Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Oh-Oh Dad's in charge!

My student, K, is 9 but has pretty good English. She's a bit of a geek, but I don't have any problem with that as I think I have a secret geek side too. Hell, I blog don't I?! Anyway, as I said, her English is good for her age and we can have a conversation, although she makes a lot of mistakes. She normally gets to the school about 15 minutes before the lesson; this is pretty unusual for a student.

Today she was a minute late and came in panting. I said, 'K, you're out of breath and late! What happened?'

Ever hopeful of a straight answer she began: 'At the weekend we going ski.' . I considered maybe she'd chosen to ignore my question and repeated what she said to clarify we were on the same page (she often mixes up her tenses). Once I'd called her on it, she started again: 'At the weekend we went ski [me: "skiing"] skiing and my mum really likes skiing and is very good but doesn't like high slopes and she was skiing and look like bushes and look like this [shows with hand mum going down hill then vering off at a 45 degree angle] and she hit tree. [me: huh? Is she okay? (and presuming that if mother was dead or in a coma, that K wouldn't be sitting in my classroom, although her dad takes her learning so seriously I really couldn't be sure)].

K continued: 'I go [me: 'went'] I went and got patrol. [By now I've concluded I'll never find out why she was late] And she had a broken 'here' [points to rib. Me: rib]. Yes. Two. And she hurt to lie down and can only sit and my dad have to cook, and I have to wash clotheses [me: clothes] and my sister has to clean the house. '

Me: 'Is that why you're late? Because your dad is in charge?'
K: 'Yes' [giggles]
Me: 'For how long?'
K: 'For two months.' [giggles]


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I'll start charging a consultancy fee

A couple of weeks ago a make-up student (ie one that has a regular teacher who isn't me, but was 'owed' a lesson) had me giving her ideas for how she should sell more CDs in her shop. For about half of the lesson. Today I had the same bint again. Fifteen minutes before the end of the lesson - and I have NO marketing background and have in no way led her to believe I do have - asked me to help (ie 'do') her work homework for her. I said, surprised, 'oh, you study English at work?', she said no. She had to come up with a plan to market a new version of The Sound of Music. (A family sing-along version or something - I guess this means they'll be katakana'ing the English words rather than just translating them into subtitles). She brought out a blank form as well. I TEACH ENGLISH. YOU ARE IN MY CLASSROOM TO PRACTICE ENGLISH, BINT.

I considered breaking into song, but decided I couldn't be arsed to help her, so just turned the tables and threw the question back at her. Some people! Honestly!

Everybody: Doouh diru a feemaruh diru, rae a duropu ovuh goreden sunuh, mea naemuh iyu caru myserefu, faru ron ron wayu to runnu (Machiruda: you with me here?)

Hopefully this will mean there'll be a demand for the songs in karaoke though. I can't wait!!! And I'm pretty sure, when they introduce them to karaoke the videos will still be the same girl on the beach / on the bench / in the park, and the same shots of the Champs Elysees / Trevi Fountain / Central Park that they keep showing.


I trial lessoned a 2 year old today. If he joins my lesson I'll be 'teaching' two 2-year olds together. I'm already shuddering at the thought, especially as the one I haven't met I know a lot about already and the two personalities will be VERY different. Valium, anyone? (for me, not them).


I had to say goodbye today to one of my favourite classes. In April new texts and courses are always started and my 6-year olds are going up to the next class and splitting up. I am sad, because they were great kids and the only kids group I currently have as most of my classes are one or two students only. I took some photos of them at the end and gave them each a present that I had painstakingly wrapped. In Japan, wrapping is a BIG thing. An artform almost, and I was really nervous that the parents might see my normally crap wrapping attempts.

In another moment of almost predictable Japaneseness, what do you think the kids all did when I handed them the presents? What would a British kid do? I'd expect a British kid to maybe wait until all the kids had a present in hand and then I'd expect them to have the gifts out of the paper within about half a second. What did my littlies do? Nothing. We said goodbye and they walked out with the presents in their hands, still wrapped. As I tried to not burst into tears because I was sad to lose them!


