teacher

An Open Letter To The Mimasaka Board Of Education

To whom it may concern

I am writing this letter to let you know that I will be retiring from my position as Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on July 22nd.

Please know that I have had the most negative experience here. The Mimasaka Board of Education has continuously surprised me with their unprofessionalism.

I have not recieved or been notified of important information. I was never invited to the ALT orientation or the ALT camp (both of where I would have had the opportunity to make foreign friends in my position and/or receive answers to my countless questions). When information has been given to me, it has been given to me late. For example, the forms for relocation were given to me well past their due date. My emails and phone-calls have gone unanswered. And time after time my supervisors have approached me with requests for large amounts of surprise payments due on the same day.

It is unfortunate that I will be leaving Mimasaka with a heart full of sadness. I have given all of my spirit and energy to my students and in return I have been faced with repetitive negligence.

As a guest in your country, you have made me feel incredibly unwelcome.

However; I am smarter than to judge the entire Japanese community by a small minority’s actions. As a full-blooded Iranian, I know the effects of such ignorance first-hand. I will not be a part of that blindness. For many people of your community have shown me more love and respect than some individuals of my home country and/or race ever have. If it were not for their kindness, I too would have broken my contract like my predecessor.

My wish today on Tanabata is that my successor will not have to go through the same unfair treatment and excruciating pain that I have.

Anisa Kazemi  
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An Unwelcome Guest

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How can one
small and grey
organisation
inflict colossal
pain?
I am an unwelcome guest
a true waste of space
I am a black fly
on fresh sashimi
a thick hair
in hot ramen
I am an outside shoe
treading inside carpet
I am bare shoulders
I am chili peppers
I am loud songs
playing in silent trains.

Only Human

Just because I photograph beautiful things and post inspirational quotes doesn’t mean I have it together. I’m struggling. Big time. I can’t wait to leave. Everything is so unnecessarily difficult here. None of these pictures show that though. Just like none of your Facebook friends’ photos show their reality. Life is not black and white. Sometimes it’s gloomy grey and sometimes it’s sparkling silver.
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Currently Out Of Order

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I learned some great lessons today. Mainly the importance of touch but also, gratitude, for the little things, which turn out to be the big things – something much has been said about and will undoubtedly continue to be talked and discussed, and love and how love is everything.

Long story short, I became very ill.Very quickly. I felt nauseous then vomited a lot (sorry), felt extremely weak and cold. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, I was dizzy and to top it all off, I started to panic. Panic and stress about what was happening to me but also where it was happening to me: rural japan, where I can’t speak the language, where the doctors terrify me and where I live alone, just me.

Next, I did two things. One, sent a simple message to my friend Yuko about having to cancel coffee and second, sleep. Or at least, made an attempt to sleep.

One hour later, the amount of time it takes me to drive to Yuko’s or from Yuko’s to me, I hear the doorbell ring. Ding dong! Here is Yuko, all flustered and worried (but still stunning, always stunning) with an armful of things. Water, fruit, cooked mixed rice and tofu amongst other things. We (her and her husband) are driving you to the hospital, come she says. Side note: Japan doesn’t have GPs, so everyone goes to “the hospital” for everything which on another note, has freaked me out plenty. Your daughter is in hospital?! WHY! You were in hospital this morning?! AH! Though in this case, I would have probably gone to a hospital anyhow seeing as it was Sunday and an emergency.

I was checked by the doctor, given a blood test (after four unsuccessful jabs to the hand and wrist) and hooked up to an IV for an hour. Now, I feel better. I have been given three days of rest but I cannot eat or even think about eating let alone cook/prepare it and blog about it. So my point in writing this post is this: that the entire time I lay on the hospital bed, staring at the ceiling with pain radiating through my entire existence, Yuko held my hand in hers. And rubbed my head and told me that everything was going to be okay. WOW how great it felt to be touched. In the midst of all the pain, the miscommunication and the homesickness, what I thought about was how lovely it was to have my hand in hers. Which brings me to the importance of touch. The great Leo Buscaglia once said, “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”. My life was turned around. Her touch gave me hope and serenity. Two powerful forces which allowed me to see, even amongst the difficulty, my life in all its love and blessings.

