Am I insane yet?

Have you ever felt as though you were going insane?  I have been in the US for four days now.  I feel like I am losing it.  I have conversations, and I struggle to maintain focus.  People tell me things, and I have only a vague memory of what wa said to me, without actually being able to remember anything concrete from the communication.  A coworker told me her name today, and I consciously felt as though I had completely lost her name.  However, when I threw out what felt to be a random guess at her name, the guess was correct.

Whether I am actually losing it, or I am merely living in a different state of consciousness relating to memory, I am not certain.  I am almost certain that it is all mainly due to the fact that my brain has not adjusted to the 14-hour difference in life here yet, nor to the constant English all around me, the combination of which puts me into a real state of confusion as my brain attempts to pay full attention to every bit of English it hears.

It really just makes me feel like I might simply be going crazy.  I know that I’m not.  It just feels like insanity settling into my head.

Post-a-day 2017

But… those are mine – the things we do for love <3

Girls and bracelets.  Seems like a rather simple topic, right?  Just girls and bracelets.  Nothing special.  Today, however, they were both special.

It was my last day going by the school where I have been based this past year.  A student had been in touch to find out this information, and so knew that I was going to be there today in the morning.  When I arrived at my (well, it’s not my former desk, but I guess it must have still been mine, since the stuff all on it was for me) desk, I was surprised by a small and adorable (because Japan) pile of wrapped gifts.  Each one had a different note and was from someone different, both teachers and students.  They all surprised me, but the one that got me ready for tears was the one on a beautiful piece of Rapunzel Disney (C) paper, with “Love” tape to attach it to the pink bag.  It read:

Dear Hannah
Present for you.

From Nono, Yuna

These were the two main trumpet players in the band at school, the two with whom I had spent bits of time here and there, just listening to them play, chatting with them, having lunch with them, taking photos with and of them, letting them paint me (yes, they painted my arms one day), giving them fun jazz (which they had never heard!) music to play, and also playing trumpet with them.  Of course, I am going to miss these two dearly.

However, I never quite expected a present from them.  Let alone the nice little Japanese mirror, charm, and coin purse (or maybe it’s for makeup, even).  They’re designed to go with the whole yukata/kimono getup, and I had never found ones to go with mine.  So it was essentially a perfect going-away present for me!  And they had no idea.  They were just being sweet and giving me something Japanese.

So, a short time later, they show up to the teachers’ room and ask for me.  I rush over to them and shove them out of the teachers’ room in a hurry – no one else needs to be part of this little celebration-slash-goodbye ordeal that’s about to go down.

With the two are a handful of other girls from the band, too.  I thank them eagerly (Is that right?  Let me check… “eager, avid, keen, anxious, athirst mean moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest. eager implies ardor and enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint,” says merriam-webster.com, so I accept it as appropriate in this case.), and give hugs all around.  Some embrace the american social norm, and others delight in it hesitantly, but they all hug me with joy and enthusiasm.  I will miss these guys, runs through my head as we’re all chatting and being silly together, and I know my thought is right.  I will miss them desperately, and I know they will miss me, too.  The simple fact that my successor is not even musically inclined shows the unlikelihood of their finding a replacement-ish for me, and the fact that I am leaving Japan almost guarantees that I couldn’t even begin to find a sort of replacement for all of them.

As we are wrapping things up, so that they can go eat before they have to be back at band rehearsal (to which I had been listening earlier on in the morning, secretly), I notice yet again a comment directed at my shins-ankles-feet region.  i couldn’t hear what was said, as it wasn’t said to me.  Each time it happened, the comment was almost whispered to another girl, just quietly enough that I couldn’t quite hear.  But I could see.

I wondered if they were finally noticing how I don’t shave my legs – I kind of gave up shaving… not sure where I’m going with that in life, but it seems to be the current situation.  I am always happy to talk about almost anything with the girls, despite their often being incredibly shy about most things.  So, as I usually do, I encourage the comment to come to the open.

Finally, someone gets the nerve enough to say it aloud, and I am surprised.  It was not, as I thought, anything to do with my hairy legs (it is dirty blonde, after all, so it isn’t all too noticeable in the first place, but I imagine they’re all accustomed to mine already anyway, plus they seem to love the colors in all my various hairs (since they’re not just black, like Japanese people’s)).  What was the comment regarding?  My anklet.

“She… want… it,” was the oh-so-embarrasing phrase.  And oh, what self-searching consideration I had to make all of a sudden – I was amazed at myself at my success in the matter.

