Monthly Archives: December 2012

Photo Monday – Hakodate Episcopal Church

Episcopal Church in Hakodate

Episcopal Church in Hakodate

There are quite a few historical churches in the foothills of Mt Hakodate, including this one and an Orthodox church that is literally a hop, skip, and a jump to the left of this one.

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I Love You

Or at least my students do. And they’d be happy to tell you so if you came here.

Like ‘hello’ and ‘cheese’, ‘I love you’ is one of the English words/phrases that all of my students, including the preschool ones, seem to know right off the bat. They learn it from TV or advertising or older siblings…and I’m not sure they understand quite how ‘strong’ a phrase it is. I mean, English-speakers regularly say things like ‘I love cheese!’ or ‘I love this dress!’, but ‘I love you’ is pretty much reserved for use between relatives and romantic partners. I mean, I have good friends that I love, but you probably won’t catch me saying ‘I love you’ to them. I have a hard enough time saying it to my little brother.

Japanese junior high schoolers are not like this. They will say ‘I love you’ to anyone they think has a chance of understanding them, especially if they are female. However, my male colleague down in Esashi admits that he gets it fairly often from his students, both male and female.

For example, when I studied abroad in Nagoya in 2008, my daily walk to the subway station took me past a city junior high school. The students would wave if they saw me and one day a clutch of girls caught sight of me across the street.

Girls: *waving frantically* Hello!

Me: Oh, hello!

Girls: How are you?

Me: Alright, how are you?

Girls: *nervous tittering*


Me: O_O

Now, I’m used to it. The eighth graders all wrote me Christmas cards last year and at least 2/3 of them featured professions of love (sometimes for my games, not me). Most of the correspondence I receive through the message system involves ‘I love you’ in some form or another.

And then there’s this:



Difficult to make out? It’s ‘I LOVE YOU’ stomped into the snow, on the path between the town gym and the road, behind my workplace. ::sigh::

Of course, I wanted to test my hypothesis, to see what my students thought the word ‘love’ meant. In class, I took one seventh grader and placed him at the front of the class and wrote a word on the board that he couldn’t see. The other students had to give clues in English to help him guess. With different students, I did ‘cat’ and ‘school’ and ‘October’. With the last girl, I tried to see what they would come up with for ‘love’.

Girl: I’ve had this.

Boy: I haven’t had this.

Boy: It’s big.

Girl: It’s pink.

Teacher: I think of it as being red.

Boy: This is how I feel about tomatoes.

Boy: This is how I feel about basketball.

The girl guessed correctly at that point, though she admits she was warring between it and ‘favorite’.

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Oops Update and a Mystery

Monday was a national holiday here, in honor of the emperor’s birthday on Sunday. It was just enough to throw me off, so this week’s knitting post is for Thursday, rather than Wednesday.

Besides, it’s just the same project over and over. And I can’t seem to photograph it well to boot.


I’ve moved into my third row of orange. According to my calculations, I need at least 6.5 rows of each color category (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple*) to balance the blanket. I overcompensated with red, doing eight rows, since I’m concerned about some categories not being able to make the full six-seven rows. I’m a little over a quarter of the way through at this point and I have a whole week off next week, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up on my goals.

The mystery, you ask? Has nothing to do with knitting.

Last year, when my car was being a jerk, I needed to loan my spare key to my supervisor so that he could move it and I could go home to await the verdict. He returned it forthwith, but I forgot to re-add it to my keychain and one day when I set myself to finding it, it was nowhere to be found. This was literally almost exactly a year ago – the car broke down December 20th.

Wednesday morning I putting my garbage out for collection in the wooden box constructed for such use (seen in the third picture of this post) and noticed a key resting on the roof of it.

A car key.

A car key that looked exactly like my car key, down to the numbers stamped on the side.

It was my key – used it to drive to work this morning and everything!

Where has it been all year? How did it get on top of the trash box? Of all the times to be found, this seems the least likely – snow covering everything and the plow churning things up.



* I combined indigo and violet into purple because I cannot reliably tell the difference between the two.


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Photo Monday – Merry Christmas!

I'm not sure packhorse is in my job description...

I’m not sure pack-horse is in my job description…

Otobe will be having a white Christmas, how about you?

Otobe will be having a white Christmas, how about you?

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Making Christmas Cards

Fifth grade boy: I want to draw Pikachu on my card, but I can’t figure out how.

Sixth grade girl: There’s a picture of him on your pencil. Draw that.

I made Christmas cards with one of my small elementary schools on Monday.* I showed them cards I had received in the past, as well as cards that some of the junior high schoolers had made me last year. I also showed them Christmas! by Peter Spier, that all important pictorial guide to Christmas as celebrated by Americans…25 years out of date. They were stunned by the number of presents everyone received. Here, kids (and I really mean kids) get one present on Christmas Eve. Instead, their main thing is getting cash from relatives for the new year. It’s usually an impressive chunk of change.

Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

I had them practice on scrap paper first, since my junior high school students kept messing up last year and ruining the cardstock they had been provided with. Basically the only English they got that day was copying down ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy New Year’. Only the fifth and sixth graders are officially taught the full Latin alphabet, so just those few words was quite an effort for the younger students.



There were some line break difficulties. Japanese is written without spaces between words, so they didn’t find anything significant about the amount of blackboard I put between ‘Merry’ and ‘Christmas’.

Finished product coming together.

Finished product coming together.

Once they had done a rough draft, they started in on the cardstock with colored pencils, markers, and stickers. Many of them modeled their drawings on the Christmas book and the stickers .

Billy Bob, is that you?

Billy Bob, is that you?

Sometimes things didn’t translate well from draft to card.

In the end, each kid had produced at least one card to exchange at their Christmas party. This one was my favorite of the bunch – a self-portrait:



Bonus: I found this kerning game while trying to explain spacing and line breaks to the kids.

* Yes, the whole school. 17 kids, 3 teachers, and the vice principal.


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Incremental Progress

Yes, I really am just going to keep showing you pictures of a slightly larger blanket each week. Last week there were 82 squares complete. This week – 115. Just one more square and I can start on the orange section, yay!

451 squares to go!


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Photo Monday Extra – Oops

Postcard from Norway.

Postcard from Norway.

Supervisor: Post office very sorry?

I had to laugh when he handed me this because it had to be hand-delivered to my workplace and apologized for in person. No way they could just drop it in my mailbox at home with a clear conscience. Oh Japan.

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