Flu season

Walking into a second grade class room, I’m immediately enveloped from the waist down by a small cluster of children, all huge smiles, happy to see me. I give out a million high touches, feeling like the Pope in a crowd at Easter, and shoo the students back to their seats.

“OK class, who is feeling happy today?” Four or five hands shoot up.

“Who feels angry today?”

One hand.

“Who feels sick?”

Over ten hands shoot up.




Alphabet, continued

When I try to win cool-sensei points with my 5th graders by shoehorning AKB48/Yokai Watch/Pokemon Go/Vodka Tampons (kidding) into any conceivable topic, only to find out that was soooo last week.

Image result for it's not i who is wrong, its the children


26 is not that old, y’all.

I did make some progress with a class when, frustrated at the difference with capitalization, I explained that letters evolve under certain circumstances, like Pokemon.

“So we learned ‘a’ last week, which evolves into ‘A!’ same with
‘b’-> ‘B’, and
‘c’-> ‘C’!”

And that was when I felt like this:


ABCs and 1-2-3’s

A few highlights from my week spent teaching the alphabet to 5th graders and telling time to 6th graders.img_20160913_133326391

•Repeating “What Time Is It?” endlessly and getting the Hamilton soundtrack stuck in my head on repeat for two weeks (What time is it? SHOWTIME Like I said….)

•Letting the 5th graders pick their own team names and finding out days later that team tama tama just means “team ballsack,” which I repeated multiple times in class. *shakes fist to the sky* They got me this time.

•Accidentally leading the 6th Graders in a Nazi salute while teaching clock gestures.

•Dropping my teaching materials on telling time and watching them scatter around the room. Crack myself up (and no one else) by saying “My, how time flies!” RIP, gold star pun, you were too good for this world.

•Waiting to buy omiyage until the last minute at the train station halfway home from Kyoto. Realizing later that the package says “Nagoya” in Kanji. Have friendly coworkers ask for a week what I thought of Nagoya. Waffle between trying to explain in broken Japanese that I went to Kyoto (making them think I really am just incredibly, incredibly confused all the time) or just agreeing that Nagoya really is lovely this time of year.

•Being included in a formal school photo for one of my school’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

•Eating lunch in the formal dining room with the 2nd graders. Stare in disbelief as the clock splits in half on the hour, plays a tinny version of “My Heart Will Go On” as each half-face spins in its own circle before closing together seamlessly like nothing happened. Wondering  afterward if someone slipped acid in the udon.


What do American ducks say?

“Okay class, what do cats say?”

“Nyan, nyan!”

“And what do american cats say?”


“Great! What do dogs say?”

“Wan wan! wan wan!”

“And what do American dogs say?”

“Ruff ruff, bark bark!”

“What do ducks say?”

“Ga ga ga”

“Good, what do American ducks say?”



Silver Linings



I booked a hostel last minute, on the train to Tokyo, after a scheduling error meant that I couldn’t crash with my friends at their Airbnb.


I was a little bummed. I was looking forward to catching up, and was worried that anything in the area would be out of my price range.

I found a hostel within walking distance of their location with good reviews, and booked it. I arrived in a typhoon, rain soaking through my rain jacket. It was a cozy Edo era house, retrofitted to be a guest house. Someone met me at the door and helped me in from the pouring rain.


One of the first things I noticed, despite being cold and wet, was that the house was shockingly beautiful. I am hopeless when it comes to architecture, but it was obvious that this house had history. A stones throw away from Nijo castle, this 130 year old house had been remodeled to better accommodate travelers. The eeves were wooden, wide, and old. Parts of the wall had been removed and replaced with glass, so that you could actually see how houses of the era were built.

Perhaps due to school starting, and perhaps due to the impending typhoon, there was only one other person staying there. After a quick tour, the guy working asked if I wanted to stay in one of the private rooms for free, since no one else was booked for the next few days.


So, I got a traditional tatami mat room intended for 3 people to myself for 3 nights, and still got to spend plenty of time with my friends.

I usually got back to the guesthouse around 10 to immediately fall asleep. The night person would be there, watching songs from Glee on YouTube and drinking whiskey on the rocks. One night, I hung out to watch a few numbers.

I think I am someone who focuses on the negative. It can be a useful trait, when you’re a problem solver, trying to hone in on what in a situation needs to be fixed. There are obvious downsides. I wanted to post this as synecdoche for general gratitude- I am a lucky person. Sometimes bad things happen for no reason. But sometimes good things do too.