A Beginner’s Guide to Engrish

How the Japanese adapt English: Step one, can it be shortened? Step two, can it be forced to conform to the rules of Japanese pronunciation? Step three, can it confuse native speakers of English?

Check. Check. Check. 😀

Some days I’m the teacher. More often than not I’m the student relearning English. Welcome to the world of teaching English in a foreign country and the many adventures that come along with the territory.

Pants (n.) – 1. In America: trousers; 2. In Japan: underwear

Basket (n.) – 1. In America: a container made of twigs, rushes, thin strips of wood, or other flexible material woven together; 2. In Japan: shortened form of ‘basketball’

Hamburg (n.) – 1. In English: a German city; In Japanese: fancy hamburger patty and sauce with side of vegetable, rice, and miso soup.

Ice (n.) – 1. In English: the solid form of water, produced by freezing; 2. In Japanese: shortened form of ‘ice cream’.

Sand (n.) – 1. In English: loose grains of weathered rocks, primarily made of quartz; 2. In Japanese: shortened form of ‘sandwich’. An Ice Sand is… you guessed it, an ice cream sandwich!

 

DIY Project 01: Teacher’s Survival Kit

I’m not going to lie: this was totally inspired by the Altoid survival kit for campers and decided to create a variation with teachers and teaching assistants in mind… because you know, I’m going to be one in a matter of weeks. Working at two different schools, having two offices… I felt like I might need this on my person just to make sure I’m prepared.

I only used items that I could find around the house (as a writer, former student, and former-not-so-former teaching assistant, I have a treasure trove in excess of school related paraphernalia) but if you find yourself short on any of them, a quick run to the nearest discount store will provide a cheap alternative. Also, having your own personal variation is not only unique but will also serve your needs better. Don’t need a hole puncher? Toss it, simple as that. The whole point is, of course, to find as many items that fit the essential tools of your trade. Preferably ones that you can find at home 😉 Total cost: $o.oo to $5.oo (depending on how many items you might need to purchase).

Dimensions of box (recycled cell phone box)

5.5 inches/13.97 cm L x 3 inches/7.62 cm W x 2 inches/5.08cm H

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Items used: 1 red correction pen, 1 pencil, 1 black pen or small mechanical pencil, 1 USB with enough memory to back up semester/year’s worth of lesson plans, 1 pencil sharpener, 1 stapler, 2 packs of staples, 2 small magnets, 3 plastic clips, 2 medium binder clips, 1 staple remover, 1 manual paper hole puncher, 10 paper clips, 2 small Post It Note stacks, 4 thin stacks of large Post It Notes, 1 small bookmark, 2 mechanical pencil lead refills.

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Step One: Place bookmark flat against wall of box length-wise.

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Step Two: Place the two staple packs against the same side you put the book mark and line bottom of box with post it note flag dispenser.

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Step Three: Nestle the staple remover inside of the hole punch remover grip (this will ensure that the staple remover compresses to save space). Place them flat against the floor of the box on top of the post it note flags.

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Step Four: Nestle pocket-sized stapler next to the hand held hole puncher and on top of the post it note flags.

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Step Five: Next take the two medium sized binder clips and settle them however they best fit into the box without adding bulk. In my example, one lies on top of the hole puncher and the other against the wall. USB will be lined on box wall opposite the two stacks of staples.

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Step Six & Seven: The two small magnets should be placed directly above one of the stacks of staples (metal attracts magnet end), slip the plastic clips onto one of the small stacks of Post It Notes to compress, and top off with chain of paper clips.

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Step Eight: And finally! Place (and flatten as much as possible) the last few items – red correction pen, pencil, small pen (or mechanical pencil), two mechanical pencil lead refills and small pencil sharpener into place 😀

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Step Nine: Top off with large Post It Notes to act as intermediary cover and…

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Step Ten: …Done! Should fit snug but well. Not exactly necessary but if the dimension of your box make it necessary you can opt to wrap a bento box band to make sure it doesn’t open in your suitcase 😉

So that’s the Teacher’s Survival Kit in a nutshell! It’s simple, cheap (practically cost-less if you can find all items or variations thereof at home). Remember, the point of the survival kit is to have an easy to reach and close at hand set for those moments when you might need it for emergency purposes. Keep it in your purse/backpack, inside your car, or homeroom desk drawer in case you forget something important in the teacher’s lounge/home.

