Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"My own little world, is what I deserve, 'cause I am the only child there is."

For my birthday... I worked. Although half the classes were cancelled because the third years had testing, so there was a present. I had my first class with the school's Special Needs class - six students of various ages and abilities. Three have Down's Syndrome, one is extremely hyperactive and then just falls asleep, and the youngest just seems to be painfully shy. They were the only class to sing me Happy Birthday.

First years are learning the English alphabet, second the difference between "to be" and "to do." Third, oddly, is learning the passive tense, which my mind revolts against since every bit of my education was "Do Not Use Passive Voice." I'm reconciling it as, that is a stylistic requirement to avoid it in writing, but there are some spoken instances when it's necessary. For example, how else would you convey, with something like "The Tower was built in ____" that the important part isn't who built the Tower, but that it happened? Or if you're trying to distract the blame from yourself when "The book was lost" by not admitting that "I lost the book"? I had to think hard for a while when I saw "lived" on the list of passive forms of verbs - because would it be possible to be "lived"? A creature lives, lived in the past, is living, will live. But can one have "living" done to one, the way "spoken" is done to a language, or "taught" is done to a subject. Finally I realized it only applies with abstract concepts, like "a lifestyle is lived" or "a dream is lived." Is that correct? Is there another way it could be used? When I asked if there was an equivalent to passive in Japanese, I was told (see!) that it is considered a requirement in formal writing, because it conveys humility and politeness. I boggled. But of course, this is the country where they say "I receive" before every meal.

Ah! Speaking of food. It is very important in schools here that children eat everything on their plate, because it is very carefully nutritionally balanced. Since teachers often eat with the students, they are expected to set an example. Even though us ALTs usually eat in the staff room at our desks, we are to do the same. I was looked at askance the first day for scraping some corn into the garbage, so I've made a point since then to clean my plate thoroughly. It's usually not difficult, since the food is better than American school food ever was (I still have nightmares about those rectangular pizzas.) But the other day I was quite traumatized when something covered in breadcrumbs turned out to be whole, finger-sized fish. "You can't even see it through the coating," I reasoned, "just bite it fast and don't think about it." I can only imagine the expression on my face when I realized it was full of little tiny eggs. That was a meal I finished with my eyes closed.

I usually take birthday dinners very seriously - it should be something that you love, and have had a craving for recently, and it should visually appealing as well as taste delicious. This year, however, my only requirement was that it was something I did not have to cook myself. So I got something from the hot section of the supermarket, and then grabbed a melon pan for dessert. Unfortunately I didn't have any candles to put on the top, but then they wouldn't have fit. 23! The only thing keeping me from feeling very old is all my coworkers telling me how young I am.

I decided not to buy another futon after all for now, because I discovered that if I fold the top third over it provides decent support for my back, and my legs don't really need the cushioning anyways. It's still not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it will do. And as much as I dislike using it without a cover, the inside fabric is much smoother than the sheeting I'd put on it, so for now I'll use it like this for the sake of my poor delicate skin.

Excuse me while I go consume my melon pan (though I have yet to find some that is actually melon flavored, sadly.)

1 comment:

woody said...

Happy Birthday Emily! 23, with a college degree---you're not yet as old as me. Besides, you're making profound and interesting memories in a strange (in a good way) foreign country (all i've done is work mediocre low paying jobs for the past four years since i graduated)--you are doing cool things right off the bat. keep at it---love wood