Grazie, Prego

I have a language exchange partner.

He’s Italian.

He’s asked me to marry him.

Neither of us is looking to date (or anything of the sort with) the other – we genuinely just want friendship through language sharing, as we each improve our own abilities in the other’s native tongue.

In a way, we hardly know one another.

Yet, we chat (via messages that are mostly text and sometimes voice) and send one another photos and videos and updates basically every day… yeah, every day, I think…, so it feels like we are closer than we are.

We are honest and open with one another… in a way, it is an extremely low-risk situation for us both, you could say… I wouldn’t say yet that we are friends, but I no longer describe him as ‘my conversation exchange partner’, but as ‘my buddy’…, because he really is a buddy to me, and I hope I am to him.

We know about highs and lows in love and heartbreak for one another; we talk about finances and healthcare systems and death – so much death right now in his part of the world, but we never seem to dwell longer than is respectful; we get nerdy about grammar and explanations of turns of phrase; we share about work (we have very different jobs yet similar setups); I sent him my song before I shared it with almost anyone else (Since he isn’t great with English, he said, he could be a good testing ground for sharing it…, which he said after encouraging me through my nerves of wanting to make the instrument side of things go well, but being worried at my skill level…)…, and he knew what and whom it was about, without a doubt (It was not about him, of course, but someone in my life here.).

(“Comunque si. Sei cotta!😂,” he said after reading the lyrics. Anyway, yes. You are cooked. (A phrase which here means, “Out of your wits in a crush on this guy”) 😛

And, what’s extra fun is that our time difference and lifestyles actually line up perfectly that when I’m getting up and going to bed happen to be perfect times for him to be messing around, messaging me… so we have two good chunks of time every day to be in communication with one another.

And it really is fun… honest and fun.

I think meeting this buddy of mine has been one of the most valuable parts of this year so far.

And I am extremely grateful.

Post-a-day 2020

To write love on her arms

Well, it isn’t on my arms, but it is on my hand!

I hadn’t exactly intended to put the words on my hands when I started out, but they somehow happened anyway… I still find it an odd place to place them, but it does well to remind me constantly, because I always see the palms of my hands… which I’m not sure I knew before this week, and my constantly seeing the words on my palms.

People always use the phrase of knowing someone/something “like the back of my hand,” but I never understood it fully, because I don’t know the backs of my hands very well.

But I do know my palms, it turns out… I see them all the time. 😛

Also, this: The San Jacinto Monument, marking the location of the Battle of San Jacinto, which gave Texas its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Post-a-day 2020

Bedtime, and yet

It is bedtime (and has been for hours), and yet here I sit on the floor, being silly with my phone.

To be fair, I am not wasting away myself or my mental capacity – quite the opposite.

I have been practicing and studying Italian.

I’m one of the people on this planet who genuinely aim to use the genius cell phone technology to improve myself, and not simply to send a million bad photos to semi-close friends all day (and night) long.

So, rather than go to bed, I first sat listening to my latest audiobook (with the excuse that I was waiting for photos to load to my computer from my camera, but I sat long after the computer was already put away), then finally showered when my phone died; returned to my phone for some Italian practice and a jumpstart back into the game for my Duolingo learning league of the week; and then finally hit the point of declaring a need to go to bed, and so am placing my last few open-eyes moments here, writing this.

Op!… looks like we’ve lost one: only the right eye is fully open anymore… and the left is sagging below halfway…

Oop!… the right one just did a temporary slip, and they both closed briefly.

Now it is really time to get to bed, and not just to sit on the floor at the end of it, wearing my jumbo-knit (hand-made by yours truly) green blanket like a heavy Mardi Gras parade cape, considering whether I want to put on a sweater…

Oh, the silliness of sleepiness… 😛

Goodnight!

(Or, better yet: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!) ❤

Post-a-day 2020

Repairing and Improving, with Joy

I will have some classes to teach for the next week and a half… French classes.

I wasn’t sure how exactly I would approach it all, until this morning, that is.

In the first class of the day, it happened that two of the students had a sibling who had been taught by me during the first quarter of this school year, also for French.