I'm also happy that a student I'd thought would be leaving (another of my favourite students) just coughed up for another three months. I guess I must be doing something right. And this is another thing I love about teaching. You know if you're doing a good job or not on a lesson by lesson basis. You know if it's gone well. Maybe you just know. Or maybe it'll be something the student will say or the way they thank you, or leave the classroom laughing. Or maybe they'll tell the receptionist and she'll tell you....

I've never had this kind of instant work gratification before. Especially not at the BBC where to get a hint of praise would be akin to winning a medal without having taken part in an event, most of the time. It's nice to know you're appreciated. Why can't more employees realise this?

Enough rambling for tonight though!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ueno Park - Hanami

Hanami, today, in Ueno Park:

There was lots of drinking and eating and talking. The weather was pretty nice and the sakura was beautiful. Lots of photos were taken, of each other taking photos mainly, but also of the trees. Here's my friends' baby at his first hanami. You can see he's getting into the spirit of the event quite nicely:

Naturally, there were lots of people, dogs in clothes, bla bla bla, and this little mushroom got hung up in a tree. Lots of people took photos of him, so I decided to do the same:

So did my friends:

Finally though, it started getting darker and colder and the artificial paper lanterns were all lit:

We'd had a good day, packed up and decided to move on:

Friday, March 24, 2006

Education in Japan, in a nutshell

At schools in Japan, they have four exam periods every year but the schools are so shite most kids go to cram schools to get a good enough eduction to pass their exams and get into uni. Some kids go to cram school (juku) from five years old.

Plus school clubs, English lessons, ballet lessons, flute lessons, piano lessons, etc.

To get into uni you have to pass a massive and tough exam that includes English (regardless of what you want to study)

but still most people can't speak English here. (Of course, for Eikaiwa (language school) teachers, like me, this is good. It means money for us!

Once in uni they spend all their time doing clubs etc and very little studying.

One student told me her son is doing a year of his law degree in the UK and was shocked that in the UK students have to actually work at uni. GASP!

Anyway, in their penultimate year, all uni students dress, in their identical suits, and go, with their identical answers(they have books giving them the answers they should give in interviews), one whole year before graduating, to heaps of interviews for jobs.

They have no idea before going if they will be given tests and, if they are to be given tests, whether it'll be a language test, maths test, personality test, etc.


the answers they give in their interviews are TIMED!

(not 'the interview is timed' but every answer is timed)

Is Japan trying to produce a nation of clones?

(All information above has been supplied by a variety of my students so, if it's inaccurate, stuff it. I mean, DO tell me!)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thelma and Louise, eat your hearts out

I don't know what we did wrong, but it was BAD. Last night, Jayne and I were fugitives, on the run from the police. It was very exciting: we were running over fields trying to elude capture, speeding around corners in our snazzy little sports car, hiding in buildings...

Unfortunately, we eventually got caught and taken to jail, which was a very scary experience...

And then I woke up. The last two nights, since changing the position of my futon in my room, I've been having these rather odd dreams. Do you think I should change the position back?


"All foreigners look the same to me."

This came from one of my students today. Hasn't she noticed that non-Japanese have different hair colours and textures, different eye colours, different face shapes, different colours of skin? I wonder... It was a worrying comment all the same.

Oh, and it was in the context of why she'd only seen 4 foreign movies in her life! Even her friend was stunned by the only 4 foreign movies thing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's back to work I go....

I've just had a four day break, but tomorrow it's back to work. As much as I'd wanted to go away for this break, I'm happy I didn't.

Sunday, as I posted, was spent at the St Patrick's Day parade and around, with a DVD binge in the evening.

Monday was spent with friends in Saitama (about a million miles from Tokyo) having lunch, wandering around and swooning over my friends baby, again. Soooo sweet!

Tuesday was spent blitzing the apartment, faffing around with photographs, and having a DVD binge in the evening.

