Food, Finals, and Fun!

Its Wednesday again, but I'm going to spare you the details of the faculty meeting. Not that it was so bad or long, but just that it was unexpectedly short so there's nothing of consequence to rave or rant about.

Classes have finished and finals have started. Its my first time to be on the other end of finals. This time I'm making the test instead of taking it. So far I've learned that the days get less busy for teachers during finals. Proctors administrate the tests instead of the teachers themselves. This is because 4, 45-student classes take the test at the same time. My role is to check in halfway through and see if students have any questions. After the 45 minute test period, me and my co-teacher get 200 tests to hand grade. Now I see why teachers design multiple-choice tests to grade on Scan-Tron sheets: grading convenience! But it took me about 3 hours to grade 180 tests. Some multiple choice, some open entry. Enough of this testing mumbo-jumbo, let's get to some Japanese culture.

Winter is here! It snowed on Monday night, but it melted as it hit the road. I only noticed the snow from someone's shaded lawn in the morning. My heating unit is mounted about 8 feet up on my wall. I know the Japanese are excellent planners, but if hot air rises, there's not too much further for the heat to go before it lingers on the ceiling and escapes my cold feet. But then again there's another nifty invention called the こたつ"kotatsu" which is a blanket-rimmed coffee table with a heater underneath it. Talk about efficiently warm tootsies! So Yao Ming can enjoy my heater while I take the kotatsu! Meanwhile I'm wearing my Navy Pea Coat, skull cap, brown crusher, and woven scarf to ward off the winter cold. My students are wearing the thin coats of their uniforms and few other accoutrements. What are the Japanese eating to make their blood so thick? Don't tell me its 納豆 (nattoo, fermented soybeans). I don't think I'm ready for that yet. In Jamaica, all the kids tested my toughness by asking me if I eat "spring chicken" which I learned was frogs's legs. Considering that I'd eaten snake and rat in Benin, West Africa, I wouldn't rule out eating an amphibian. Nevertheless, I didn't eat frogs legs while in Jamaica. Here in Japan, its nattoo. I'm told you either love it or hate it. Either way, the smell is strong. Somedays I'm greeted with the smell as I enter the faculty room at school by a teacher who eats it at her desk which is adjacent to the entrance. So far I'm not enticed.

One thing I have gone out on a limb to try is 生卵 (nama tamago, raw egg with soy sauce and rice). I was introduced to it when I was WWOOFing it in the hills above Toyama. My hosts had a free-range organic chicken farm, so the eggs were fresh each day. I've been conditioned to believe that raw eggs carry salmonella or whatever, so at the time I was torn between trying something new and fearing repurcussions from it after. I balked at eating the nama tamago at the farm, but on Monday I took a free-range egg and cracked it over my steaming 嫌前(gen mae, brown rice), added some soy sauce, stirred it up, and wolfed it down. The egg is more of a binding agent than a flavor enhancer, so it didn't taste that bad. I'm not having it every night yet, but maybe again.

Okay, big tangent there. Sorry. It will be just two now before I fly Chicago for Christmas with the family. All the siblings are coming to Chicago to celebrate. I don't think we've been together for Christmas since 2002. Its been so long, I'm not even sure. But its certainly something to look forward to. The blogs will continue from Chicago. I think the reentry and pause moments of international living are just as insightful as the immersion ones. For example, I don't think I've learned a lot of Japanese over the past 4 months. But perhaps when I fly back to Japan on January 6th, I'll realize how much I know. And that goes for cultural insight too. I don't think I've grasped too much, but coming back again I'll get a new perspective. I will be missing one of the festive times of year: Christmas and New Years. Christmas in Japan is celebrated a little bit differently than in other countries. Perhaps next year.

In the next week, I'll try to take a trip into Osaka or somewhere else of cultural significance to have another story to tell you. Thanks for keeping in touch with me through the blog!

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Countries I have visited

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