Sunday, March 28, 2010

turnip the volume!

what have i been doing in the long month since i last wrote? mainly watching too many dance shows and trying to figure out how to keep life from feeling mundane. i never thought living in japan could feel mundane (to be fair, even after 3 1/2 years, daily life is still a thrill), but i guess i need a job that suits me a little better. that would probably involve teaching a subject i'm more passionate about than grammar to riveting individuals over the age of 15. i like assorted little kids in my classes; some of them are insanely cool, but the rest of them are just insane...and they make me insane. one thing i have learned about children is that they are born with the innate ability to push your buttons, regardless of the language you speak. i've gotten better at the "don't even think of disobeying me" look, but sometimes it clatters uselessly to the floor and i have to just accept i can't wring their necks. then, just when i think my face is going to melt off in indignation, a kid will show up docile and sweet and sit on my lap, and my heart will melt instead.
i do like teaching; that's one thing that has been cemented here. i love talking about culture and slang, and i don't mind explaining grammar and punctuation either, but i really want to just USE english to teach something else. i want to talk about accomplishing something greater than choosing the right verb tense.
the adults and teenagers in my classes are awesome, though. they keep my head from exploding. they also take me fun places, bring me thoughtful souvenirs (everything from fresh turnips to fluorescent pink underwear), and often exceed my expectations in kindness. hopefully i've learned a little about that here too.

i live on the third floor and have a nice little balcony. what i wanted now that it's spring was something green to look at. i didn't really want to pay for a pot and a huge bag of dirt and plants and all that, so i decided i'd just plant a little cup of grass. i miss the smell of cut grass in the summer anyway, and it ought to require very little attention. what i didn't really have access to was dirt. most little corners in japan (when you're in the city, at least) belong to someone and are pretty well-tended. the last thing i wanted to do was scare or offend some nice granny by digging up a corner of her yard, so i asked an elderly gentleman student (who loves gardening) instead. my only request was, "would you mind bringing me a little bit of dirt so i can plant something." and what did i get? a full, alphabet-coded gardening kit, including hand-drawn illustrations and english instructions!
pot, drainage rocks, dirt, fertilizer, scoop made from a plastic bottle, gloves...

my favorite drawing is for step 7. "push. push."

after all the work he put into it, i couldn't just plant grass anymore. today i settled on a compromise: a wild strawberry plant surrounded by grass. that way if the strawberry croaks (you never know with those hardware store plants), i'll still be able to have my grass and cut it too.
after a far-too-intense bug incident in mie (i'm still traumatized), i am hoping for potted plant peace on the third floor.


  1. how freakin SWEET of that man! i am grateful that there is love and kindness for you in japan. and that you share your experiences. <3

  2. what a beautiful story. you will need to save those instructions for future reference. love it. and side note, I had NOT read your post before about the fire ants... freaky! I am nauseated just thinking about it.

  3. i wish you had some pics of the ninyos. are you teaching in elementary school? i didn't know it. yes, they love to push buttons. just remember-- ACT mad before you get mad:O!

  4. linds...yeah, freaky is right!
    rocko...i only have pictures of some of that classes i really like, which are mostly adults. >_< i teach all ages, some of them are around 4-5 years old on up. i've learned a lot about myself, though...i think your advice is perfect!