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If I were Boyardee

A few observations, based on my students’ reactions to the things I brought back from America for them to look at, under the guise of a lesson plan:

Firstly, it’s true, everyone does want a Slinky. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese appeals to fifteen- and sixteen-year-old Japanese boys and girls and American toddlers alike (frequently heard comment, lovingly translated by me: “WANT TO EAT”). The kids are intimately familiar with the pyramid structure on the back of the dollar bill (“free mason free mason”). The students are impressed at photographs of big American pork chops. The students are adept at posing intriguing written questions on their comment sheets, such as:

“who is person drown in bill of 20$”
“Which do you like RICE RONI or Japanese sobameshi?”
“How many does Stride gum has?”
“Do you put fruits on Triscuit?”
“Do they eat cookies for lunch in America?”
“Can this candy eat?”
“Is ‘APPLE JACKS’ more popular than ‘CORN FROSTRY’ in America?”
“Is the kitty famous in America?”
“What is DORITOS NACHO CHIPS”

And perhaps, most interestingly, one group of four boys was absolutely obsessed with the can of Chef Boyardee, leaving me this comment sheet, containing a variety of questions and an artistic, tender drawing, based on the can’s illustrated portrait of Chef Boyardee:

I am a personal fan of the hypothetical question “If you were Boyardee, what would you do” though the existential ramifications of “Who is Boyardee” cannot be ignored. Italian food pioneer? Human-turned-marketing icon? A teacher suggested that perhaps Boyardee is like Colonel Sanders, a compelling argument I could not discredit. What is DORITOS NACHO CHIPS

At any rate, this lesson has firmly brought the hot wet American flair to this freezing winter at high school. The kids are endlessly interested in these bizarre American treasures, as rudimentary as they are. Who ever could have figured I’d get paid to show children such delights as packaged pastas, supermarket advertisements, and used train tickets, extolling them as sacred and rare artifacts? I celebrated the resounding success of my effortless lesson personally last Friday evening, getting so drunk off gin and tonic that by the time we made it to karaoke I was drinking straight whisky, believing that it was a highball because it “didn’t taste whiskey-y enough.” I then proceeded to select and ensemble sing the Happy Days theme song, repeatedly shake the tambourine, and then, apparently, and I am only stating this through hearsay, ram into my friend on the escalator, lose a single contact (confirmed the next morning), and then bet Jessy fifty cents that I would take the three headache pills that she gave me before I fell asleep (I lost the fifty cents). The next day I cooked two boxes of Macaroni and Cheese (WANT TO EAT) and everything was better.

Life without my computer is largely proceeding, with the only noticeable annoyances being that I am incapable of outputting downloaded television shows and movies to our television, and that I cannot add any books or music to my portable devices since my libraries were wiped out in the crash. I have taken the first step of ordering a new mounting bracket and SATA cable for the eventual new hard drive, though I first plan on running this final, really-it, totally-last-ditch software I got to see if I can possibly recover the pictures from the last eight months. But mostly, life is just the same as it ever was. Japanese class too proceeds on schedule, with the first review session finishing uneventfully.

In five weeks the third semester will be over, marking my first totally complete full school year (April to March), and leaving me with a repertoire of lessons running the full gamut. From here, the stress of lesson planning will assuredly be almost totally eliminated as I have a sufficient library of quick diversions and multi-week projects to pull from, only 4% of which have anything to do with Chef Boyardee.

