teacher

Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

Until right now, only my immediate family has known this. Because I live super rural with no cafes, restaurants or humans around, I usually have nothing to do in the week-day evenings. As in, really nothing. When it isn’t raining I can go for a bike ride but after the sun sets about 7pm it becomes too dangerous to stay outside (bears).

Also, using my computer isn’t  much fun. This is because I’ve been on the damn thing and on my ass all day long. Don’t get me wrong, I do teach (sometimes) but it’s usually 2-3 classes which are only about 45 minutes long. Leaving me a good 6 hours of Facebook time. Joking, I mean research. Educational stuff. As for Japanese TV, I don’t understand it much. Also, it’s really weird (to me).

So back to the thing you don’t know and my parents do, for the past 7 or so months, I have been going to bed at 8.30 and waking up at 5. This has been my mechanism to stop myself from getting even more homesick during the lonely and quiet nights. As for the mornings, I always go for an hour or two walk or bike ride which is where I take these naturey photographs.

So, there you have it. From one direction, it is definitely a somewhat lonely life (though sometimes I do get invited to stuff) but from the other, a direction I’ve chosen to peep from, I am living the life. I mean, when else can I have a Persian-style breakfast for dinner at 5pm and wake up at 5am, blending a green-smoothie on super loud? Totes not when future hubby or future babas come around. Am I right? Or am I insane?
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An Open Letter To The Mimasaka Board Of Education

To whom it may concern

I am writing this letter to let you know that I will be retiring from my position as Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on July 22nd.

Please know that I have had the most negative experience here. The Mimasaka Board of Education has continuously surprised me with their unprofessionalism.

I have not recieved or been notified of important information. I was never invited to the ALT orientation or the ALT camp (both of where I would have had the opportunity to make foreign friends in my position and/or receive answers to my countless questions). When information has been given to me, it has been given to me late. For example, the forms for relocation were given to me well past their due date. My emails and phone-calls have gone unanswered. And time after time my supervisors have approached me with requests for large amounts of surprise payments due on the same day.

It is unfortunate that I will be leaving Mimasaka with a heart full of sadness. I have given all of my spirit and energy to my students and in return I have been faced with repetitive negligence.

As a guest in your country, you have made me feel incredibly unwelcome.

However; I am smarter than to judge the entire Japanese community by a small minority’s actions. As a full-blooded Iranian, I know the effects of such ignorance first-hand. I will not be a part of that blindness. For many people of your community have shown me more love and respect than some individuals of my home country and/or race ever have. If it were not for their kindness, I too would have broken my contract like my predecessor.

My wish today on Tanabata is that my successor will not have to go through the same unfair treatment and excruciating pain that I have.

Anisa Kazemi  
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An Unwelcome Guest

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How can one
small and grey
organisation
inflict colossal
pain?
I am an unwelcome guest
a true waste of space
I am a black fly
on fresh sashimi
a thick hair
in hot ramen
I am an outside shoe
treading inside carpet
I am bare shoulders
I am chili peppers
I am loud songs
playing in silent trains.

Only Human

Just because I photograph beautiful things and post inspirational quotes doesn’t mean I have it together. I’m struggling. Big time. I can’t wait to leave. Everything is so unnecessarily difficult here. None of these pictures show that though. Just like none of your Facebook friends’ photos show their reality. Life is not black and white. Sometimes it’s gloomy grey and sometimes it’s sparkling silver.
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Currently Out Of Order

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I learned some great lessons today. Mainly the importance of touch but also, gratitude, for the little things, which turn out to be the big things – something much has been said about and will undoubtedly continue to be talked and discussed, and love and how love is everything.

Long story short, I became very ill.Very quickly. I felt nauseous then vomited a lot (sorry), felt extremely weak and cold. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, I was dizzy and to top it all off, I started to panic. Panic and stress about what was happening to me but also where it was happening to me: rural japan, where I can’t speak the language, where the doctors terrify me and where I live alone, just me.

Next, I did two things. One, sent a simple message to my friend Yuko about having to cancel coffee and second, sleep. Or at least, made an attempt to sleep.

One hour later, the amount of time it takes me to drive to Yuko’s or from Yuko’s to me, I hear the doorbell ring. Ding dong! Here is Yuko, all flustered and worried (but still stunning, always stunning) with an armful of things. Water, fruit, cooked mixed rice and tofu amongst other things. We (her and her husband) are driving you to the hospital, come she says. Side note: Japan doesn’t have GPs, so everyone goes to “the hospital” for everything which on another note, has freaked me out plenty. Your daughter is in hospital?! WHY! You were in hospital this morning?! AH! Though in this case, I would have probably gone to a hospital anyhow seeing as it was Sunday and an emergency.

I was checked by the doctor, given a blood test (after four unsuccessful jabs to the hand and wrist) and hooked up to an IV for an hour. Now, I feel better. I have been given three days of rest but I cannot eat or even think about eating let alone cook/prepare it and blog about it. So my point in writing this post is this: that the entire time I lay on the hospital bed, staring at the ceiling with pain radiating through my entire existence, Yuko held my hand in hers. And rubbed my head and told me that everything was going to be okay. WOW how great it felt to be touched. In the midst of all the pain, the miscommunication and the homesickness, what I thought about was how lovely it was to have my hand in hers. Which brings me to the importance of touch. The great Leo Buscaglia once said, “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”. My life was turned around. Her touch gave me hope and serenity. Two powerful forces which allowed me to see, even amongst the difficulty, my life in all its love and blessings.

