Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Patrick- Planting Rice

So on Sunday I went rice planting. These days, most rice planting is done by machine, not by hand. However, because of the lack of good farmland, most fields are still small enough that you could do them by hand if necessary.

I was invited by the owner of a restaurant that Sara and I frequent, and we took the bus over to the paddies, about a fifteen minute ride, well within the city limits.

When you plant rice, it turns out you don't plant the seeds first, as I would have expected. Instead, you grow the seeds somewhere else, until you get little shoots, and those you plant in the paddy. So in our case, the shoots were already grown, and we just walked through the paddy and stuck them in the mud, more or less.

Except, of course you have to measure this so that it goes in an orderly fashion. And for whatever reason, it took four men about an hour to take two pieces of string the width of the field and make marks 60cm apart. This wouldn't have been so bad, except there were about forty people waiting on them, with more showing up all the time.

All told, the planting proper only took about two hours for an area about half the size of a football field, but we had more than sixty people helping.

So, in practice, planting the rice meant holding a huge tray of the shoots in one hand, walking through the mud, and then sticking them in rows as neatly as possible.

Afterwards, there was an attempt to drink all the sake leftover from the previous year, but even with sixty people there was too much.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Patrick- New Faces, Website, Studies

So it's been awhile since the last update. In the interim, I have been working on a "learn the Japanese language" website, and in two months I received over 10,000 visitors, so unfortunately the blog has taken the backseat for a little while.

However, the plan is to now return to weekly updates going forward.

The Japanese school year starts in April. Recently I've been very surprised at how incredibly well behaved our new students are. At first, I thought their good behavior must wear off very quickly, since they get behavioral cues from the older students and many of them behave very badly, but for whatever reason, after about two months at school our kids are still trying to do what they're supposed to, actually upset when they forget their homework or fail a test, etc.

It's a nice change of pace, since the second year students have nearly the opposite attitude. Unfortunately, the teacher who returned from sabattical, who is now responsible for the second years, isn't very assertive, and it's much more difficult now to keep them under control. We have about six students in one class who haven't brought their textbooks to English since April. Of course, they will probably fail the class. But, since the system is automatic promotion, it's very hard to motivate them that hey, actually you shouldn't fail the class if you get the chance.

In other news, I've also been studying Japanese a lot, more than before. I finally finished reading my first book in Japanese. Which is not to say it took me eight months; it only took me eight days, but up to this point I have been so busy learning vocbulary, grammar, etc. I hadn't bothered to actually read any books. Well, since none of that is so interesting in and of itself, I finally couldn't take it and decided to read something.

But of course, the reason I was studying the vocabulary and grammar was because I didn't want to read just any book, and go back to being ten years old. So I read a book on Hegel and Marx that was intended for new college students, which turned out to be a little disaster, but I got through it, and I looked up every single word I didn't know as punishment, which I have discovered is the real key to reading success and not turning into a moron later, when I half remember words but have no idea what they mean because I never bothered to learn them.

Tomorrow I will go rice planting. I don't really know anything about growing rice, so I hope it's a good experience.