<   2014年 02月 ( 6 )   > この月の画像一覧   

Come on, Spring   

Winter is dead, long live the winter. Well, not yet technically but it has certainly been feeling like this for the past few days. Winter in Hokkaido, for people who do no winter sports, is like that really cute but very annoying neighbor's dog - it's nice for a while but eventually you want to throw something at it. Mid February is when I feel like throwing something at the winter, figuratively speaking. This is when all the novelty of the mountains of snow wears off and it feels like just a pain in the butt.

Bulgaria has quite similar winters except they are usually much shorter. Mid February is when the snow has finally melted and you have Spring knocking on your door. This year has been abnormally warm with almost no snow in the capital and no sub zero temperatures. Quite the opposite actually, with the season's temperatures averaging well above zero. My parents say it felt like spring the entire winter. I guess that's Global Warming for you - causing abnormal temperatures and weather conditions.
Anyways, today's sun is enough for me to start making plans for this year's spring and summer, even though we are still months away. It just feels nice to have the sun warming up your face.

Slavi (Bulgaria)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-27 18:26 | 札幌 英会話 サークル

Single-serving friends   

If you’ve ever seen the movie Fight Club (1999), AND saw it in English, you might remember this idea from a conversation early in the story.

The narrator (Edward Norton’s character) is talking to Tyler Durden, his seat mate on a trip, when he mentions the concept of “single-serving friends”. For anyone who travels with any regularity, they are likely familiar with single-serving experiences…hotels and airlines typically provide patrons everything from toiletries to dining condiments in very small doses intended to be completely exhausted after just one use.

In this situation however, the narrator extends the concept to include the people one meets while traveling as well; equating the temporary acquaintances we share the intimate space around us for several hours—space typically reserved exclusively for only our closest friends, families, or significant others—with so many tiny vials of shampoo; almost certainly a brand we’ve never tried, are reluctant to open, yet are nudged by the forces of circumstance to sample anyway.

I can’t speak for Japanese culture, but it’s quite common in America that strangers occupying adjoining seats on a bus, train, airplane, or even roller coaster to make use of their temporary closeness to strike up a friendly conversation…no strings attached. Of course while common, not all people choose to exercise this opportunity, but for those who do, they can make single-serving friends whom they discard once the physical proximity is severed.

Since Fight Club was released, this phrase’s connotation has evolved to include a longer stretch of time than just the couple hours while in each other’s immediate presence. For example, the doorman at your hotel, a recurring face at a weekend conference, etc. As it turns out, being a foreign student (or teacher) exposes one to lots of these experiences, for better or worse. Other teachers, other students, are all essentially single-serving relationships that are all fated to last only until one of the parties reaches their predetermined departure date and returns to their home country. Of course this isn’t always the case and a certain small percentage of people can become long-term friends, but the vast majority we will cease to communicate with, think about, or sometimes even remember once the experience and environment binding us ends. As we say in English, “out of sight, out of mind”.

It’s a sobering kind of reality I wasn’t prepared for when I first began teaching Japanese and Korean students in San Francisco. At that time, I was mainly working pro-bono as a kind of hobby and to gain experience with other cultures, but also to make friends. After the first few months, I was pretty taken aback when in one month all but one of my friends/students left, most of them rather suddenly. All of the people with whom I’d built personal relationships or quasi-professional rapports evaporated overnight like wet footprints on the marbled floor of a business lobby. While I connected via email or Facebook with many of them, as any avid user of social-media comes to realize, they are excellent tools for passive, spectating interpersonal relationships, but awful at generating meaningful discourse or fostering healthy bonds. Within days or weeks, despite being digitally connected, our immediate lives took priority, pushing aside those things and people who were no longer a part of our daily routines.

So too has this been my reality as both a student and teacher here in Sapporo. Throughout my first year as a student at a Japanese language school making a good number of friends and even more casual acquaintances, nearly all of them reverted to strangers once they—or eventually I too—left the school. As a teacher, I prepare many of my students for international experiences: living, working, or traveling abroad; a special presentation; a job promotion; etc. Once the time comes for each student to fly (literally and figuratively), our brief time together instantly becomes a collection of memories, not a real, living connection with another person.

This introspection came after the last of my remaining classmates and one of my closest friends in Sapporo—someone I met on my very first day here—recently returned to his home country. Most of my daily encounters are professional, making a circle of friends a very finite clique indeed. So to realize that I have in fact come full circle (I arrived in Japan with no friends, and have in some ways regressed to that same ‘tabula rasa’ state) is another of those sobering moments, courtesy of the intercultural lifestyle.

