Five Times The Pink Panther Accurately Summed Up What It’s Like Teaching English Abroad

And it looks like I’m staying for one final year in Japan. Two years was just the right amount of time to get my life sorted; unfortunately, I’m not quite ready to say good-bye just yet. It’s been a long road. It’s a longer one to come. The papers are signed, the decision made. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, JET 2016-2017.

A lot of my friends in the States have, at one point or another, expressed curiosity on what it’s like to teach English abroad.¬†The myths and realities as expressed through the five times that The Pink Panther suddenly became too real for words…

1. WE DO NOT QUIT!!!

“Your life must be so glamorous, living abroad and teaching English to Japanese kids!” Glamorous is one word for it. And then there’s this…

…I do enjoy every minute of it even though I wouldn’t call it glamorous ūüėČ

2. Why would they do something like that?

“I hear Japan is soooooo high tech! You must be going to all crazy-amazing robot conventions every weekend and never want to come back to the US, right?” The hard cold reality is…

…and not only that: my office is (somehow) still running on XP. Why would they do something like that?!

3. Why do you¬†think they’re dressed like that? For fun?!

Doing anything for the kids on Halloween is basically along these lines. Also applies to generally trying to blend in with society when the clothes just look different on you than on the cute models (TTwTT)”

4. It is one of my specialties…

So, I can do things, I swear, I can! Sometimes, though, I can’t show them off perfectly because of cultural differences.

Can’t bake half the Viennese pastries I learned how to make because Japan and it’s non-baking culture. It’s still fun trying, though ūüėÄ

5. I thought you were ordering in Italian.

That moment when you suddenly become Vincenzo Roccara Squarcialupi Brancaleone at the local Starbucks… or anywhere, really.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Foreign Film Fridays 04: El Secreto De Sus Ojos

Over the holiday season, some people watch ‘The Grinch’. Others opt for a classier feel, such as ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.¬†And then there’s my family, where the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without a murder mystery marathon on Christmas Day…

elsecretodesusojos

Original Title: El Secreto De Sus Ojos
AKA: The Secret In Their Eyes
Year: 2009
Country: Argentina & Spain
Language: Spanish
Subtitles: English
Length: 1hr 58min
Availability: Amazon FireStick

What would you do if your wife’s rapist and murderer walked free? Ultimately, this is the question the audience¬†will be forced to answer by the time the credits roll.

Meet Benjamin Esposito, a tired-of-life, former judicial investigator, who opens the first scene with a futile attempt at writing a novel. He doesn’t know why he’s so haunted but he’s trying to put to rest a case that refuses to die by writing about it. It’s not his wife who was brutally raped then murdered, but we come to that in due time. No, Benjamin is simply one of the many people whose life became irrevocably caught up in the sordid affair.¬†On the fateful day when a formerly unknown¬†housewife died, Benjamin’s life would also change and it would take him decades to sort through the mess. It’s through his eyes that we see this gritty yet bittersweet story about the human condition play out on the international screen.

Thus by slow degrees the audience is acquainted with the horrific details of Liliana Coloto’s death and the final disappearing act of the main suspect through flashbacks as a more mature Benjamin approaches with fresh eyes. The modern investigations in the present, lead him to a renewed acquaintance with his former boss (who happens to be the unrequited love of his life), Irene Menendez Hastings. Together the crime fighting duo pick up where they left off a lifetime ago, though Irene is at first reluctant to involve herself yet again in the case that nearly broke them.

Through flashbacks we see a much¬†younger Benjamin and his alcoholic¬†(certainly, under-achieving) field partner, Pablo Sandoval, embark on a cross country journey to catch a killer. We watch the characters grow alongside the building horror of the improbable likelihood that they will ever¬†catch their man, because after all, they have no substantial leads. Eventually, with time, Liliana’s case is shelved in the cold case files and duly forgotten. Then just when they’ve properly moved on emotionally and psychologically… they find their first real break. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Sadly, for the more Criminal Minds¬†expository-loving variety of murder mystery fans, the complexities surrounding the murderer’s motivations are only very briefly¬†explored. They are not defined in so many words, partly because in defining them we lose the key method of this film’s story telling: through the careful observation¬†of characters’ expressions and the conclusions we make from the safety of our sofas. The film is by first impressions more emotional than cerebral, but only because it does not condescend or patronize the viewer. Your are part of the team, you’re as much in the dark as they are, and you will most certainly be able to solve both mysteries using your own little grey cells. If you dare.

However, what is important, and thoroughly discussed, is that no system of justice is perfect… the inevitable consequences of which leave an entire investigation team and a widowed husband reeling in the wake of an executive decision to let the killer walk free. The question posited to viewers then becomes, not how to best fix the system, but how far would (or should) a citizen¬†be willing to go to see justice meted out correctly? In other terms, how selfless (or obsessed) of a human being are you¬†willing to be? Or as JFK once put it so brilliantly: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

In case many of you are cursing the computer screen for this “spoiler”, it’s not so much a spoiler (since it comes early in the film) as it is merely the foundation¬†for what comes next in the story. And that, my lovelies, I will leave to you to watch.

