Saturday, September 18, 2004

Shake it like a Polaroid picture

I'm pretty much snowed under with work at the moment, but I'm enjoying being busy, and the lessons I'm doing are loads of fun. All this week I've been introducing myself to the students, which means that I have to go into each class and do a talk about myself. You'd be amazed at the amount of people who have no idea what the UK is, or what continent it's on... Anyway, it' s been fun - I've been playing my guitar and telling them about ultimate frisbee and all sorts. I have to tell you about today's class though, it was hilarious.

There are some gestures that have quite different meanings in Japan - for example, when we want to talk about ourselves in England we point a finger at our chest, but in Japan they point a finger at their nose. Which does look rather comical the first time you see it. Anyway, the students were asking me questions at the end of my class today, and I noticed that some of the kids at the back were waving their little fingers at me. I immediately ckecked my flies. No, it was OK, the boys were in the barracks. What exactly were these kids trying to say? Were they implying that my member was somewhat short of adequate? Then the Japanese teacher came to my rescue: "They're asking if you have a girlfriend."

It turns out that waving your little finger means "do you have a girlfriend?", whilst giving a thumbs up means " do you have a boyfriend?". The moral of this story is that if you knock over someone's pint in a Japanese bar, DO NOT give him the thumbs up.

Another cultural highlight was the story one of the other ALTs told me last night. Her students wrote an essay explaining what their "dream for the future" was, and one of them said she wanted to be a beautician. However, when it came to writing "I have practiced putting make up on my family and friends" she made a slight error. This is what she wrote:

"I have fingered my friends and my mother\'s face".

I'm not quite sure what kind of beauty parlour she intends to run, but it sounds like it may be worth a visit.

I had my first tea ceremony class last night. Yes, that's right, I'm going to tea ceremony classes. I figured that there may be more to the world of tea than sugary cups of PG Tips, and lo, my eyes have been opened! If you don't know anything about Japanese tea ceremony it's basically a very long, formal and complicated way of making and drinking green tea. Everything in the ceremony has a specific function and strict way it should be performed, from picking up the tea cup to stirring the tea. My first thought was "What's wrong with tea bags?", but actually taking part in the tea ceremony was very relaxing - almost like a form of meditation. The movements are so graceful they're sort of mesmerising.

I also attended my first calligraphy class on Wednesday, which was great. The teacher is unbelieveably good - there's a lot more to it than you'd think. The paint brushes are exquisite - there are various types, made of everything from horse tail to weasel hair. Actually writing the characters is bloody hard - everything has to be done in one fluid movement whilst holding the brush dead straight, and some lines require delicate flicks at the end. After an hour I'd just about managed to write my name!

I\'m going whitewater rafting this weekend. God knows why I signed up for it, it seemed like a good idea at the time... Anyway, I'll email again next week if I get back in one piece!


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