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Getting on this, for great justice!

I sent out holiday cards last year and had a lot of fun doing it,'s to Round 2! If you'd like a holiday card, please comment with the name you want it addressed to, your mailing address, and (if you have a preference) the holiday you celebrate. Comments are screened!

Waes hail! ♫
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To whom it may concern...!

Most of you guys know that I'm studying to be a translator at the moment. One of my first pieces of homework was a Japanese-to-English translation of a recipe, and I enjoyed it more than almost anything else we've done. Using that experience as inspiration, last month, I kicked off a personal project to improve my skills.

Since my new electronic dictionary came with a very nice little cookbook included in the database, I thought I would take a crack at translating the recipes therein. (It's a bewildering special feature for a dictionary, yes, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth.) All of the recipes are fairly simple and sound really tasty, and I've tried making a few myself already with good results, so it seemed like a good choice of source material.

So! If any of you culinary types are interested, or if any of you mere mortals like myself just want easy Japanese dinner recipes, you can find the whole project at:

There are eight recipes up already, and I'll be updating it with at least one recipe a week. Stay tuned!
tobu_ishi: (Coraline - B&W disgust)
Originally posted by [ profile] ladyqkat at Dear GOP - the collective you are an Idiot
(Post originally seen in this post by [info]ramblin_phyl. I have been notified that it was originally posted by [info]suricattus in her journal post. The story and words are hers, but I do believe that it needs to go viral and that as many people as possible need to get their stories out there. Only by making a noise about this can we make a change in our society.)

There is a move afoot in the nation -driven by the GOP - to repeal the new health care laws, to protect corporate interests, to defend against fear-mongering (and stupid) cries of "socialism!", and to ensure that people are forced to choose between keeping a roof over their heads or getting necessary health care.

This movement is killing people.

Think I'm overstating the fact?

Ask the friends and family of writer/reviewer Melissa Mia Hall, who died of a heart attack last week because she was so terrified of medical bills, she didn't go see a doctor who could have saved her life.

From another writer friend: One person. Not the only one. That could have been me. Yeah, I have access to insurance -- I live in New York City, which is freelancer-friendly, and have access to freelancer advocacy groups. Through them, I can pay over $400/month ($5,760/year) as a single, healthy woman, so that if I go to the hospital I'm not driven to bankruptcy. But a doctor's appointment - a routine physical - can still cost me several hundred dollars each visit. So unless something's terribly wrong? I won't go.

My husband worked for the government for 30 years. We have government employee (retired) insurance. It is the only thing of value he took away from that job. His pension is pitiful. He still works part time. My writing income has diminished drastically. Our combined income is now less than what it was before T retired fifteen years ago. Inflation has diminished it further. In the last 30 days I have racked up over $8000 in medical bills for tests and the beginning of treatment. Our co-pay is 20% after the deductible. And there is more to come. Our savings are already gone. I have the gold standard of insurance and I still can't pay all the medical bills.

Another friend lost her insurance when her husband lost his job. She couldn't afford medication and ended up bed ridden for three months at the end of over a year of no job and therefore no insurance until he found work again.

It's our responsibility. All of us, together. As a nation.

EtA: Nobody is trying to put insurance companies out of business. They will always be able to offer a better plan for a premium. We simply want to ensure that every citizen - from infant to senior citizen - doesn't have to choose between medical care, and keeping a roof over their heads, or having enough to eat.

We're trying to get this to go viral. Pass it along.

I'm going to post my story as the first comment to this post if anyone would like to read it. If anyone wants to tell their story, please tell it on your own journal and post a link in the comments. Maybe, just maybe, TPTB will listen.
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Today in the course of my homework reading, I discovered an interesting fact. Observe these two characters, if you will. (And if your computer can load them.)


If you read them as "shinchuu", they mean "sympathy". As in, "My sympathies!", or "I feel you, man!"

If you read those same two characters as "shinjuu", they mean "a double suicide". As in "Romeo and Juliet" or "The Love Suicides at Amijima".

