Japanese Final Meeting: Kimi no Namae

For the final meeting of Japanese club, we watched the animated move Kimi no Namae (Lit. Your Name). There was pizza once again, but this time they ordered enough and not as many people showed up, so seconds were a reality. I enjoyed the movie: the animation was really nice and the story had its emotional moments. Some background: a boy and a girl who do not know each other one day start swapping bodies occasionally. The ending was a bit of a cliche, but overall I think it was a fitting film to end the semester with. I imagine Japanese club is going to look very different when I return next year, as many of the regulars will have graduated by then.

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Second Wind: Latin America travel stories

The Second Wind meeting last week (we had two this semester!) was over study abroad experiences to Latin America. It started off a bit rocky where I thought I had gotten the day wrong again and the first people didn’t know if they were in the right spot, but we eventually settled in fine. There were 4 or 5 people who had stories to tell, but lots of people had questions so discussion went smoothly. There were so many people that after a little while the table split into around 3 sub-groups with their own individual conversations. One of the most interesting differences discussed was emphasis on accent. People were talking about not going to countries because the Spanish accent there was not to their liking. I’m sure my outlook was colored by my choice of language. For Japanese,  there is one small country that speaks the language so if I don’t like the dialect/accent, tough. It seemed an embarrassment of riches to get to mark off entire countries for something that I consider such a small detail. Anyways, I am glad that Jaci is continuing to setting up these Second Wind meetings; they are probably my favorite GEF event.

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Japanese Club Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

The Japanese club had its first movie night, and of course it was a Studio Ghibli movie (not that I mind). The vote went to Howl’s Moving Castle, one I had seen before. Still, the ending is probably the most complicated part of any studio Ghibli movie (things always get hard to follow when time travel is introduced), so it was nice to get a second run through. The event was extremely popular: chairs from another classroom had to be pulled in and there was a scarcity of pizza. I think a lot of non-regular club members were drawn in by the allure of free pizza and the stand-out fame of Ghibli movies. The movie itself was as great as I remember. The visuals remain amazing, the characters are great, and the music -especially Howl’s Theme- is some of the best in all the Ghibli movies I have seen. The next movie is going to be a live action Japanese movie, which I have less experience with. Hopefully it will be interesting, though I doubt it will be as great as Howl was.

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JET Program meeting

The other event I went to last week was an information session on the JET program. It wasn’t really a discussion format, so I will just relate some of the major points and how they relate to my situation: JET members receive funding to travel to Japan and teach English at a school there. You can re-apply after the term ends to stay another period, with the max being somewhere around 5 years. Knowledge of Japanese is not required. In fact, they would prefer if you were not too skilled at the language. Your job is to be a representative of the U.S. in Japan, bringing the culture and language to a foreign audience. That’s not to say people who have taken Japanese classes are barred, just that they are usually placed in more rural areas where the Japanese language has a deeper hold. Those with no experience are more likely to be put at a school in Tokyo or Kyoto or some other major city, where there is some English to fall back to if they get overwhelmed. JET members generally act as teacher’s assistants, with high school being the highest level of education taught. For me personally, I don’t think I will go for it unless something goes wrong. I am already applying for fullbright after graduation, and going to graduate school after that (or instead of if I don’t get accepted). The hope is that I would have a job after graduate school/post-doc studies. However, if something doesn’t follow the plan, its nice to know that there is a backup.

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Coffee at Second Wind: Middle East

Last Friday I went to another of the Second Wind coffee meetings hosted by Jaci, this time with the topic being travels to the Arabic speaking world. I had another event before this so I showed up late, arriving in the middle of one student’s story. What I thought was really interesting compared to the other meetings was how much of an old hand everyone appeared to be on the subject. One of the main speakers is from the region (if I remember right, it was Egypt), another was quite proficient in the language and went so far as to dupe the study abroad program so he could travel to the country he wanted to, and the last major speaker was Jaci. The conversation at one point evolved into a linguistic argument about the merits of teaching a variant of Arabic that was supposed to be Universal but was actually rarely spoken. This also manifested itself in the ways the stories were told: everything was very personal. Cities were spoken about in ways that tourists can’t. Overall, I thought it was nice having people with such deep knowledge of the area leading the discussion. Plus, there were free donuts, which was great.