After answering some of their questions regarding things like, ‘Do you really only talk to them in French?’, we entered into a natural and almost immediate discussion on whether I could do that with them, these students I have now.

We talked through the method I follow, as well as some whys for it, and every single one of them was enrolled in the idea: Yes, we want to do it, please.

It was almost shocking, but also not, when I considered how I have always loved such opportunities as a student.

Nonetheless, I was delighted.

And so we began setting up their tools, discussing barriers they are likely to meet, and preparing overall for what was going to start next class meeting.

I even gave them homework, and they were okay with it (and surprised themselves that they were okay with the specific assignments).

They left with excited nervousness in their space, and I was delighted with the whole ordeal.

Another two younger siblings were in my next class, and discussion arose – though differently than before – regarding my teaching methods, eventually reaching the point of my asking them whether they would be interested in using the method for our time together.

They, too, were unanimous in the affirmative.

The final two classes of the day were even more willing to be enrolled into the idea than the morning kids, and some even went so far as to smile really largely and to bounce and say how excited they were.

It was adorable.

… and refreshing.

I can hardly wait for next class. 🙂

Note: It had seemed that having everyone on board and truly understanding the expectations and the hows were my biggest struggle in the past…, hopefully, this one day in mostly English will be the needed improvement for me… fingers crossed!! ❤

Post-a-day 2019

Oopsie

Today, at the beginning of one of my classes, my students had an oral quiz.

For oral quizzes, they always have to call the same phone number, which is a Google Voice number I chose years ago for this express purpose.

These students had used the Google Voice number before, and most of them just have it saved in their phones, since we use it every time.

A few students, however, did not have it saved today, and so asked for me to write the number on the board.

Okay, sure.

I think about it for a minute, and then write out the number, somewhat confidently and totally surprised – I always have to look it up constantly at the beginning of the school year, and I hadn’t realized that I had re-memorized it again already…, but go, me!

Within thirty seconds, a few students are telling me something…

‘Is that number right?’

‘I think so,’ I reply, ‘but I can check.’

And so I pull out my own phone to go log in and check the number, which is what I usually do in the first place, so it’s no biggie to me.

‘I don’t think that’s the right number,’ others tell me, a sense of assuredness in their voices.

‘Oh, really…?’ I consider…

Suddenly, it hits me: “Oh!… That’s my best friend’s number!” I declare, quickly erasing the number from the board.

Laughing, I put up the correct number, and I marvel at how similar the two are – extremely similar, with just the middle numbers swapped with the end ones.

I shake my head, and I wonder if anyone had already been in the process of leaving a message….!oops

Guess it would be good to give her a heads up… or, perhaps, it would be more fun to leave her with a voicemail of someone praying in French… 😛

After all, that’s what friends are for, right? 😉

Post-a-day 2019

Je te déteste :P

Well, pretty much the only thing going on (of which I can makes sense, that is) in my head is the somewhat constant loop of this song the kids played in class today.

We were working on self-introductions, and, as usual, the kids were asking for additional phrases to throw into the practice conversations they were having with each added question I gave them to ask and answer.

(For example, on the first day of class, one kid asked for, “Can I have your number?”, and, as I gave him the French for it, the kids learned that they really could learn to say in French everything they want to say…, and now, they bring up the number question just about every other class meeting, as can be expected of teenage boys.)

When we brought up the question and answer for “What do you like (to do)?”, there was the natural question of, “What is I love you in French?”

And so I said and wrote Je t’aime on the board.

Then a similar phrase they requested.

And then there was, “How do you say, ‘I hate you’?”

**Do note that the kids are asking all of these things in French, with only the unknown phrase being said in English, and I only speak French with them… and this is only their third week of French ever.**

I laugh, and then write Je te déteste on the board, and I help them say it properly.

Immediately, I recall a beautiful bit of music I’d been shown a few years ago (by a student), and I explain to them that there is a song called “Je te déteste”, and it is sung by an artist called Vianney, and that they should look it up.

They asked if they could play the song now, and I told one of them to go ahead and pull it up on the desktop and projector, so we could all listen to it and watch the music video.

In shock for only a moment, the boy jumped into action – seemingly before I changed my mind or rescinded (is that right?) the unexpected offer.

