's an english song, guys. and how on earth do you know it? it was waaay before your generation. but this must've ratcheted me up on the ladder of coolness a notch, because after that masahisa and i had our first conversation, about queen.
one of my first years (first year's?), shingo (i just know my mom is laughing at these names; don't try and deny it, mom), has been looking up dating phrases in his electronic dictionary, which he then tries out on me in front of his class. first it was "smooch," which no one says but maybe your grandma, and then later, a much more sophisticated exchange, as follows:

"Are you busy tonight?"
"Yes, sorry, I am."
"Tomorrow I'm free."
"Would you like to go see a movie with me?"
he balks a little, then smiles.
"What time?"
"Uh, when does the movie start?"
he doesn't answer, as the class is laughing too loudly for him to hear the question.
finally i ask, "What movie?"
he considers.
"OK!" i give him the thumbs-up.
the other teacher then adds, "He already has a girlfriend, what do you call that in English?"
i say, "two-timer!"


  1. well I have to interject, somehow Tim and I have adopted 'smooch' as a pet name for each other, and we are far from grandma age. We don't know where it came from but maybe 'I love you SO MUCH ' (sorry to get gushy) and SO MUCH was said too fast that it began sounding like SMOOCH or something. So there you go!

  2. well, now that's totally different! a nickname isn't the same as using "smooch" as a verb.