I went to Yakawa Elementary yesterday. Not bad. I met with all the kids before lunch. First, the 1st and 2nd Graders, then the 3rd and 4th Graders, then the 5th and 6th Graders (whom I'd already met before). I knew that the 5th and 6th Graders would be singing "Edelweiss" for me, but the 3rd and 4th Graders surprised me with a lovely rendition of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore." One of the teachers accompanied on keyboard, and apparently made up her own words for the second verse. Something about "san-nensei" (third graders), and then the san-nensei sang, "Hallelujah!" then something about "yon-nensei" (fourth graders), and then the yon-nensei sang, "Hallelujah!" Then something about Emirii-sensei, and they all sang, "Hallelujah!" and then I don't know what. But it was so funny.
Many people in Japan eat grapes without the skins. They just suck out the insides. I ate grapes once with some Japanese friends, and they warned me that eating the skins might give me a stomach ache. "I eat them this way all the time in America," I assured them, and they seemed assured.
I bring this up because Kenji, the 6th Grade teacher who also is in my English Conversation Class, made a quiz for the 1st and 2nd Graders. The questions were all True/False, and they had to guess the correct answer. One was, more or less, "Americans eat fruit with the skins still on." The answer was True. Then he wanted examples. "Grapes?" he asked. "Yes, we eat grapes in the skins." When he explained this to the kids, some of them said they eat grapes with the skins, too. I said, "Grapes, yes. Apples, yes. Bananas, no. Oranges, no. Kiwis, sometimes." They were surprised about the kiwis. I guess most people in the States peel their kiwifruit, but some like the skins.
Kenji invited me to sit in on his history lesson with the 6th Graders. "Japanese history has been influenced by America. Wouldn't you like to learn about it?" "Sure," I told him, "I just hope I'll understand. But he did a good job of translating for me. The lesson was about "Perry-san," the American who showed up on Japan's doorstep with four warships and demanded that Japan open its borders to trade. The kids even knew what route Perry took on his way from the US Atlantic coast to Japan. This was in, oh, 1853? So glad I caught that documentary on PBS just before I left, else I'd have been Miss Ignoramus. Then he asked me what famous Americans I knew. I mentioned President Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and President Lincoln. The kids had never heard of Franklin, and it turned out they new nothing more about Lincoln beyond the name. So I explained the most well-known facts about each man, and Kenji translated. Pretty cool.
Today, Ikeda-sensei told me that she recently saw Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, but didn't understand what Fahrenheit meant. "Oh," I said, "in Japan, you use Celsius, but in America, we measure temperature in degrees Fahrenheit." That much she may have understood already, so I continued. "The name refers to a book written by Ray Bradbury called Fahrenheit 451. Yadda yadda temperature at which books burn. In this story, books are illegal, and are burned, because the government wants to control the people." It took a minute to establish the fact that the book is fictional, and then I continued. "Michael Moore thinks the government is trying to control the people, so that's why he called the movie Fahrenheit 9/11; 9/11 for the terrorist attacks." She thought it over. "So, that's like Michael Moore. People watch his movie, and then they hate Bush; they think like him."
I had to laugh. "I'm sure that's not what he had in mind when he named the movie."
I should thank striatic, who actually has read Bradbury's book, for letting me know that, in the book, it's never quite clear whose idea it was to outlaw books—whether it was a government-initiated scheme, or just laws to meet the demands of the people—but I still thought Ikeda's comment was interesting, especially in light of this article, which Joe highlighted on his blog.
Oh, also, I've finally added a bit more to my NaNoWriMo book. Not a lot more, but enough to hopefully get more people interested in it. The more people who follow it, the less likely I am to quit. As it is, my future daily average word count must be nearly 2,500 words per day if I'm to finish on time. I figure, if I type at 50wpm (I actually type closer to 70), and if I allow two minutes thinking time for every minute I spend typing, then I only need to write for three hours a day. But then, that's three solid hours, which can be done for one night, maybe two, in an emergency cram session (just like college!), but is awfully difficult to maintain for twenty days in a row.
See? I do simple arithmetic to procrastinate from writing.