Next, I want to share a quote by Christopher Aiff, a quote I believe will be a good concluder for this speech:

“The decision to be positive is not one that disregards or belittles the sadness that exists. It is rather a conscious choice to focus on the good and to cultivate happiness–genuine happiness. Happiness is not a limited resource. And when we devote our energy and time to trivial matters, and choose to stress over things that ultimately are insignificant. From that point, we perpetuate our own sadness, and we lose sight of the things that really make us happy and rationalize our way out of doing amazing things.”

Which is how I can be happy. Happy alone – well, not really. Happy to be alive. Happy thinking of becoming healthy and happy for the adventure that awaits me post (and heck, during) sick leave. So dear reader, stay positive and TOUCH (me) hehe.

My thighs

Currently writing poems with my second-grade students. Two styles. First, one word first line, two words second line, three words third line, four words fourth line then last line, one (1, 2, 3, 4, 1). Second, Haiku (syllables: 5, 7, 5).

Cellulite
is growing
with light speed
in and around my
butt

Oh my ghee doughnut
how did all this cellulite
get around my butt?

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A little poetry outlining my current situation. But it’s okay, nothing last forever. Ok, maybe cellulite does. Alas, I dream of the days when I’ve left my current job, where I have to be seated at my desk between classes and in school holidays, for the entire day because the students are on break and the teachers are not (strange country), and the days I leave my rural home, where not only my workplace but supermarkets/cafes and civilization in general are an hours drive. Excuses, excuses, I hear ya. ALL OF ME hears ya. GAH. Also, Japanese homes aren’t built for the cold.. making it really hard to exercise inside…But, spring is coming and with it warmer weather and cherry blossoms and so is my mom and nothing else matters when she’s around. Not even my bum.

Hello Kitty Slippers And More

Yesterday I experienced my first Japanese JHS graduation ceremony and it was really interesting. Here are my thoughts:

What they wore:
So the students just wore their school uniforms with an identical pink corsage on the left chest. As for the teachers and parents, this is where things got interesting! So as per custom, everyone was dressed in formal black suits with white shirts and an elegant tie or corsage but the thing is, in Japan, people don’t wear shoes inside, they wear slippers. So here were 100+ adults in formal formal suits and Hello Kitty slippers. Or panda slippers. So so cute and strange and random. I wished so bad for another nonJapanese to have seen it with me! In addition to the black suits and corsages, all the women wore pearls. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo.

How it panned out:
I was there for the practise and planning of the whole thing so I know just HOW much effort went into it. So everything from the distance between the chairs to the carefully ironed table cloths to the immaculate bouquet displays were carefully organised prior to the event to be flawless. And I mean that in the strongest sense of the word. Just perfect.

This was also the case with everything else. So like, there was a lot of rehearsed marching. Both from the students and the staff. Everyone bowed, walked and conducted themselves in an identical manner. It was all just so so organised. Speaking of bowing, there was much of that. Almost too much. My back hurt. Without sounding rude or offensive, I think we must have looked like a room-full  of canaries. Again, super cute or kawaii. So it was really well done but in my opinion, a little too ordered. I wish there had been a little less stern faces, a little less seriousness and a little more smiling and jokes!
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The Truth Behind The American Vs Japanese School Lunch Comparison

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This video comparing American vs Japanese school lunch, really upsets me. It is clearly bias, with it’s sole motive being to shame US food habits.

From an insider living and working in Japan, let me tell you, drinking dairy milk every single day, is not good for anyone’s health. The big white bread roll seen on the Japanese lunch tray, is full of sugar and perservatives and tastes more like a cake than a bread. In fact, brown bread or multi-grain bread here is almost non-existent and only sold at speciality bakeries – definitely not traditional Japanese ones. Moreover, the THREE schools I teach at, have a no fresh-food rule as in the past apparently one child died from eating a rotten fresh cucumber. So, in my schools everything is either fried or pickled. And the meat is almost always processed in the form of patties and sausages.

Yes, occasionally there will be a healthy soup or a healthy fish dish on the lunch tray, but that is not everyday. What’s more, whale is sometimes served as apparently it is Japanese “tradition”. Please don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Last week in our cooking class, my students learnt how to make fried donuts (fried, in buckets of oil), the week before, Japanese red bean paste sweets laden with sugar and before that, yaki soba, fried noodles with processed meat and sauce from the supermarket.