There is no way to tell which meaning is intended, except by context. (Fortunately, the context is for obvious reasons usually pretty blatant.) Still, how novel to be able to console someone on the loss of two loved ones in such a redundant manner.
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100 Things you've done or haven't done.

Bold the things you've done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
And 77 more... )

45 total, not counting the italics. For being twenty-four, I'm pretty satisfied with my life so far...not just for the things I've done, but for the things I believe I can someday do, and the people I've done and will do them with. Speaking of which...

Hi, you guys. ^_^; I'm still alive and still religiously reading my flist, I've just fallen badly off the boat on the updating process. I want to get back into the habit, though. Send me motivational thoughts?
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Why is it that the big things, the events and dinners and formal conventions, never make it into this blog, but the minutiae of life here gets chronicled in loving detail?

The weekend before last, I took the train all the way to the south coast, lost my bag, attended a work meeting, rode horseback and learned to post in an apparently record five minutes, went to the hospital to interpret for a great guy with a broken AND dislocated toe from the sand-sumo tournament, and got my bag back again. Last week, I celebrated the Fourth of July magnificently with the Arima kids, a miniature buffet of "American" food from the Seicomart, and five bags of fireworks. Yesterday I attended a tea ceremony luncheon in yukata. But what I got online to write about was two tiny linguistic exchanges I had today...

Language trades. People ask me what stuff is, or try to explain stuff to me, all the time. I'm trying to get into the habit of making sure the exchange is reciprocal.

So today, when I ended up explaining the phrase "to keep an eye on something" to Mr. Onodera, I asked for the Japanese equivalent: "Mimamoru (見守る)".

And at lunch, when one of my kids used the marvelous phrase, "Goat-say-shuh" (Gochisousama deshita, abbreviated casually), I had him practice it with me a few times to make sure I had the glottal stops down pat, then taught him "Ahdunno" to replace the more formal I don't know.

I'm hoping to keep this up. My Japanese is both growing and shrinking lately, and the main shrinking areas are difficult conversational vocab, and kanji. Time for remedial maneuvers. :D
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Day-Making Moment #215:

Today, we played English Baseball, a variant on the game where, instead of hitting the ball, the batter and pitcher race to correctly and quickly answer a question posed in English by the teacher. It was the top of the second inning, but it was clearly the last pitch, seeing as we had a minute left in class. The two boys at bat were gripping their desks, totally focused. Tension sang in the air--all students were silent, watching, waiting.

I asked the question. " your"

And the boy up to pitch screamed, at the top of his lungs, "I LIKE--"

...and froze, eyes wide. Clearly he hadn't thought that far, and the room froze with him, all breaths bated, even his opponent arrested by the sheer volume of the first half of his statement. Tight anticipation hung over the classroom for a moment that stretched almost to breaking, and then, the pitcher rallied himself and bellowed:


There was a beat of silence. And then the entire classroom, Mr. Onodera, me, even the pitcher himself, dissolved into hysterical, helpless laughter. And the bell rang.


May. 29th, 2008 02:00 am
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In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn...
-Disney's Tarzan

So, the sixth graders I taught in elementary school this winter have become first years at Uryu Middle. They've been making my professional life a little better, every day I spend with them; they see me as a real teacher, someone to greet and joke with and look up to and ask questions unsolicited, and when I'm leading an activity alone in class, the way Mr. Onodera usually leaves me to do? They're awake, alert, listening, engaged, wondering if next I'll put on a paper pirate hat or start a shouting chant of a grammatical point.

It feels wonderful. And I know Mr. Onodera has been a bit skeptical of my methods, my obsession with activities and personalized simple dialogues and stubbornly deviating from the textbook readings. He's a traditionalist; he believes strongly in the prescribed texts and lessons. But he's been giving me more leeway lately, especially with the first years, and today?

Today, I experienced something very much like a triumph. )
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One in a series of posts I've been meaning to make for a while; therefore a bit out of date, but!

Spring sneaks up on you in Hokkaido.