LONGWINDED CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK
– McDonald’s has new burgers again this year with the second series of their “Big America” campaign, just as they did last winter. The first one this year is a new version of last year’s most popular “Texas Burger” with chili beans and other stuff. But the other, forthcoming ones are stranger: the “Idaho” has a slab of hash brown on it, while the curiously named “Miami Burger” has salsa and tortilla chips, two things I am not entirely sure the average American associates with Miami
– Monday marked the sixteenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake that happened here in Kobe in 1995 and killed over six thousand people, destroying some part of almost every form of infrastructure that existed, sandwiching entire floors of office buildings, and setting fire to most of the old houses in the ward of Kobe where I work. We observed the day with a minute of silence in the morning, though I half expected one of those stupid election or nationalist trucks to round the corner with its rinky-dink loudspeaker music playing and ruin the whole damned thing
– I today had a lunch-time conversation with one of my co-workers entirely in Japanese, about where I lived, where we got on the train, and what we did for winter vacation. From what I can make out, he lives in Suzurandai, has two kids in Kyoto and one in Tottori, we both agree that there’s nothing to do on Port Island, and octopus tall sixteen dancing must captain ship frequent
– Though an entire box of Rice-a-Roni contains about 900 calories when prepared, making it “unhealthy food” in the eyes of my students and coworkers, the packaged bento I purchased today, consisting of beef with sauce on rice, contains 806, making it obvious diet material
– I yesterday had an incredible craving for Texas toast with garlic butter and melted cheese on it, which would have required some extra effort if all the bread in Japan wasn’t already sliced like Texas toast and sold in packages of five slices
– A recent survey doing the rounds on the Internet states that one in three Japanese men aged between something like fifteen and nineteen has either no interest in sex, is indifferent toward sex, or actively finds sex distasteful. They say that this has something to do with the “herbivorification” of Japanese men, who have become complacent and are content not pursuing women. I initially interpreted this survey as saying “one in three Japanese men aged fifteen to nineteen are clinically mentally deficient.” But then I considered the financial commitment necessary by two out of three Japanese men aged fifteen to nineteen, who are apparently funding young women all over Kobe well-enough that they afford numerous pairs of knee-high black leather boots and thigh-bearing mini-skirts, which they wear in the middle of winter (having an appreciable effect on one out of one American man aged twenty-seven)
– In an recent effort to interpret katakana with incredible haste, strengthening my quick-reading skills, I last evening misread a package of ice cream single-serve cups as “Cookie Banana” flavor, when in actuality they are “Cookie Vanilla” flavor. Still delicious, but distinctly un-banana’d
– The other day, just as I left work, I kind of felt a little pang of sadness that I wasn’t in America. But then I went to CoCo Ichibanya and had a big plate of hot cheesy chicken katsu curry with the little pickled whatever squares and I was like “Japan ain’t so bad.” Later I paid two dollars for an individually wrapped carrot
– In our first game of Carcassonne, the tile-based kingdom-building-and-control board game I brought back from the States, Jessy beat me by a huge margin of points, which has nothing to do with Japan and isn’t really that curious and actually didn’t even happen this week, but that doesn’t matter because I’m going to murder her in her sleep with a pillowcase full of ice
END OF LONGWINDED CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK

My newest computer-related acquisition, meant to ease the access of and safeguard the small, personal files that I had almost always ought to have on me (writing, lesson plans, and other irreplaceable documents), is a solid metal key, which instead of containing mere metal, actually contains an impossibly small eight gigabyte flash drive. In addition to being significantly durable and finding a home on my keychain, where I can never possibly forget it unless I also forget to lock my apartment on the way out, it offers the appearance of a truly luxurious and resplendent personal existence: that is to say, it gives the impression that I own more than one thing by virtue of being the second key on my keychain.

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Various premium

Today’s the neon Times Square to the every-day corner bar: with about four times the screen real estate I am finding myself left feeling a little naked. Today instead of my diminutive Eee PC I’ve got my main laptop, the big ol’ Studio 15, with me here at night school, and it’s almost a little shocking to be typing a Nomaday on a full-sized keyboard instead of that cramped little wonder. The screen on this one is so vibrant and bright in this new setting that I actually had to dim it a bit to feel more comfortable.

I didn’t just lug this thing all the way out here for kicks though. Spurned on by an only semi-planned viewing last evening of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I took it upon myself to acquire said Motion-Picture in the highest of defs, and plan on showing it to my kids tonight as our final lesson until January 12th. All I want is what I have coming to me! All I want is my fair share! (This movie, upon further review, probably had more of a hand than I had consciously realized in shaping my own linguistic tendencies at a tender age.) Though the ending happens to be a little heavy-handedly Christian in its message, at least the damned thing deals with a Christian holiday. Christmas may very well be about Christ! I’m just not seeing it. Truly of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest.

That said, I cannot imagine that my kids will be shocked, offended, put upon, or even aware of any sort of message that exists in the film which happens to be conveyed by dialogue, well-meaning but only-kinda-knowledgeable high schoolers that they are. This one will need to survive on charisma (and Snoopy) alone. The show is 25 minutes and my classes tonight are a shortened 35, so I’ll only need to blow a few intro and extro minutes with a bit of simple exposition (Charles Schulz invented these characters, they play this on TV every winter, it is 45 years old, yes Vince Guaraldi is the Man). Then we’ll be all set.