And so, as we all hug once more (or twice more) and say our goodbyes, I watch with a huge smile and a chuckle, as three of the girls bounce off wearing my anklet and two bracelets, all of which I had made for myself a couple or few years ago, and all of which I absolutely love wearing.  But, hey, as I told the girls, I made those myself, so I can get some more Mookaite and Jasper stones when I get back to Houston (I might even still have some, actually), and make myself some new versions of those same bracelets and the matching anklet.  Plus, as much as those meant to me, it pales in comparison to how much each now (and likely for the rest of their lives) means to those girls.  As they say in Japanese, one of them told me that it is her “precious treasure”.  I’m not sure they could have been more grateful, even if I had made the bracelets for them specifically.

I still kind of can’t believe those girls got my bracelets and anklet off of me.  But I also love how wonderful it felt to give away a part of myself to those who so greatly longed for a bit of it.  It was more than just giving away something I had with me, because it was 1)something I valued and 2)something I made myself, for myself.  It really was giving away a part of me.  It kind of feels like I’ll be able to take care of them forever, in some small way.  I like that.

Anyway, that was about ten minutes of today.  A really, really good ten minutes.  🙂


 

Post-a-day 2017

Don’t play favorites?

We grow up always hearing about not playing favorites.  “Don’t play favorites,” and, “Treat everyone equally,” everyone always seems to say.

And yet, I struggled through the constant questions of “What’s your favorite _______?”   I even made up a favorite color, because I didn’t have one, but people constantly asked what mine was.

What’s more, if we look at it purely on a human perspective, not to play favorites, then does marriage even really work?   Exclusivity in relationships would be impossible.  How could I treat someone else with the same passion, love, care as I do my partner?  And then, how could I treat everyone that way?

How could I have an intimate and loving relationship with my mom, if I am to treat her as I treat all others, despite the fact that I spend most of my childhood with her, and not the rest of the world?

I’m not looking to cancel exclusivity or marriage or anything, here.  I’m just wondering at our concepts of ‘treat everyone equally’ and ‘don’t play favorites’.  There seems to me to be a sort of inconsistency in the thinking here – something is missing in our mentality, and I want it to come beautifully to light to save the day… something like that, anyway. 😛

Post-a-day 2017

Sing-a-longs for school?

Yesterday, I brought my ukulele to class.  It was my final day of teaching, and I only had one class.  Seeing as it was with the students who are in the music course program at the school (think of it as being like a college major, but in high school), and they were the only class of the day for me, the teacher asked me to do something relating to music, if I could.

For the longest while, I had nothing. I was just too exhausted and mentally worn out even to think about ideas, let alone come up with some (let alone good ones).  But, as I found myself fiddling at long last with my ukulele on Wednesday night, – this was after having decided just to do a non-music-related activity – I wondered if I couldn’t pull off just singing songs the whole class period.

Sure enough, my brain decided to work for me as I played some songs for myself.  Kids could sit where they wanted, and look up lyrics on their phones (Yay! for phones in class.).  We could start with the ABCs, since some of us had specifically discussed in that class a few weeks ago that Japan seems to have learned only the first half of the alphabet song, and then made up the rest, making the whole thing weird, and having everyone always mumble out somewhere along the second half.  From there, we could “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, and then move to some real songs.

I was nervous about my uke playing, and the fact that I’m really just a beginner on the instrument, having come as a lazy-esque mid-level guitar player, and simply become a lazy-esque ukulele player.  However, I practiced several songs, and the chords really came back to me rather well, and I even learned some new ones quite easily as I went along.

Once in class, I offered for a student to play the uke.  Two kids in the front happily took over tuning it for me (I have a decent ear, but I knew theirs would be better.) when I asked, and one even pre-guessed the notes, singing them aloud for tuning (think of perfect pitch folks).  So, I thought they might have had experience with ukuleles.  This is Japan, after all.  However, the only kid who said he possibly could play a little – usually Japanese for ‘I’m rather decent, but just don’t play too often these days,’ – tried out the uke, and discovered that the chords were different from any instrument he knew.  This means that he strummed some odd-sounding chords, and then I reclaimed my ukulele with a bit more confidence and determination.

I taught them the alphabet song, and we had a wonderful time of it all, moving from that to the stars to “Under the Sea” to “Let it go”, and finally “The Lazy Song”.  There might have been another in there, but I’m not recalling it right now.

All-in-all, the kids had a blast and didn’t seem to stop smiling, I had a blast, and the teacher was utterly pleased with the lesson and class (she even kept saying so over and over again afterward).  I wish I had been able to do more things like that before, but the schedule never really allowed for it.  So it goes – it made for a wonderful final class, though, a magical send-off for me.  And that is beautiful.