As everyone ages, we all eventually come to understand the impermanence of everything in life, but it has nevertheless been interesting comparing the relative rates of change an average person experiences with that of an internationally-affected person. Have any of you noticed this during your English-learning adventures? Had some good or bad single-serving friends? Stop by anytime and share your stories!

Aaron (USA)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-23 17:39 | マンツーマン 英会話 札幌

Sweet February   

Hello everyone,

I imagine February always brings a lot of sweets: valentine’s chocolates, pancake day (2nd February in France), baked sweet potatoes (Ishida imo !!!!) , le Tao’s cake at Otaru’s yuki akari michi… Sweets, sweets and sweets, I love them all.

But as the best chocolate or coffee must have some bitterness somewhere, February does have some faults.

Especially nowadays, I see a BIG one: continuous snow storm.

I take it as another reason to stay at home drinking my hot cocoa…

And you, are you a chocolate/sweets addict?

Take care,

Lise (France)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-22 17:11 | 英会話 個人 レッスン 札幌

Spring is coming   

Hello all! Spring is just around the corner and the long, cold winter is finally coming to an end. This winter we could enjoy many exciting events in Hokkaido; Munich market, Sapporo snow festival, Otaru snow light path festival(小樽雪あかりの路) and so. Hope you had time to visit at least few of them. I went to Otaru and while I was there I also went to a Finnish short film festival. They showed 5 short films from Finland so I had an opportunity to listen Finnish language. Rare occasion here in Hokkaido I must say. There is a very active group called Hokkaido Finland Society in Sapporo and the short film festival was organized by them.

Also now we are in the middle of Sochi olympic games and of course I have been cheering for Finland. Not doing so well this time but maybe olympic games in South Korea will be better for us. And last but not least F1-season will start next month and Kimi Räikkönen is driving for the championship this year! Exciting times I say.

Sami (Finland)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-21 14:59 | 英会話 個人 レッスン 札幌

First winter in Japan   

Hello everyone!! I trust you all had a wonderful and exciting New Year and holidays around it :)

This was my first time to experience this in Japan. I also was lucky enough to spend it with my husband's Japanese family.

It was very interesting for me as a foreigner to learn how to cook ozoni and osechi for the first time. But it somehow worked out in the end!

I also got to experience the traditional visit to a shrine (for us, just a local one) on the New Year's day. Although super cold and windy, we had a lot of fun there - reflecting and wishing.

Aside from that, recently one of the things on my To Do List has been finally ticked off: going to the Sapporo Snow Festival!! It was a total success :o Beautiful ice sculptures and awesome illuminations with a dessert buffet to follow... It was definitely worth it :)))

This is my recommendation to everyone who didn't go this year - go explore in 2015!

Cheers,

Maria (Rus/Aus)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-20 14:29 | 英会話 教師 札幌

Winter holidays   

As most of you guys know, I spent my winter holidays in Okinawa. You may wonder why Okinawa in the middle of winter. In fact, if it was not for my dad I would have waited spring to take a short trip there... But, you see, I had a deal with my dad : if he were to come to Japan I had to take him to Okinawa. And so off we went to Okinawa for almost 2 weeks! And mind me it was fantastic! The weather, of course was much warmer than here, and looking at the sea was like looking at the blue sky, but what I enjoyed the most, apart far niente obviously, was the food!

Before I left, I told few of my friends and few of my students that I was going to Okinawa and all of them had warned me that Okinawa cuisine was "special ", "very different from the rest of Japan". I couldn't really get it and thus didn't know what to expect. Actually, when you talk about Hokkaido cuisine the same description applies though usually people add "delicious" or "very fresh " which give a pleasant, if not mouth watering , picture of it.

I must say that Okinawa cuisine is different from the rest of Japan but nonetheless succulent! I absolutely loved it! The vegetable, the meat, the desserts not full of fresh cream ( cf my post on desserts in Hokkaido)! I would eat that every day! And I did eat pig feet and pig ears! Mind me it was not the first time since pig feet in France is a famous dish particularly tasty!

Anyway I had a tremendous trip for my eyes as well as for my tongue and I hope to go back there! I must confess though that I missed Soup curry and hokkaido's sushi! First thing I ate I soon as I got back!

Japanese food as usual is amazing!

Claire (France)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-02-13 17:21 | 英会話 プライベート レッスン