This may in fact be a necessary strategy. Winter is large and in charge up here, resting easy on five feet of snow instead of its laurels, and I doubt it's easy to dislodge after it's been settled in for nearly six months. Spring's been biding its time since the first sprinkles of snow fell last November, waiting for the right moment to make its move, and it would be suicidal to introduce itself with a fanfare of showering cherry blossoms and muggy weather.

That kind of confidence belongs in the warmer climes where spring and autumn reign supreme. The north of Japan is winter's turf, and spring is reduced to ninja'ing around the edges, making subtle inroads, destabilizing that frosty grip on the land one finger at a time, until the day comes when winter will wake up and realize its retainers' throats are slit, its castle is burning, and spring is hanging from the chamber ceiling with a black kodachi blade and a grin gripped together in its teeth...

...hang on. I think that metaphor may have gotten slightly away from me.

Anyway, my point is that spring is hard to track here. )
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You know, it's a sad thing when I'm more determined to post about something bad than something good. The Easter Egg hunt that Miss Kakizaki and I organized this Saturday went beautifully, and I'll post all about that later, when I have photos.

For now, though, I'm extremely irritated. So here goes:

When I enrolled in JET, I was informed that I could enroll, for free, in one of three levels of correspondence course: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. I was also told that if I passed the Advanced course, I would be eligible to take a Translation and Interpretation course during my second year as a JET, with the fee likewise waived by CLAIR, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations.

I want to be a translator someday. What do you think I did?

In which I sweat like a pig over a textbook written by madmen. )

In which I receive my hard-earned reward. )

I love you too, CLAIR. It's so good to know our esteem for each other is mutual.
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Disclaimer: The Uryu school district mostly provides fairly tasty meals in relatively generous portions. And their chicken curry is excellent.

That said: Today's main dish was cream gratin baked in a crab shell.

Firstly, I don't like cream gratin to begin with. It's a sort of...bland gooey white fat-gravy glop with bits of whatever mixed in. They scatter cheese over the top and bake it. The results taste like...gooey fat-gravy glop, with melted cheese on top.

Secondly, they served the meals really early today in the teacher's room, and by the time I'd brought mine to the first-year classroom and waited for the kids to get their act together and dish up their own meals, my fat-gravy glop had cooled and coagulated.

Thirdly, it was BAKED IN A CRAB SHELL. An actual crab shell, with the eyeballs still attached. To understand the full import of this, you must consider that I was raised on the Pacific Northwest coast. The beaches down there are often scattered liberally in summertime with legs-up crab carcasses, reeking colorfully in the sun. I played amongst these as a tot, picking them up by the legs when I felt daring and squealing with horrified glee when they fell apart in a stinking mess. I do not associate crab shells with the containment of anything edible except crab, and that only when there is no other alternative.

So there I was, trying lamely to scoop congealed white fat-glop full of random chewy bits (mostly corn and fragments of imitation crab) out of a whole crab shell, with chopsticks in whose wake the stuff disintegrated like, well, rotting crabmeat.

While my kids giggled.

Did I mention the side dishes were a whole fried fish that spilled over with eggs when I split it with my chopsticks, and watery soup with mushrooms in it? And broccoli boiled with fish flakes (the only part I enjoyed, but come to think of it, there's always fish flakes or bits of ham in with the veggies--it must suck to be a vegetarian in Japan). About the only way they could have made it worse would be if they served it with natto and shirako.

I'm still hungry. ;_;
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Awkward (adj) : 1: lacking social grace and assurance ; causing embarrassment (an awkward moment)

2: not easy to handle or deal with : requiring great skill, ingenuity, or care (an awkward load) (an awkward diplomatic situation)

3: having a discussion about American politics in the new millenium degenerate, as your conversational partner (the school nurse) at the end-of-the-year drinking party imbibes more and more whiskey, into this sweet little old lady reenacting the 9-11 disaster by crashing her chopsticks stand repeatedly into her upright chopsticks and knocking them over with copious vocal explosion sound effects, leaving you completely lost for words and finally succumbing to a fit of the nervous giggles (see above, 1 and 2)

— awk·ward·ly (adverb)
— awk·ward·ness (noun)
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Four English loanwords that slip me up in Japanese:

"Juice" (ジュース): Any beverage that does not contain alcohol or tea (with the exception of milk). Orange juice is juice. Coca Cola, Pocari Sweat, and melon soda are also juice. Dairy-based soft drinks such as Calpis are, somehow, juice. Sometimes, bewilderingly, oolong tea is juice.