Today I woke up and, looking out the window, saw four portaloos being delivered to the area of mud outside my window. The same area of mud that used to hold a building and that was noisily knocked down over quite a long period last year. The portaloo sightings don't bode well. How long are they going to be here? What are they going to construct? How much noise will they make? And how early will they start? It's all questions, questions, questions...

I also had a couple of very odd dreams last night. One involved someone drowning in about 4cms of water, being filmed for a tv program but not being allowed to take my bags with me whilst being escorted out of a large house by an ex boss. I snuck back after to collect my bags, but they'd fallen behind a sofa. I also had to get my shirt back as it was on a plastic maniquin. There were other bits about it that I don't remember any longer. The other dream involved losing or forgetting a kid somewhere. I don't remember any more about that though. Odd. Too many DVD's and red wine, I guess.

Anyway, today, I met up with an Aussie mate from London, and his Aussie chef friend who lives here and spent a lovely day wandering around Ginza, Harajuku and Shibuya sightseeing and browsing in, pretty much, every gadget and toy shop we passed on the way.

In the Sony store, I totally fell in love with the I-Fish and I really want one. I can't figure out if it comes with an MP3 player or not but it's so cute. And it wriggles around, and makes nice noises and has lovely colours. Swooooon. I'm in love. With a fish. This fish. Sooooo cute :D

We also got followed around, or it felt like it anyway, by a van blasting out music by a cutesy boy band, Kat-Tun, who are about to release their first CD, or something. And I mean blasting. Of course, this meant people were going camera crazy taking pictures excitedly of the van. We also saw some school girls running after it to get pictures. It was a van. With pictures of the band on the outside. A whole gaggle of school girls then turned around to pose for my mate Rob to take their picture. He was in heaven, although slightly concerned he might have to explain having a picture of a dozen 15-year olds wearing knicker scimming skirts!

We played with light sabres in one shop and didn't get told off, which amazed me, and little amazes me here any more; visited Meiji Jingu; wandered through Yoyogi park; and actually got a table in the Starbucks at Shibuya crossing (the one Scarlett Johanssen sits in in 'Lost in Translation').

Then I had a curry with another friend. Nice four days in all. Especially as the horrible weather stayed away until this evening.

AND I've been as organised as to email people about my birthday in two months so I can book a table and not faff around a week before saying, I don't know if I want to do anything. Which is what I normally do. Aren't I good? Definitely a sign of getting older though!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pitter Patricks

Today I'm writing in green for St. Patricks. If anyone's wondering about the title of this post though it's a play on 'pitter patter'....

as in CONGRATULATIONS BEN, GABBIE AND BUMP!!! And I'll be thinking of you getting married on Saturday and wishing I could be there with you to celebrate. And as I, finally, got your present today, you'll hopefully get it sooner than the June I'd figured it'd probably be.

Sarah, I've also sorted your birthday present, so hopefully I'll not be forgetting as many important dates this year as I did last!

Anyway, back to green things. Today I went up to Omotesando for the St Patrick's Day Parade.

It was slightly odd seeing an American brass band marching down a street for St Patrick's Day, playing Abba songs, in Tokyo, but I'm learning to accept and not question things so much here.

There was a LOT of green and that includes dressed up large dogs. The wind was quite strong which was rather amusing for us as we watched people in the parade struggling to not let VERY large inflatable Guinness glasses escape their grips. There were all sorts of brass bands, bagpipers (Irish??), dancers, baton twirlers, costumed characters, cheerleaders (you know, all those well known Irish things), jugglers and what not. Good fun. And my friend and I had to yell 'Happy St. Patrick's day' into some guys microphone.

Naturally the day was finished with a quick Guinness (for me) and a green beer (for my friend).

Ah, and Jules just reminded me: I scared myself today. I was hunting for Ben and Gabbie's wedding present and seeing loads of lovely things that I just couldn't send as they'd break before reaching the UK. I found myself commenting to my friend, "wouldn't that be a perfect centre-piece for a dinner party." A VERY un-me kind of comment. The item in question consisted of little dishes that fitted around a centre dish and fitted into a large round. And the whole thing rotated. It was beautiful. Jules, you'd have loved it (amongst the china stuff in Oriental Bazaar). Ben and Gabs - you would have too - but you're all responsible, get-nice-things-for-the-house types of people and I'm not. First wanting kids, and now this? As I said, I'm scaring myself these days!

