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O Fim duma Viagem

Why are Tuesdays so Long?

JAPAN | Thursday, 17 March 2016 | Views [313]

On Tuesday we started chapter six. Which was sad, because six is a multiple of three. We have chapter tests every three chapters. So even though it seemed like we’d just finished a chapter test, we were already nearly due for another one. Joy.

Chapter six was on religions in Japan, and we started with a reading on superstitions. Like the way, in Japanese, 4 and 9 are unlucky numbers because they sound like the words for “death” and “suffering.” Or the way that 25, 42, and 61 are considered unlucky ages for men and 19, 33, and 37 are unlucky for women. Then Yamaguchi-sensei asked about superstitions in the United States, and Dan and I went off for a while naming them.

At one point, I got onto the topic of crows. After beginning with the traditional “bad luck/death” which in several traditions, including Japanese, I mentioned that it’s dependent on the number of crows there are. At least in British tradition. So I went through and started translating the counting crows rhyme.

“One for sorrow, two for joy

Three for a girl and four for a boy.

Five for silver six for gold

Seven for a secret never to be told.”

Around six, Yamaguchi-sensei started making a face and asked me how much longer the rhyme went. I assured her there was only one more and finished off. However, that was probably a smart question for her to ask. Technically, I can go three farther, but only in English. (“Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss, ten for a time of joyous bliss.”) And if I really get started, I can give another variation or two. (“One for sorrow two for mirth, three for a wedding and four for a birth. Five for heaven, six for hell, seven for the devil his own sel’.”)

This was also a very exciting occurrence, because normally Yamaguchi-sensei wants me to keep talking. “Make that sentence longer!” “Why?” “Can you expand?” Even if I start talking, get both of us really confused, and realize I have no way of salvaging what I was trying to say, she’ll still look kind of disappointed when I wave my hands and try to change the topic back to something I can talk about. This was the first class that she ever wanted me to stop talking. It was incredibly exciting.

The next class was with Suzuki-sensei, and it was along the same themes. We had a series of role plays, usually with Dan in the role of inferior (younger sibling or underclassman) and me as some kind of social superior (older sibling, teacher, upperclassman, etc.) Pretty sure this was deliberate on Suzuki-sensei’s part, since Dan has a tendency to forget to use formal speech with the teachers, and I’m still pretty weak with casual speech.

Our first conversation was about superstitions. Dan asked the first question which came to mind which was “what’s your favorite Japanese superstition” and I gave the first answer I could think of, which was “foxes.” We went for a bit on that, but it wasn’t the most interesting conversation ever.

Then Suzuki-sensei told me to ask Dan about his major. He’s a computer science major, and played really dumb on the subject. So when he mentioned that it was making apps, I asked “Like Angry Birds?” And made him explain that he couldn’t create Angry Birds, because someone else had already created it. And then I shot down his career goals, because he said he wanted to work at Apple.

“Do you have a Mac?”

“No.”

“Do you have an iPhone?”

“No.”

“...do you have an iPod?”

“No.”

“...have you ever in your life owned an Apple product?”

“No.”

“Have you ever used an Apple product.”

“No…”

“I don’t think they’ll hire you.”

And then we switched roles and it was Dan’s turn to ask me about my major. Only he was supposed to be a middle schooler, and I was supposed to explain it in simple terms.

It took Dan a while to get into character. So his first question was what I wanted to do after graduation, and when I said “grad school. Do you know what that is?” He responded “Yes. I want to go to grad school too. For math.” Then it emerged that he hadn’t even had a pre-algebra class, and after I gave a very brief idea of what higher level math actually looks like, he decided he didn’t want to study math anymore.

So it went about as well as my real-life conversations go.

Then Suzuki-sensei left, Yamaguchi-sensei came back, and it was time for another hour of class. The class began with a kanji review, and Yamaguchi-sensei got disappointed when we we couldn’t read several characters and reminded us that studying was part of our homework. These were the same characters we had been able to read two hours earlier when she’d asked us then. The problem wasn’t that we hadn’t reviewed, it was that we were on our third consecutive hour of Japanese study and reading is hard. It’s a truth that all of the Japanese students but none of the teachers seem to know.

At last, class was over, and I could go… oh shoot we had a meeting for the weekend with host families at the end of the month. Guess it was time to go to that. The meeting wasn’t that informative, but we did fill out forms that would match us with the host families, so at least it was useful. Now it was time for lunch and a slight break. Then religion and spirituality.

That class has moved on to be about zen, to which end we were watching a movie about young monks who get into all kinds of wacky hijinx. I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be a comedy, but it was all in Japanese, and the professor was mainly focused on the aspects of religious life, so it was kind of hard to tell.

Class ended, I took a couple of minutes to myself, then I headed to the Super to meet up with my housemates and Komuko-san who were buying stuff for that night’s communal dinner. When we got back to the apartment, I stole away for another fifteen minutes to go for a walk. Or I intended to. Instead I found a calico cat wearing a bell on its collar that actually let me pet it (Osaka has plenty of cats, but most of them run away) and got kind of distracted.

Dinner was good, though I definitely would have appreciated it more on a day with an actual break sometime between 9am and the start of dinner. Because now I still had so much homework to do, and not as much energy or motivation to do it as I probably should have. Which honestly not that different from an ordinary day, but at least this time I had a reason.

Tags: cats, host family, japanese, math, programs

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