He found the song, and played it for the final minutes of class, and I showed them how Vianney spells out déteste in the song, and, frankly, they kind of jammed out.

It was adorable.

And so, now, hours later, I have the middle of the song playing on loop in my head…

Je crie de tout mon être

Sur un morceau de bois

Plutôt que dans tes oreilles

Qui n’écoutent que toi

D E T E S TE te déteste

D E T E S T E….

So good, but so loop-inducing 😛

Je te déteste by Vianney… you’re welcome 😛

Post-a-day 2019

German Rank

By the time I arrived in Germany for my summer of German language courses as a precursor to my Fall/Winter study abroad semester, I had done the whole foreign language study and foreign language immersion thing a couple of times already – I knew what I was getting into and how I wanted to go about it.

True fluency was my goal, and I knew how to manage that.

The day I arrived, however, my German was absurdly limited and rather laughable…. I could hardly ask questions, let alone understand the answers (more on that some other time).

And so, by the time I was visiting with the others in my program’s group (they had also arrived that day), and had met the head of my program, everyone had been socially established in terms of their levels of German ability.

One girl was ‘the head’ of the group, so to speak, another was ‘the absolute beginner’, and the other few were sprinkled in between them… I openly declared my poor abilities that had been used throughout the day, only somewhat successfully, and expressed concern of not placing high enough to receive credit for the German courses back at my college (you had to be at least in the second level for the courses to count, and I was worried that I might be ending up in the beginner, first level, based in the day’s events).

In other words, I was ranked ever so slightly above the absolute beginner girl, and just barely below the girl who’d studied for a few semesters already (two years, I think, actually).

However, I wasted no time in immersing myself with the German-speaking head of our program, and got help from her immediately for the things I knew I would need and want to say starting the next day, when I would be interacting with all the people at the school and taking a placement test and starting classes… again, I had done the foreign language thing before, and I was knowledgeable about how to function on minimal vocabulary and grammar – I could make anything work, so long as I had a certain set of vocabulary ahead of time.

And so, to my delight the next morning, what I had prepared myself to be able to share with others about my absurd travels getting to that small town in Germany, ended up being the essay question on the placement test!

Therefore, to my pleasure and total surprise, I was placed in none of the beginner level courses, but in the first of two intermediate courses!

Since I had arrived late the day before (again with the telling another time), I had missed the regular times for the placement tests, and everyone who had taken them then was already in the first day of classes while I took my own placement test (along with a few other people who weren’t in my program, but who were also studying at the language school that month).

Therefore, when I walked into my intermediate level class – this was after multiple verifications that they were sure they were putting me into the correct class – and I found ‘the head’ of our group sitting at one of the tables, there was a brief moment of shock for the both of us, as I blew apart the ranking of our whole group by jumping rank so obscenely (I use obscene, because it rather was obscene, in a sense).

She was not happy, to say the least.

Two weeks later, when I already matched and, in some areas, had surpassed her German capabilities, I had voluntarily removed myself from the ranking altogether.

Rather than be a part of the group so much, I had become ‘the outside associated’, someone who isn’t truly a part of the group, but who comes to visit and gets along well with everyone whenever she does.

I never spoke English after that first day, not once… and that was enough to set me away from the group hierarchy.

(Okay, I did speak English once… this British guy seemed like he was about to cry one day, while begging me to speak English, because he so desperately wanted to hear how I sounded in English, since he had known me for weeks but had heard none…, but that was genuinely the only time I did it while there.)*

And it was wonderful.

In the second month, we had a similar situation happen with the new group arriving and joining our ranks… everyone was re-ranked, with me still as an outside associate for the first round of people, but ranked in a real place by the new folks (just above ‘the head’ from the first month)…

For that month, I was ranked below a new ‘head’… however, a month or so later, when we had all moved to Vienna, Austria, I was fully removed from the ranking system by all the new people, too… I had real friends who were native German-speakers, and certain parts of my German were better than anyone else (not all parts, though, because five years does teach one a lot, so the new ‘head’ definitely had some knowledge on German that I never really intended to have)… and I still used no English.