"Buckets" (バケツ): Bucket. As in, a bucket. As in, "there is a buckets in your entry hall", to which I should not confusedly respond with a correction that, no, there's only one.

"Propose" (プロポーズ): To ask someone to marry you. You cannot "propose" anything else, such as, for example, a schedule change or an Easter egg hunting event. At least not without getting the hairy eyeball.

"Napkin" (ナプキン): Of the feminine variety. Do not ask your waitress for a napkin. Do not tell your fellow diners that you're going to go grab some paper napkins. Trust me. Just don't.

That is all. :D
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For the third time this winter, Uryu is undergoing snow removal. Nobody seems to tire of the spectacle around here, perhaps because it only happens a few times in a winter; this morning I got to watch my fully-grown coworkers all pressing up to the glass of the office windows to see the hulking green machines trundle by.

Snow removal? those of you from unlettered warmer climes (like myself) may ask. And all I can really do is nod, and reply, Yes. Snow removal.

It's amazing what a snowbound society like Hokkaido can dream up to keep to a semblance of normal function with several feet of snow falling every week. Coming into this place as an outsider, these ingenuities have been revealed to me piece by piece, forming new pictures week by week.

For example, when I first came to Uryu, I was a bit perplexed by the number of empty lots adjacent to the street. They were fairly well-maintained, not overgrown with weeds or anything, but they were just...lots. Scattered regularly throughout the town. Nobody used them for parking. Nothing seemed planned to be built on them. They gave the town a curiously open feel, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out their true purpose.

But as Sondheim put it, I know things now, many marvelous things, that I hadn't known before... )
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Every so often, when I'm reading a book or a website about Japan, I stumble across some little turn of phrase or other that just makes my brain boil. I know it's not my culture and not my job to defend it, but ignorance bugs me in any context, and ignorance that paints a very human, earthy culture as inscrutable and ice-cold? Yeah. Drives me nuts.

Today, while reading through Etiquette Guide to Japan by Boye De Mente, I skimmed this tidbit of insight into the Japanese mind in the chapter about 'Criticism':

Japanese are naturally much more sensitive to criticism than they are to compliments. The origin of their extraordinary sensitivity to criticism surely derives from the importance of correct behavior in their traditional system, since an essential part of proper behavior was to avoid being shamed and shaming others as a result of behaving in an unacceptable manner.

One of the best-known anecdotes dating from Japan's mythological age involves a god who shamed his fellow gods and goddesses by his failure to follow prescribed manners. He was banned from the heavens.

Which sounds like a classic example of the strict and obsessive attention of the Japanese to the slightest gaffe in etiquette, right? Because, y'know, I've read that myth, and De Mente is right, they were awfully harsh. Kicking poor Susanno-oh out of heaven, just because he had a little old raging temper tantrum, smashed his sister's rice fields, flung his own feces around inside her house, dropped a flayed horse carcass into her living room, and killed one of her handmaidens?

It was outrageous of them, really, over a minor slipup like that. The Greek and Norse gods would have called it a charming holiday. :D
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On Tuesday (my birthday), I received the following series of text messages from my supervisor:

Miss Kakizaki: Happy Birthday Arijan
Me: Thank you very much!
Miss Kakizaki: 今日、学校から帰る時、教育委員会の事務所に来て下さい。(Today, when you come home from school, please come by the offices of the Board of Education.)
Me: わかりました。水道管はまた問題がありますか?(Understood. Is there another problem with the water pipes?)
Miss Kakizaki: 水道管ではありません。お風呂の水は流れていますか?事務所に梶田さんか鎌田さんがいます。(It isn't the water pipes. Is the water in your bathtub flowing? Mr. Kajita and Mr. Kamada are at the office.)
Me: いや、ぜんぜん大丈夫です。公民館に来てと言ったからたぶん問題があると思った、前の直した時に今週もう一回チェックするつもりと言ったから。:)(Oh, no, it's just fine. I thought since you said to come to the community center there might be a problem, since you said you'd be checking it one more time this week when it got fixed the other day.)
Miss Kakizaki: たぶん今日はチェックしません。別な用事です。忘れないで来て下さいね。(We probably won't check it today. It's about something else. Please don't forget to come, okay?)