For the student variation: substitute the red correction pen with a highlighter and the large Post It Notes with a small stack of flash cards. Magnets and plastic clips can be substituted for small erasers. Hole puncher can be replaced for correction tape/small bottle of white-out fluid. Also, packet of hole punch reinforcements are immensely helpful for those days when you accidentally tear out a page from your binder! In reality, two packs of staples might be a bit much for a survival kit so feel free to toss one out entirely. I just have an irrational fear of not having enough staples for some odd reason >.>”

For the artist variation: Use your preferred medium. Classic examples include: 1 sketching pencil, 2 artist pens in colors of choice, 2 small erasers, a pencil sharpener, and 1 Exacto knife. Can also add: 5 small tubes of paint of your choice (three in primary colors plus black and white in either watercolor/pastel/acrylic/etc) with corresponding brushes of your choice and a brush cleaner, a small shot glass for water. Or if you prefer: a set of small colored pencils or set of molding clay. The combinations are endless.

For the crafter variation: 1 glue stick, 1 tube of crazy glue, 1 pencil, 1 pen in color of choice, 1 Exacto knife, some yarn or a spool of thread, 1 small pin cushion with pins/needles, small scissors, set of small origami folding paper (multicolored), assortment stamps and ink pad, ribbon, trimming, cloth swatches/patches, assortment of buttons (different sizes/colors).

How to Pack for Long-Term Travel Part II

 

all-packed

therecapIn the last post we discussed the theory behind packing and some common sense steps (Research, Inventory, Weeding) for cutting back on how much you’ll take. Now we’ll get to the nit and grit on different methods of packing, how much you’ll actually need to take abroad (no more and no less, trust me), and I’ll try to get into as much detail as I possibly can in regards to Japanese culture.

So let’s get to it! Let’s talk packing essential number 1: Le Suitcase! 🙂

suitcasesA suitcase is a suitcase is a suitcase, right? Well, depends on the kind of travel you’re going to take up… and for long-term travel, especially when living for extended periods of time (years) in a foreign country. A suitcase should only be purchased if it stands up to the L.E.D.D.  test:

Is the suitcase (while empty):
LIGHT?
EASY to transport/store?
DURABLE?
And, do the DIMENSIONS fit the flight allowance?

After doing some preliminary research, I found that most airlines offer 62 inches (L + W + H) with 50 lb dimension and weight limit for all checked baggage on international flights. Domestic flights may vary but we won’t worry about those just yet.  And so this is where you really want to take advantage of lightweight luggage: when you’ve only got 50 pounds, you have to make them stretch the extra mile. Remember, even though we’ve already done our clothes research and inventory, weeding in a large part correlates to the baggage allowance and also on personal choice. What goes for the ultra-minimalist will not be enough for the pack rat traveler. It’s all about striking a balance in packing, which we’ll go over in the next section. So this brings us to types of luggage and knowing how to invest in a nice set that will last you out for as long as your passport is valid (generally about 10 years worth). Brand name luggage sets can run in the hundreds so knowing where to look will bring down the price to an average of $150 versus department store price of $300 upwards. Generally, there are two types on the market these days: polyester/nylon (soft) and polycarbonate/plastic (hard) shelled suitcases, although I’ve heard of leather and canvas material being used as well.

polyester_bothPros: Cheaper, weigh less when frames are made of aluminum or fiberglass. Those with thicker weave patterns make for more durable soft shells. Expandable.

Cons: Not as durable so do not store fragile items or electronics in these cases. Wheels do not rotate (compare model to the left and the polycarbonate down below). Check for quality of stitching before purchasing. Only one packing compartment = less space. Needs to be cleaned more often because fabric case will trap odors and particles more than a hard shell case.

polycarbonate Pros: Polycarbonate is more durable and weighs as much or less than soft shell suitcases, have rotating wheels, and two packing compartments: main on the right, secondary to the left.