However, I eventually started throwing in the occasional bit of English just so they wouldn’t hate me so much – speaking only German had kind of pushed me way off the ranks… almost no association at all anymore…, but I got rather pushed back out by some when they discovered my many friendships with non-foreigners….

So, yeah… essentially, I ended up a distanced associate, and that actually was really great for me… I was there to learn German and learn German-speaking culture, not American anything (which was mostly all that my group had to offer), so I did just that: I learned German and German-speaking culture by being a part of it.

And it was awesome.

And I still found the hierarchy of our group to be hilarious, especially when I blew a hole in parts of it again and again. 😛

That was rather fun, actually.

I wonder how I would have felt had I been a regular member of the hierarchy, and not the super-gifted member that I was… hmm…

Post-a-day 2019

*Something tells me that I might have used the occasional translation with the outright beginner girl for the first few weeks while she got her bearings, but we kept that rather hush-hush and between ourselves, so no one really heard or knew about my occasional English words to her.

Karate

Whenever I do this teeth whitening thing, I have to keep his little blue-light mouthpiece in my mouth, gripped between my teeth, for five minutes.

Afterward, I spit out the excess gel in my mouth and I wash off the mouthpiece.

Whenever I’m in the cleanup stage, I’m always adjusting my jaw, stretching its muscles, and feeling around my teeth a bit with my tongue.

As I do this, I find myself remembering strongly my days of American karate in my youth.

For sparring, we had to have a rubber mouth guard to protect our teeth… I remember how, every time I got a new mouth guard, my mom and I would be in the kitchen, trimming edges, boiling the rubber, and mashing my teeth into it to make it mold perfectly to my bite and teeth.

It was always so exciting to me, for some reason I cannot yet understand… perhaps it was the specialness of the whole process, like we were doing a whole (and real) science lab experiment, tongs and boiling water and all… and it was for me… so it was something unique and special and process-filled, specifically being done for me…

Perhaps that was a large part of it…

Whatever the case, I always enjoyed it, forming my mouth guards.

Especially the bit of biting down on my mouth guard, squeezing my teeth tightly, and wedging them each into the rubber, claiming specific territory to be forever theirs in that particular mouth guard…

Whenever we did spar, and I got to wear my mouth guard, I rather enjoyed sucking and chewing slightly on my mouth guard, tasting the rubber, feeling the tiny rebound it provided when I clenched my jaw and released, hearing the squishy sounds of saliva being pushed around and in and out of the mouth guard’s coverage area as I clicked my teeth (with the rubber between them, of course) together several times in quick succession… and then tasting again, as I held my jaw snug and sucked everything out of the mouth guard.

It all seems odd to me now, considering it and sharing it, but also still quite familiar… I don’t see myself doing half these same things nowadays, yet I remember them fondly nonetheless.

And, every time I whiten my teeth, I am filled with a few drops of that excitement and delight brought it me for years by karate…, making it a unique and somewhat special experience so far as teeth whitening goes. 😛

P.S. I love finding words that I’ve known for years, but whose language of origin I didn’t initially speak, but now speak, and, therefore, as I cross the word anew, I suddenly see it from the eyes of this language I now speak, instead of as a foreign word with meaning I must struggle to remember… karate is one of those words… from my American eyes and ears and mind, it is pronounced the American way and means merely a form of martial arts… from my Japanese eyes et cetera, it is pronounced with a Japanese pronunciation, it means 空手 (からて), which literally means “empty hand”, and it is a form of martial arts… and, somehow, the two are simultaneously the same thing and two totally different ones… so it goes… 😛

Post-a-day 2019

Japan all around

Japan is on my mind and in my life right now.  Recall that I watched the film “The Last Samurai” a few weeks ago.  I then watched it with the director’s, Edward Zwick’s, commentary the other day.  I had a cry-fest the first time, and was utterly touched and in love with samurai even more so than I already had been – I’d respected their skills and revered them as a whole function of class – and then I had a mind-whooshing wonderful exploration and discovery with the second, specifically leading me to appreciate even more the talents and passions of 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe*, the man who plays the lead samurai in the film and who plays ‘the Japanese English-speaking character’ in almost every Hollywood film these days – a man I’d already appreciated for his acting skills in “Inception” and other Hollywood films**.  And so, here I am, weeks after first watching the film, and I’m still thinking about the samurai, and I’ve added 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe).

