Yaguzilla and Late realizations

So, this is gonna be a bit of a 2 in 1 post.
It’s a mix of a request from my brother and something that hit a nerve in me recently.

PART 1

Back in 2014, I watched and participated in Zeitgeber, which was a performance about caregiving for people with severe disabilities.
I was asked to play a woman who could only move her eyes. Throughout the play, the actor playing the caregiver would move me around the “house”. In one scene, he had to “change” my clothes and I remember being rolled to my side. Of course, this was just mimed onstage.
At that time, I had a lot of thoughts about the play. The way this caregiver spoke to the person…telling this person what he was doing at every point. “Tanaka-san, I’m changing your clothes”. “Tanaka-san, I’m lifting your leg a little”.
I wondered, why. This person would never respond. Could only move her eyes. What was the point?
.
.
.
Fastforward to the present.
As mentioned several times now, I work at a special needs school every Tuesday.
I particularly like the Elementary divison. So, even though I don’t get many classes with them, I try to pay them a visit and help out every now and then. The students in this particualar class need help with everyday activities and need wheelchair assistance.

And, this Tuesday, when I went for my weekly visit, the teacher was in the middle of helping one of the boys change into his gym clothes. And the teacher was informing the boy of whatever she was doing and I was struck by the action. I really wonder if the students understand us. And does whatever we inform them…register?

I don’t say this in any mocking sense.
I don’t look down on or pity these lovely children.
I’m not even agaisnt the action.
If anything, I feel like informing the student of what you’re doing for them, is profoundly respectful.

But I genuinely wonder…How is this perceived in thier minds?
What’s happening in their world?
What do they hear?
What do they see?

And I thought back to the performance. And back to the students.
I still don’t have answers and am in fact left with more questions.

So, I’m leaving this up here as a kind of reflection of mine.
Life really does seem to run in spirals though…and sometimes, something echoing your past experiences seems to pop-up out of nowhere like a weird deja vu.


PART 2
FOR CHACHI BOI:

Yaguzilla is probably how most of my students view me sometimes….
Some fire-breathing  English monster out to force everyone to speak English….
Yaguzilla gives weird class assignments and comes up with embaressing penalty games.
Yaguzilla tries to bribe kids with chocolates and hankos.

Sometimes students wonder if Yaguzilla has a social life.
Does Yaguzilla have any friends?
Yaguzilla has a family??!
What does Yaguzilla do for food?
Yaguzilla cooks??
What?? Yaguzilla is VEGETARIAN??? NO meat or fish???

And Yaguzilla has never seen snow??
Yaguzilla wears UNIQLO???
Yaguzilla also has a weird whale shark hanging off her bag and obsesses over Macha.
This odd creature tries to talk to everyone randomly with apparently no shame whatsoever.

So of course, the natural reaction for most students, when they see Yaguzilla is to run the other way.

But then, gradually, Yaguzilla is accepted by the general school community…
And students stop trying to run away.
Every now and then, Yaguzilla gets “hallo!” or “good morning!” on the way to school.
And, if Yaguzilla is lucky, her students have a chat with her.
This makes Yaguzilla’s day.

In the staffroom, Yaguzilla reads works by her students and laughs out loud.
But Yaguzilla isn’t mocking them.
Yaguzilla just loves reading the creative things that her students give her.
Although, by doing this, Yaguzilla is convinced that her collegues think she might be slightly crazy.

Yaguzilla is happy.

The End.

 

 

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Being a Gaijin…not a big deal.

Alrighty, so this one I’ve heard a LOT of opinions on this matter…
Being a foreigner in Japan.
There are many many youtube videos and blogs out there talking about this.

There are people who say they attract a lot of attention,
There are people who say they blend in completely.
I’m just gonna add on to the pile…

There’s not much I can touch on if I don’t talk about race…
So who or what am I?
First off, I’m an Asian woman.
I’m Indian by race.
Singaporean by nationality.
I have brown skin.
I have black hair.

So when I meet people for the first time, I often get asked if I’m from India or Bangladesh or Pakistan.
People are quite surprised when I say I’m Singaporean.
And then, they apologise.
I sort of understand WHY they do it….but personally, I’ve never felt offended…
That’s just how my physical image is.

And then I’m asked if I’m a student…and once I was asked if I worked at a restaurant…
But no…I’m a teacher…
And that gets me some apologies too…
I think this one is mostly an age thing though…people say I look young…so yay! compliment!

Generally, I don’t turn any heads. Since day one, people have never really stared at me…and I feel quite comfortable.
It’s all very normal. I’m obviously a foreigner…but I also don’t stand out very much.

The thing that shocks most people here is the fact that I speak Japanese.
Sometimes, I just introduce myself…and I’m told that my Japanese is REALLY good.
Which it isn’t.
I won’t be overtly modest. I can speak and hold decent conversations.
But I still have a LOOOONG way to go with Kanji.
And, since I have quite a bit of interest in translation and interpretation, I have a lot more work to do before I can say my Japanese is good.

