Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun with TOEFL

Zonked TOEFL Students
The course was a joke to begin with, but that's another story (including why I have no textbook or CDs to teach with). I actually enjoy teaching TOEFL! And I guess students enjoy my teaching because four of them who have actually spent a year studying abroad were in my Sapporo University TOEFL class, which just started today. (They're the ones you see in the photo after I had a hypnotism session with a private class to help them concentrate and focus better during the exam, as well as feeling very relaxed.)

I was feeling a bit crazy during the class and, perhaps because I had students at a high enough level that they could understand, I couldn't stop cracking jokes. At the end of the class, I told the students, "I'll probably be here next week, if my tooth doesn't kill me." (My tooth is hurting badly because I still haven't had it capped after having root canal a couple of weeks ago.) Then I asked the students, "Which is the correct answer? (A) CA is coming next week. (B) CA is going to die next week. (C) CA has a tooth. (D) CA has no teeth." The students laughed. I imagine they'll be back next week, for more craziness, if nothing else.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Smelly Remedy for Sleepy Students

When I walked into class this morning, about half the girls had their heads on their desks resting. Granted, it's a 9 o'clock class (I myself have to get up at 6 a.m. to get to school on time), but I thought, "Oh, no. I'm going to be struggling with a bunch of sleepyheads."

What I did was to get out small aromatherapy kit that I carry around with me. Then I told them, they could choose "Energy," "Relaxation," "Romance," "Cleanse," or "Concentration." I went around the room, as each girl chose, holding a small bottle under her nose as she inhaled and leaving a drop of her chosen aroma just under the nostrils.

The atmosphere of the class changed completely, becoming totally charged with energy. There was a fairly even distribution in their choices, but what made the difference is that they all began talking (in Japanese) about the experience. I don't suppose any teacher had ever tried aromatherapy with them before! :-)

That and a jazz chant helped everyone wake up, and the students ended up having stimulating discussions. Ironically, the topic was Dreams!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Talking with a Naprapath

Dr. Paul Mach, an expert in nutrition, visited our international women's group. At his site, The Center for Modern Approaches to Comprehensive Healthcare, there is a quiz you can take regardidng your own state of health. There are also numerous articles for free on the basics of diet and taking care of both your mind and your soul.

One of Dr. Mach's biggest concerns about the medical profession is that they tend to treat the symptom, rather than the cause. Also, because of the way the health insurance system works, they tend to overmedicate. (This is particularly true in Japan.)

I've had personal experience with this in that, when I woke up with a terrible earache one Sunday morning, I went to the only nose/throat/ear clinic that day and got drops for my ear. The earache cleared up to some extent, but I ended up with an even worse sore throat and went to another clinic near my apartment, receiving even more medication. I still had both ear and throat problems when I flew to Singapore, although I managed to survive without too much pain by constantly blowing my nose and yawning during both the ascent and descent.

When in Singapore, I got a terrible toothache and, by chance, was able to find an accomplished Indian doctor who, after looking at the x-ray, said I'd need either root canal or to have the tooth pulled. In the end, the cause for my sore throat and earache was a decayed tooth!

Dr. Mach's advice
, from a handout he gave entitled "Basic Human Care, 101", is:

(1) Drink PLENTY of pure water (most people are dehydrated and do not drink enough.
Drink at least eight- 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

(2) Homo sapiens require EXERCISE. ("The human species is a dynamic, vibrant, powerful creature designed for athletic prowess, not being a couch potato.")

(3) BREATHE. Breathe in the air. The body needs to be oxygenated.

(4) Eat appropriate to the species. (If we don't give junk food to our pets, why do we give it to ourselves?!) That includes plenty of veggies (means at least half of the food you eat by volume), avoiding deep fried food, partially-hydrogenated oil and hydrogenated oil, avoiding refined sugar, avoiding refined carbohydrates, avoiding chemical additives, eating slowly, chewing your food thoroughly, and never skipping meals.

(5) ELIMINATION: take in nutrients--eliminate waste.