Therefore, when selecting what to wear for today that was unique and warm – the weather is suddenly chilly here, though it was genuinely hot and humid two days ago – I settled on one of my haori (use 羽織 to search online and get the right pictures on Google), the sort of winter jacket piece for kimono***.  The half turtle neck I usually wear with it was unfindable, and so I selected something else that was the same color, but textured really neatly (and then found the other shirt, but preferred the textured one, anyway).

That’s all my own conscious doing.

Today at work/school, the classroom we were using for the yearbook class for which I was subbing was an English classroom.  I happen to sit in a student desk, instead of the teacher’s, and what is directly in front of me?
This:

image1

I asked the students what book possibly was being read that had this on the board, and they concluded that it was a history book.  That is, students had merely used the board in the classroom during a free period, and had put up notes in preparation for a test or quiz in history class that was on that time period.  I was totally ready to read whatever novel it had been for English class, though… Oh, well…

And then, this evening, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop with my mom – her having the intention to read and I to work on my paper for school, but both of us kind of just chatting and catching up on things for the first almost-hour – explaining my outfit to her, one that she has declared to be genuinely great in terms of style and in terms of how it looked on me (and which multiple people had done throughout the day, including people who never comment on my outfits, which was really funny and cool all at the same time), and it turns out that the textured shirt I’d selected, though I hadn’t realized it when I’d selected it, was also from Japan.  I’d just remembered that I hadn’t worn it yet, but had been wanting to for a long time, and just hadn’t found the right situation and clothing combination, and had genuinely forgotten that it, too, was from Japan.  My mother, as we chuckled about the specific funky shop where I’d bought said shirt, then says that, ‘See, there are things you really liked about Japan.’

I agreed with her entirely, and mentioned how I know I want to go back and visit plenty; I’m just not so sure about ever even considering living and working there again.  However, I’ve just had a lot of Japan on my mind lately.  Learning about 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe) and his language situation for the filming of “The Last Samurai”, made me consider whether I could be that kind of person in Japan, in Japanese film.  I have a natural tendency to pick up on accent quite well, and Japanese was no exception to this for me.  Could I go back and model and act successfully?  It’s definitely possible, but is it very likely?  Could I get the visa to give it a go, even?  Hmm… These are the thoughts that have been on my mind the past few days (though not for the first time).  I want to go back to Japan, but I also want to have something to do while there, even though I’ll only be visiting, technically.

And so, I suspect that I’ll just keep this all in mind, and, eventually, I’ll find a way back to Japan (and have a spectacular time while there).  Perhaps, either here or there, I’ll find a way to meet 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe).  Maybe he’ll let me do an interview with him.  That would be stellar.  And possibly a really good idea.  Hmm…  Well, we’ll see.  For now, I’m just surrounded by Japan, intentionally, unintentionally, and even from outside sources… and I kind of like it…

🙂

*Yes, the Japanese version is with the last name first, read Watanabe Ken.  And I tend to say it that way now, though I didn’t do it intentionally and I didn’t used to do it.  I guess it is just automatic for me now, after having lived in Japan, to say a Japanese name ‘Japanese style’, so to speak.  In my head, every time, I say “Watanabe Ken-san”, but I already tend to leave out the -san with people who don’t understand it, and so the same happens with 渡辺 謙.

**When hearing what Edward Zwick had to say in the commentary of “The Last Samurai”, it had me question if that film had been 渡辺 謙’s (Ken Watanabe’s) first real role in a Hollywood film, thinking that it quite likely must have been.  I found it amazing, because I feel like I’ve known him as an actor for so long, that it must have been before 2003 that I first saw him.  After some consideration, though, I realized that, seeing as how 2003 was 15 years ago, it did actually make sense.  Sure enough, after dong a bit of checking, it seems that “The Last Samurai”, in 2003, indeed, was his first Hollywood film.

***Fun Fact: Kimono literally means “wearing thing” or “thing one wears”.

Post-a-day 2018