As luck would have it, it hasn’t been just any ordinary day that I chose to heft this weighty machine around. No, instead of going straight to work at the prescribed time, today I accomplished some most famous errands: the contest prize that I promised a lucky N-Sider reader has been verily, and tardily, sent off, with a few little toys and treats included as a bold repentance for my sins. In addition, after a somewhat linguistically baffling trip to the immigration office, I am now the proud bearer of a Japanese multiple re-entry permit, which allows me to enter (and re-enter) the country as many times as I do so wish until the day my visa bites the three-year big one. Of course to enter the country I must first leave the country, which I will most certainly be doing approximately a week from now. Hopefully in the future I’ll leave it again for at least India and Thailand, the only two places nearby that I really give enough of a shit to want to pay to visit. And at about sixty bucks for this permit I had better get my money’s worth! A final task this morning was to pay some slightly overdue bills, which I did at FamilyMart while buying a Monster Hunter Portable 3 branded bottle of soda and a piece of spicy breaded chicken in a paper envelope. (I chose the FamilyMart over Lawson specifically because I prefer FamilyMart’s spicy breaded.)

Kobe south of the station is decked out like a carnival and lit-up like Gary Busey thanks to the annual arrival of Luminarie, a massive exhibition/celebration in remembrance of the Great Hanshin Earthquake fifteen years ago. This thing consists of a variety of enormous white arches totally covered in thousands and thousands of little twinkly lights, set up over a street and ending in the community park. This has resulted in absolute throngs of people swarming the area for about a week now. I strolled through during the day today for not the first time, which provides an eerie duality: totally vacant but for the tarps of the street vendor’s tents. I haven’t been to see it at night this year, but if it’s anything like last year, and of course it is, the other side of the coin is feeling like a crayon in one of those 64-packs of Crayolas, and you’re in a case with other 64-packs, and the case is on a pallet with other cases, and the pallet is on a boat with a fucking million people slamming into you and stopping to take goddamned pictures all the time. If you are wondering, obviously I will go see it again this year, because I hate myself and I routinely do dumb crap.

Now ended, like many other things this time of year, is my Japanese class, which has shockingly improved my abilities to comprehend what others are saying while not entirely improving my ability to speak at anywhere near something approaching a conversational level above that of a broom talking to a wall. The only solution of course is to Speak More with People, but it’s hard to consciously take the mental hit and reduce yourself to broom level. As a compensation I have begun and will continue to study kanji and vocabulary, easily my weakest points. If I can read it and understand it I can interpret it and “translate” it, which is essentially endgame when it comes to my ultimate desires regarding the Japanese language. Now that I’ve turned in my acceptance form for a third year on my contract, I’m guaranteed to at least have some more chances to utterly embarrass myself in this foreign land that happens to be my home. I will never criticize anyone who is trying to learn a language again (as long as they are trying). Unless that language is Klingon.

CURIOUS THINGS
– Mitsuya Cider “THE PREMIUM,” which apparently cost me about forty yen more than a standard Mitsuya Cider, and which comes in a glass bottle with a metal lid and gold label, and which bears a label proclaiming its 99.9% naturalness percentage, and which says in cursive script White crystal sugar is used for various premium sweets, which is a phrase that not only tells me nothing but instills in me little to no confidence that white crystal sugar is actually used in this drink because they are too busy using it in various premium sweets
– Modern complex board games, namely one Arkham Horror, to which I was semi-introduced by a friend, being yet another potential hobby that promises to be expensive, time-consuming, space-consuming, and virtually impossible to seriously engage in so long as I live on this island four thousand miles from America
– Last weekend’s Chinese course meal and all-you-can-drink birthday party, which absolutely loaded me with draft beer, eggdrop soup, spicy rice noodles, chicken salad with peanut sauce, deep-fried orange chicken, Mabodoufu, hot Chinese wine, and Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert
– The ensuing karaoke fiesta, which started with six and ended up with nearly twelve people in a room the size of a hotel bathroom with a TV at the front, two microphones, two tambourines, unlimited whisky highballs, and the theme song to Married with Children
– This bitchin’ beef stew that I made last night with huge chunks of carrots and potatoes and beef and which I instinctively prepared a huge pot of rice for while thinking that “you can’t have stew without rice” and which I ate with rice anyway and which was bitchin’ like I said
– My cat, who while I slept last night, came to rest on my pillow, wrapped himself around my head, and meticulously groomed with his tongue the entirety of my visible hair, which is after my recent cut now short enough that it felt like my head was being brushed with a dish sponge, and who I tried to stop once but lacked the persistence to follow through with, and who I eventually just let go because fuck it it’s your mouth, cat (I will not be returning the favor)
CURIOUS THINGS

I’ve taken again, as I often do in cycles, to playing some games on my PSP lately instead of reading or listening to music during my commute and down time. The most recent one is a game called Half-Minute Hero, which initially consists of an RPG where you have to save the world from the Dark Lord. The trick is that as soon as the game starts he casts a spell which will end the entire world in thirty seconds, so you need to level up, buy equipment, and get to the castle and kill him before thirty seconds are up. More games should be like this, because my attention span is pretty bad alrea

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