the last few days were quite interesting and a few of the happenings are worth mentioning i think..
On the amusement side there was my phone call to the Mongolian Airlines office in Korea. For those who might not know, I'm planning a Trans-Siberian train trip and starting it in Ulaanbaatar, so David and I decided to fly from Seoul to UB and there are two airlines that make it possible: Korean Air and Mongolian Airlines. I called Mongolian Air's office in Japan and was told to contact the Seoul office directly. My phone call went like this:
".....blah blah blah foreign language something something"
"Is this Mongolian Airlines?"
"I would like to reserve a ticket from Seoul to UB"
"(silence) Waiting please"
"Excuse me?" (i didn't hear her clearly)
"Ah ok. Thank you"
(on the other side I am not actually put on hold and i hear keyboard keys typing away and two women conversing about something in Mongolian, at this point I realize that she didn't ask me the dates and am not sure what the hell she is looking up)
(less than a minute of listening to keyboard keys)
"Yes. Waiting please!"
(i wait. and listen to keyboard keys and realize that perhaps this is a way for them to get rid of a pesky english speaking customer so that they don't add extra stress to their data entering day)
(nothing but there's still background noise of people doing something, so i decide to let them have this victory over the customer and hang up)
Next phone call was to Korean Air in Seoul. Both the airline's websites btw are not able to process reservations at the moment. Actually on the Mongolian Air's site nothing happens when you click the search button after entering the dates and locations; the Korean Air will give the flight details but will show an error page when trying to find a price or reserve and that's the reason for resorting to phone calls. So Seoul's office in Korea can't help me and they tell me to call the Japanese one. Japan's Korean Air office is super helpful, likes my american credit card and is ready to do business. I will most definitely miss this country!
On Sunday I learned how to make gyoza and spring rolls at the house of one of my Sunday adult conversation students. She lives in Higashi and has a lovely but small house with a pretty backyard and a great view of the ocean. She has been talking about teaching me and K-san's daughter how to make gyoza for months now and finally we arranged it. It was a wonderful experience and even though I'm really not that good at making gyoza, I really enjoyed spending time doing it. I brought a russian salad to the potluck dinner and had a great time eating, talking, sharing, learning, and generally being very pampered by my students.
One of the topics that evening was the amount of time Ogimi students spend playing sports. K-san's daughter is my 3rd grade student and she plays tennis. The tennis team meets at 7am for morning practice before school and they practice for 2 to 3 hours after school. Other clubs don't meet in the morning but practice for 3-4 hours after school. There's a big inter-JHS tournament coming up next week and so the students are practicing more these days and basketball teams are at school sometimes until 8pm. This is not ok with quite a few parents who find their kids exhausted at the end of the day without any energy left over for studying when they get home. Some parents have brought this up to teachers, but teachers just shrug and do as they like. It's a big deal to have your school place high in the tournaments--it's a big pride and I'm sure teachers are highly commended on their work if the team is in the top 4 and so they place more value on the sports and insist that kids like to practice and so it's not a problem. But what kind of a decision can a junior high school student make when placed with a choice of study or playing sports with friends?
It's ridiculous to push the kids this far and it's really no wonder that no one learns anything at school and the only kids that are academically successful are those who place more value on the studies and are intrinsically motivated to do so.
The kids practice so hard that they hurt themselves as well. In the last week three students sprained their ankles. That's just crazy to me.
Another thing that I'll never understand is the student teaching experience for future teachers in Japan. Two English student teachers are coming to the school next week. They'll be here for 3 weeks and so they'll each teach maybe two to four classes during that time because some classes will be cut because the sport tourney is coming up and schedule is amended to give practice more time. So two student teachers will be sharing student teaching time during one of the busiest times for JHS (another busy time is around Sports Day in September and guess what? that's also when student teachers are placed into schools). Of course, this timing is not up to the school but has to do with university scheduling and I don't know enough about Japanese universities to guess as to why this time is chosen over any other time in the school year and also why 3 weeks in the classroom is considered sufficient to prepare someone to teach on their own in a few months time.
that's all i got on that.
Time to wrap up a varied and long post.
Oh yeah. It's officially Atsui, desu ne? ("Hot, isn't it?") season, but the AC is not yet on and so am slowly melting at my desk. (not really, but will definitely soon)