Sorry I missed my weekly posting time. Things have been really busy in school and out of it. My best friend from 1st grade is visiting me for the week, so I've been working ahead to have some free time with him.

Even though Japan and USA are out of the World Cup (and few people are staying up late to watch teams that don't represent their country), students and teachers are still tired. Maybe just end of school blues? That's when I try to kick it into the next gear.

Chuck and I will visit the rich cultural sites of Kyoto, Nara, and Himeji, as well as the techo-urban side of Osaka, in the next week. Please look for more frequent updates and pictures of our adventures! Genki de!


Teaching a taste of French in Japanese

Today I had a personal encounter with the people who are responsible for making such delicious French pastries all over Japan. First let me back up and set the mood that I was in when I made the encounter.

I taught swimming lessons to two boys who will be going on the 2nd year students' trip to a wilderness island in the Inland Sea of Japan. The PE teachers needed extra help, so they called in "the ringer": me. I don't know about that, but I've offered my swimming expertise on previous occaisions, so I'm happy to help. It's something familiar to me. The boys are also my students in class, so they were comfortable with my voice and use of English. Swimming is a physical skill, so it is easy to mimic and one doesn't need to speak the language of instruction fluently to get the point across. I went over the basics until I found their weak points, then taught to those. After an hour, we got out and changed. There are few better feelings than air-drying off on the pool deck during a 90ºF (32ºC) day. Riding this natural high, I set off for the mall. Where else?;)

I had to buy some books for my English class at the book store. After that, I took a moment to read my free reading book on the deli/restaurant floor of the mall. I bought a milk tea and sandwiche au jambon. Eating the factory sliced bread day in and out sure does numb the memory of what freshly baked bread tastes like. The sandwiche was delicious. As I read, I could hear two girls attempting to count to twenty in French. "I wonder what that's about" I asked myself.

Then I remembered what my friend Nathan told me when I visited him in Mie-ken. Well-off Japanese parents send their children to Paris to learn the secrets of pastry baking. They bring their skills back to Japan and open their own patisserie. Maybe that's what thhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifeir up to.

On my way out, I asked them in Japanese if they were practicing French. They eagerly told me to sit down and invited me to pronounce some words for them. Their exercises consisted of food vocabulary, recipe instructions, and measurements. Yep, these women are going to Paris. They were amazed at the difficult phonemes such as the trilled and swallowed "r" and the vowel clusters that has one's tongue doing pilates to pronounce half a word.

Halfway through my lesson I admitted that I was an American, not French, and the women were even more surprised. At that point I realized that I had arrived as a multi-lingual: I was teaching my third language using my sixth language. Even using Japanese grammatical terms to explain French grammar. Phew! Maybe I wasn't too clear on somethings, but they seemed like they were less confused than when we began. After half an hour, I excused myself to go home, but not before I gave them my contact information if they had anymore questions.

What I should have done was to request a free pastry upon their return from France for my services rendered!

To me, French patisseries in Japan are a reflection of the Japanese value for experiencing and emulating the best with attention to detail. But don't think this is being done while they abandon their own cuisine. Japanese sweets and culinary treats abound here. I just can't find their chefs as easily as hearing French in the cafeteria! Genki de!


Bob Marley: soccer player

I subscribe to a daily posting of blog entries from the Caribbean. It helps me to keep in touch with my "roots" in Jamaica. Being that I now live in Japan and am in the best position to write a bridge blog for English readers interested in Japanese culture, I normally don't comment on links to other regions. But considering that it's World Cup time, I thought you would enjoy this blog entry from author Geoffrey Philip about playing soccer with Bob Marley.

Geoffrey is from the generation in Jamaica that came of age before the high crime rate and socialist flirtations gave genesis to the '80s brain drain. During that time, one could have these casual encounters with world famous people and it wouldn't be a big deal. After all, it's an island and eventually you're going to run into the same people again and again. To some degree, you still can have encounters with famous people, but there's a lot more security to get through. I high-fived Beenie Man at a soccer game; met the Ted Kennedy of Jamaican politics, Edward Seaga, while wearing the political colors of his opposition; chatted with Sean Paul's cousin; and sat next to the members of Black Uhuru on the plane. There's no cult of celebrity in Jamaica that keeps famous people from interacting with the public like a regular person. So that's why this blog on playing soccer with Bob Marley is so unique. Enjoy!


Keep the customers satisfied

I know it's been a while since my last entry and you're dying to see improved quality in the videos. As you all know, it's World Cup time. I've been balancing school preparation with bouts of world cup fever. It's not as bad as Olympic fever, but the symptoms from a loss are more severe. Japan and USA lost on the same day, so we weren't a happy bunch in the faculty room. Some students confided in me that they'd stayed up late or gotten up early to watch the match. There's a pack of little zombies going around school from lack of sleep. Why couldn't Germany schedule some 6 AM matches for the viewing pleasure of their Japanese fans? Or the other way around: why can't Japanese TV just show tape delayed matches during prime time? The slots are wide open during the midnight hours, so it works out better that way.

I had a cute encounter with children hunting otamajakushi yesterday. That's Japanese for tadpole. Language encounters and learning are easier when done in the presence of children: less pressure, simpler language, laughter and forgiveness of errors. 

Now that I'm in my last few months here, the langauge encounters with everyday Japanese that I meet on the street are increasing. And so is my language ability. A coincidence? Cause and effect? Sounds like a good research project. If only I had the time! Genki de and kyotsukute!


Video on a Train to Yokkaichi

I'm experimenting with posting videos on my blog. This one is from my recent train trip to Mie Prefecture. It's from my digital camera, not my video camera, so the quality isn't that good. Stay tuned for better quality and subjects of video. Genki de!


Japanese Train Nerd

It looks like my train travels documented in my previous email pale in comparison to this otaku. He has visited over 9,000 train stations in Japan. You can't do that without avoiding friends and work! Check it out!

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA