Tag Archives: winter

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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How many licks

For as often as I’m emphatically told “we have four seasons in Japan” as though it is some sort of rare anomaly specific to this country, it’s sure hot today, the second of December, a month I have traditionally associated with the season of winter. By the time I made it up to school I think I even started to break a sweat, though it may merely have been because of the embarassment of running into a few kids on the steps who tried asking me bizarre questions like “handsome desu ne” and “singuru or melly,” which I assume are only removed one level from the stage of outright vulgarity due to their merely lacking the ability (or confidence) to deliver it. Perhaps this trio could learn something from last week’s electronic dictionary outburst, courtesy of the guy I now know literally only as “ecstasy kid” in my mind.

It’s exam week again, which means for the most part the children are cramming as much knowledge as they can into their creamy chocolate centers while trying to Tootsie Pop harden the exterior and prevent any of it from escaping. Most of them just seem really stressed, which I can understand. The real victims though are the teachers, one of whom told me he was at school until eight in the evening doing work on the test stuff. I told him to take a break, but I’m not sure how simple a process that is for the Japanese office worker (actually I am, and it is not). Those bearers of the 35-40 hour work week in the States rejoice: at least you (and I) are afforded the option to have a life.

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Student “review” lessons coming through in the win department full sail ahead:
Ka-Ru is king of snacks!
I like Ka-Ru very much. I eat it everyday.
Ka-Ru is king of snacks because.
It is very delicious. This taste is oriental miracle!
It is very beautiful. This body looks like gold!
I think that Ka-Ru achieves God territory.
Thank you the creator for wonderful present.
Let’s eat Ka-Ru.
– One student telling me this movie was the “moungliest” she had ever seen, whatever being moungly is
– New “TIROL Cheetos+Chiroru”, which appear to be chocolate-covered Cheetos even though I have not opened up the package for a taste yet
– The day after Jessy puts in for a day off from school later this month to pick up Final Fantasy XIII for us, a commercial begins airing on Japanese TV in which a teacher announces to his students that he is going on a short vacation, because he’s been waiting for this game for three years
– One of my students being apparently oblivious to the real meaning of his red, yellow, and green pencil tin bearing an illustration of a giant marijuana leaf and the word “CANNABIS” in huge block letters
– Old cranky lady with a grey old-style Nintendo DS muscles past me to get on the train first, cuts to the right to go for a seat, then is cut in front of by another old cranky lady who takes the seat instead
– New Cookie flavor Kit-Kat is the greatest Kit-Kat I have ever eaten, and I think they know it because it’s only sold in tiny boxes of ten or so super-minisize Kit-kats instead of the larger bags that the other kinds come in, the punks
– One kid telling me “you are cool, you have girlfriend?” and me saying “maybe” and once the kid leaves my teacher saying in nice English “that bastard” and laughing maniacally

I had the most interesting Thanksgiving-evening meal in my relatively abbreviated history last Friday, aboard a cruise ship “Concerto” as part of the year-end office party (similarly to the Mid-Year conference, taking place decidedly at a time that is not exactly the end of the year). Between trips to the expansive Chinese buffet, as I sipped on Asahi Super Dry and hot cinnamon wine, one teacher reminded me that the American holiday was currently taking place. I had thought of it the day before, Thursday, in terms of the holidays coming with me to Japan as though they could have all just packed onto the plane, but this particular bit of information stuck around in my head. Holidays in the U.S. continue without me, whenever the hell they may please, even if that means that Thanksgiving is on my Friday, and steamed dumplings are my mashed potatoes.

As a sort of door-prize distribution system, we played bingo, with the first bingo-ers getting the better prizes. It turned out to be good Japanese practice for me, as all the numbers were obviously not spoken in my native language. I won late, pathetic, and took home a pair of fuzzy “high socks,” the packaging adorned with oddly phrased sentiments comparing their pastel rainbow color scheme to a warm melted candy. They became Jessy’s, after I threatened my teachers that I’d wear them to work.

Unrelated segue: I want a drum set. There’s not a goddamned place I’d be able to play it in my apartment without likely pissing someone off, and I’m trying to think around that. There’s also the matter of it being probably impossible for us to move it from the Hard-Off (where I’d buy it) to our apartment, which is much further away. Also I have never owned a drum set before. But that’s kinda why I want one. Alas, I feel this particular endeavor will likely end up on the Japanese cutting room floor with the surround-sound speakers, full-sized arcade cabinet, pinball machine, soda fountain, pool table, electronic dart board, and other weighty monoliths to the space-occupying excess that is totally possible in the U.S. and retardedly outlandish here. At least I can cradle my only occasionally obscene PVC action figures as I cry myself to sleep (dear future self: send money, i spent it all on lady ninjas and transforming secretaries and a black mage thx bye).

It’s almost an afterthought for me to consider mentioning such a thing in here, since I haven’t actually seen a game all season, but the Colts have won every one they’ve played so far, and all under the leadership of a new post-Dungy coach. I’m sure they’ll drop a game eventually, but it sure is nice to know they’re winning for now. I read Peter King’s Monday Morning QB (on Tuesday) and check Sunday scores on Monday night. It’s not exactly the same as strong beer, crispy pizza, and excited friends, but it works. Kinda.

On Saturday we’re going to our city’s enormous “Home’s Stadium” for the last J-League soccer game of the year (Vissel Kobe), on the goodwill dime of a can’t-attend fellow teacher of Jessy’s. If my longstanding axiom holds true–that sports which for me are unwatchable on TV (baseball, soccer, golf) become tolerable in person only while under the influence of alcohol (beer, whiskey, shochu)–then I anticipate becoming some kind of temporary soccer fan until Sunday morning.

For now the weapon of choice is Fanta Melon, and hours to go before I sleep, and hours to go before I sleep.

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