the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, January 26, 2009

Excerpts from a letter to Mom

This Monday school is back in full swing. A few kids are still home
sick, but everything seems ok for the moment. Thanks for praying.

I'm teaching Bible English class this Tuesday again. First time since I
got back. I seem to have a new crop of students. Last time was mostly
college students. This time seems to be people who haven't come to
church for years. It'll be interesting to have some believers in Christ
(and some people who only believe in church) in the class again.

The more I stay here, the more I realize this is going to take a lifetime.

The high school chaplain here has been a little extra odd lately. She
doesn't seem that engaged in planning chapel or events, she cancels
religion department meetings. She canceled today's meeting - even though
other members have things they want to talk about - saying, "next week!
next week!" Let's say she is not growing on me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reading the paper over lunch

Most of the students have gotten influenza. All students are now
dismissed from school except third year high school students because
they have only one week of school left before finals. So I read the
Japan Times over lunch and it ended up being quite informative.

For those of you without Facebook, here's an overview:

Why English isn't being taught well in Japan? Hear it from a Japanese
teacher. (like I've been saying, micro management by an uninformed and
distant national bureaucracy which leads everyone to a feeling of
"Shame over poor English level lies with education ministry"

The Burakumin are a minority in Japan who is discriminated against
because of their family history or being involved in "unclean" acts
prohibited by Buddhism or Shintoism - like butchering animals:
"Breaking the silence on the Burakumin - Minority community has plenty to

"2channel" the largest post board on the web, and the most influential
place on the Japanese internet:
"2-Channel Gives Japan's Famously Quiet People a Mighty Voice"

Enjoy! ...I'm gonna get back to work now. ^_^

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Small influenza outbreak

Yesterday the flu took out 12 of our students, and 4 of our teachers.
Two of those teachers were in my office, and 4 of those students were
mine. Besides that, there are some regular colds going around too. We'd
all appreciate your prayers. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

An interesting read

This guy is an interesting (and dense) read that I just don't have time
for right now:

But maybe I'll tackle it over spring break.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Japanese New Year's Phrases

Even though the New Year was last week, you'll still hear these Japanese
phrases everywhere:

"Happy New Year" (from most formal to informal) =
akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! 明けましておめでとうございます!
akemashite omedetou!
yoi otoshi wo! 良いお年を!

"I'm counting on you this year as well." =
kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! 今年もよろしくお願いします!
kotoshi mo yoroshiku ne!

These phrases only come up once a year. Seize the moment and use them as
much as you can now! :)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Culture Shock in My Own Culture!

Last night in Tokyo I met a friend in Kichijyoji, then I ran back to the
short-termer's dinner at the Shibuya Outback. I was half an hour late -
the story of my adult life. I ran in and I was in a panic, everyone was
there and had already ordered. I had just gotten done with a 2 hour
Japanese conversation with my friend, so I didn't even look at the menu,
I just asked the waiter in Japanese what he recommended and I took that.
A relatively simple Japanese conversation. I didn't even think twice
about it.

The conversation after that went like this:

"NB, I wish I spoke Japanese as well as you."

"Well, I've been here for two years."

"Me too."

"Oh, well... I guess I need it more in the country."

Then I got all はずかしい (embarrassed) and 困ってる (didn't know what
to do). Where am I from again?

After more than two years here, I'm tired of the "Japanese level"
conversation. But I guess learning to deal with that - or rather
encourage some language ability - comes with the territory.

On that note, my opinion on Japanese is: if you're living in Japan, you
should learn some. It shows you're actually interested in the people and
that you care about them. And as well as you know someone in English,
with most people, you'll get to know them better in their own language.
And as an added bonus, it makes your everyday life in Japan easier.


On a cuter note, I was at fellow missionaries N and N-san's house. Mr. N
is American, Mrs. N is Japanese. I was speaking Japanese with Mrs. N.
Not because she's Japanese (she actually speaks English incredibly
well), just because that's the language the conversation started in.

On a side note, that's my general policy on which language to speak:
speak the language the conversation STARTED in unless one of you is
obviously misunderstanding.

Anyway, while we were talking in Japanese N's son, L-kun said to me in

"Nick." (Japanese conversation continues) "Nick?" (Japanese conversation
continues) "Nick!"


"Can you talk Japanese?"

"Yes, I can."

"Oh, me too."

The kid has a lot of heart for someone hardly starting kindergarten. It
was perhaps the most touching part of the trip.

In both situations, I wish I'd had more time to just be.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

deja vu?

Last Tuesday (when I was in Japan), I found myself sitting at a bar with
some friends. And it occurred to me that the last time I had been to
this bar was more than a year and a half ago. At that time I had had a
talk with some guy friends about how having a girlfriend in Japan was a
necessity. At that time I had felt so alone, I was convinced they were
right. And when I had the opportunity come, I seized it.

Fast forward back to the present. Now I sit at the same bar, listening
to a friend talk about how he is worthless because he doesn't have a
girlfriend (and I've just broken up with my girlfriend), and this seems
like an obvious lie. I remember falling for it too. A person's purpose
for living can't be completely wrapped up in just one other human being.
True, this can be a part of a good life, but it's not everything.

Another friend tried to tell him that there was meaning in his life
because he was still studying in Japan. My friend had been here long
enough to know that just studying in Japan is not enough reason to give
meaning to your life. :)

Recently, I've been thinking, even if I became a great English teacher
(and even had a family) that wouldn't be enough in itself to give life
meaning either.

My drunk friend was also trying to prove to everyone what an "asshole"
he is. He's coming to realize he is no where near perfect - as are we
all. For that matter, his future girlfriend will never be perfect either.

As Christians we have a relationship with the only perfect being, God.
It sounds crazy, but more than drinking, or girlfriends, cars or iPods,
this gives meaning to our lives. The Bible tells us how to live for our
own benefit - and how to benefit others. It surprises me how quickly we
give that up and forget what we have.

As for my drunk friend, he didn't want to hear that at the moment. But
when the opportune moment comes, I'll be there.

Sitting in the exact same place, similar situation, but my opinion has
completely changed. What a difference a year makes.