Next, I want to share a quote by Christopher Aiff, a quote I believe will be a good concluder for this speech:

“The decision to be positive is not one that disregards or belittles the sadness that exists. It is rather a conscious choice to focus on the good and to cultivate happiness–genuine happiness. Happiness is not a limited resource. And when we devote our energy and time to trivial matters, and choose to stress over things that ultimately are insignificant. From that point, we perpetuate our own sadness, and we lose sight of the things that really make us happy and rationalize our way out of doing amazing things.”

Which is how I can be happy. Happy alone – well, not really. Happy to be alive. Happy thinking of becoming healthy and happy for the adventure that awaits me post (and heck, during) sick leave. So dear reader, stay positive and TOUCH (me) hehe.

My thighs

Currently writing poems with my second-grade students. Two styles. First, one word first line, two words second line, three words third line, four words fourth line then last line, one (1, 2, 3, 4, 1). Second, Haiku (syllables: 5, 7, 5).

Cellulite
is growing
with light speed
in and around my
butt

Oh my ghee doughnut
how did all this cellulite
get around my butt?

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A little poetry outlining my current situation. But it’s okay, nothing last forever. Ok, maybe cellulite does. Alas, I dream of the days when I’ve left my current job, where I have to be seated at my desk between classes and in school holidays, for the entire day because the students are on break and the teachers are not (strange country), and the days I leave my rural home, where not only my workplace but supermarkets/cafes and civilization in general are an hours drive. Excuses, excuses, I hear ya. ALL OF ME hears ya. GAH. Also, Japanese homes aren’t built for the cold.. making it really hard to exercise inside…But, spring is coming and with it warmer weather and cherry blossoms and so is my mom and nothing else matters when she’s around. Not even my bum.

Hello Kitty Slippers And More

Yesterday I experienced my first Japanese JHS graduation ceremony and it was really interesting. Here are my thoughts:

What they wore:
So the students just wore their school uniforms with an identical pink corsage on the left chest. As for the teachers and parents, this is where things got interesting! So as per custom, everyone was dressed in formal black suits with white shirts and an elegant tie or corsage but the thing is, in Japan, people don’t wear shoes inside, they wear slippers. So here were 100+ adults in formal formal suits and Hello Kitty slippers. Or panda slippers. So so cute and strange and random. I wished so bad for another nonJapanese to have seen it with me! In addition to the black suits and corsages, all the women wore pearls. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo.

How it panned out:
I was there for the practise and planning of the whole thing so I know just HOW much effort went into it. So everything from the distance between the chairs to the carefully ironed table cloths to the immaculate bouquet displays were carefully organised prior to the event to be flawless. And I mean that in the strongest sense of the word. Just perfect.

This was also the case with everything else. So like, there was a lot of rehearsed marching. Both from the students and the staff. Everyone bowed, walked and conducted themselves in an identical manner. It was all just so so organised. Speaking of bowing, there was much of that. Almost too much. My back hurt. Without sounding rude or offensive, I think we must have looked like a room-full  of canaries. Again, super cute or kawaii. So it was really well done but in my opinion, a little too ordered. I wish there had been a little less stern faces, a little less seriousness and a little more smiling and jokes!
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The Truth Behind The American Vs Japanese School Lunch Comparison

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This video comparing American vs Japanese school lunch, really upsets me. It is clearly bias, with it’s sole motive being to shame US food habits.

From an insider living and working in Japan, let me tell you, drinking dairy milk every single day, is not good for anyone’s health. The big white bread roll seen on the Japanese lunch tray, is full of sugar and perservatives and tastes more like a cake than a bread. In fact, brown bread or multi-grain bread here is almost non-existent and only sold at speciality bakeries – definitely not traditional Japanese ones. Moreover, the THREE schools I teach at, have a no fresh-food rule as in the past apparently one child died from eating a rotten fresh cucumber. So, in my schools everything is either fried or pickled. And the meat is almost always processed in the form of patties and sausages.

Yes, occasionally there will be a healthy soup or a healthy fish dish on the lunch tray, but that is not everyday. What’s more, whale is sometimes served as apparently it is Japanese “tradition”. Please don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Last week in our cooking class, my students learnt how to make fried donuts (fried, in buckets of oil), the week before, Japanese red bean paste sweets laden with sugar and before that, yaki soba, fried noodles with processed meat and sauce from the supermarket.

In all fairness, I have never been to America so I cannot comment on their lunch system…
All I’m saying is that every story has two sides to it.

What I Think of the Japanese School Lunch System

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Personally, I don’t agree with the Japanese school lunch system because I think it’s unhealthy and processed. For example, nothing raw ever features on it. This is, I was told by one of the teachers because someone once got sick from fresh cucumber. Which is why everything is pickled, fried and lathered in perservativey sauces. Also, last week they ate whale and that really fucked me off.

Alas, like all things, there are two sides to the system. One of the good things about school-lunch is that everyone starts eating together. Which is a really sweet sight, to see ravenous kids politely waiting to commence demolition with their pals.

The other positive about school lunch is their attempt at internationalizing the dishes. I say attempt because some of the things that show up are plain ridiculous. “hot dogs”, “hamburgers” and “gratin” which are nothing like you’d expect. Today, school lunch was “Indian” curry served with naan bread which brought so much excitement to everyone’s faces that two teachers even took photos of it (yeah yeah, I know, it’s Asia, everyone photographs their meals but no, not school lunch guys, that’s one thing that’s not worth the click. Sorry lunch chefs :/). So yeah, I think that aspect of school lunch is a positive, especially for these inaka (countryside) kids. Cos God forbid they turn out like my Kiwi high-school math teacher and try Chinese food for the first time at 55!

If you are blessed enough to have an abundance of food choices, you should totes venture out. Food is culture, guys!

Image stolen from HERE. Hope you don’t mind, Miss.