Productivity & Presents

A good two days I’ve had. Monday proved extremely productive. In between teaching four classes – (my word “positive” seems to be working pretty well so far, though certain classes really test that) – I wrote an entire(ly mediocre) rough draft of a statement of purpose for my new M.A. program of interest.

For those who didn’t hear, my language skills are not up to par for the Master’s program I had gotten excited about in a previous post. However, when God closes one door, he opens many others, and so it’s been with this. I fell back on my original program choice, but I decided to search more, and I came across a new one (coincidentally the school one of my friends is doing her M.A. work at), and I’m very interested.

So I sent an email to the graduate coordinator and started up an outline for the statement of purpose. I know it can take me ages to write them, as the last one I tried doing a few weeks ago proved, but I began fleshing the bullets out one by one, just to have full sentences, and soon I had well over the 750-word limit. Paring it down took a lot of effort. Now I have to make it sound like something a university student would write.

I’ve found that to be the biggest challenge living in Japan – though I teach English and speak it daily, and though I continue to write with native speakers who use good vocabulary, my personal dictionary shrinks. I forget what words mean or how to spell them. I resort to basic words and phrases where I would have used a more precise or vivid word before. It’s partly because I don’t have to write (or read) academically anymore, but I do still try to write with more creative words in my own works and roleplaying. That only goes so far, of course, even with a thesaurus (when I remember to use it).

A big factor, too, is that I have to simplify everything I say when I speak English here. I use a bit more advanced grammar or words with the middle and high school teachers, but outside of that, I teach kids fourteen and under, and I can’t use the kinds of words I would normally. To illustrate how entrenched I am in this, I’ll tell you a brief anecdote about something I did a few weeks ago.

Every day I at least read roleplay posts or do short IM roleplays with friends. I do it before work, after work, and during work, if time allows. So I’m very accustomed to switching from my “English for Japan” to my “English for native speakers” mindset.

One day I came home and wrote a post for a roleplay thread I am in. Three or four paragraphs – pretty typical. My wording wasn’t anything fancy or elaborate, either. After I submitted the post, though, I sat there and reread parts of it, and instantly I began worrying. Were these words too big? Did they understand what they meant? Was this grammar too difficult? Should I edit it and rephrase everything?

It took almost a minute for me to realize these are native speakers! My post is one hundred percent understandable.

If I did hashtags, this would be #englishinjapan.

To bring it all back to my point – I need to really amp up my vocabulary again. Also, statement of purposes are no fun. Or at least only a minimal amount of fun.

Alright, back to my productive Monday. So, I taught my four classes, spent most of the day typing and editing my statement of purpose, and sent out the email to the graduate coordinator. During my last fifty minutes of work, I wrote three roleplay posts in thirty minutes. (Yep. I’m very proud.)

Right as work ended, my friend skyped me so I could recite “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” for her. She needed to know how to read a set prayer – as in, she had five minutes before she had to go, so this was a rush call – so I left the school and talked to her while I changed shoes and got in my car. She later told me it went well and thanked me, but, if she’s reading this, she owes me BIG TIME!! I’m talking Nick, Christopher, AND Danny Boy, and Jae Hwa can shush his little mouth about it. (No, I expect no one else to understand this.)

On the way home, I stopped by the store and picked up milk (which I forgot I already had more of. Now I must consume it AAAALL!) and a few other items. I came home, cooked up some tonkotsu nabe (a hot pot meal) and did dishes. I worked on a simple PowerPoint for my elementary school class today (which we didn’t end up using), and then had my Bible study Skype call.

I’d say that’s pretty productive, wouldn’t you?

Today has been less productive, but I came to my first elementary school – (I have two on Tuesdays) – to be met with a little present on my desk, which is the picture for today. It’s a small bookmark with a haiku. The note translates basically as, “Every month, we write a haiku. We chose one that fit you. We’ll be happy if you (do us the courtesy) of liking it.” Anyone who wants to give (or get) a more precise translation, leave a comment.

Haiku bookmarkHaiku bookmarkHaiku bookmarkHaiku bookmark The poem was written by two kids in a special learning class. The haiku reads:

Harouiin no
rousoku ireru
Jyakorantan

Which means:

Halloween’s
Candle-filled*
Jack-o-lantern(s)

*literally, it means “Halloween’s jack-o-latern that has a candle inside”. It’s a relative clause.

They chose this one because I made a small jack-o-latern my first Halloween here, brought it in, lit a candle, and showed it to them.

What else happened today? Oh, at the same school, I ate a lovely omiyage cake, so anyone interested in types of presents given after returning from trips, this is one type. I don’t like anko (red bean paste), so thankfully this was just a nice, sweet yellow cake.

Cake omiyage DCIM0361

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