In all fairness, I have never been to America so I cannot comment on their lunch system…
All I’m saying is that every story has two sides to it.

What I Think of the Japanese School Lunch System

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Personally, I don’t agree with the Japanese school lunch system because I think it’s unhealthy and processed. For example, nothing raw ever features on it. This is, I was told by one of the teachers because someone once got sick from fresh cucumber. Which is why everything is pickled, fried and lathered in perservativey sauces. Also, last week they ate whale and that really fucked me off.

Alas, like all things, there are two sides to the system. One of the good things about school-lunch is that everyone starts eating together. Which is a really sweet sight, to see ravenous kids politely waiting to commence demolition with their pals.

The other positive about school lunch is their attempt at internationalizing the dishes. I say attempt because some of the things that show up are plain ridiculous. “hot dogs”, “hamburgers” and “gratin” which are nothing like you’d expect. Today, school lunch was “Indian” curry served with naan bread which brought so much excitement to everyone’s faces that two teachers even took photos of it (yeah yeah, I know, it’s Asia, everyone photographs their meals but no, not school lunch guys, that’s one thing that’s not worth the click. Sorry lunch chefs :/). So yeah, I think that aspect of school lunch is a positive, especially for these inaka (countryside) kids. Cos God forbid they turn out like my Kiwi high-school math teacher and try Chinese food for the first time at 55!

If you are blessed enough to have an abundance of food choices, you should totes venture out. Food is culture, guys!

Image stolen from HERE. Hope you don’t mind, Miss.

New Year’s in Japan

The following extract is from education.asianart.org cos aint nobody got time to write a blogpost. Just joking, not really, but I will say a word or two. First, that I’m so darn lucky, I got to experience mochi pounding TWICE this year since I live so rural and second that the mochi, the adzuki beans (used to make the red bean paste, anko) and the soybeans (used to make soy bean powder, kinako) were all grown and made by hand by my lovely hosts. Also, that the old lady (obachan) pictured below is a great-grandmother and 94!

JOY JOY JOY! Happy New Year, y’all!

In Japan, mochi (sticky rice dumpling) is a tasty treat made to commemorate special occasions, most notably the New Year. Once essential to the New Year celebration, the practice of pounding mochi together, or mochitsuki, is now rare even in Japan, as busy people eat store-bought mochi rather than make their own. Traditionally, glutinous rice is washed and soaked overnight on the evening before the pounding.

The next morning the rice is steamed and placed in the usu (large mortar) where it is pounded with a kine (wooden mallet). Once the mass is soft and smooth, it is pulled into various sizes and shapes. It can be enjoyed a variety of ways: fresh, with different sauces, sweet stuffing, or seaweed.

An offering to the kani (deity), called kagami-mochi (mirror mochi), is comprised of two mochi cakes usually placed on a sheet of pure white paper in the center of a wooden tray. and topped with a bitter orange (daidai). Kagami-mochi is placed on the family altar during the New Year as an auspicious gesture that signifies hope for a happy and bright year ahead.

Mochi is used to make a variety of traditional sweets and it can be eaten right away or cured and dried for later use. When it is cured, it hardens and can be cooked with red beans, vegetables or soups. It is also popular toasted on top of a stove, dipped in a variety of flavorings such as soy sauce and sugar or coated with toasted soy bean powder. Toasted mochi inflates to several times its original size, forming a crisp crust with a soft, chewy interior.

The exact origin of mochi is unknown, though it is said to have come from China. The cakes of pounded glutinous rice appear to have become a New Year’s treat during Japan’s Heian period (794–1185). As early as the tenth century, various kinds of mochi were used as imperial offerings at religious ceremonies. A dictionary dating from before 1070 calls the rice cake “mochii.” Around the eighteenth century, people began to call it “mochi.” Various theories explain the name. One is that “mochi” came from the verb “motsu,” “to hold or to have,” signifying that mochi is food given by God. The word “mochizuki” means “full moon.”
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image[11]image[6]image[1]image[14]image[9]image[2]image[4]image[8]image[12]image[3]image[10]image[5]Oh, and just to confuse y’all a little more, the very first image is where the rice cooks and the last images are of tochimochi being mixed into red bean paste or in Japanese, anko.