Since getting a wifi connection the quality of my life has improved immeasurably. I can now receive emails, write this blog at my leisure, watch Netflix, download books on Kindle, music on ITunes (the new Arcade Fire – Reflector) and watch Ray Donovan, Dexter, The Newsroom, Treme, Portlandia and Sons of Anarchy (a guilty pleasure) at my leisure. With Andrew’s help I had a HDMI cable delivered to my door from Amazon Japan (no delivery charge) for less than $10.00, enabling me to connect my laptop to my 32″ flat-screen TV. Life is pretty good and, touch wood, it continues to get easier.
That became apparent to me on Friday when I went to my “secondary” school, Minami. It is more rural than Daiichi, my “home” school and, because I only work there on Fridays, I’ve never really had the opportunity to establish much of a relationship with either the students or the teachers. Although there were no classes that day due to a typhoon alert, teachers were expected to show up and spend the day working in the office. Nonetheless, with no students in the building, the atmosphere was fairly casual. The principal, or Kochi (who speaks English well and has visited Sidney), invited me into his office and we had a very easygoing and enjoyable conversation about Sidney and how I was adjusting to Japanese society. Afterwards, because no lunch was served at the school due to the cancellation of classes, the teachers invited me to join them for lunch at a Chinese restaurant about a half mile from the school. It was a really great afternoon and one of the English teachers kindly gave me a lengthy ride home through the driving typhoon rain. Without a word being directly spoken about the subject, my concerns about classroom participation at Minami were completely allayed. I know it will be much easier for me there in the future. That’s Japan. There seems to me to be this astonishing capacity to intuit people’s concerns and respond to them, often in an oblique but effective way. Even before arriving in Japan it did seem to me that Naomi had an almost prescient ability to anticipate my concerns.
In marking the English homework of Japanese students, one of the most common errors is the misplacement or lack of the commonly found English articles a, an, and the. Japanese does not have articles; understandably then, it’s difficult for a student to appreciate the difference between “I have dog” and “I have a dog”. Another difference between the two languages is that Japanese has two tenses, present and past. There is no future tense; it is implied from the context of the conversation. The present tense is used for future and habitual action. In some ways Japanese is quite simple: in other ways (Kanji), it is very complex. A bit like the country itself.