The dogs:

The kids:

The costume characters and large inflatables:

And the award for most un-co-ordinated outfit of the day (and it's all wool, if you're wondering):

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Saturday snippets

~ I saw a kid of about 8 today, wearing bright pink 'things'. I'm not really sure what to call them. They consisted of extremely short shorts attached, by little brace clips that were about 4 cms long, to trouser legs. Does that make sense? It just looked very inappropriate to me. The kind of clothing someone like Jodie Marsh would wear to look sluttish. It definitely did not look cute. Maybe that's just my take though.

~ I saw a dog having it's nappy (diaper) adjusted.

~ I saw, and bought, some pitta bread. Stuffed pitta bread used to be one of my favourite meals in the UK. In Japan, they are pretty hard to find and normally come in packets of two and are expensive. I find a pack of six that were reasonably priced today. Happy, happy!

~ My blind student is turning into one of my favourites to teach now. The 45 minutes with her just flies by and most of it is spent with the two of us laughing. Giving a lesson to her also means being more creative and innovative than normal AND she's a lovely person with a really cool sense of humour. She's also teaching ME so much. Like how she emails her boyfriend (typed messages from a computer get turned into voice messages on her phone), plays football (bell in ball) and volleyball (bell in ball PLUS someone shouting to her), etc. Last week she told me her grandfather taught her upper case letters when she was a kid. Today I taught her lower case using magnets. She loved it. Cool girl. Wish all my students gave so much to the lesson.

~ I now have four days off before I work again. Happier, happier!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I'm a childminder.
I'm an entertainer. Kids and adults. Especially adults, sometimes.
I'm a counsellor and confidente. Job problem? Marital problem? Child problem? Grief problem?
I'm a marketing guru. You business isn't doing well? Just ask Jo for ideas.
I'm a font of all knowledge.

And sometimes I teach grammar.


Do other teachers feel this way?

Monday, March 13, 2006

What happened to spring?

It's gone away again. Oh well!

This weekend I didn't see the ferret my friend told me about. It was dressed in a little bright pink skirt and matching ribbon around it's neck. My friends saw it being passed to someone dressed in a red pepper costume for a photo. Am very upset I missed that one.

Yesterday I saw Brokeback Mountain and really enjoyed it. I'm ashamed to say I didn't cry though, but I tend to cry at odd things... And then went and got rather drunk and had lots of random conversations with random people. Nothing new really.

Today was a non-starter as I had big time snuffles. Oh well!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I cannot imagination

I had another student say that to me today. [Bashes own head repeatedly on keyboard].

She'd managed to successfully mime the movie 'Pretty Woman' (kind of successfully, I mean badly, but the others had guessed) but when I asked her what a man and woman in the cockpit of a plane with no pilot but the view of someone in front of them dropping down with a parachute and a mountain in front of them, might be saying to each other (one line of dialogue was required from each character) she just couldn't think of anything they could say. It wasn't hard. It didn't require brain surgery. GAH! Sadly, many Japanese students are like this.

I seem to also be getting a little 'collection' of 'special needs' students. I have one kid with Aspergers who I find very frustrating to teach. The text book is too easy for him, but anything harder would be too complicated. If that makes sense. His concentration is such that it makes him really hard to teach. He's 12.

Another boy, of about 10, that I teach has a milder form of something similar, but he's very funny and has a good sense of humour. He's silly but we laugh together. He does random things like dancing across the classroom or pretending imaginary objects are there. I normally join in!

I have a further one, an 18 year old with cerebral palsy (maybe - I'm not totally sure) and mild autism. He's easy to teach and the lessons are always lighthearted (he shares the classes with his mum) although he can be hard to understand and I don't generally feel I can correct his pronunciation.