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Schindler’s List

Yesterday I finally got around to watching a movie that I had heard quite a lot about: Schindler’s List. I will say that the choice to have the film be primarily black and white gives a pretty daunting first impression, but it is actually quite easy to get accustomed to. The movie definitely deserves to be remembered. It has good acting, great music, and a compelling plot. It gives one of the best portrayals of the absurdity of the whole situation that I have ever seen. Certain scenes deliberately highlight the contrast between what you would think are mutually exclusive events. Notable examples are children singing happily as they are forcibly removed from their families, attempting to repair a broken gun right in front of the man you are preparing to shoot, and scenes of parties being mixed in with brutality. The film is also great at making a point using parallel situations, most notable when a scene near the beginning of Schindler ordering opulent food for a party he’s hosting for Nazi officials is mirrored at the end when he is ordering supplies for the Jews he has saved. One last point I would like to make is that it was very meaningful seeing the gradual deterioration of the state of the Jewish people. The film starts off with minor (relative to the what happens later) restrictions and ends up at Auschwitz, with every step in between surprising you with just how effective a society can be at cannibalizing its own people. I highly recommend the movie, though you should prepare to leave in a worse mood than you came in with.

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Writing prompt: traditional food

task: find traditional Japanese food that seems appetizing and food that just doesn’t.

First thing that comes to mind: natto. Its made from fermented soy beans and is famous for putting off foreigners. These beans stink, have a strong flavor, are slimy, and look like a spider made an extensive web all over them. All in all, a completely unappealing package.

Now for the other end: I’m not sure if this would count as traditional since it originated in 1935, but it has spread in popularity very quickly and is now one of the most iconic Japanese dishes: Takoyaki. Its balls of wheat flour with some vegetables and octopus inside, brushed with takoyaki sauce. Japan has amazing festival food, and I don’t have much experience with octopus, so this is a dish that I am eager to get to know better. The little balls look perfect size to eat while walking around, and I would probably end up devouring a dozen or more. I can’t exactly tell from the pictures but I hope the outside is crunchy and the inside soft. The sauce also looks like it will provide nice contrast. A little bit of coolness to balance out the heat inside.

So those are my top two hit and miss Japanese dishes just from reputation and appearance. That being said, I think I would try both if given the opportunity. You never know what crazy food might be your favorite.

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Japanese club final meeting

Yesterday was the last meeting of the Japanese club this semester, and that meant that some regulars were leaving while others were being promoted. We had elections for the major positions (pres, VP, etc), but since the club is fairly small there was only one contestant for each position (at least it made voting easy). It was a bit sad though: I don’t share classes with the students in the club, so that was the last time I will see some of them. This was made worse by the fact that the Japanese exchange students who come to the meetings will be heading back soon, and the final event was supposed to be a BBQ today. It just so happened that there was a tornado, lightning, and flood warnings this evening as well, so I didn’t get to go to that.

 

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Wadjda

A while back Global Engagement set up a viewing of the Saudi Arabian film Wadjda at the grey owl. The story follows Wadjda, a young girl going to school in Saudia Arabia, as she faces some of the dilemmas that women there have to deal with. The primary conflict comes from Wadjda’s desire to buy a bike but not having the funds to do so. She is a bit of a rebel so she tries selling crafts and keeping secrets to raise the money, but this makes her butt heads with the headmistress of the school (who serves as the primary antagonist). The major subplot is that Wadjda’s father is looking to get another wife despite the protests of Wadjda’s mother. The heart of the story is one of defiance and striving to achieve your goals no matter the opposition. The story concludes with Wadjda’s faith in the system being betrayed and the money she won for the bike being given away, as well as her father going through with the second marriage. However, the day is saved as Wadjda’s mother makes the first step towards independence (symbolized by trying a new hairstyle) and buying Wadjda the bike. The final scene is Wadjda using the bike to beat her friend (male) in a race and riding off. Overall its a nice story, but I did have my complaints. First, everything is very on the nose. There is not much room for interpreting the story or seeing multiple sides: this is just the story of Wadjda told just in the way the director wanted it. Now, this wouldn’t be bad if the conclusion drawn was something that was well though out. Now, looking at the reviews for the movie I could be in the minority here, but to me the end result was a bit simplistic. The bike represented freedom for Wadjda (and women) and the second she got it everything was alright: she could immediately race along side and beat her friend (the ruling men). The film seemed to be implying that with this one simple solution everything would be made right, which I thought ignored a lot of the intricacies and problems that are affecting the country. In any case, this was a big stepping stone for Saudi Arabian film and therefore for the country as a whole, so maybe I shouldn’t be so critical that it didn’t take any large leaps right off the bat.

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Japanese Major

So it turns out my minor in Japanese might turn into a major, depending on how the double major system works. Many of the major requirements fill gen. eds. (like non-west civ), and I will likely earn credits while studying in Japan next year. I think the Japanese major was only added last year or the year before, so i would be really lucky if this become a possibility. The key factors are just how gen. eds. have to be completed and how many credits I get while overseas (which is at least partly determined by a test that has to be taken before leaving to decide your proficiency level). It would be great to be able to double major while still talking classes I enjoy, and should make me a more appealing candidate for jobs after graduation. In any case, for those who are minoring in a language I would suggest looking into getting a major. There will probably be classes about the literature and culture of that country/region, which can be quite interesting for those passionate about the language.

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