Thursday, November 24, 2016

Speech contest


(short for speech contest)

In late fall, it was announced that there was going to be a “speech contest.” When I heard “speech contest,” I thought it would be an original speech that you did in front of everyone and you’d be scored on content and presentation. I pondered about what I’d say. I could talk about my experiences in my HS in Suburbia and compare it to my JHS here in Pumpkin City and say something corny about international understanding and blow everyone away. I’d been in Speech Honors in Suburbia, and I’d practiced with the Speech Team. The other competitors would never know what hit them.

Except I found out that it wasn’t a speech contest, it was a recitation contest. You recited a set part of the English textbook (it was a simplified version of the second half of “The Merchant of Venice.”) My interest waned instantaneously, but I was supposed to compete in the “returnee” category. The returnees were allowed to edit the textbook, so I made revisions so that I could include the whole story. I dragged out my “Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and tossed in a few original lines I thought were good (hey, no one else in the competition will use the word “perjury!”).

My English (non-) teacher was so pleased with himself for having not one but three returnees to take with him to the Pumpkin Prefecture competition. I wondered if I would find someone like myself. Even the two other returnee kids from my school had Japanese accents. No one was accent free, except for one girl from Buffalo. I hoped I would see her again in HS, but I didn’t.

And yes, I won. Even the girl from Buffalo didn’t have the presentation skills that a semester of Speech class and watching your friends practice Dramatic Interpretation for speech team will give you. They never knew what hit them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016



I always get slammed this time of year. You can tell by the blog archives. From late August to September, I’m on blog silence every year. I also stop running/ exercising and sewing. But this year the slam has been longer than usual. I won’t blog about work, so it’ll suffice to say that I will survive.

I’m usually jealous of Americans on election years because their votes actually make a difference. Here, you know it’s going to be the Liberal Democratic Party’s essentially continuous one-party rule. Plus, the Liberal Democratic party is neither very liberal or democratic. This election year, however, I feel sorry for Americans. Even through the filter of my reasonable, sensible, politics-avoiding friends, I can see how terribly divisive it has all become. And how disappointing it is especially for women of color. Since I am a full-blooded Japanese living in Japan, I am basically the analog of the upper middle class white woman in the US. This US presidential election will make me take a good hard look at my own society and what I personally can do to make it better.

I’m trying to de-clutter my clothes. I see that I have so many duplicates. Last weekend, I discovered I had eight (!) Uniqlo Heat Tech long sleeved shirts. I also have flared trousers that still have the tags on them. I put the sorry looking items and the stuff I hadn’t worn for a year or more in the “to chuck” pile but then I remembered that Pumpkin City doesn’t won’t collect old clothing on “burnable trash” collection day. You’re supposed to put it out on “recyclables” day with the old newspapers. Supposedly, they’re supposed to be sent to Southeast Asia as donated items. I certainly hope not, because I can’t really see my flared trousers in too-sorry-shape-to-alter ending up being worn. I’d imagine them in a pile of trash, like the one I saw a while back in Jakarta between high-rise buildings, which is another rant for another day.

In the interest of reducing the burden on Jakarta or Hanoi or Bangkok or Rangoon or wherever, I made drawstring bags out of an old button up shirt and an old Uniqlo T-shirt and an old cotton jersey dress. I even used parts of clothes for the drawstrings (the waist tie from the dress and ruching  ties on the legs of cotton jersey leggings). These are great for travel. You can open your overnight bag/ suitcase in public without worrying about people finding out what color underwear you own, and they double as laundry bags. (The blue bag I got a long time ago as packaging for a brand name dress).

Then I cut up the remaining cloth to use as disposable wipes. I stashed a few in the drawstring bags for quick wipe-ups of hotel room coffee spills.

Dinner tonight will be dumplings and bean sprout namul and egg drop soup and plain white rice.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

End of school trip

Shuugaku ryokou

I’d thought I’d been posting about my only year of required education in Japan chronologically, but I noticed that I forgot about a very important aspect. The third year students went on a two night trip to a different part of the country. We took standard commercial trains into the city and then we boarded chartered busses to go through the historical/ tourist-y locales. I remember this was during the rainy season (which means it wasn't really at the end of our schooling, just the last year of school) and we got rained on a lot while we went through the historical locales.

I had no idea how we were supposed to get where we were supposed to go, so I was very careful to stay with the group. It probably would have been a lot of fun if I actually liked the people I was going with, which I didn’t. It was third year and most of them had already formed their friendships. Still, I had to room somewhere (we were something like five or six to a room) and as luck would have it, I ended up with the “cool” girls. Oh JOY. “Cool” kids in Japan are just as insufferable as “cool” kids in any other country. (Note the quotation marks. I’m not talking about the truly cool kids, like me and my friends.)

The girls and boys were supposed to be on separate areas on separate floors, so (of course) the “cool” boys (the ones who didn’t like me because I wasn’t perky enough or dumb enough) came to our room and ate all our candy while the girls squealed in mock dismay, and when the teacher came on their rounds (of course), the boys all hid (of course) in the “oshiire” (futon closet), and all but one of them were stupid teenagers (of course) so all but one of them jumped on the top shelf of the futon closet and only one dove into the bottom shelf (of course) and the shelf was strong enough to support six duvets but not strong enough to support five stupid teenage boys (of course) so it came crashing down (of course) on top of the one kid that was smart enough to remember that the top shelf wasn’t going to be that strong (of course) but not smart enough to remind his friends of this (of course) and he was in a lot of pain (of course) but everyone was afraid that if we went to the teachers for help, we’d get into trouble (of course) so everyone more or less pressured him into dealing with the pain (of course). We were lucky he was not seriously hurt.

Especially him.

And we did nothing about the damage done to that closet, either. Oh, how courteous and considerate of us. To this day, I haven’t told my teachers or parents. But I’m blogging about it here.