Cons: Scratches and water stains will show more readily. When cleaning a polycarbonate, drying the case right away is essential to maintaining its aesthetics. Check that if comes with a zipper for expanding space between the main and secondary packing compartments.

In summation: essentially it comes down to what you prefer in a case and for me, having used both extensively, the polycarbonates win hands down every time. I was able to find an amazing set of two in a beautiful dark navy blue at Costco. They’ve been taken to Japan and Mexico, roughly handled, shoved, and rolled. Still, they look and function as well as if I had bought them yesterday (even though they have their share of minor scratches).

theminimalist

  • 1 set formal business attire (as in the works) – MEN: the suit, neckties, dress socks, business shoes. WOMEN: skirt or pants suit with business jacket, pantyhose, dress shoes.
  • 3-4 sets of business casual for work (or if you’re really confident about your mix and match skills, just 3 will suffice) – button up blouses/slacks or skirts.
  • 3 sets of casual, daily wear (upgrade to 4-5 sets if you know you won’t be able to find your size readily abroad)
  • 1 sweater for autumn
  • A week’s worth of undergarments (underwear/bras/socks)
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 1 extra pair of shoes (preferably comfortable running shoes; walking can be brutal if you are not used to mass transport and being without a car longer than a day)
  • Travel size toiletries (trust me, you don’t need anymore)
  • TAKE TWO STICKS OF YOUR FAVORITE ANTIPERSPIRANTS. That should last you the year and one really humid summer.
  • Electronics as necessary (laptop, camera, tablet/Kindle)

Ship winter clothes in a box if you can’t find anything in your size abroad. Otherwise purchase on site as the locals will always have the best winter clothes for their type of winter weather. The ULTRA-minimalist will cut this list down to half 😉 Pajamas? Who needs pajamas? Clothes? Pshaw, I’ll just wash this every day. Satirical dramatization, of course 😉 The people responsible for posting this article have been sacked (just kidding). If you follow these guidelines you will only use one polycarbonate suitcase.

howtopackasuitcaseTime and again, the world seems to be divided, perpetually, into two field camps: Them v.s. Us, Allies v.s. Axis, Lannisters v.s. Starks, Team Edward v.s. Team Jacob, coffee lovers v.s. tea lovers… and so the story goes. Packing has it’s own version and the two main camps stand as charged:

Rollers v.s. Folders

Now before you get your knickers into a figurative twist (corny pun intended… literally), keep in mind that both methods should be used. Not all fabric types can withstand the strains of tight rolling, but that being said, you should be rolling more than folding. The reason being that: rolling saves you more space than folding.

TIPS: Make sure that while rolling, you do so as tightly as possible to minimize bulk. For business suits/formal wear: FOLD, DO NOT ROLL. For jeans, you want to start from the legs up after folding lengthwise down. Blouses and clothes made of more fragile material should just be folded. Make sure to line suitcase with your rolled clothing as best as possible to maximize packing space. Heavier items should be packed closer to the wheels for balance. Just use general common sense physics when in doubt 😉

::SHIRTS::

rolling_1 rolling_2 rolling_3

::BLOUSES::

Basically the same fold one finds in department stores. To protect fragile clothing, separate each layer with plastic. Not necessary but can be done to minimize wrinkles.

blouse_a blouse_b

::JEANS::

jeans_a jeans_b jeans_c

Et voila! Packing a suitcase and maximizing on space has never been easier. It just takes some practice and lots of creativity to fit everything into one piece.

As for Japanese office culture: they are much more formal than their American counterparts. No casual days at work and everyone has a place on the status ladder that depends on a variety of factors such as their age, where they graduated from, and how long they have worked for that one company. Your office mates will more often than not be like second family and in some cases you will find yourself going out for drinks with them to maintain good rapport and colleague solidarity than you will be spending time at home… there were nights when my first host family’s dad would stumble in at one in the morning. As a foreigner finding your niche is important and might be difficult. I’ll find out more about this once I begin working in Japan but from my experiences as a student at my host university, it was so hard to fit in as ‘one of them’ instead of as the somewhat cool foreigner friend (a.k.a “other”).