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Fridays are when people discover their dreams in life

JAPAN | Friday, 5 February 2016 | Views [298]

Class on Friday was for the reading and dialogue in Tobira. So, during the reading class, we went over new grammar points, took a vocabulary quiz, went over kanji, and read the first 10 sentences of the reading passage. All pretty formal, related to the homework, and helpful in moving the class along.

Then in the conversation class we just got into a four-person discussion about colleges. I’m not sure if this was Suzuki-sensei’s plan or not. There was a specific dialogue in Tobira I thought we were going to go over, but the general topic was “aizuchi and fillers,” or just those little things you throw into a conversation while the other person is talking to show you’re paying attention. “Ah. Really? Huh. Lies!” You know, nice, polite ways of showing you find the other person’s discussion is interesting.

If this had been Suzuki-sensei’s plan all along, then I probably would have looked like a pretty good student, since, I really did not want to go over the dialogue. So whenever possible, I tried to keep other people talking. Which meant showing that I was engaged and interested in what they were saying. Using the exact topic of the day. (Also by talking for a bit before throwing the talking stick to someone else and forcing them to catch it. “But that sounds like the sort of thing that might happen at a college like Yale. Does it?”)

My original plan was to go back to my room after class. Then I realized we had a 14:30 meeting, so I might as well hang out in the J-chat lounge for the hours between the two. (I think I’m still very much in the mentality of last semester, where you basically count on it taking thirty minutes to get between most places. So I would very rarely go from somewhere back to my apartment back to that first place in the same day.) It has two main advantages- when I drop my bag to the ground at the end of the day, I know I’m not going to have to get up and go back to classes, and there are sometimes interesting conversations going on.

Like Friday. Indu was recommending a bread that she was eating and, when someone asked what was in it, she responded “just butter.” Then she went into a miniature commercial for the bread (she is clearly not a marketing major, since she didn’t give the actual name of the product once) and Molly, who knew her from the semester prior, had asked commented on how Indu seemed to like the simple breads.

This was in contrast to drinks, where she had a history of blindly choosing really bad drinks. So her experience in Japan could best be summed up as “simple breads and bad drinks.” So when, somehow, the idea of her opening up a bakery came up, it was suggested that she call it “Simple Breads and Bad Drinks.” And of course, all of the drinks would need to be bread-based. Specifically, based on the breads that she sold in the store.

Everyone else in the room seemed to think that, name aside, the bread drinks were automatically going to taste bad. I gave a failed explanation of kvass, which is a bread drink, but then went on to the statement that you could probably make semi-decent beers if your heart was in it. And Indu’s heart was. She told us that if she wasn’t at the 14:30 meeting, we should tell Ozaki-san she was renting out a shop for her new bakery.

She must have found a new location very quickly, or decided she wasn’t quite ready to drop out of school, because she was there at the 14:30 meeting. The Ariyama-sans came back to give a quick safety talk (including advice such as “don’t walk alone at night,” which seemed odd to me, since the residential areas we live feel extremely safe, even at night.) Then we got a quick introduction to the topic of the week (communication with roommates) and split into groups to share our stories and go more in depth. At the end, one volunteer with the best story would share it with the other groups.

The first person to speak in our group was John. “I vote for Indu’s story.”

“I don’t have a story.”

“I’m sure you do. And I’m sure it’s more interesting than anything I could come up with.”

In point of fact, Indu does have stories of wacky hijinx that come from poor communication with roommates, like the time she accidentally signed up a softball team. But those are so last semester. This semester, she doesn’t really have any communication issues. Other than how to get the word out about her Simple Breads and Bad Drinks bakery. And how to warn the Japanese students about the ghost in their apartment. Both of which were way more interesting than the stories other people had (“Umm… sometimes she talks a little fast and I don’t understand her?”) so we ended up discussing those. Ozaki-san got a little annoyed the second time she walked by and we were still talking about a ghost, but she did admit that she’d had Japanese students tell her “I want to be a CET Roommate… but don’t put me in Sophia. It’s haunted.” Which, combined with knocking sounds and perfectly geometric breaking of dishes, made for definitive proof.

Ozaki-san was less than impressed with this, and told us to focus on communication problems with roommates.

Me: “Communicating with a ghost is hard.”

Indu: “And it lives with me.”

Ozaki-san: “With living roommates.”

She moved on, and we decided that Erin was probably the ghost (have you ever seen the two of them in the same place at the same time? I don’t think so!) and thus it fit the criteria for us to continue talking about it. Ozaki-san was less than impressed by this, but Indu managed to come up with a real communication problem to discuss, which was enough. Ozaki-san got her example, John got Indu to be the one to give it, and Indu had her new bakery to plan. Everyone left happy.

Tags: bread, communication, drinks, ghosts, japanese

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