That being said, I add only this: the ending. Oh, the ending. I did not expect the ending. I saw all the clues and I entertained the idea for a millisecond of a millisecond before shaking it off as absolutely crazy, because honestly:¬†No one would ever, ever do that, I thought to myself, innocently drinking my coconut juice on the couch. It’s just crazy.

Because it¬†was crazy, the kind of crazy the belongs either to the truly morally righteous or the truly twisted and sadistic of this world… or as this film shows: to someone who embodies the best and the worst of both. I couldn’t – wouldn’t – have done it. I certainly don’t have the mental strength to do it, much less the conviction… And when I came to that final truth, it dawned on me that everything I thought I believed in (my¬†convictions in regards to morality and ethics) were only true in the face of theory at a safe distance. Once this film asked me to practice them… I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Because I am¬†that selfish and I would have done the opposite, anything really, to keep from wasting what was left of my life on ‘justice’.¬†Let’s just say that this film’s ending turned out to be quite the humbling experience. It empowers yet disenfranchises your right¬†to self and humanity at the same time.

This much more I can say about “The Secret In Their Eyes”: that it is a strong film with a low budget but you won’t even care because the script is that good. The seventies are back, baby, and they’re better than how you remembered them… or imagined them (depending on your age).¬†It’s a tale of life gone by too fast, of regrets, and of the tragedies of a broken system. It will speak to a certain generation. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Spanish accented differently than how I was taught (contrary to popular belief: no, not all Spanish speaking countries have the same culture; yes, Spanish is the same language around the world with the pillars of grammar, its rules, etc., that are easily recognizable to all native Spanish speakers worldwide; no, the accents aren’t all the same (Americans don’t sound like UK citizens either so…); and no, the slang is not all the same because slang is a cultural phenomena).

There is (was? Will be?) an American remake of this film from what I’ve heard, which I haven’t yet seen but hope to get my hands on sometime soon. I’m not sure how much more or what else an American director can add to this already twisted story, but it’s going to take a lot (in my opinion) to impress because “The Secret In Their Eyes” is to film what “Gone Girl” did for literature.

Happy 2016 And The Great Disappearance Act

Spent a blissful two and a half weeks with my family in California and close friend in Texas (shout out to Kimmy dearest for taking me to NASA and feeding me brisket!) for the first time since moving to Japan. In the spirit of the holidays, my technology was turned off in order to properly revel in family and friend time. Needless to say, I ate EVERYTHING (the trespass of which I was already admonished for during Wednesday’s ballet class #YOLO #ITWASWORTHEVERYCALORIE #MYTUTUSTILLFITSIFISUCKITIN), but even better than food was the quality time I spent among the people who love and support me most in the world: my parents.

My dad took a significant amount of time off of work to take me to all manner of doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, drive me around, play games well past both our bedtimes, and watch all the movies and TV shows that we needed to catch up on. Mum’s schedule, being what it was, allowed for mostly afternoon jaunts but I’m grateful for every precious second I spent in their company. Oh, yes, and my sister ūüėČ She and I put up with each other marvelously well, all things considered.

So that brings me to the month before I was in the States, when the internet pulled a great disappearing act. What happens when you’ve been paying your bills on time, when your router set isn’t broken, and the only problem showing up is “Check with your provider”?

Something I learned about Japanese internet: you will be dealing with three separate companies (Finance, Internet Provider’s Provider, and said Internet Provider) none of which have any helpful English lines in place (NTT claims it does; does not; and only NTT Finance had anyone remotely fluent enough to provide the assistance I needed via the Finance side).

I dedicate this post to Mari from NTT Finance, who not only bullied NTT into releasing my information to me (thus saving me an extra seven business days per interaction, a total of 21 once totaled), but generally got S*** done. I have never met anyone with such a go-getter attitude this side of the Pacific. Where everyone else was like, “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to do that and I’m not going to ask my superior because this is the one way things have always been done”, Mari’s response was very Disney “Let’s see what we CAN do about this problem”. Sadly this only got me as far as: Well, it’s not NTT’s fault. It’s your provider’s.

To which my brilliant response was: I thought NTT was my provider.

And a witty repartee ensued.

NTT: No. We take care of the finance side and NTT East provides the service to a provider who then has you pay for the glory of signing a contract with them.

ME: So you haven’t choked my internet and it’s not a financial issue?

NTT: That’s about right, Ms. Customer.

ME: So who’s my provider?! I only ever received information from NTT!

NTT: Uh, we can’t disclose that information.

ME: Whaaaaa…. How am I supposed to solve anything?

NTT: …

So while I keep receiving bills for internet I’m theoretically supposed to be able to use… I don’t actually have internet and I am now currently leaching off my workplace.

I hope to update with all manner of Foreign Film Friday posts that never got published and photos from the holidays and travel information I amassed over said holidays… all of which are stuck on my American phone, but I can’t until my WIFI is back. Work doesn’t have WIFI, we just have the LAN connection chord of doom.

Hopefully this is resolved. Soon. >.>”

Resolved as of 11:40 am. Three cheers for being taught how to hack into your router and resetting the damn thing. YAY! \O/