I was slightly apprehensive, unsurprisingly I think. The thing with my water pipes has made me a bit jumpy about my home-stewardship skills. Plug-sized sections of them froze last week, apparently in a totally mysterious fashion that wasn't my fault and boggled the workmen's senses of logic--but they haven't been able to explain it to me very well, which has naturally left me wondering if maybe the workmen are wrong and it was my fault after all and I'm some kind of involuntary hyper-skilled pipe saboteur. But of course, I went.

The "something else"...was a cake. A beautiful little pie...tart...shortcake thingy all covered with glazed strawberries that the whole office had chipped in for, with Happy Birthday and my name on it in Japanese. Kamada-kun presented it to me in a fancy box and everything.

My coworkers are sneaky. And I love 'em for it. :D
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This post has been long in the making, for spare and rare was the time I had to spend "researching" it. And here, at last, it is:

When I first arrived at the Uryu Board of Education, I didn't have a whole lot to do. This is standard procedure for the JET Program; apparently the mode of thinking is that we'll be less overwhelmed by our new duties if we can just chill in Japan and get used to the culture for a week or two before we're thrown to the lions, so they bring us over a few weeks before the school year starts. We get to spend those weeks puttering around our offices, examining the many amusing knick-knacks left behind by our predecessors, and figuring out how not to make our fuse boxes explode.

Among my personal crop of leftover knick-knacks were several extremely entertaining books:

-Japanese Phrases for Dummies.
-Several books of beautiful essays by past JETs.
-Complete sets of two different English textbook lines not used by the Uryu school system. (Uryu's preferred series, One World, not included.)
-Assorted Japanese dictionaries.
-A Penguin Level 2 Reader of Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake, in case your second grader needs to know words like cover up, drugs, shoot, suicide, or whisky. (I kid you not. I'm severely tempted to give this thing its own mini entry one of these days.)
-And an absolutely gorgeous photography book, suitable for coffee-table display and reading, titled Ryokan: Eternal Beauty and detailing all the glories of the upscale Japanese traditional inn.

In which I gabble endlessly about my love for ryokan. )

In which I get to the point, which is Engrish. Really spectacular Engrish. :D )

God bless you, Japan. ♥
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I have finally discovered a setback to living in a really small town, besides not having any karaoke boxes or movie theaters.

If you do something stupid in public, everybody knows about it. )
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One of the books I've been studying lately when I have an otherwise unoccupied moment at work is The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. Besides giving me a better grasp of English history and the circumstances of the birth of the Church of England, a wider perspective on the lives of all six unfortunate ladies, and yielding up such nuggets of historical delight as the French king's delighted comment on hearing about Katherine Howard's scandalous multiple affairs ("She hath done wondrous naughty!"), it has also made me feel much better about modern English spelling, as opposed to its older and highly mercurial ancestor(s).

Just a few examples: The highly educated Catherine of Aragon writes to her husband, "In this your grace shal fee you I can kepe my promys fending you for your baners a king cote." The wondrous naughty Katherine Howard writes to her lover, "I wode you war wythe me now that you mouthe se wat pane I take yn wryteg to you." In a contemporary miniature portrait, Henry Fitzroy the Duke of Richmond is identified as HENRY DVCK OFF RICHEMOD.

I may not have any good excuse to my students for why 'knight' isn't pronounced kuh-niggit, or what on earth is up with our pluralizations...but at least in this modern day and age, men are not (usually) mistaken on paper for waterfowl. ♥
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