Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smoothie Move

It all started with my first visit to Costco, which opened not long ago in Sapporo. Imagine, if you will, a store with spacious aisles, spacious shopping carts, and huge piles of cheaply-priced items that can't be found in one's local supermarket. Well, I suppose for most Americans, that doesn't take much imagination, but it's extremely rare in Sapporo.

I went with a friend who has a membership, and filled up his basket with cheese and corn bread mix and Perrier. (Of course, I paid.) I also found a huge bag of mixed frozen fruit (mangoes, papaya, pineapple, and strawberries) that I could barely squeeze into my freezer.

Of course, then I wanted to make smoothies. I’ve missed them so much, although they’ve just started getting popular in Japan. So I just had to buy a juicer. Juicers have also only recently gotten popular in Japan, so I was surprised at the variety I had to choose from, but got a fairly inexpensive, standard model, which is actually a simple blender.

I figured making a smoothie would be a cinch - just throw in some frozen fruit and a bit of low-fat yogurt, and mix. Well, it tasted all right, but it wasn't smooth!

Later I tried one that included a cup of vanilla soy milk, a cup and a half of the frozen fruit, and a half a banana. The texture and sweetness were for that were just about right.

Also, I figured out that it works better to put the milk in first and the pieces of fruit in one at a time. I knew there was some reason for the cylinder in the middle with the hole in the cover! I'm kind of a slow learner when it comes to anything involving ”cooking.“

There are some recipes in Japanese that came with the juicer, and I suppose I could check those out. I notice they have Chinese characters for something like “angle ice,” which I think means ice cubes, although frozen fruit seems to do quite well. Eventually I might add some sort of nutritious powder or the like so that the smoothie could even be considered a meal.

Advice or RECIPES for smoothies are welcome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Not Coming Full Circle

Today I was asked if I would teach a course for elementary school English teachers. I declined.

In my 30+ years of teaching, I've had students from the ages of 11 to 78, but I've never taught children. I have neither the experience nor the expertise to teach children, much less to teach others how to teach children. I could not, in good conscious, agree to teach such a course.

Ironically, my very first major in college was elementary education. That lasted a little over a year. As much as I love children, I couldn't get into the courses, which seemed rather petty to me. I easily got seduced (almost literally) by the Head of the English Department into majoring in English, a major that I later discovered (and was warned by my father) would get me nowhere when I started looking for jobs.

I toyed with majoring in Psychology - and would still like to get a degree in counseling, if I could - but the Psychology Department at my college was pathetic. I'm not sure, for example, that they were familiar with Carl Rogers and Client-Centered Therapy. It was all still Freud and Jung.

I would also have loved to major in Theatre, and took as many courses in the field that I could, but my tuition was being paid by my father, who considered Theatre an even less practical major than English. I defied him later by going on to graduate school and getting an M.A. in Theatre on my own (and with the help of a full-tuition scholarship). It turn out, of course, that my father was right. In fact, neither English nor theatre ever led directly to jobs.

I ended up taking courses in alternative education and finally getting licensed to teach English for senior high, then junior high. That eventually led to my teaching in Japan, where I wasn't able to teach in public junior or senior high schools, so ended up teaching adults, then university.

And, now, at one of the universities where I teach, I've been requested to teach elementary school education. It's so ironic that my earliest major would have been the one to prepare me the best for teaching such a course. But I never would have had the opportunity to teach such a course had I not ended up teaching university-level English.

What really bothers me is that, now that the Ministry of Education has decided English will be required for elementary school children in Japan, universities are scrambling to find instructors to teach courses for future elementary school teachers. Notice that I didn't say qualified instructors. I have been asked, and I'm far from qualified - even with over 30 years experience teaching English and at least 10 years teaching methodology.

No doubt someone will accept the position (and other such positions in universities all over Japan). Are most of those people going to have the qualifications? I have my doubts, and I have even stronger doubts that teaching English in elementary schools in Japan is going to improve the level of English in this country. Not when it's being implemented in such a haphazard way.

If I had continued as an elementary education major, I might have gone on to become an elementary school teacher and, possibly, supervisor. I might even have ended up teaching elementary education. However, I probably would never have come to Japan. So I would have been fully qualified to teach the class that I turned down today, but I wouldn't have been here to be asked!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There's an Erection?

I wore a red, white, and blue scarf with stars and stripes to school today.  However, when I asked my students why I was wearing the scarf, with the hint that it was connected to something happening in the U.S., I had to wait a long time for their guesses.


"Independence Day?"

That I was also wearing my "Jed Bartlet for President" sweatshirt apparently didn't help.

At least none of my students answered Halloween!  They all know that was last week.

I wonder how many university students in Japan have no idea there's a presidential election going on in the U.S. today.  At least my students know.