His website is definitely worth exploring! Whether he remains in Hokkaido, where he is living with his Japanese wife, remains to be seen, but it would be wonderful for us to have access to an expert in nutrition and health.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Woot Canal

"Not today! There's no way I can do it today," I told my dentist on Tuesday when he said that root canal would be necessary. I had a very good reason. That evening was the very first rehearsal for the newly formed Sapporo Symphony Chorus [see entry from Sept. 12th].

The next day was also impossible because of doing the narration [see entry from Sept. 13th], and yesterday I had to teach. So the operation had to take place this morning.

Even though the left side of my jaw and tongue were loaded with anesthetic (I get extra since I still felt some pain after the first and even the second dose), I used self-hypnosis to make the whole experience more comfortable. Since I had just come back from India, it was easy for me to visualize a temple.

During the whole operation, using self-hypnosis, I was picturing the roof of a beautiful, golden temple being renovated. The construction was necessary to make the temple even more beautiful, so the noise helped as I imagined the replacement of eaves and statues. Every time the specialist moved, a light shown into my eyes, just as there would be a light streaming in through the roof of the temple, reflecting on the gorgeous, sparkling interior.

As a result, the operation was actually pleasant as well as comfortable. The team who worked on me is in the photo, including the specialist on my right, the assistant next to her, and my regular dentist on my left. All were part of the team that helped make my body, in particular, the roof of my body, a more beautiful place.

After Dental Surgery

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Singlish – a Simple, Direct Way of Speaking

Even before I went to Singapore, I had heard the term Singlish, but wasn’t sure how it might be different from “my” English. My friend, Kaori, who works at a company in Singapore, explained that it was much more direct and uses simpler grammar.

For example, at restaurants or shops, I’m used to hearing, “May I help you?” On the telephone, some use a formal expression such as, “How may I be of assistance?” In Singlish, the question is, “What do you want?” Simple. Direct.

Kaori also told me of the prevalence of the use of “can” and “can’t” as verbs. I thought she might be exaggerating. Then, after making an appointment with a dentist (a whole other story), I wanted to change the time of my appointment so called the office and asked, “Would it be all right if I came at 4:30 instead of 4:00.” The response from the receptionist (in the photo) was “4:30 can.” Simple. Direct.

Receptionist at Dental Clinic
When I was checking out of the Perak Hotel, one of the staff asked me, “Happy?” I was baffled. At first, I thought, I’m generally happy and today, on a scale of 1-10, it would probably be an 8 or 9. Then I realized she might be asking, “Were you happy with your room?” Or it could have been, “Are you enjoying your stay in Singapore?” Because I had no idea how to reply, I just said, “I don’t speak Singlish.”

Singlish would be a good language to learn. If I spoke it with my Japanese students, it would probably make communication easier. Simple. Direct.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

As Scene from Singapore

Having the chance to talk with a Chinese businessman/hypnotist, a Muslim "information officer," an Indian dentist, an Australian artist, and a Vietnamese pianist, among others - this is especially what made visiting Singapore such an amazing experience. The beauty of Singapore is in its people, with so many cultures living together in harmony.

The only other place I've been that was so intercultural was Hawaii, but even there I didn't see the mingling of cultures that I did in Singapore. Granted it's made up of little "villages" - Little India, Chinatown, and so on - and some residents may never venture much beyond their neighborhood. However, when one does venture, the colors and variety are extraordinary. In fact, I wasn't able to choose a single photo that would capture Singapore as a whole because the whole is so multi!

To recount just a few experiences I had, I'll start with one of the least expected - a trip to the dentist. On the 3rd day of my stay in Singapore, I drank something cold that brought excruciating pain to a tooth on the lower left side. From that point on, I had a nearly constant toothache, a tragedy in a place with such delectable food. For temporary relief, I went to a drugstore and got a tincture of clove, which pretty much numbed the whole left side of my mouth.