Post-a-day 2017

Copycat, copy the cat

A friend is helping me prepare for my goodbye speeches at my schools. I wanted to do them in Japanese, and I wanted them to be good.  Yes, I could rumble my way through some Japanese and be mostly understood without much prep.  However, I want the speeches to be better than that, seeing as they will be each given during a whole ceremony thing at each school.  Not the time I want to be casual with my words.  Also, almost no one would understand the English anyway, if I gave the speeches in English.

All of that, however, is merely the precursor to this next bit…

This friend who is helping me, she’s helping me by recording herself giving the speech.  Why?  Because I want to hear a native speaker give the speech.  As we were discussing this, I mentioned that I do better copycatting someone’s speaking when I have never heard a certain word or phrase already spoken.  (If I have heard it already, then I usually have already learned the appropriate natural way of saying it, and can produce it on my own, without aural prompting or guidance.)

When I mentioned this to my friend, her reply caught me off guard.

copying is the basic way for learning 👍🏻

What?

And yes, it is so utterly and beautifully true.  As babies, we copy our parents and family members in order to learn to talk and walk and eat and do basically everything that we do successfully.  The same applies as we learn new behaviors theighout our whole lives, and it definitely includes learning to speak a new(foreign) language properly.

And yet, schools have this huge concept of ‘copying is cheating, and cheating is bad, so copying is bad.’

I once found myself in a meeting with fellow faculty who were arguing/fussing about preventing cheating in the school, while I was wondering what the whole big deal with cheating was on the first place. It’s not that I was (or currently am) approving of cheating – I was (and still am) simply wondering what the reasoning was behind this terror-inducing aversion to cheating.  It just kind of felt like a sort of blind belief situation, with no real background to support it validly.  It may very well be completely valid – I have just never sat down a brainstormed enough to find out if it is or isn’t.  And I was wondering in that meeting if anyone else had done that.  (Though I found it highly unlikely, so I didn’t bother asking – it would have just stirred up trouble.)

And here, tonight, my friend says that copying is like the basis for learning.  And with only a brief bit of thought, this idea, this concept, seems to make sense, and much more than the ‘no cheating’ one ever has.  

After a bit of discussion in this new topic with my friend, I discovered that the word in Japanese for “to learn” comes from the word for “to copy”.  I was in momentary disbelief, and then complete unsurprise – of course Japanese has that.  I can so see that, it makes such easy sense with the Japanese culture.

It turns out that the old word for “to copy” is 真似ぶ(manebu) (and the current is 真似る(maneru)).  The word for “to learn” is  学ぶ(manabu).

Put more visually simple:

学ぶ(manabu/ to learn)
真似ぶ(manebu/ to copy)
真似る(maneru/ to copy) (old word)

(And manebu is the old word for maneru, but the have the same meaning.)
Wow.  Just wow.

I certainly plan to ponder this topic much, much more.  This concludes my thoughts so far, however.

Post-a-day 2017

Trumpet and Sex(?!)

This conversation happened between students and me this afternoon.  

Student: “We have to go to practice.”

Hannah: “Oh, really? What practice?”

Student: “We must practice trumpet and sex!”

After a stutter in the conversation, the second student, who wasn’t speaking, noticed the blunder, and she aimed to correct it.  As we all laughed almost hysterically, they did their best to practice the difference in pronunciation between the two words.  

Sex…sax…sex…sax…sax…sax…Sax… Back and forth we went, my pronouncing it, and their aiming to copy the sounds correctly and then reproduce it over and over again.  It was adorable and wonderful.  I love those two girls, and I will miss them loads after I leave here.
Post-a-day 2017

School Clubs

I was thinking about school clubs earlier today, a little ruffled underneath about how Japanese schools expect students to be in one club only, and to be in that one club for all of their middle school and high school years.  This is in great contrast to the USA, where we are all about the well-rounded student.  Colleges and universities just might pass up the student who only ever participated in a single club activity, despite having amazing grades, in the USA.

However, it occurred to me, as I wondered how on Earth this benefitted these kids, only learning one skill, doing only one club, that it is absolutely preparing them for their futures.  When Japanese kids graduate college, and are interviewing with companies, they – now, this is traditionally, you see – are hiring for life.  Those kids are expected to remain loyal, and to stay within the company that first hires them after college.  So, doing the same one thing every day for years in their single club absolutely prepares them to go to the same single job at the same company for the rest of their lives.  It’s just nothing like the USA, making it so bizarre (and rather depressing) to me, someone who was in upward of 15 clubs in high school alone.
Post-a-day 2017