But really, everyday life…it’s very normal. I don’t get rude stares. I don’t get unwanted attention. Actually, I don’t get any attention.

Obviously I’m not Japanese…but until I open my mouth and speak Japanese, I don’t attract any attention.

People recognise me very easily though (Cuz duh…there are no other people in the area that look like me as far as I know). The station masters, matcha shop ladies, starbucks people, Okonomiyaki shop people, students I’ve taught at summer camps….after seeing me once, they recogise me. And they’re super super friendly and I’ve had lovely conversations with them.

I also get a number of questions about Singapore…where is it..is it safe…how big is the country…food…places to visit…
A Singapore ALT friend of mine just recently said that she feels like she only talks about the stereotypical things in Singapore..and it’s true, the number of times I’ve talked about the merlion and MBS….i would NEVER even think TWICE about them back home. I’m actually starting to hate them a little. hahaha.

Thing is….what else can I say about Singapore? Does anyone want to hear about how I shop for groceries? Or how I go to work? Or how I lead my EVERYDAY “Singaporean” life? Not really. People want to know what’s attractive about my country…so I tell them. Touristy…but it works.

I talk about the mix of race lang and religion…the importance of English in Spore….food…sometimes Singlish…places to see…its very repetitive…but every once in a while i meet people who know more about Singapore, and we have great conversations.

….To conclude…
Yes, I’m a foreigner. It’s doesn’t take a genious to figure that out. But for most part, my life here is…very normal…and everyday…futsuu.

I’m sure this goes into the ESID box…as do most other things…but hey, it’s perspective.

 

 

My Most Amazing Vegeteranian Post of All Time…with a heck ton of disclaimers

So here’s my long overdue veg post.
Disclaimer: I’m not here to argue about the pros and cons of vegging. I’m not here to tell people about the benefits of vegging. I’m not here to convert anyone into a plant eater. I’m not here to denounce my meat-loving friends. I’m not gonna give you any recipes cuz i improvise my food a lot on the spot. I’m just talking about my life as a plant grazing herbivore.

I should probably start out with some definitions…I trawled the web for some good explanations and here you go. This is a list of various diets and hopefully it’s helpful.

  • Jain Vegetarian:No meat. No fish. No seafood. No egg. No honey. No to anything that comes from harming an animal. No onion. No garlic. No alcohol.  Strict followers: No root vegetables. No dairy products.
  • Vegan: No meat. No fish. No seafood. No egg. No dairy products. No honey. No to anything that comes off/from an animal.
  •  Lacto vegetarian (my parents): No meat. No fish. No seafood. No eggs. No to anything that comes off/from a dead animal. Yes dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarian: No meat. No fish. No seafood. No dairy products. No to anything that comes off/from a dead animal. Yes eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian (me): No meat. No fish. No seafood. No to anything that comes off/from a dead animal. Yes eggs. Yes dairy products. 
  • Pollotarian: No red meat. No fish. No seafood. Yes white meat. Yes eggs. Yes dairy products.
  • Pescatarian (Pescetarian): No meat. Yes fish. Yes seafood. Yes eggs. Yes dairy products.
  • Halal: No pork. No alcohol. No meat that is not prepared in proper Halal methods. (I’m not an expert in this but there’s a specific method of ensuring the animal does not feel any pain/panic as it is killed.) Yes fish. Yes seafood. Yes eggs. Yes dairy products.
  • Hindu: No Beef. No cow killing. Yes to the rest.


Ok…so I’m not an expert…and if I’ve made any mistake I’ll be grateful if someone corrects me on this…or if someone wants to add on.

Reasons
I can’t speak for everyone. Everyone has their own reasons for their own diets. For me, I was born into a Vegetarian Hindu family…and no…not ALL Hindus are Vegetarians. But the way I explain it here is that, my family used to be a “monk” family and just like some buddhist monks who eat “shoujin ryouri” or vegetarian Japanese food, a monk’s family in Hindu culture tends to be vegetarian.

….again, this is just MY explanation. I’m not advocating for any caste system…just stating what my family used to be.

Daily Life and Seikatsu-ing.
So after living here for the past 6 months…….here’s how things go most of the time.

(IN JAPANESE)
Yagu walks into restaurant
Yagu looks at menu….
Yagu looks for waiter/waitress
Yagu: Sorry…I’m vegetarian…so I can’t eat fish or meat or fish/meat extracts….do you have anything I can eat? Or is there anything you can MAKE vegetarian?

Waiter/Waitress sucks in breath.
Waiter/Waitress: aaah……give me a moment. let me check!
Waiter/Waitress talks to manager and comes out. 