I also have a TOTALLY blind adult who, I think, is amazing. She's been learning for years with our company but only transferred to be my regular student last week. Our lessons will be 45 minutes but, last week, I taught her for 90 minutes and was really nervous about the lesson not being interesting as normally I rely so heavily on sight.

She's 24 years old and has the text book in braille. Every braille unit is massive! She also has a braille machine that she types notes into. We had a great lesson and the time, according to both of us, flew by. She loves English, has an international communications degree, is about to start a massage degree, does classical ballet and loves 'watching' football. I did many of the same games I'd do with other adults with her but just adapted them and made things more tactile. I also realised that I normally sit there like an idiot using encouraging facial expressions but now have to make lots of random noises when she talks instead! Thankfully she had some sight when she was a kid so has a memory of colours and other abstract visual things that would be impossible to explain to her.

I mean, talk about having to be versatile as a teacher here!

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's nearly time

Hanami is almost upon us. Hanami is a special sit-underneath-trees-and-drink-yourself-stupid festival. It's fun. So far this year, I have two s-u-t-a-d-y-s parties to look forward to. I have a feeling the number will probably grow. There are lots of websites that tell you when is the best time to go and sit under the trees and d-y-s. The TV news also tells you when you should be planning your s-u-t-a-d-y-s for.*

Sorry about the delay in updating. I've been lazy/busy/tired.

Since last posting then: I had a fun weekend. Saturday night I went to a small but random 'party' that involved a lot of booze and food and was in a secret location with secret people. It also involved me giving a very naughty English lesson. There is photographic evidence, but it's being kept hidden! Sorry I can't say any more. I wouldn't want to incriminate anyone. But it went on to about 2am and no karaoke was involved.

Sunday was lovely too. Timorous Beastie and I went to Liisa's party. We stayed a lot longer than everyone else so I hope Liisa and her lovely hubby weren't too annoyed at us! I'm trying to find words to use other than 'lovely', but it was all very lovely: their apartment, their cute kid, the salads and cake, their friends, their friends kids.... it was all very very lovely!

AND Beastie and I went on the Yurikamome Line, which was great fun! It's an elevated train line and is pretty cool to look down on everything as you go above it all. I kept waiting for a rollercoaster type swoop, but sadly it didn't happen. Oh well.

The weather has now picked up, although it is still a bit unpredictable. The big heavy winter blanket has been packed away and I'm back to just a duvet at nighttime now. Yay!

The gym going is intermittent, although I'm still managing once or twice a week... and I keep noticing women wearing nylon tights under their shorts in the gym. Someone please tell me why? I don't mean leggings or sports wear... but tights. Bizarre.

The kids I started bribing to control their behaviour a few weeks ago are utter angels every week now. Unfortunately, I lose them all in three weeks time when they go to other classes at the next level. There's a bit of subtle bitchiness I've started to notice (they are six years old) but I'm going to let it slide... two of them keep holding hands and standing close to each other a little away from the third one. That's life, I guess, and 'aliences' change so quickly at that age anyway. Today they were really sweet. I've been getting them to say: 'May I come in?', at the door each week and have normally only got a mumbled 'mayiioeie' or something similar. Today they were all early and I was still rearranging furniture so told them to wait outside. They were giggling and suddenly I heard a really clear 'May I come in?' from them. I was SO chuffed :D

I don't like the course I'm teaching them. It's a joke. I'm expecting them to learn around 12 words each lesson on this course and this is WAY too many for their age and lack of English experience. Today we had great fun miming things like big, small, happy, sad, angry, hot and cold. Of course, I doubt they'll remember more than two or three of 11 by next week but who cares, they're cute kids and we all had fun!

I'm sure I had a heap of other things I wanted to blog about; but I can't remember them. Sorry.

* Hanami is the name given to celebrating the sakura, or cherry blossom, that appear this time of year. Blossom is very important in Japan (delicate like the soul of the Samurai, or something like that). And people set aside dates to go and look at the different blossoms as they appear. Plum and cherry are the biggest pulls, with cherry being a massive thing whereby parks, cemetaries, etc are packed out with people having picnics, drinking, singing and playing instruments under the trees. It was good fun last year!