Thursday, February 15, 2007

First Word?!

Who Needs to Crawl when You Can Walk?
(Okay, so she's not actually walking yet)

Our village provides regular checkups for infants and preschool kids. Since they are free and the public health centre is well heated and there are fun toys to play with, Grace often shows up at these events just for kicks. The other day, one of the village health workers was shocked to hear that Grace sits down to dine with us three meals a day. Apparently it's too early. Now, if Grace were getting tubby or soft, I would be all ears. As it is, she's solid. I think the real issue is that these people are afraid of Grace. They pick her up, squeeze her, she squeezes back, and they squeal: "she's so strong!" They probably want us to dribble artificial baby food in her face so that they don't have to worry about being crushed by her genmai power (genmai being brown, unpolished whole rice).

Did She Just Say "Amen"?

Some of the village people have been speculating for some time now whether Grace's first word or words will be Japanese or English. Some suppose that she will say "papa" or "mama," which could be either language. Nonsense. We never allow the words "mama" or "papa" to be uttered in her presence. If Grace wishes to address Yuko she will say "okasan." If she wishes to address me, she will say "father." Well, perhaps "fahzah" until her front teeth grow in.

Of course, weren't expecting any of this to happen anytime soon, even though Grace has showed a knack for imitating vowel sounds from very early on. So you can imagine how surprised we were this morning, when she repeated the word "amen" after we finished praying at breakfast. If she fails to repeat the performance in the next several days we will write it off as an anomaly. In the mean time, we will just assume that she is an unusually pious baby. And since "amen" is a declaration of affirmation, we will also entertain the hope that she plans to cultivate an agreeable nature.

This May Reflect More Poorly on JLPT than on Me . . . Then Again, It's Hard to Say

dore dore, what did I get? Ooou! Oooooh!

Well, it says "Passed" in English, so that must mean I passed, eh? Now, 70% is the pass mark. My arithmetic skills aren't much better than my kanji skills, so I'll get out my Japanese electronic dictionary and use the calculator function. Let's see, 100 divide by 400 multiplied by 280 = 70 . . . that would be 70% So if I had gotten one more question wrong, I would have been forced to face the test again next year, just like I deserved, and maybe I would actually have studied for it this time.

However, as it is, that second chance to redeem my honour will never come, so let us look more closely at the scores that I am stuck with.

Writing/Vocabulary 32/100

I haven't done that poorly on a test since elementary school. Back then I was used to it, but nowadays it makes me kind of sad. However, this is the section of which I said in a former post that I didn't know the answer to a single one of the questions. With this in mind, and taking into consideration that they were multiple choice questions with four choices each, one would have expected my score to be 25/100. The other 7% must have been sheer luck.

Listening 93/100

There is really no reason why I couldn't have gotten 100% on this section, but during the question about the two men and a woman on a flying trapeze I was either busy picking my nose or else doing something less gross but equally distracting. My score represents 7% worth of attention deficit.

Reading/Grammar 155/200

Apart from the Writing/Vocabulary section mentioned above, I had never done that poorly in a test since officer training in the army reserves. I wasn't a very good officer. Anyway, this section provides a fairly accurate picture of my level of competence in Japanese. My grammar is pretty decent, but I can't read because I have a kanji allergy. The only thing that enabled me to answer any of the questions correctly in spite of the fact that I could read none of them was my amazing (cough, just kidding) analytical skills.

So what does all of this tell us? First, that I am a very unbalanced person. Second, that not everyone who passes the JLPT Level 1 is fit to do the things that JLPT Level 1 qualifies people to do . . . such as matriculate at a Japanese university. Third, that when I have a knife to my throat I am able to function at the level of a semi-literate high school student who is smart enough to say things that may or may not be worth saying, but not smart enough to write them down or read them.

However, in my daily life in which I seldom have knives pressed against my throat, I remain a relatively articulate but fully illiterate source of amusement to the local population----the henna-gaijin who lives on the hill.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

And Now We are Thirty

Yuko Cooked Me a Steak Dinner for My Thirtieth Birthday (Yuko's Mother Travelled Home with Us from Our New Years Visit in Hokkaido in Order to Help Out, Since Grace was Sick with Fever)

Now I am thirty. I have reached a new phase of adultivity. I feel so much wiser than I did a few weeks ago when I was only twenty-nine. Of course, when I was ten, I dreamed that at the age of thirty I would be living in a spectacular tree house in a primeval forest, hunting food with a long rifle. Although I find myself living on the seashore, eating food from Maeda Store and fiddling with Linux in my spare time, and although Canada's draconian firearms laws (granted, they are nothing compared to Japan's) are about to deprive me of my firearms license as punishment for my long absence from Canada . . . I am content.

If Yuko hadn't married me, I probably would be living in a tree and wondering what the heck I was doing with my life. Praise the Lord that not all dreams come true.

Gen-Mai on The Art of Eating

Over the course of the last several weeks during which I have been so busy with my seminary studies that I haven't been updating this blog, Grace has gone from a strict diet of breast milk to a liberal diet of breast milk and three square meals a day. Well, not so liberal in the eyes of some. We feed her a brown rice gruel blended into Cream of Rice, supplemented with boiled fruit and vegetables, tofu, and bananas. To wash it down, we issue her wheat tea.

Of course, a lot of preparation went into this transition to solids. Like her mother before her, Grace was broken in on squid jerky.

Grace's First Battle with the Squid