The above scene usually happens ALL the time. Unless it’s a Veg friendly restaurant. Or it’s in the centre of a big city with many many gaijins who come by all the time.

After that convo I get several outcomes.

Outcome 1:
Waiter/Waitress/Manager-san comes out looking super apologetic.
Waiter/Waitress/ Manager-san: Sorry, we use chicken stock in everything and the rest is Yakiniku. Why did you even walk in? 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration…but I actually had a restaurant in Tokyo tell me that they had chicken bunion in every. single. thing. Including the Italian dressing for their salad.

But…luckily, this usually NEVER happens.

Outcome 2:
Waiter/Waitress/Manager-san comes out looking super panicked.
Waiter/Waitress/Manager-san: em…we can make this…but it has cheese/egg/milk in it…and I think it has garlic…
Yagu: I’m perfectly ok with all that. Just no fish and meat. 😀
Waiter/Waitress/Manager-san: OH! Then ok! How about we take out that bacon and make this for you? Is that ok?
Yagu: Yes please! Thank you!

So this is the most common outcome. The reason for the panic is because Vegging is not really a big thing here. So the only type of Vegging most Japanese know is the more traditional Shoujin Ryouri Vegging which means no egg/dairy/garlic (similar to Jain). As a result, they don’t know if I can eat anything at all.

Luckily, they’re super nice about it once I explain myself to them and they make fantastic stuff for me! 😀

Outcome 3:
Manager-san comes out looking a little nervous
Manager-san: emm, miss…we don’t really have it on the menu…but we can put something together…is that ok?
Yagu: I love you!!! Yes!

This isn’t so common…but this is my favourite reaction. It’s only happened a couple of times but I’ve gotten some amazing food out of them every time…and i feel super extra special for getting the non-menu food.

Iggy in the super market!!!
Jiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii O_O
yea that’s me having staring contests with food labels. I have never missed English more than when I shop for food at the super market.

But there’s the sensation of glorious victory when you realise that the bottle of salsa that you’ve been staring at for the past 5 mins is safe for consumption.

No really…i remember walking into the organic store this one time…and I was staring at stuff…and then i saw this thing called “soy-ham” or something. And I kid you not, this victorious song began playing in the background as I picked it up and realised i’d hit jackpot. The store is like 3 mins from my house and i don’t think i’ve ever been that happy to see mock anything.

Coping
It’s not easy…but it’s also not impossibly difficult. A simple search tells you how to communicate your dietary needs. It’s definitely isn’t like Singapore where most people understand what I can and cannot eat…but it’s not impossible.

I’ve also learnt how to make what I can’t buy. My cooking has gotten amazingly creative.

I use every chance I get to explain Vegetarianism…and I get a lot of “don’t you ever want to try _______ (insert non-veg thing here)?” and “isn’t that a pain in the ass?” or “you mean you can’t have Yakiniku???” aaaaand “but how do you get your ________ (insert nutrients)?” I suppose I could get offended…but what’s the point in that? I just take it as a chance to explain myself. And my choices are usually respected.

I say usually because I HAVE had some not so nice encounters…or uncalled for comments.
BUT this is not unique to Japan as I have faced the same response back home.
That’s just how people are.

But usually, people get that it’s not that I hate Japan or Japanese food…I was (literally) born this way.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Recipes to recommend?
Leave it in the comments below. 😀

Iggy and Teaching…and what little I know.

 

So I was looking through my blog and realized I didn’t have much on my teaching methods here…so that’s my next post.

SPORTS SCHOOL (HIGH SCHOOL)
It took me a long time to get into the swing of teaching here…even now, I’m constantly searching for methods that will work out with this school.

Most of my students are in some type of sports club. They are happiest when they’re out doing thier club activities. In class, most of them aren’t the most willing learners of English because, they see English as a big scary topic with a ton of (as far as they are concerned) useless grammar points and vocabs that they’ll never use once they are out of this place. It took me almost 4 months to understand this with a LOT of trial and error.

I used to laugh at sports animes, when I saw characters failing miserably in their English test…Now I kinda feel grim about that.

That said, I’ve had BRILLIANT classes with these students…I’ve come to realise that challenging them with creative group activities gets them more motivated. That and a threat of penalty games urge them to be a bit more involved.

Some of my most sucessful activities have had little to no preperation work done…and it confuses me quite a bit…because I’ve spent hours coming up with some ideas which I personally think are amazing and brilliant, but the students look at me like I’ve lost it.

And then, I come in with activities that take me less than 20 minutes to prepare and I see the entire class hard at work. It shocked me.

Creative Writing:
My favourite exercise to date has worked across all high school levels. It’s a really simple creative writing exercise, and my students sit in pairs or groups of 4. Then, they are made to draw 1 Character, 1 Setting and 1 Object. (I write these into scraps of paper and keep them in separate folders)

Once they draw the 3 papers, I tell them, they can’t exchange what they’ve got, and they HAVE to include whatever they’ve drawn into the story. I also tell them that the best story will get a present while the laziest group will have to play my BATSU GAME (Gangnam Dance). Cue a loud “eeeeeh??????!!!!”