Sign of Tooth in Little IndiaThe next day I was wandering around Little India and saw a sign with a big tooth. I took it as a sign! Rather timidly going up the stairs to the dental office, I was relieved when I opened the door and was greeted by a grinning Indian receptionist who was able to schedule me for an appointment later that afternoon. The dentist turned out to be a woman, very professional, who said I had the option of either root canal or having the tooth pulled, but it would be better to have it done when I returned to Japan. She loaded me up with antibiotics and painkillers, and, except for a slight case of diarrhea from the antibiotics, I was able to enjoy the rest of my stay, especially eating!

CA at High TeaAnother much more pleasant experience was when my two Japanese friends and I were having high tea at a hotel. It was my first time to have high tea - a bit like brunch in the afternoon, with all sorts of little sandwiches, fruit, a chocolate fountain (yikes!), and, of course, tea. I felt like such a lady.

Then a piano started playing, and it was wonderfully exotic and familiar at the same time, flowing with arpeggios and cadences. The truly gifted pianist was a young man and, when he took a break, I went over to introduce myself. He turned out to be from Thailand and appreciated having a fan. I loved his music so much, I asked if he had a CD. He asked me where I was sitting and told me to wait. A few minutes later, he appeared with a CD entitled "Just Piano." I asked him how much it was, but he said that it was a present for me! When he went back to play, I enjoyed the music all the more because of his generosity. The name on the CD was simply Jonathan. I've done an Internet search for him but can't find any website for him. At least I'll always have the music to remind me of my delightful high tea in Singapore.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Perak Hotel and Subways in Singapore

For the low-budget traveler who wants to be in the midst of Singapore, with all the sights, smells, and sounds of India, Perak Hotel (formerly Perak Lodge) is a great place to stay. The staff is extremely warm and accommodating. For example, when my roommate and I wanted to check out later than the hours posted, they graciously let us keep our bags in the room until we were ready.

Perak Hotel Staff

The hotel is in the midst of Little India, a truly colorful place to explore. I spent a couple of days, one with my friends and one alone, going through countless small shops selling Indian-style clothing, earrings, and sandals, as well as spices and food. Within a short distance of the hotel are both a mosque and a Hindu temple, which permit visitors. Naturally, there are restaurants all over, and I was able to have Indian food of various kinds for five days in a row!

Perak Hotel StaffAs for the hotel, the rooms were a bit cramped (not large enough to do yoga in), but not uncomfortable. Some of the facilities in our rooms, such as the shower (with water not as hot as it might be) and air conditioner (which was difficult to adjust to a comfortable temperature), were not in the best working condition, but with no major problems.

My roommate was bothered by the noise of the adjoining bars on the weekends, which stayed open until 2 a.m. One apparently was playing Indian music all hours. (They didn't bother me since I live in an apartment on a busy street so am used to noise.) At her request, the staff moved us to a quieter room on the other side.

Interior - Perak HotelBreakfast, with a huge fruit bowl and orange juice, is available in a small pleasant dining area from 7:00 - 10:00 a.m. Besides bread (including whole wheat), jam, peanut butter, honey, and cereal, there are hot dishes, sometimes eggs and sometimes noodles. The coffee and tea are both instant. One morning, at the tables around us, I heard at least 4 different languages being spoken by the various guests!

Had I known the hotel has its own wireless Internet set-up, I would have taken my laptop. It wasn't a problem, though, since less than a block away were at least 3 Internet cafes, charging $3 an hour, so I was able to check on my email. What's more, it was only 3-4 blocks from the subway station, so we could easily get around town, especially since my friend, Kaori, had bought us subway passes that only needed to be tapped at the ticket gate.

The subways in Singapore are so much more spacious than those in Japan, but just as clean. Electronic signs signal when the next train is due to arrive. People are generally courteous, standing at one side to let others off before getting on. For passengers who are standing, there are poles in the center to hold onto, so one can be near the doors and not treading on the toes of those sitting.

There are about 7 subway lines, and with all the escalators and long corridors, some of the stations can be a bit confusing to navigate. However, with a variety of artwork all over, even getting lost in the station can be pleasant.
Kaori in Subway Station