I then tell them that, “No, I’m not expecting perfect grammar or spelling” and that “the most CREATIVE story will win.” I go on to remind them that, it is still important to remember that this is English COMMUNICATION so while the grammar and spelling don’t have to be perfect, they still need to be understandable.

I’ve gotton some amazing results out of this activity. I’ve seen students who usully sleep in my class, wake up and come up with great stuff.

Here’s the rough template I use:

Object:________________________________
Place:_________________________________
Person:________________________________
STORY:
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________
___________________________________________________

 

Translating Anime and J-Drama!!!:
(I also submitted this to my local team teaching book)

Target audience: SHS students depending on ability.

Objective: To give students a fun (and practical) way to use English (and their dictionaries). Also, this gives them a great taste of how actual translators work.

Materials Computers USB with anime/movie clips A paper split in half for Japanese transcriptions and English translations

Procedure: Time: 3 Lessons (50mins/lesson) Location: Computer Lab Number of students I had for this activity: 22

Step 1: Try not to look too suspicious surfing YouTube at work. I asked teachers around me for suggestions so that they’d all know I was working. Find a range of anime/movie clips and rate them from level 1-over 9000. Make sure these clips don’t come with subtitles.

I used Anpanman, Kinkyori Renai, Kuroko no Basuke, Lupin the Third, Gokusen and Shingeki no Kyojin, Shingeki being the most difficult and Anpanman being the easiest. You can use whatever is considered kakkoii at your school to make yourself The Most Amazing Teacher Ever.

Step 2: Double check with your JTE if the Japanese used is clean/acceptable and void of f-bombs. You might also want them to check if you’ve labelled the difficulty level accurately.

Step 3: Get students into groups of 3/4 and allow them to choose the level of difficulty. Alternatively, you can assign the weaker groups to easier video clips…or you can get to them to pick lots/sticks…whatever floats your boat. USB transfer the videos to each group.

Step 4: Lesson 1: Transcribing the Japanese (Ensure your school coms have clear speakers) Lesson 2: Translating the Japanese  (Ensure that everyone is chipping in for this) Lesson 3: Correcting the translated English (Walk around checking their work)

Step 5: Collect work on day 3, and announce with a big smile that the best translation will win something from you in the next lesson, cuz you’re amazing that way (and the kids would have worked really hard on this anyhow)

Additional information: I didn’t allow the students to bring this back home or use the Internet for this activity. Just because subtitled versions DO exist out there. It saves the students from having to do homework and saves me from seeing copied/google translated English.

My 3rd Year class has a very very wide range of students. But the activity produced some really surprising results and some of the kids really challenged themselves (maybe not for the purest reasons…but still…)


SPECIAL NEEDS TEACHING
So this was one of my biggest worries before I came here…and I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve never really been trained in Special Needs Education…

But as it turns out, teaching here is a joy.

My school has Elementary, Middle AND Senior divisions and I see all types of students here. Some are completely wheelchair bound and are limited to blinking or small mouth movements…Some have some understanding of what is being taught if it is done at a much slower pace…and some are students with minor autism and just need to be in a class with fewer students…Also, I don’t always teach with a JTE (Japanese Teacher of English).

To date, I don’t know their exact medical conditions…and I don’t need to know. I just ask, “Can they__________?”  For example, I ask if they can write or move or walk or talk…etc. Once I understand what they are able to do, I design an activity for them.

My favourite classes are the Elementary classes. The students are SUPER adorable and seeing my face makes them happy. Who wouldn’t like that? A lot of times, my lessons with the Elementary students are about letting them hear English. My job is to just allow them to hear a foreign language being spoken.

I sing songs…make a lot of funny faces…bring soft toys…joke with the kids…make holiday cards…make slide shows of my trips and talk to them about it….play games like fruits basket…

It’s not really that difficult. Most of the time, the teachers are there to lend me a lot of support. In this case, I think my knowledge of Japanese has been really helpful. With this group of students, it’s always about being on the roll and  the ability to have fun WITH the students.

And that hasn’t been very hard for me…I’m aware that some of them have NO clue about what I’m saying…I think some people have a big problem with this…but somehow, I’m perfectly ok with not being understood all the time. That’s when I make full use of my facial expressions and I joke with the students in Japanese a little.


 

There’s a whole lot more for me to learn…And every idea I get, I cross my fingers before taking it to class.

Inspirational quote I read when I was super young:
A problem is not a problem as long as know that it’s a problem.
It’s only a challenge.
It’s when you don’t know there’s a problem.
That’s a real problem.

Next up: vegging.